Joe’s final expedition
On 15th May 1982 Joe and Pete Boardman set off from Advance Base on the north side of Everest to attempt to summit by the unclimbed North East Ridge. They had already been on the mountain for nearly 30 days. Two days later they were seen at 9pm still moving upwards at over 8250 metres, very slowly. They were not seen again despite higher parts of the route being visible from Advance Base camp.
Pete Boardman’s body was found 10 years later just beyond that point, laid in the snow.
Joe and Pete were experienced, acclimatised, fit and keen. What happened will never be known.
The expedition was led by Chris Bonington with just 4 climbers, Joe, Pete, Chris and Dick Renshaw with 2 support team Dr Charles Clarke and Adrian Gordon. They were unable to climb in true Alpine style as the route was too long and expected to be time consuming above 8000 metres. The wind prevented the use of tents and energy and time was consumed in digging 3 snow caves (the second taking 14 hours over 3 days in what was effectively ice rather than snow).
During the ascent Dick suffered a stroke and had to walk out for medical help and Chris made a decision that he couldn’t keep up and would withdraw to a support role. That left Joe and Pete. “There remained less that 300 metres of height gain but very nearly a mile in horizontal distance, most of it at above 8200 metres.” (The Everest Years C Bonington). That and the unknown Pinnacles faced Joe and Pete in their final days.
After they went missing, Chris and the others searched from the North Col and walked round to the Kangshung valley to look at the other side of the ridge. It was therefore early June before the decision was made to withdraw and communicate the tragic news to their families.