CZECHOSLOVAK EXPEDITION TO LHOTSE SHAR, 1984
CZECHOSLOVAK EXPEDITION 'Lhotse Shar 84’ had as its aim a more than 3100 m high southern face of Lhotse Shar, one of the greatest challenges of Himalayan climbing. It was Jiri Novak who first came with the proposal to form a Czechoslovak expedition in order to ascend the challenging southern face of Lhotse Shar. He had made acquaintance with it during the Italian expedition to Everest in 1980. I personally did not want to take it on at first
as I was a bit off colour after my returning from the K2 expedition in autumn 1983 (where we were on the top on 31 July) and I proposed to relax a year at least and then to take part in the autumn Prague expedition to Dhaulagiri. However, after a chat with Ivan Galfy, I changed my mind. I have enjoyed mainly because of the fact that it was the first ascent of a new route on a Himalayan mountain over 8000 m high, because with the Italians we have 'only7
repeated the Japanese ascent through the buttress of the northern face. If I managed to reach the top, it would be my third first ascent in Himalaya (northern face of Kalanka and northern buttress of Nanda Devi). Nevertheless, I was leaving my country with a special feeling of a dangerous goal in front of us and I told myself why had I to poke my nose into it.
We got to our base camp on 31 March and our first task was to determine the right direction of the ascent that would be as safe as possible. We made smaller groups, walked along the face of the mountain and were studying the terrain and the avalanche routes for long hours. We had to reject the hollow spreading itself between the main summit and the face of Lhotse Shar. There was no snow when we came there, all being blown away by the wind, but should it snow again, big avalanches would threaten. And so it was really later. Next day, Ivan Galfy and his group reached till under the very right side of the face and have seen a prominent buttress seeming to be the best route for the ascent. It really was the best way, it was safe and without menacing avalanches, with the sole exception of the first part of the route. Even from the point of view of the mountaineering aesthetics it represented an alpine ideal. It rises directly upwards, in fact it leads directly from the middle of the face till the summit and always only through the face. If we had ascended through the hollow, the face would be left practically virgin and thus free for our followers.
The trek to the mountain was short, the only dramatic event being someone trying to steal the case with the expedition money. However, the right case was safely hidden in the tent of Ivan Galfy, the thieves were pursued immediately after the alarming cry of our cook and so they managed only to steal priceless things and had even no time to take them away. However, they were successful with the Spanish expedition some 14 days later after us.
The base camp was formed by two big common tents that were surrounded by a stony fence left here by the Yugoslavian expedition, and by other tents placed in a hollow that made us remember something like a windy tunnel with blowing wind for the whole day and always dust with mica hovering in the air. It was omnipresent and could be found everywhere, in food or in tents, it penetrated even through the zip fasteners. And the wind itself ? In the night, it broke the tapes of the tent so that it fell over us. Each afternoon it started to snow, that being less agreeable when we were out in the terrain than in the camp. We had to wait two hours to the start of climbing from the base camp. The first about 1000 m were represented by a rock buttress, with alternating slate and granite and, especially above the first camp, there were some really difficult pitches of hard climbing, some of theim even 5 plus. We had to double among the snow-seracs on our way from the second to the third camp. Just under the camp 3, there was an icy ridge with a slope of about 60 degrees, wonderful for photographers, but very hard for climbers. Next part was of rocks only, but, later, when all were covered by snow, the difficult rock climbing changed to an easy snow ascending. Up to 7400 m we have followed a ramp with a slope of nearly 50 degrees and there we have met a rocky barrier in our way. It was possible to double our way there, but there was a 5 plus pitch and this was not too funny at such a height. It rather delayed us, but at last, we reached a mighty ice-ridge, where our Camp 5 has been built. From there, it was necessary to make a traverse on the mountain with an inclination of some 60 degrees, then follow other snow-slopes till the Camp 6 and a further ramp that continued from the Camp 6 back on the ridge. Here everything was under snow and summit ridge itself was formed by smaller rocks. We had to go round them by climbing from west edge to the east fact. A not too much difficult terrain with only one hard pitch enabled us to get on till the summit.
We started to climb the face as four member groups. In fact, of us had the possibility to choose with whom to climb. Our group
consisted of Jaryk Stejskal, who had climbed with me Apaya mountain in Peru and we had also a common ascent Mount Agner in the Dolomites where we performed the first winter ascent of the Messner route. Then Mirek Smid, with whom I made the first winter ascent through the English route on Trollrygen, and Slava Drlik, my fellow from the first ascent on Pik Asbanina in Pamir through the northeast face. We always have been in a good frame of mind, acclimatization was perfect and so was our health. Of course, he who came up to the Camp 6 surely came back with some chilblains, but no case was dramatic and no treatment has been necessary on coming back.
In the last phase of climbing, groups of two and five members were formed. As there was bad weather and a difficult terrain around the Camp 5, our advance has been delayed and in the last day's (around 16 May), the following situation originated : Mirek Smid was alone in the upper Camp 5, Robert Galfy and Demjan in.the lower Camp 5, Camp 6 was empty. I was with Stejskal, Martis and Jakes in Camp 3, Palenicek and Drlik occupied Camp 2 and Bozik was in the base camp. It was necessary to secure further route, to build Camp 6 and to stretch fixed ropes as high as possible over it. Martis and Jakes started to go upwards and made a stop in Camp 4, Smid joined the couple of Galfy-Demjan. We were relaxing in Camp 3 and I tried to help Jaryk Stejskal with cooking. He was not well and it looked like starting of angina and it was my turn to cook and care for him. In comparison to him, I am not a good cook and that was why he asjsed me on the second day, why I was so cross with him. But he recovered in two days, in spite of my cooking. Meanwhile, all have advanced upwards, the first group managed to come up to Camp 6, so that there were five at a time there. Jindra Martis and Karel Jakes advanced in the route of Robert Galfy and Zoltan Demjan made a day before by them. It was their turn to start as first. As the tent was over-crowded they could not sleep well and so they started on their way to the summit at half past one in the morning. They were very tired and so they did not orient themselves well and were lost in a terrain that could not be climbed. They had to abandon and when returning back down, they met Galfy and Demjan (Smid was already a long time at the height of 8000 m under the summit and already felt his chilblains and did not advance to the summit). Galfy too felt chilblain on his feet and so we returned with them. Demjan tried to advance further alone as far the terrain will allow him and managed to come till on the summit of the mountain. But we did not know it and were rather frightened by the look of the returning trio. Our fear vanished after the return of Demjan, who was expected by us in a classical bivouac sack that we were given by Mirek Smid. I froze in it together with Bozik, and Stejskal, Palenicek and Drlik were in the tent beside us. It was only Stejskal who came with us in the morning as Drlik had to go down owing to his worsened health. Palenicek started later than we did, moreover he was delayed by his returning for the ice-axe and managed to reach the end of the fixed ropes only.
My tape-recorder reminds me of the last moments. We were cooking in Camp 6 since the moment we managed to build the bivouac sack. I took snow through the ventilation sleeve, put it on the eating pan and on the cooking stove. When it melted, we had an one centimeter layer of water at the bottom. It was necessary to hold the rather unstable stove and we did it by turns. Thus we got some more heat. The same occurred in the tent next door. Lemonade, tea, tea, lemonade.
Before going to sleep, a short recapitulation of the plans for next days. It is necessary to cook some more tea and put it in the thermos, take out the inserts from the inner boots and put them with the boots into the sleeping bag to dry them overnight and put feather shoes on feet, keep boots under one's head. We chat a while about the weather, but it is necessary to relax. I took a tranquillizing pill, something like our Algena, nothing to force the Thank God, I was sleeping for two hours, after, it was but drowsing.
Our morning in the Camp 6 on Lhotse Shar began at half past one we awoke all at nearly the same time and started to speak with friends in the tent beside.
'Get up and start cooking.1
'We've already done, help yourselves.'
It was only a kind of a friendly chaffing, things like that. One did not want to leave his sleeping bag, it is the same situation like if one has to go to work at home, in the early mornings. Wait a moment, all will be ready, I say to myself. But it is not toie hire, one cannot be then in a hurry, at the height of 7900 m. Each trifle has its own price, each minute is important, all can have and has its influence. One must eat in order to feel well and not to be hungry, not to enjoy the spectacles and take one pair of gloves more for the group at least, plus the feather mittens with the tapes. Then wait for the sun to avoid the danger of chilblain and then up we go.
The first 150 m represent climbing on fixed ropes that end on a hook, but the last piece is hanging free. I tie myself on the rope, secured by Jaryk and climb up to the hook, with the end of the rope. I tied both the ends and then we tried to speak through our walkie-talkie with the base camp. We were successful, even if the set was joined by the frost to the hand and the batteries surely suffered too much. 'I can feel my hands. Where is the thermos ?' 'I am looking for more important things' (Jaryk) 'Wonderful. You look a bit frozen, friend.' (me) 'Yes, my feet are frozen and rather cold, it is -20°C. Oh, it looks like I have forgotten my camera!' 'That would be a rather cruel joke' (Jaryk) Take care, put the mitten off otherwise you surely let it fall down the slope, I know you, you have bad luck.' 'And I have my camera'.
We have left the fixed ropes and started to follow the route of Demjan. We came to his thin rope that resembled to us more like a shoe-lace than a rope. But it helped us and we have replaced it by our rope. And up we went, making stops for filming and photographing from time to time. My camera of 8 mm movie worked well, as well as the micro-cassette recorder, both evidently enjoying the work in the sunny weather.
Now, we are just a distance from the saddle, we make a traverse to the ridge, I go with Bozik, both of us on the same rope, whereas Jaryk is a short distance before us and advances free.
The snow is not a good support. We need an hour to make a short piece of the route, it is foggy now and we do not see anything. It snows and the wind blows from the right. I am sitting, Bozik sits besides me, relaxes with his head on the ice-axe stuck in the snow. Jaryk does the same, we all feel exhausted. Though it is only - 15°C, I can feel my feet are going to freeze, all my toes are numb with cold. The nasty4
wind blows, snow on the rocks does not dry. I am growing torpid. If we got -up an hour earlier, we could be on the summit and have good weather there, on the other hand there was a great danger of chilblain in the morning. 'What else more ? Another three steps and I am quite groggy' (Bozik).
What a pity we have not such a nice weather as when I was on K2, that would be another story.
Clouds and a blizzard around twelve o'clock stole the neighbouring mountains from us. The last view of Makalu and down into Tibet, and then our mind concentrates on giving orders for further steps in this white darkness, we all are longing to be on the top. From a small saddle, we came to a rocky triangle, with snow on its right. It looked like the top. I switched my Sony and asked Bozik, how he felt some five metres under the summit, but Jaryk told us we had another 200 m to do before reaching it. Soon the ascent in the steep terrain with a slope of some 40 degrees is finished.
The last metres reminded us of a tourist way, as if somebody had smoothed it to reward us. There was a rock wall on the left, falling down to our Camp 6, and a snow-slope leading down to Tibet. In the middle, a path of some two metres, no snow-overhangs, all snow blown off by the wind. In short, a perfect promenade to the summit. Each step needed a breath, after some 15 steps we had to stop for a while. But the summit waited for us.
'Here we are gentlemen, on the top!'
'What do you say, Bozo ? You can roar.'
The first mountain over 8000 m for Bozik and for Jaryk as well, and the second for me, again without the use of oxygen. The top is a meter above us and looks like a small snow-hunch. We are surrounded by fog and cannot see anything. Some minutes ago
there was a gap in the clouds, and it enabled us to see a fantastic ridge to Lhotse Central, which is by some 50 m higher than Lhotse Shar (8383 m). We felt that most probably we are sitting now on the highest spot of the earth. We have only to come back and all will be O.K. We are here half an hour later than. Demjan was yesterday.
It is neoessary to do some filming and some more snaps, and hurry down Iran the summit. It was not a great fun at this the fixed rope of Demjan, we had to go snow-slope, with the inclination of some to eome to a bald ledge without snow, I came there quite in good order and have seen the orientation flags through the fog that were heading for the fixed ropes. I made a horizontal traverse and lost the flags out of my sight. 1 high, I said to myself, now I have to run here twa before finding the ropes. Then I descended some fifty meters and to my great relief, I saw another flag and soon I was ropes, It was really a great relief for me. It was when you can see the door of your native house if I were at home.
Members: Ivan Oalfy (leader), Peter Bozik, Zoltan Demjanr
Zdislav Drlik, Robert Galfy, Mudr. Leos Chladek, Karel Jakes, Ladislav Kyrc, Jindrich Martis, Stanislav Marton, Igor Novak, Leopold Palenicek, Josef Rakon-caj, Jaryk Stejskal, Miroslav Smid, Marian Zatko, and two cameramen Frantisek Dostal and Emil Fornay.
Lhotse Shar. The south face climbed by Czech expedition in 1984. (Photo: L Novak)