BONUS MATERIALS: Climbing Everest

Welcome to the Bonus Materials section for the Colony's latest production, Climbing Everest! To help you enjoy the rich background of the play, the Colony has compiled some interesting supplmental information. Enjoy!

Notes from the Playwright

The play was developed over a 15 month period.  After the very first draft was written (and at that time, the play was titled "The Death Zone"), director D'Andrea brought the play to the Blank Theatre Company, who agreed to host a first reading as part of their Living Room Series of play readings. D'Andrea rehearsed a crackerjack group of actors for five days and presented the fully staged reading in November of 2003 to the general public. Barbara Beckley attended that reading, was immediately interested in the play, and optioned the script for possible future production.

The Colony then took an active role in further development.  After a second draft was written in response to feedback from the November reading at the Blank, Colony hosted another staged reading of the play, now titled "In the Shadow of Everest."  In March of 2004, the reading for an invited audience was held in Colony's rehearsal space. The audience members were chosen for their abilities in providing incisive feedback to the playwright, and included several Colony members and staff.  After playwright Ahlin digested that feedback and wrote a third draft, Colony agreed to produce the play as the final TBA show in the 2004-2005 season.  A final polish, as well as minor changes during the rehearsal process, have resulted in the script you see on Colony's stage today, with the final title of "Climbing Everest."

Reference List


The Other Side of Everest by Matt Dickinson
The Crystal Horizon by Reinhold Messner


Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
"Life and Death on Everest" National Geographic May 2003
Below Another Sky by Rick Ridgeway


Everest: The West Ridge by Thomas Hornbein
"Siren Song of Everest" National Geographic September 1997
"Above All Else: The Everest Dream" (Videotape--Unapix Entertainment, Inc.)
"Mt. Everest: The Fatal Climb" (Videotape--American Home Treasures)
"Mallory/Irvine" (Videotape taken from live broadcast)
"Lost on Everest" (Videotape taken from live broadcast)
PBS: Nova Online (Nova Online)


High: Stories of Survival from Everest and K2 by Clint Willis
Eiger Dreams by Jon Krakauer
Alive by Pier Paul Read


In Exile from the Land of Snows by John Avedon
Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche
Insight Pocket Guide to Tibet

Glossary of Terms

5.12 -  From the Yosemite Decimal System (YDS), the most common system used to rate difficulty in the U.S. Most technical rock climbing is rated on a scale of 5.0 to 5.14 with higher numbers representing harder climbs.

Anchors - That which attaches the belayer to the rock, or otherwise prevents the belayer from being pulled off the belay stance if the leader falls. In roped technical climbing, one climber moves at a time, while the other belays. The belayer must be securely attached to the the rock by means of protection devices (cams, nuts, bolts, pitons), or tied to an immovable object like a boulder or sturdy tree. The attachments are called collectively the "anchor." An ideal anchor relies on at least three highly-secure attachment points.

Belay - The process of paying out the rope to the lead climber, or taking in rope for a follower, while he/she climbs, and of preventing rope from being paid out if the climber falls. Belaying allows a climber to fall and live to try again.

Bivouac bag ("bivy bag") - A bag (not unlike a sleeping bag) that is light and small, and used as shelter for forced bivouacs.

Bivouac - A temporary encampment in an unsheltered area.

Blue ice - Dense, stable ice without pollutants (made from unsullied water).

Brain swelling (HACE) - High-altitude cerebral edema; brain swelling brought on by high-altitude; can quickly cause death.

Col - A saddle between two peaks.

Couloir - A deep mountainside gorge or gully.

Crampons - Meal spikes which attach onto climbing boots to allow a firm grip on snow or ice.

Crevasse - A deep and dangerous fissure or chasm, found in a glacier.

Cwm - Pronounced "coom", a broad valley located between mountains.

Death Zone - The altitude zone above 25,000 feet, which is particularly deadly to humans.

Fixed rope - A rope fixed to a route by the lead climber and left in place for all who follow. Also refers to ropes left on sections of alpine climbs in order to aid the next party to attempt the route.

Free solo - To free climb without a rope and without protection. A fall is likely to result in serious injury or death. Usually distinguished from climbing high boulders in that free soloing implies a climb of a pitch or more.

Front pointing - Technique for ascending steep or overhanging ice. The front teeth of the crampons are used to dig into the ice.

Frostbite - Injury or destruction of skin and underlying tissue, most often that of the nose, ears, fingers, or toes, resulting from prolonged exposure to freezing or subfreezing temperatures.

Glacier lassitude - A condition of extreme lethargy common when camping at high altitude.

Gumby - A derogatory term for a novice climber.

HAPE - High-altitude pulmonary edema; fluid in the lungs caused by high-altitude; can lead to death unless the sick person immediately evacuates to a lower altitude.

Hypothermia - Abnormally low body temperature; can lead to death.

Ice shelf - A horizontal platform of ice or solid snow found inside a crevasse.

Ice screw - A piece of protection for ice climbing that is literally screwed into the ice. Has a metal hanger on the end for clipping a carabiner.

Ice axe - An axe used by mountaineers, especially for cutting steps in ice and to aid a climber while front pointing.

Jumar - Mechanical devices used to ascend a rope, consisting of a camming mechanism which bites into the rope when downward pressure is applied but allows movement when slid up the rope.  Useless on iced ropes.

Lead - To climb starting with the rope on the ground clipping into protection points on the way up.

Leader - The climber who ascends a route first putting up the rope and protection.

Pitch - Generally a ropelength (up to 150 feet of rope) between belay stations on a multi-pitch climb.

Post monsoon - The climbing season in the Himalayas that takes place in the fall months.

Puja - A religious ceremony officiated by a lama and typically held before ascending Everest.

Pulmonary edema - See "HAPE".

Rappel - The act of self-belaying down the length of a rope in order to descend.

Scree - Loose rock debris covering a slope.

Serac - A big block or pinnacle of ice sticking up in the middle of the feature of a glacier called an icefall.

Sherpas - A member of a people of Tibetan descent living on the southern side of the Himalaya Mountains in Nepal and Sikkim, noted for their ability at mountaineering.  Also found in Tibet.

Sirdar - "Leader" of the Sherpas on a climbing expedition.

Snow blindness - Usually temporary loss of vision and inflammation of the conjunctiva and cornea, caused by exposure of the eyes to bright sunlight and ultraviolet rays reflected from snow or ice.

Spindrift - A light spray of snow.

Survey tripod - An aluminum tripod placed at the summit of Everest by an early Chinese expedition.

The Fourteen - The fourteen worldwide peaks that are higher than 8,000 meters (26,246 feet).  Reinhold Messner was the first to have climbed all fourteen peaks.

Traverse - To travel across or over, as in a peak, without doubling back.

Zippering - To pull out protection sequentially while falling.

Place Names

Mt. Elbert - The highest peak in the Rockies, located in Central Colorado, at an elevation of 14,433 ft.

Ama Dablam - At 22,343 ft., considered to be one of the most beautiful peaks near Everest.

Valdez - Popular site for waterfall climbing in Alaska.

Tierra del Fuego - An archipelago off the southern tip of South America containing challenging climbing routes.

Western Buttress - On Everest's western face, a part of the mountain that stands out from the main face. It is considered extremely challenging.

West Ridge - A ridge leading to the summit on the western side of Everest (the Americans Hornbein and Unsoeld were the first to complete this route in 1963).

The Balcony - Promontory located at 27,600 ft. on Everest's southern face.

Rongbuk Glacier - A glacier at Everest's northern foot which branches into two parts. The main Rongbuk leads to the Lho La, and the Eastern Rongbuk to the traditional setting-out point for North Face expeditions.

Lho La - Tibetan for "Southern Pass," connecting the Rongbuk Glacier in Tibet with the Khumbu Glacier in Nepal.

Lhasa - Capitol and largest city of Tibet.

South Col - An icy, boulder-strewn, wind-blasted plateau located between the Everest and Lhotse peaks (26,300 ft.).

K2 - At 28,250 ft. the second highest mountain in the world, located in the Karakorum range in Pakistan. It is considered a more difficult climb than Everest.

Jokhang Temple - Spiritual center of Tibet, located in Barkhor Bazaar marketplace at the center of Lhasa.

Potala Palace - The traditional seat of the Dalai Lama, overlooking Lhasa.

Shegar - 195 miles from Shigatse, it is the closest city to Everest base camp on the Tibet side.

Shigatse - The second largest city in Tibet, 270 miles from Lhasa. Tashi Lhunpo monastery is the seat of the Panchen Lama.

Yamdrock Lake - A large lake found just outside of Lhasa.

Kangshung Face - A steep and nearly unclimbable Eastern face of Everest.

Makalu - At 27, 270 ft., the fifth highest mountain in the world. It is located in the Himalayas.

Base Camp Rongbuk - At approximately 16, 700 ft. the traditional base camp area for the Tibetan side of Everest.Located  at the base of the Rongbuk Glacier.

Base Camp Nepal - At approximately 17,500 ft., the traditional base camp area for the Nepalese side of Everest. Located at the base of the Khumbu Glacier.

East Rongbuk glacier - The eastern branch of the Rongbuk Glacier; it is now the traditional point of entry to climb Everest's north face.

North Col - A saddle located between Everest's North Ridge and the peak called Changtse (23,000 ft.).

North Face - The north-facing part of Everest. It is located in Tibet and is accessible from the Rongbuk Glacier.

First Step - A cliff located at 28,075 ft. on Everest's Northeast Ridge.

Northeast Ridge - A ridge leading to the summit on Everest's north face containing the First, Second and Third Steps.

Second Step - A cliff located at 28,275 ft, on Everest's Northeast Ridge providing the most challenging technical climbing on the North Face.

Summit - Currently measured at 28,035 ft.

Hillary Step - A cliff located at 28,800 ft. on Everest's South Face providing the most technically challenging part of that route.

Lhotse - A sister to the Everest massif, the fourth highest mountain in the world (27,890 ft).

Tetons - A mountain range in northwest Wyoming which includes the Grand Teton (13,766 ft).

Lhotse Face - A sheer, treacherous ice slope is part of the traditional South Face ascent route. Approximately 22,000 to 25,000 ft. elevation.

Western Cwm - A wide horseshoe-shaped valley linking the top of the Khumbu Icefall with the bottom of the Lhotse Face.  Approximately 21,300 ft. elevation.

Khumbu Icefall - A moving glacier being squeezed through a narrow defile. It is the most dangerous part of the South Face ascent route.  Approximately 19,500 ft. elevation.

Other Terms

Monsoons - Wind from the southwest or south bringing heavy rainfall to southern Asia in the summer.  Also the rain that accompanies this wind.

Jet stream - A high-speed, meandering wind current, which generally moves in a westerly direction at speeds often exceeding 400 kilometers (250 miles) per hour.

Yaks - Traditional Tibetan beasts of burden. They are related to oxen.

Panchen Lama - The second most important spiritual leader of Tibet; the current Panchen Lama was found by Tenzin Gyatso, but put under house arrest at age 6 by the Chinese government.  He is currently at an unknown location in China.

Dalai Lama - The spiritual and temporal leader of Tibet. The 14th Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyatso) was forced to leave Lhasa in 1959, just escaping the Chinese. He currently lives in exile in Dharmsala, India.  He was winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.

Chomolungma - Tibetan name for Everest, literally meaning "Mother Goddess of the World"; in Nepalese, Everest is called Sagarmatha ("Goddess of the Sky").

Kata - A white silk ceremonial scarf.

Tsampa powder - Ceremonial powder made of roasted barley flour.

Prayer flags - Colorful traditional flags which are strung on long strings, each has a prayer engraved on them; when the wind flaps the flags, the prayers are said to be sent to heaven.


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