The first organized Canadian expedition to Mount Everest’s windswept 29,028-foot summit ended in triumph on Oct. 4, 1982, as Laurie Skreslet, a 32-year-old Calgarian, scrambled to the peak. Three days later another team member, photographer Patrick Morrow, 29, from Kimberley, B.C., followed him to the top of the highest peak in the world. But the legacy of the much-publicized conquest is as bitter as it is heroic. During the climb, the 15-man team dismissed the deputy leader, Roger Marshall, for disobeying orders. Tragedy struck when an avalanche buried three Nepalese Sherpa guides and a CBC cameraman. Immediately after the accidents, six members defected. Now a new 12-member team, including Skreslet and four climbers from the original group, is confronting the first expedition’s unfavorable memories as it plans a new and more arduous climb for March, 1986. Said Calgary construction executive Wayne Lyons, 35, the team’s business manager and one of the climbers: “The overtones of the other expedition have hurt us.”
For some members of the new team the $l-million Everest ’82 expedition was a disappointment because it produced no major record-breaking feats and followed the heavily travelled route up the South Col. The new team is planning a more challenging assault along the mountain’s unconquered Tibetan western ridge. There, the climbers must scale more precipitous ridges and climb at a debilitatingly high altitude for up to
a month. If they get to the top, said Lyons, “what will be satisfying is that it will be seen by our peers as successful.”
Team leader Jim Elzinga, a 30-yearold Toronto photographer and veteran of the first trip, has set out to correct the mistakes of the team’s ill-starred first mission. He has chosen a safer route which avoids the unpredictable Khumbu Icefall, site of the 1982 avalanche. To prevent the internal dissension that plagued the previous team, he sought compatibility in his choice of partners. Indeed, neither Morrow nor Marshall was invited to join. Marshall, who successfully sued the first team following his dismissal, will also attempt Everest next summer, but alone. And Morrow is planning to climb the 16,864-foot-high Vinson Massif in Antarctica in November as part of his goal to scale the highest peak on every continent.
Still, the first expedition’s negative image has frustrated the search for a principal sponsor. Said Lyons: “I do not think any major sponsor wants to be involved in death.” The team is still $250,000 short of its $340,000 budget. The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and the federal government have refused funding requests. Spokesmen at Air Canada, the previous sponsor, said that the airline would not likely back another Everest expedition. Indeed, Elzinga’s team is now acutely aware that before it can attempt to conquer Everest it must conquer the reputation of the first expedition. -ANN WALMSLEY
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