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Tomas Olsson's body found on Everest

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Ellie Mahoney | Chamonix Editor | Published: 22 May 2006


Tomas Olsson's body found on Everest

According to a report on Mounteverest.net, sadly Tomas Olsson's body was discovered on Saturday at about 6700m around 9:30 pm Beijing time. He was reported to have fallen about 2500m. The Sherpa who found him lowered his body 300m down the face to get him out of an avalanche zone and from there he was helicoptered out the next day.

Tomas website reported that 2 Sherpas, Fredrik Schenholm, Olof Sundström and Martin Letzer went on a search for the climber after he fell when rappelling down a 150 ft rock cliff at around 8500m. The snow anchor broke off and Tomas is believed to have been knocked unconscious in the fall, and continued to slide down the wall. The accident took place in the Norton Couloir, about two hours after the climbers summited the mountain at noon on May 16: In a call from the top, they had reported a very hard climb up in a 14 hour push through a snow storm. "I hope we will be strong enough to ski down the north face," Tomas said.

Fredrik Schenholm, the team's photographer, gave this report to Everytrail.net on the events leading up to the accident. He was at the North Col when Tomas and Tormod were on the mountain:

“They didn't start the descent until 1.20 pm, when they got off the top pyramid and down to the balcony. Tormod started to traverse to the skiers left on the balcony, about 200m, Tomas skied second. They got to a gully, narrow and steep, skied down to a snow patch above the rock band that is above the Norton Couloir. Tormod skied first and when Tomas came down they saw that Tomas left ski was broken behind the binding. Bad new on Mt Everest North side. According to Tormod, Tomas got a bit stressed about this and they tried to fix it with climbing gear and duck tape.

Well, they had to get down so they started to look for belay points for the abseil. Not easy, the rock was very solid and there was no ice under the snow patch. The solution was 2 snow sticks and one ice axe as anchor for the abseil rope. Tomas had the broken ski so he abseiled first (because he would be the slower one in the Norton Couloir). After a 30m abseil, the anchor snapped and Tomas fell the 10-15 meter left down to the Norton Couloir. This was about at 5 pm. Tormod tried to catch the anchor after it snapped, but of course to no avail.

A few minutes after this accident Tormod broke his oxygen mask, so from now on he was with out O2. Tormod down climbed the rock band with an abseil rope he didn't trust. Then he skied down the Norton Couloir, and found Tomas ice axe and crampons. We think Tomas lost consciousness when he hit the ground after the fall from the abseil, because Tormod did not see any trace of Tomas trying to stop his fall in the Norton, no trace what so ever in the snow. So, Tomas probably fell 2500 vertical meters down to the mid Rongbuk glacier. Tormod skied down to the North Col. This was a sad day for us, and we are still very, very sad, but we must not forget that Tormod still did something no skier ever has done.”

In terms of difficulty, Everest north face, where Tomas Olsson fell on his ski descent attempt, is very different from the north ridge where the normal climbing route goes. The Great (Norton) Couloir has only been summited once; climbers who have been in the area say that the section is so steep that a fall not arrested by a rock is likely to end at the foot of the mountain, in deep soft snow.

Tomas is the 8th casualty in the Everest area this year. So far, the north side has claimed 4 climbers, and the south side 3 plus one on the Lhotse face. All deaths have involved Sherpas or independent (unguided) climbers.