3/16/12 - In 1963, a large American expedition completed three firsts on Mt. Everest: Jim Whittaker's first American ascent of the world's highest mountain, via the southeast ridge, and the bold first ascent of the west ridge, by Tom Hornbein and Willi Unsoeld, who then completed the first traverse of the peak, descending to the South Col route after surviving an open bivouac above 28,000 feet.
Now, two high-profile American teams are headed to Everest to celebrate those achievements. Fittingly, In modern sponsored-expedition style, they'll climb the peak 49 years after the 1963 expedition, in order to acquire media "assets" for widespread 50th anniversary stories and ad campaigns next year.
Headlining a North Face/National Geographic expedition, Conrad Anker and Cory Richards will attempt an alpine-style ascent of the west ridge, with "real time" updates via the Web, Twitter, and National Geographic's iPad app. Mirroring the 1963 expedition, a separate North Face team will climb the southeast ridge, including Kris Erickson, Hilaree O'Neill, Sam Elias, and Emily Harrington, much better known for her 5.14 rock skills than for high-altitude mountaineering. A research team and National Geographic writer Mark Jenkins also will climb with the southeast ridge team.
Meanwhile, an expedition with historic ties to the 1963 climbs will also attempt the west ridge and southeast ridge. Eddie Bauer, which outfitted the 1963 expedition, is sponsoring an attempt by First Ascent guide Dave Hahn (13-time Everest summiter) and Leif Whittaker, Jim Whittaker's son, on the southeast ridge. On the west ridge, Eddie Bauer is sponsoring a four-man team consisting of First Ascent guides Jake Norton and David Morton along with Coloradan Charley Mace and Brent Bishop, son of Barry Bishop, who summited Everest in 1963 three weeks after Whittaker.
Sources: The North Face, Eddie Bauer/First Ascent