“With a heavy heart,” National Geographic photographer Cory Richards has withdrawn from the National Geographic/The North Face expedition to summit Mount Everest via the West Ridge. He was evacuated last weekend from the world’s highest mountain because of severe difficulty breathing.
A decision has not yet been made about whether Richards’ climbing partner, Conrad Anker, will continue with the West Ridge Climb. A second team of The North Face climbers, National Outdoor Leadership School instructor Phil Henderson and National Geographic writer Mark Jenkins, will still attempt to summit via the Southeast Ridge as planned.
The two-month expedition seeks to repeat the historic climb of the 1963 National Geographic-sponsored American Mount Everest Expedition, almost 50 years after that first American ascent.
Richards was evacuated from Everest to Kathmandu on April 28, suffering respiratory distress. He was on assignment for National Geographic, shooting real-time coverage of the expedition and a feature article for the magazine planned for early next year.
“The great news is that my body is as healthy as it has ever been,” Richards said yesterday in a dispatch to the National Geographic blog Field Test. The blog has been documenting the progress of the Everest expedition as it happens.
“All the doctors have cleared me on all accounts and have repeatedly insisted that whatever the cause of the brief episode I experienced, it was not related to altitude,” Richards said on Field Test. “Likewise, there is no evidence of a pulmonary embolism. Wonderful news…though frustrating that we can’t find an explanation.”
Team Decides Richards Should Not Return
“Because of overwhelming positive encouragement from all the doctors and specialists who have helped over the past five days, it is with a heavy heart that I have to withdraw from the expedition,” Richards said in his dispatch.
“While conclusive medical testing has shown that I am fit to return, the final decision regarding my involvement comes down to the team at Base Camp. Though I’m deeply disappointed in the decision not to let me return, I understand completely the team’s collective concerns regarding my health and well-being, and honor and respect them.
“My greatest wish is that the team will continue to climb strong and to climb well…getting to the top and back down with all ten fingers and all ten toes…I look forward to hearing of their success shortly and wish them the best on the climb.”
Updates and photos — Field Test on Everest: Dispatches from the roof of the world
Text of The North Face/National Geographic Press Release: Climber Cory Richards Leaves Everest Expedition
WASHINGTON (May 2, 2012)—Following an emergency evacuation from Mount Everest on April 28, National Geographic photographer and The North Face global athlete Cory Richards decided, along with his climbing partner, expedition leader Conrad Anker, that he will not return to the National Geographic/The North Face expedition to summit the mountain via the West Ridge.
Richards was evacuated from Mount Everest suffering respiratory distress. He is healthy, and all tests to date have been inconclusive regarding the exact diagnosis. Richards is currently in Kathmandu, Nepal, and will return to his home in Boulder, Colo. In addition to being a The North Face global athlete-climber, he was on assignment for National Geographic magazine, shooting real-time coverage of the expedition and a feature article for the magazine planned for early next year.
A decision has not yet been made about whether Anker will continue with the West Ridge climb. The expedition also includes a second team of The North Face climbers, National Outdoor Leadership School instructor Phil Henderson and National Geographic writer Mark Jenkins, who will attempt to summit via the Southeast Ridge. That climb will continue as planned.
“We were concerned for Cory’s health, and it was very sad to see him go. It was in his best interest to not risk further injury and to leave the expedition,” Anker said. “Going forward, I look forward to seeing the success of the South Col team; all of them are acclimatized and doing well. My overarching duties as expedition leader with Mayo Clinic and Montana State University are still there. And should I find a partner, it’s still my dream to climb the West Ridge.”
“Cory is incredibly talented, and we look forward to many more opportunities to work together,” said Chris Johns, editor in chief of National Geographic magazine. “We completely support his decision to put safety first and are grateful the expedition continues under Conrad’s expert leadership.”
“While we know what a disappointment this turn of events is for Cory, our main focus is for him to recuperate. We’re relieved to know that he is in good hands,” said Aaron Carpenter, The North Face vice president of marketing. “Cory is an incredibly accomplished climber and photographer, and we look forward to seeing him back on the mountain soon.”