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Peak Traffic Conditions The 50th anniversary of Hillary's climb has Mount Everest hoppin'

On May 21 Ben Clark, a 23-year-old climbing guide from Fort
Collins, Colo., reached the peak of Mount Everest, capping an
expedition designed to make him the youngest American ever to
climb the mountain. One problem: 20-year-old Jess Roskelley had
hit the summit a day earlier. It has been that kind of a season
on Everest. The 50th anniversary of the first successful climb,
by Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzig Norgay, on May 29, 1953, has
seemed to smoke out all sorts of would-be record setters and even
a couple of reality-TV crews. As 83-year-old Sir Edmund and
several members of Norgay's family gathered at the base of the
mountain last week to celebrate the golden anniversary, Everest
swarmed like a 29,035-foot anthill.

Not everyone came down happy. Roskelley's group also included
73-year-old Dallas millionaire Dick Bass, who was trying to
become the oldest climber to reach the summit. Bass hurt his back
and gave up, but a new age mark was set last Thursday anyway--by
70-year-old Yuichiro Miura of Japan. Miura is familiar to Everest
watchers as the central figure in the 1975 Oscar-winning
documentary The Man Who Skied Down Everest. Some other firsts of
note: Pemba Dorje, a 39-year-old Sherpa, set a speed record by
climbing from base camp, at 17,388 feet, to the peak last Friday
in 12 hours, 45 minutes; three days later another Sherpa, Lhakpa
Gelu, smashed that mark by two hours. Meanwhile Gary Guller, 36,
of Austin became the first climber with one arm to reach the top.
"The whole point was to call attention to the abilities of people
with disabilities," says his wife, Joni Rogers, who posted
dispatches from Guller's climb on the Web. "We knew for the 50th
[anniversary] there would be a lot more attention on the mountain
than usual."

Similar thinking motivated the Outdoor Life Network to make its
own bid for history. OLN planned to air the first live broadcast
from the top of Everest when the first of the competitors in
OLN's Global Extremes program summited. As of Monday, though,
OLN's climbing team had been stymied by snowstorms--and by
crowding along the route. "What I've been told is that there are
people there who shouldn't be," says OLN's Roger Williams. That
is often the case on Everest, which in the past 50 years has
claimed 175 lives. But then again, the pressure is off OLN
because it no longer can be first. Last week a team from China
made it to the summit, beaming its ascent live on state
television. On Everest these days, history won't wait. --Bill

B/W PHOTO: AP NOT OVER THE HILL To honor Hillary and Norgay (top), Miura, 70(in lead, above, and inset), again conquered Everest.

TWO COLOR PHOTOS: GURINDER OSAN/AP (2) [See caption above]