The Earth Day 20 International Peace Climb was an expedition to summit Mount Everest during Earth Week 1990 led by Jim Whittaker, the first American to summit Mt. Everest (many years earlier), and marked the first time in history that mountaineers from the United States, Soviet Union and China had roped together to climb a mountain, let alone Mt.Everest. The expedition got its name from partnering with the Earth Day 20 Foundation, an organization celebrating the 20th anniversary of Earth Day that was led by Edward Furia. The climbers highlighted their expedition with a live satellite phone call to President George H.W. Bush as well as to Furia, Earth Day 20 organizers and thousands of supporters gathered in George, Washington, near the Columbia River on April 22, 1990. Whittaker called from base camp to pledge his support for world peace and attention to environmental issues. The group also collected over two tons of trash (transported down the mountain by support groups along the way) that was left behind on Mount Everest from previous climbing expeditions.
The history of this distant ascent is still in my heart and memory as a very bright impression. The first time I was abroad it was the USA. First time I have ascent to 8-thousant meters mountains and it was Everest and it was without using oxygen in addition.
Now there are very many impressions and recollections left.
This expedition was out of normal frame because it united flags of 3 great powers: China, the USA and Russia. At that vague time it seemed impossible due to political opposition.
There are things separating us less and not so important as things and ideas unite us to reach the great goals and prevent fatal dangers for Humanity. As it was shown by our expedition this very Humanity has to study all possibilities to move towards each other instead of opposing.Thanks to Jim Whittaker the first American climber to the Mt. Everest in 1963 and Warren Thompson. The latter was close to the summit, but the loss of one of the member of that distant expedition prevented him to realize his dream. These 2 men
were the organizers and inspires of this surprising undertaking.
After several visits to Moscow and China and a series of the strained negotiations, Jim Whittaker could come to an agreement. In 1989 candidates from China and Russia landed in Seattle to take part in series of conference and a test ascent to Mt.Rainier.
As it was found out later, the Chinese decided to organize 3 teams: one of them took part at the American meeting, the second one arrived to Russia to take part in an Elbrus ascent and the third the strongest one, consisting of Tibetans, took directly part in the Everest ascent in 1990.
Of course America impressed us very much. All of it was amazing for us: famous Seattle with Boing's and submarine factories closed for visitors, wonderful shops filled of goods and food. We did not dream about all of this in our closed and hungry Russia with coupons for food at that time. There were huge hotels and Swedish tables with a possibility to take some food several times.
We Russians having met with such conditions made use of them with pleasure while the
Americans could not understand us lazy touched their breakfast by their folks.
The conferences and presentations were heated in the direct and indirect sense. There was
intention hanging in the air because of unexpected questions and answers. I remember one of them: "The USA give money, China gives a mountain but what does Russia give?"
My answer was:"We are going to pull all of you to the top".
After this answer there was a minute of silence and then all burst out laughing slackened the atmosphere making it friendlier.
Only later organizing my own expeditions I could appreciate all efforts of the American leaders.
It was a tremendous action and inhuman work with more than 600 companies, being completed successfully: 20 members of the expedition reached the top of the world and possibility to live together that always is necessary for our common safety. The expedition lasted for a very long time. We started in February and returned only at the end of May.
Many things still in my memory and never leave me.
It was Ekaterina Ivanova who late perised on Kanchenzanga slopes...). She almost had to fight with Tibetian women for an oxygen balloon. Luckily I came up in time bringing her another balloon.
We drank "chang" (Tibetian"s beer) with Tibetans, ate smoked yak meat. After my descending the top I found out that our doctor Edik Lipen saved Chinese climber in our tent at the 6500 meter altitude. He was turned out by his friends from their tent because he did not reach the top and so the Chinese failed the quantity of climbers having reached the top.
All night after a successful ascent we were waiting for the satellite phone call from president Bush. It was important both for Americans and us. But we were sorry for our team. We pulled all this fiend and sometimes unfired train as it cam be in the modern Russian movie "The edge".
Sergei Arsentiev and Grigory Lunykov made miracles (unfortunately the mountains took their young lives).
Sergei Arsentiev fought furiously on the boundless Everest slopes not yet littered so much by empty oxygen balloons.
2 days I was cutting old ropes on the northern cool slope and fixed ropes till 7500 meters. I was impressed by an ice moving inexorably slipping down year after year covering the old tents, empty balloons and equipment of previous expeditions.
I remember the meeting with Reinhold Messner's partner Peter Habeler. He was sick and our doctor treated him. He was telling us a lot about Messner and himself.
I remember Martin Zabaleta, who was for some reason displeased with this expedition ironically using the word "Peace" and demonstrating the word with the same pronunciation but different spelling "Piss....
I remember about the honest of Ed Visturs. He refused to ascent in the first group for in such a case all laurels will be given them. He wanted to go without oxygen but it was stipulated to climb only with the use of oxygen, except our climbers, the case I would not like to analyze now.
There are a lot of things which I am going to write.
What did we know about Mt. Everest before our expedition? From 1922 till 1989 285 climbers reached the top of it, 126 of them died. Only 26 climbers reached the top without oxygen (during descent 5 of them were lost). This statistics is sad and terrible.
But I am glad my taking part in it.
Then Good Will Games were in Seattle where Ted Turner presented medals for this ascent
(unfortunately not to everybody...) and again meetings in the mountains and Seattle, in Colorado.
I hope for meeting in Saint-Petersburg too...