Norton Couloir

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North face of Mount Everest: routes and important points

The Norton Couloir or Great Couloir is a steep gorge high on the north face of Mount Everest in Tibet which lies east of the pyramidal peak and extends to within 150 m below the summit.

Its companion to the west of the summit is the Hornbein Couloir.

Green line Normal route, largely corresponds to the 1924 Mallory Route, with high-altitude camps at about 7,700 and 8,300 m, today's 8,300 m camp is somewhat more to the west (2 triangles)
Red line Great Couloir or Norton Couloir
Light blue line 1980 Messner Traverse; in 1924 Norton crossed the north face between the light blue and the green lines
b) Point on west face of the couloir, up to which Edward Felix Norton ascended in 1924

Origin of the name[edit]

The steep gorge was named after the lead member of the 1924 British expedition, Edward Felix Norton, who reached a height of about 8,570 metres (28,120 ft) in this steep valley during an unsuccessful summit attempt on 4 June 1924. He avoided the dangerous windswept ridge and, by traversing the north face, ascended into the gorge which has since borne his name.

Everest solo, Reinhold Messner[edit]

The Norton Couloir was the scene of one of the greatest mountaineering achievements when, in 1980, Reinhold Messner entered this gorge to avoid what, for a solo climber, was a dangerous ridge - especially to circumvent the Three Pinnacles - and ascended to the summit, alone and without using supplemental oxygen. The most successful climb to that point by F. Edward Norton in 1924, was Messner's inspiration for this attempt: Norton had also used no oxygen.

Other climbs through the couloir[edit]

In 1984 an Australia expedition succeeded in climbing a new route. From the main branch of the Rongbuk Glacier they went directly onto the north face and established their third high-altitude camp at the entrance of the couloir at 7,500 metres. From another camp at 8,150 m Tim Macartney-Snape and Greg Mortimer reached the summit on 2 October without bottled oxygen, the first Australians to reach the top of Everest.[1]

In 2001, young French snowboarder Marco Siffredi succeeded in the first snowboard descent of Everest by using the Norton Couloir. He died the following year attempting a new descent via the Hornbein Couloir.[2]


  1. ^ Bartram, Geoffrey: Everest via the Great Couloir. In: AAJO 1985. S. 338[permanent dead link]
  2. ^ "Everest Snowboarder Vanishes On Second Try". National Geographic. 27 September 2002. Retrieved 22 August 2011.


  • Tom Holzel, Audrey Salkeld: In der Todeszone - Das Geheimnis um George Mallory; Goldmann, München 1999, ISBN 3-442-15076-0
  • Conrad Anker, David Roberts: Verschollen am Mount Everest - Dem Geheimnis von George Mallory auf der Spur; Heyne, München 1999, ISBN 3-453-17711-8
  • Reinhold Messner: Everest Solo; Fischer, Frankfurt 2001 - ISBN 3-596-15092-2