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FIFTY TONS OF FALLING SNOW AND ICE

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Getting down Mt. Everest is just as tough as climbing to the top. Jim Whittaker, the first American to reach the summit and leader of the upcoming Mt. Everest International Peace Climb, recalls one moment during his historic 1963 climb. After 20 minutes on the summit, Whittaker and Nawang Gombu, his Sherpa guide, started down over a cornice of snow and ice with a 70-degree slope and a 10,000-foot drop.

``I was anchor man for Gombu who was 60 feet in front of me, going down the track I laid on the way up. The rope was almost taut. Suddenly, the cornice broke off right in front of me and took half the track out and came out right behind Gombu - 50 tons of snow and ice dissolved in a roar on the Kangshung face!''

In a stupor from lack of oxygen, ``I simply looked down and thought `Gee, I better move over a foot.' Two days later down at base camp, I got goose flesh. If we'd gone down that thing, no one would ever know what had happened to us.'' -30-{et


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