EXPEDITIONS AND NOTES
ANG TSERING - MAN OF THE MOUNTAINS
TO MOST PEOPLE OF Toongsoong basti, Darjeeling, he is simply Tsering 'daju' or grandfather with his deep-tanned mountain face, a kind smile and silver-white hair. For visitors to the hill-resort he is just another of the 'locals', nothing worth commenting about. They would be surprised if they knew, for Ang Tsering is a whole era by himself. He was there with Mallory and Irvine when they went on their epic journey to Everest in 1924, the sole remaining survivor in the whole world of mountaineering's most glorious hour. He was there in 1934 when the Germans retreated from Nanga Parbat, the "killer mountain", living for nine days by eating only ice - a survival story that ranks among the greatest in history. School boys who throng the hill-station's many school's are also perhaps not aware as they pass Ang Tsering in the streets that he is a character out of Tintin.
He is there in Tintin in Tibet
as the Sherpa who first saw the yeti!
Born in 1904 in Solu Khumbu, Nepal, Ang Tsering ran away to Darjeeling when he was sixteen to earn a living. ' 'There were no lights in Darjeeling then", he tells me gently, sipping rum from an old mug. Fun and frolic there was aplenty though in the summer capital of Bengal in the heyday of the Raj. There were Maharajas and Nawabs everywhere, all-night live bands at the Gymkhana Club and handbells were rung at two in the morning before hotel rooms for those who wished to see the sunrise from Tiger Hill. "The day's were cheap", he tells me, "rice was seven seers to the rupee".
Ang Tsering was hired as a porter for the 1924 expedition to Everest. All expeditions to the world's highest mountain had to pass through Darjeeling in those days as Nepal was closed to outsiders and the mountain could only be approached through Sikkim and Tibet. "The porter received twelve annas (three-quarters of a rupee) and free khana
then, which was rice and soup", he tells me. By way of equipment iron nails were hammered to the soles of their military boots so that they did not slip on ice! I think of the modern-day climber with his space-age blankets, Gore-tex tents and Koflach boots. Ang Tsering also remembered Mallory well enough despite the passage of seventy years. Looking at my tall son, he nods approvingly and says, "Mallory saheb yetaee lamba chha" (Mallory was as tall). He also recalls the warning of the lama of Rongbuk monastery that Chomolungma (Everest) should be left alone or there would be danger. The prophecy came Irue tragically when Mallory and Irvine did not return from their summit attempt.
Over the next few years there was nothing much in Ang Tsering's life. When he had first come from Solu Khumbu, he had stayed at the nearby Ghoom monastery and earned his living as a woodcutter. Now he made do as a rickshaw puller.' 'There were a hundred rickshaws in those days", he tells me and there was glamour in it too! He conjured up a world of yellow livery, pig-tails, steep-caps and flying feet on the picturesque streets of Darjeeling. Then in 1929 came the first big break.
There were two expeditions to Kangchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world in the Sikkim Himalayas. In 1929 and 1930 and Ang Tsering tall and strong was a participant in both. As a high-altitude porter he distinguished himself on the snow and ice of this difficult mountain and as a result was rewarded with the German Red Cross Medal of Honour. He points out the trophy lo me proudly on his wooden shelf. Alongside I see a gleaming brass plaque of the Tenzing Norgay Award given to him for lifetime contribution to mountaineering.
In 1931 Ang Tsering went to the Garhwal Himalaya along with the legendary Frank Smythe. The goal this time was Kamet which was successfully conquered, although Tsering was not part of the (cam that went to the summit. In 1933 Ang Tsering went with Hugh Ruttledge to renew the attack on the North Face of Everest. The weather proved inclement and the expedition had to turn back but increasingly people began to be aware that in Ang Tsering they had a 'tiger' of the snows. With Willingson the Englishman the same year, Ang Tsering was to go to Lhasa. The aim was to set up a hospital there for which Willingson was ready to trade guns and bullets. Nothing came of it but in 1934 came the German Nanga Parbat Expedition and the turning point in Ang Tsering's life.
The Germans under Merkl had planned the assault on Nanga Parbat, at the head of the Indus gorge most meticulously and this included besides seasoned climbers the hiring out of thirty-five porters from Darjeeling with proven mountain credentials. Ang Tsering was included in this lot. The climbers and the Sherpas assembled in Srinagar and by the end of May the team was at grips with the mountain. Then followed a relentless attack on the defences of Nanga Parbat; route-laying, step-cutting and the pitching of camps up the Rakhiot Peak route till by the sixth of July the team was up and over the Silver Saddle at Camp 8 and the summit lay just a day's climbing away. Then "literally out of the blue" came the storm and the climbers and the Sherpas were suddenly fighting for their lives.
The sixth of July had begun as a bright day for the expedition members up at 24000 feet but by the evening there was a gale and by night this had become a raging hurricane that bent the tents double. By the morning of the seventh, "maddened speed dense clouds of wind-driven snow raged over the plateau and hide the sun, so that it was quite dark at 10 and 11o' clock in the morning". The fury of the elements prevented the preparation of any meal for the climbers and Sherpas who were confined to their tents. Then when things did not improve even on the morning of the eighth, the retreat began to Camp 4.
With no food, as the weather had made any cooking impossible and in the intense cold with visibility down to zero the mountain picked up the retreating party one by one. Let alone Camp 4, the main section of the team in fact could not in fact even make it to Camp 7 by the end of the eighth day and had to bivouac completely exhausted on the mountain. The Sherpas were affected by snow-blindness and Merkl and his fellow climbers were struck with frost-bite. Sherpa Nima Norbu died the same night while on the ninth morning climber Uli Wieland died only thirty metres away from Camp 7. By the eleventh night Sherpas Dakshi, Nima Tashi and Nima Dorje II were dead also as the storm raged on blowing snow over the ridges and ruling out any hope of rescue from the lower camps. Another climber Willi Welzenbach died on the night of the thirteenth at Camp 7.
By the morning of the fourteenth, the last survivors, Merkl with two porters Gaylay and Ang Tsering left Camp 7 for Camp 6. This was all that was left of the main group of six Sherpas and ihree Germans who had come together for the descent. But Nanga Parbat had not finished yet. Before reaching Camp 6, Merkl's strength gave out and in what was a supreme gesture of selflessness, Sherpa Gaylay decided to stay back with the leader while Ang Tsering went down to procure help. What followed is best described in the words of Fritz Bechtold in his account of the expedition in the 1935 issue of the Himalayan Journal:
"From down below in Camp 4, a man was seen pressing forward across the level saddle. Now and again the storm bore down a cry for help. The solitary figure reached and came down over the Rakhiot Peak. It was Ang Tsering, Willy Merkl's second orderly, who at length, completely exhausted and suffering from terrible frost-bite, found refuge in Camp 4. With almost superhuman endurance he had fought his way down through storm and snow, a hero at every step..." Gaylay and Merkl were not heard of again and Ang Tsering remained the sole survivor of that epic descent. Nau din dekhi home hiun khayo
(for nine days I ate only ice), Ang Tsering tells me recapitulating the event.
The climbing fraternity the world over hailed Ang Tsering's feat but the personal price he paid was considerable. He was in hospital for nearly a year where his frost-bitten toes were amputated and his emaciated body nursed back to health. The damage to his spirit was more for when he finally emerged there was in him now a fear of high places. He turned away from mountains and became instead a tourist guide in Darjeeling taking people to Sandakphu and Phalut. Even when he joined expeditions, he went only as a cook Sirdar. It took him two decades to come to terms with himself but by 1960, Ang Tsering was back to the mountains and this time he went to the very summit of Nanda Ghunti with Sukumar Roy's team. Next year an accident while descending from a peak convinced him to hang up his ice-axe. The Rongbuk Lamas words came back to him that the mountains were the home of the gods.
I meet Ang Tsering on the Mall where he comes every evening for his constitutional. Here he sits on a bench and watches the world go by. It is May and the crowds from the plains are everywhere buying toys and sweaters, munching popcorn or riding ponies, talking, laughing, gesticulating. Tsering is ninety but likes the throb of life around him. I walk back with him to his house. He walks briskly. "This was the old route to Calcutta in the twenties", he tells me on the way, having seen so much of history in the making himself. With his walking-stick he gestures at a wooden shack where once a fellow Sherpa lived till fame and money came his way. There is no rancour or bitterness. Rough stone-steps bring me to his house. On the minuscule porch flowers grow. Blue, white and yellow. Inside butter lamps burn before Chenrezi, the Sherpa God of Compassion. Alongside is the bed where he sleeps and a small table. A grandson is reading geography. All is for the best in this best of possible worlds for this Old Man of the Mountains.
A tribute to
Ang Tsering Sherpa who lives in Darjeeling.
KUMBHAKARNA NORTH FACE ATTEMPT
OUR EXPEDITION WAS ORGANISED during the 1994 post-monsoon season and was composed of four French mountain guides: Pierre Rizzardo (leader), Robin Molinatti, Xavier Cret and Paul Robach. In 1993, during spring, our team made the second ascent of Ridge of no return
in Mount McKinley range, opened solo by Casarotto in 1985. Then we decided to climb together a great wall in Himalaya. Several reasons led us to climb Kumbhakarna (Jannu). First, the north side of this summit looks very impressive, because of its steepness. Only two routes were opened on this gigantic north face: the Japanese route (1976) and the Tomo Cesen Route (1989). Furthermore, Pierre Beghin attempted twice a difficult climb through huge seracs in 1982 and 1987, but he was stopped each time close to the end of the difficulties; Secondly, only few expeditions go on this summit and the Kumbhakarna remains today in an isolated area. Our first project was the completion of Beghin's route, but on the other hand, we also located the steep northwest buttress on photographs. Starting from a pass, this way was attractive but we did know from pictures if the north side under this pass would allow an ascent.
The trekking began from Basantpur on 8 September 1994 and we reached the base camp at the end of the monsoon period, on 20 September. This one is located on the right side of Kumbhakarna glacier at 4600 m. The path runs along the moraine and crosses steep grass slopes just before the base camp.
We performed the acclimatisation between the base camp and Camp 1, located at 5400 m at the foot of the north face. A 700 m high rock pillar had to be climb to reach Camp 1. Thus we fixed ropes on this route in order to carry loads safely. No altitude porters were hired for this expedition. On 1 October, the Camp 1 was occupied by two climbers, whereas the two others had to recover in base camp, because of altitude sickness.
Routes on Kumbhakaraa north face.
At this time, our team had decided to attempt the unclimbed route leading to the pass between Jannu and Sobithongie (6670 m), then following the northwest buttress and joining the southwest ridge at 7400 m. Although this itinerary appeared to be difficult, it looked safer than Pierre Beghin's attempts, where two huge seracs had to be climbed. The 800 m high face under the pass constituted the most difficult part of this route. Three days were necessary to put fixed ropes on the first 500 m. on very steep ice walls (sustained sections up to 80° ice). On a fourth full-day, we completed the ascent until the pass in alpine style, climbing strenuous mixed climbing sections. The last pitches leading to the pass, composed of vertical rock sections and rotten snow ramps, were the crux of our attempt. After this severe climb, we had to recover during 24-hours in bivouac at the pass (6350 m), on 10 October. During almost all the above-base-camp period, the weather remained clear. But unlike the north face, which was protected, the northwest buttress was exposed to stormy winds, and from this point, the temperatures were low. We climbed an entire day on the 1000 m high northwest buttress, meeting harder difficulties (up to 70° ice) than we expected from our observation from the pass. Finally, we reached 6900 m, where we burrowed a snow cave into a steep ice-flute. The difficulties above our heads looked continuous for 400 m until the southwest ridge (opened in 1983). The following morning, on 13 October, we decided to give up, because of the cold and the potential difficulties leading to the ridge. We rappelled almost all the way down, recovering our fixed ropes above and under Camp 1. We left base camp on 17 October and we arrived at our starting point (Basantpur) on 26 October.
Summary: Attempt on the northwest buttress of Kumbhakarna (Jannu) (7710 m) by a team of French guides in October 1994.
A PASSAGE TO MAKALU BY EAST RIDGE
MAKALU (8463 m) the 5th highest peak in the world, is situated on the Nepal-Tibet border. The British Everest expedition team in 1921 was to observe Makalu.
Shipton and Hillary were the first men to go to the Barun glacier, which runs west at the foot of Makalu. Hillary, the first summitter of Everest in 1952, at that time saw Makalu 30 km away in the southeast from Everest.
An American team and New Zealand team took on the challenge of Makalu, but no one was able to reach the summit, as the teams had to withdraw under compulsions due to accidents and bad weather.
In 1955, Jean Franco, the leader of the French team and 11 members, in autumn 1954, achieved the first ascent of Makalu from the final camp on the northwest face of Makalu.
This success was the fruit of France's high altitude climbing studies, which made remarkable progress after the first ascent of Annapurna. Annapurna was scaled by a French team in 1950 and was the first ascent of an 8000 m peak in human history'.
Next, in 1970 the Tohkai Branch of the Japanese Alpine Club succeeded in climbing Makalu for the second time by the southeast Ridge. Since then Makalu has been climbed by over 8 different routes.
Makalu has become popular amongst expert climbers, but there is one route no one ever goes up. The east ridge is very long, and falls into the Karma valley, which is source of the Arun river.
In 1921 Mallory and his team saw the east ridge in the distance, while they were looking for a route up Everest, from the Karma valley or Kangshung glacier. Since then the east ridge has been hidden in a veil of thick mist for over seventy years.
After their success in climbing Everest in 1970. the Japanese Alpine Club succeeded in traversing Nanda Devi, one of India's highest mountains.
After that the Alpine Club was lucky enough to get permission to climb the world's highest mountain. Qomolungma (the Chinese name for Everest), from its Tibetan side during the pre-monsoon season in 1980. It was the first expedition there after the World War II. In that expedition Yasuo Katoh achieved the first ascent of the 'North Ridge' (it was called 'Northeast Ridge" in those days) of Everest. After that Takashi Ozaki and I reached Everest by the North Ridge at 9 p.m. (Beijing local time) on 10 May. The sun had already set far below the horizon and all the Himalayan mountains were becoming dark. In that situation I saw Makalu shining like a piece of burning charcoal. Though I was very tired, I was deeply impressed by the huge and brilliant Makalu.
We successfully managed to traverse Nanda Devi from the east to west in 1976. Moreover we made another super high altitude climb in 1984, successively tackling Kangchenjunga from the south peak to the main peak via the central peak, the 3rd highest mountain in the world. This success awoke the extreme adventurous spirit in us to do more.
We were planning to traverse Everest crossing the top of the mountain from Tibet to Nepal, and from Nepal to Tibet. In 1987 when I flew out from Lhasa (Gonggar) airport to reconnoitre Qomolungma the north face of Makalu dazzled my eyes. I made up my mind to climb to the summit through this east ridge.
In 1973 I joined the Everest Expedition which aimed to climb the mountain by the southwest face. After that expedition. I took part in various epoch-making expeditions, so I could study the way of climbing in the Himalaya and route finding skills and so on.
I also had the chance of making the acquaintance of the climbers who had various experiences and thoughts of the mountains.
And after participating in 'Japan, China, Nepal friendship mountaineering expeditions in 1988", I took part in the Namcha Barwa expeditions: then the world's highest unclimbed mountain, from 1990-1992. Through these experience, I set the next goal, to climb Makalu by that long east ridge.
On 18 December 1993. the first ascent of Sagarmatha's (Everest in Nepalese: 8848 m) Southeast Face was completed by the Gumma Mountaineering Association. In my opinion. -The Iron Age of the Himalaya" had arrived at its puberty by this great achievement. Now we have reached the stage where we mountaineers are using a mixture of mental and physical skills and techniques as routes become more complicated. Because of this we asked the China-Tibet Mountaineering Association to permit the climb of Makalu by the east ridge.
By October 1993. we received the long-awaited for permission to climb Makalu from the Tibetan side. We started preparing for the first step to reach the summit by a route which had never been climbed. After a long preparation, the former climbing team left Japan on 15 February 1995. The caravan route was covered with deep snow, so team could not take any satisfactory action. After all this they had to descend to Nyalam which is located near the boarder of Nepal. On 15 March they departed from Xegar, the town at the foot of the mountain, and built the base camp at 3920 m on 30 March.
The climbing was challenging as we didn't know the most difficult point of the route, because no one had ever reached the east ridge of Makalu, and it was much more complicated than we expected. Because of an avalanche, we couldn't continue on our chosen route. Every day our members began to seriously wonder over the radio whether we should continue climbing or not, because of the dangers we faced. We were worried about our safety on the mountain. Every day we fell into a dilemma.
On 4 April, we built Camp 2 at 5180 m, and on 14 April, we built Camp 3: Advanced Camp at 5650 m. On 28 April after great hardship we built Camp 4. On 13 May we built Camp 5 at 6820 m.
And on 19 May we built Camp 6 (7350 m), and lastly on May 20 we built Camp 7 at 7650 m, and there we made final preparations for the summit.
We were eager to reach the summit. Thanks to good weather conditions and good fortune, eight members successfully climbed the peak, the 5th highest mountain in the world, on 21 and 22 May.
We climbed up avoiding the top ridge. This was a matter of regret for me because we did not achieve the perfect climb, but the success of climbing to the top deeply impressed the other members. We recognise that our success was a fulfilment of one of the challenges we had set ourselves in mountain climbing, and now serves us as a starting point for our continued devotion to mountaineering.
Summary: Ascent of Makalu (8463 m) by the east ridge, by a Japanese team on 21 and 22 May 1995.]
MAKALU - A DREAM COME TRUE
EVER SINCE 1990 when I first looked across to Makalu from the high slopes of Everest I had wanted to venture on to this huge peak. It always stood so imposingly on the skyline as the dawn illuminated its bulky figure. As a young lad I had read the account of Hillary's expedition and the epic rescue of Peter Mulgrew. In 1995 I finally managed to organise the chance of a climb by tagging a small team comprising of American Ed Viesturs, Finn Veikka Gustafsson and myself on to the permit held by our Basque friend Juanito Urteaga. On 13 May, a couple of days after leaving Everest base camp, the three of us accompanied by Ed's girl friend Paula, my wife Jan and our Sherpa friend Chhongba flew from Luckla to the mountain by a Russian helicopter. These huge machines have dramatically changed the potential for multiple 8000 m ascents in the Nepalese Himalaya but few climbers have taken advantage of this new development. The MI-17 can land at elevations up to 5500 m and can quickly ferry an expedition group between base camps in the Kingdom. We chose a base camp site just above the traditional Hillary base camp at 5100 m in order to maximise the available payload and landed there with 1000 kgs of people and equipment.
The cloud that surrounded the base camp when we first arrived cleared to reveal the incredibly imposing wall on Makalu's south face. It was necessary to crane back one's neck to try to take in the huge vista.
Our climbing plan was quite simple. We would follow the normal route in a single push to the summit using our acclimatisation from Everest. Whoever coined the phrase 'lightweight alpine style' must surely not have been a climber because from my experience the rucksacks, laden with even the most rudimentary survival gear, are anything but lightweight. I elected to carry two bottles of oxygen as I had done on K2 the year before which added an extra six kilos to my load. Ed and Veikka are stronger than me at 8000 m and don't seem to require this "English Air'.
On 15 May we set off to the advanced base camp. Paula and Jan came with us as well as a couple of local porters we had managed to second from a passing team. At a higher base camp we met part of an Australian team who had experienced the death of their leader David Hume. Their sadness was an awful contrast to our newly arrived enthusiasm.
On the first day we reached a camp at around 6500 m after a long traverse around the meandering glacier. The weather looked stable and we were in high spirits as we gazed optimistically up to the Makalu la directly above. The next day we followed sections of rope left by earlier expeditions and by around noon we had reached the saddle at 7300 m. The view of Everest and Lhotse to the northwest was fantastic. The peaks looked very different from their more familiar profiles we had come to know so well from the Khumbu.
On 17 May we continued across the broad slopes of the Makalu la, which led us around an icy buttress to the upper snow basin where we had decided to locate our high camp, just below a small ice wall at 7800 m. A tent left by the Australian expedition saved us the effort of digging a platform and erecting our own. Even the simplest of tasks take twice as long at high altitude. We basked in the warmth of the tent in the last of the afternoon sun melting snow for drinks and preparing ourselves for the summit climb.
We left the tent at around midnight and climbed up the hard blue ice, our headlamps bouncing the light between us. Above the ice cliffs a long traverse led us to the highest snow plateau on the mountain. It was deathly cold at 8000 m and I was thankful for the oxygen I was breathing from the bottles on my back. It was difficult to comprehend how Ed and Veikka were staying warm as they climbed 'sans oxygen'. We reached the foot of the couloir leading to the summit ridge as dawn broke and in spite of our precarious position in the rock fall alleyway, paused for a few minutes to absorb the radiation. The couloir was choked with small rock steps which required complete concentration as we climbed unroped with crampons scraping at the rock. This was the place where David Hume had fallen to his death 10 days earlier. Veikka happened to find David's video camera and carefully placed it on a rock ledge for later recovery.
The couloir opened out on to the summit ridge which was initially straight forward to climb until we reached a steep tower guarding the route. In spite of the fact that we had a rope we elected to continue climbing solo and moved cautiously as the view below our crampons grew progressively more exposed. From the top of the tower the true summit lay about 50 m away along a knife edge ridge. Ed and Veikka had already started out along this crest ahead of me so it seemed pointless even raising the question of a rope. At 8.30 a.m. we climbed the final few steps of Makalu and were obliged to ride its summit, sitting straddled over the sharp snow-arete - one leg dangling in Tibet, the other in Nepal.
The radio came to life as we spoke to the folks at the base camp. We had been climbing out of contact on the other side of the mountain for the last 36 hours while they anxiously waited for word. Everyone was very excited as we relayed the summit news. The view through 360 degrees was spectacular and 1 took some mental snap shots as well as clicking away with the camera. It was a very satisfying moment to sit on top of this mountain with Ed and Veikka, climbers of exceptional talent. For myself it was something of a dream. My fifth of the worlds six highest summits in little more than a year. Fortune had smiled on me. I gazed across to Everest where we had stood on the South Summit just eleven days before. What a fantastic planet we live on and how privileged I am to journey across its mountains.
The ascent of Makalu (8463 m) on 18 May 1995.
1995 MAKAI.U SOUTHEAST RIDGE EXPEDITION
WE CLIMBED the southeast ridge, a classic route which had not been attempted since 1984, and had defied the famous British climber, Doug Scott, and American climbers Renee Jackson and Peter Athens. (Please see history at end).
Our group climbed the route in 4 days from a low camp in total alpine style, using no supplemental oxygen, no climbing Sherpas,
no fixed rope, and no established camps. Luckily, our expedition faced neither fatalities nor injuries. Also, our strong Rai porters removed from the base camp more than 300 kilograms of rubbish left by previous expeditions.
We were fortunate to have leading climbers amongst our members: (Please see list at end)
With experienced alpinists in our midst, it was hoped to climb the mountain in true alpine style, and very quickly, so that we might be relaxing in the southern California sun before 10 October!
Alas, this was not to be, as the weather was horrendous. Rain, snowfall, and high winds continued from the time of our arrival in base camp (4800 m) on 3 September until 3 October during which time we were unable to progress above 6500 m because of nasty deep wind-blown snow.
On the night of 5 October the sky suddenly cleared and we ventured once again out of base camp onto the mountain, knowing that this was our one chance to reach the summit. Climbing rapidly, stopping only for brief rests and to pitch camp at night, we arrived at our high camp on 8 October on the southeast wall of the summit at 8100 m. The climbing conditions, to our surprise, were perfect. Almost all of September's accumulation of loose snow was blown away leaving mostly firm snow and clean rock. In fact, the huge granite blocks and snow/ice couloirs of the southeast ridge provided inspiring sport conditions. Even the dreaded eastern Cwm was passable, with very little accumulated snow.
During the night of 8 October in the high camp I was unable to sleep, lying awake under the light of the full moon reflecting that this was the place where Doug Scott had turned back in 1980 and Renee Jackson and Pete Athens in 1983. What conditions would the dawn reveal?
Leaving the tents on the morning of 9 October at 5.15 a.m. we found the snow to be hard enough. Proceeding across the southeast face towards the west pillar we were greeted by an outstanding sunrise over Kangchenjunga as we crossed the final bergschrund under the summit wall.
The snow deepened as we followed a natural snow traverse line across the face to avoid some treacherous rock slabs. Finally, we reached a rocky pinnacle at 8300 m and realised that this was the point where Doug Scott and Steve Sustad had been forced to turn back in 1984. Just as Doug Scott before us, we were also unable to find a way through this mess of rock spires, chimneys, Mocks and buttresses. Although we found a few shreds of rope and two pitons from the French 1971 west pillar expedition, we did not have enough rope or hardware to pitch climb this vertical and in places overhanging face.
We considered turning back at this obstacle as our predecessors had in 1984, but decided to traverse out onto the snow face and literally snow plough a track to the summit. After a final push we arrived at the summit at 17.30, just in time for a fabulous sunset. The snow around the summit was very deep but in the golden afternoon light somehow we found the strength to reach the top. On the summit we were greeted by wonderful views of Everest, Lhotse, Kangchenjunga and the lower summits and plateaus of Makalu itself. As the sunset over the snows of Everest, Makalu cast a shadow out across the Himalaya as far as Kangchenjunga, 80 km to the east.
Our friends in base camp had been able to watch our progress through a powerful telescope and when we made the announcement of our arrival at the summit via walkie-talkie, we were greeted by loud cheers and celebrations from base camp 3600 m below. This support gave us the strength we needed to make the treacherous descent to high camp, arriving at 22.45 hrs. at night.
After returning to base camp on 11 October and resting for 4 days we climbed back up the mountain to remove every trace of our passage, including a tent and some rubbish left at 6500 m, which we had been too tired to bring down the week before. Just before the final departure from 'our home' at base camp, our porters packed up and carried out 300 kilos of rusty tins left by expeditions in the early 1980s.
During this expedition we were very fortunate in that although we had several doctors among our members there were no injuries or fatalities. In fact, our medical team most frequently attended to patients from a neighbouring expedition which was attempting the normal route but had no physicians amongst their members.
Makalu was a dream for us - it is a special gift when after many years such a dream comes true. I can only attribute the fulfilment of this dream to our sponsors, and the hard work, patience and positive attitudes of our entire team as well as our families and friends, also the efforts of the teams who climbed the mountain in the past. Many thanks to Sir Edmund Hillary. Reinhold Messner, Doug Scott, Steve Sustad, Renee Jackson, and Pete Athens for their superb exploration, written accounts, and photography!
A History of attempts on the southeast face of Makalu
1970: First ascent of the southeast ridge, Japanese
team; Leader: Makoto Hara; 18 members, 25 high altitude porters, 100 bottles of oxygen, 16,500 m of fixed rope. 2 members reached the summit.
- 1973: Czech attempt on the southeast buttress, failedat 8100m
- 1976: Czech ascent of the southeast buttress, Leader: Ivan
Galfy; 18 members, using oxygen and fixed ropes. Summitters Karel Shubert and Spaniard Jorge Camprubi.
4. 1980: Southeast ridge attempt, Leader: Doug Scott, 4 members:
Georges Bettembourg, Ariane Giobellina, Roger Baxter Jones; party used no fixed rope and no oxygen; failed at the top of the eastern cwm (7950 m).
5. 1981: Southeast ridge attempt, Leader: Reinhold Messner;
climbing partner: Doug Scott; never left base camp.
6. 1982: Korean ascent of southeast ridge to east face.
Leader: Ham Tak-Young; 16 members; using oxygen and fixed ropes; 1 Korean and 2 Sherpas climbed to the summit.
7. 1983: Southeast ridge attempt, Leader: Ron Matous; 6
members: Ron Matous, Peter Athens, Renee Jackson, Scott Thorburn, Chas Macquarie, Peter Hollis; using 2500 m of fixed rope and no oxygen; failed in the eastern cwm 7700 m.
8. 1984: Southeast ridge attempt, Leader: Doug Scott; 12
members including: Jean Afanassieff, Arianne Giobellina, and Steven Sustad; no fixed rope and no oxygen; Scott, Affanasieff, and Sustad turned back just below the summit.
9. 1985: Southeast ridge attempt, Leader: Steve Sustad; 4
members, failed in the eastern cwm 7900 m. No attempt were made between 1985 and 1995 on this routes.
Mazur Daniel, USA, (leader), Pratt Jonathan, UK, Collins Andrew, UK, Nikifarov Alex, Russia, Lafferty Andrew, UK, McNab Alex, UK and Lewallen, Scott.
Summary: The ascent of Makalu (8468 m) by the southeast ridge on 9 October 1995.
RUNNING THE HIMALAYA
YOU HAVE TREKKED for sixteen days to reach this moment. I hope that you achieve all that you want and that you have a safe and enjoyable race. Ready, steady, go...." David Blakeney, ambulance for the fourth Everest Marathon, has just said the words that sixty one runners have been waiting days to hear. After a hundred yards of running on the only flat surface for miles, we reach the glacial moraines and the first hill. At 5300 m, there are at least twenty five walkers just before the initial climb. A few minutes ago, what little air there was hovered at - 20 degrees. Most of us hadn't slept more than a few hours during each of the last few nights; nine runners had become too ill to run. I thought back to our group meeting in a nice hotel in Kathmandu, Nepal nearly three weeks ago....
"You must carry a small daypack with you during the race. Failure to arrive at the finish line with this bag and the requisite items will result in your disqualification." This is part of an introduction from David Blakeney, who is both the race ambulance and a group leader. A room full of high energy runners quieted a bit when they realized that the world's highest marathon will require an additional burden, "Inside", David continued, "you must have a bivy bag, a change of lightweight running warm-ups, a waterproof top and bottom, a whistle and a notebook and pencil."
I saw quizzical looks being exchanged but I noticed that most of the friendly banter had been replaced by curiosity.
"If you are injured during this race," he intoned sombrely, "you cannot expect helicopter evacuation. Nepal has only four helicopters and they are not always mechanically able to fly. Sometimes they are involved in other rescues. Afternoon storms almost always obscure the Himalaya. If such a storm is coming in, no planes or helicopters will fly from Kathmandu. The most likely scenario is that you will have to be carried by one of the porters for four or more days to the small airstrip at Luckla." I looked around as he spoke and realised that nearly every runner here had either suffered a debilitating injury or knew someone who had. David held up a small backpack.
"If you are injured," he raised the daypack higher for all to see. "you must immediately change into dry clothing." He removed the lightweight warm-up suit. "Then you must keep yourself warm and waterproof." The waterproof warm-up top and bottom were taken out. "In the event that you cannot be moved, the bivy bag will keep you warm enough until the ambulance reaches you." He pointed to himself to emphasise his role in the rescue. The bivy bag was held up for inspection. He paused and then reached into the bag to withdraw a small whistle.
"Many sections of the trail," he smiled a bit at the attentive faces, "are on cliff edges and the fall is several hundred feet to the river below. No whistle needed. In the event that you fall off a less dramatic portion of the trail but out of sight of others, the whistle will alert them." It was cathedral quiet as he reached on last time into the bag. "If you are found," he concludes, "It may be necessary for help to be summoned. If the person who initially treated you must leave, he can write a note with your symptoms, extent of injuries and treatment applied. This, of course, in the event that you lose consciousness."
I smile a little at that bit of memory as I move through the very rocky path which makes up most of the first three miles of the course. My daypack shifts slightly with lateral rock-dodging moves. The course is marked with cairns, three rocks piled up and placed in the line of sight of a trekker. Runners must look quickly for the marker and immediately look for foot placement among the thousands of rocks. I'm doing that and hoping to avoid having to use any of the contents of the daypack. Just ahead of me is a partially frozen stream. I can see runners trying to cross patches of thick ice. With 50% as much oxygen as they would have at sea level, their efforts look particularly ungainly. Just ahead of me I see the bright yellow warm-up top of Stefan Schlett from Germany. I know that whenever people ask me about the type of person who does something like this, I will always mention Stefan.
Stefan listed his occupation as "adventurist." It might be a new word; it is not an exaggeration. He has done a 3000 kilometre bike ride though the heat of the Sahara. On another occasion, he had set a German record for a 1000 kilometre run in 8 days, 3 hours and 51 minutes. For those who found the metric system a mystery, he had also done a 1000 mile run in 13 days, 16 hours and 11 minutes.
Most marathons do not require a sixteen hour plane ride just to get to the host country. From the United States, this one does. Most marathons do not require a ten hour bus ride to get to a trailhead for the hike in. From Kathmandu, this one does. And most marathons do not require sixteen days of steep mountain hiking jusUo reach the start line. One of the benefits of the latter is that you know everyone of a first-name basis well before race day. Another benefit is that your fitness level is maintained, and perhaps escalated, on the trek in.
The canyons in Nepal are river-cut and steep. All the rivers flow south but the trek route works its way east. Trails climb to the ridge above each canyon and then descend to the next river. The guidebooks show a map where the trailhead is at 1700 m above sea level. After six days of trekking and five mountain passes, the elevation is 1370 m. That last mountain pass before the descent was higher than Namche Bazaar - the finish line for the Everest Marathon. The map I've included indicates both the trek to the start line at Gorakhshep and the course for the marathon.
I've reached the first of eight aid stations. Roughly every three miles there will be a smiling doctor, an oxygen bottle, an assistant and astonished trekkers. Purified water and sports drinks line the rock wall of one of the shelters. There is a growing pile of clothing near the doctor and I add some of mine, too; the day is getting warmer and we are starting to move faster. Four of our fellow marathoners had been brought down to this station last night and they are yelling encouragement in their slightly recovered condition. That condition is called Acute Mountain Sickness or AMS. They can descend today, but they cannot go any higher. My next rest stop will be Pheriche - the site of a small medical facility and seven miles into the race. It was at this clinic that AMS had been thoroughly explained.
High altitude, even as unimposing as 3000 m causes changes in the body. Liquids are processed differently - or sometimes, barely processed at all. When excess fluid accumulates in the lungs, it is called HAPE (high altitude pulmonary oedema); when excess fluid accumulates in the brain, it is called HACE (high altitude cerebral oedema). Either can kill within twelve hours of the onset of severe symptoms. Some of our runners had experienced the mild symptoms of tingling fingers, swollen faces and hands, nausea and headache. The cure is to descend to the last point at which there were no symptoms - and to remain there until the symptoms disappear. The affliction is not effected by age, gender, fitness level or prior high altitude experience; it descends on the just and the unjust - alike.
As I run along 'the long main street' of Pheriche, I see the doctors at the aid table. This would be the safest place to have a problem. So far, I feel just fine. What has happened to the other runners is, for now, a mystery. During a steep descent a half hour ago, there had been a large rockfall kicked off behind me. I had only taken enough time to quickly glance over my shoulder. One of the British Royal Marines had been sliding on the seat of his pants as a form of short cut. He/had stopped when he had realised that an avalanche doesn't need to be snow. Now, there is no one in sight behind me. I can't see anyone ahead of me before the trail disappears over a small mesa. I am running with George Barris, a 'fell' runner from the United Kingdom. George is the oldest participant at 59. Two years ago, he had finished 19th on this same course. We run together for a while and he explains 'fell running' to me. I know that ahead of us is the twelve mile mark and the first serious ascent of the race.
The Everest Marathon descends for over 2750 m. There is a temptation to conclude that it is all downhill. The Everest Marathon ascends for over 1400 m. There is a temptation to conclude that those last miles are all uphill. The first major ascent climbs from river crossing to the sacred Tengboche monastery. The daughter and son-in-law of Tenzing Norgay operate a smajl lodge here. Tenzing's Tiger of the Snows
is a book which chronicles his climbing partnership with Edmund Hillary on the first ascent of Everest. The Buddhists of Tibet and Nepal regard this area as one of their most sacred shrines.
Monks, support personnel and trekkers are cheering our efforts. This stop is at 22 km and I am starting to feel the effects of not having done any serious running in the last six months. I've been travelling around the world and this marathon opportunity came up because I had stopped for lunch at the same trekking hotel as David Blakeney - over a month ago. As I leave the monastery, I promise to quit talking to strangers. My legs are ready for some downhill.
The trail from the monastery drops steeply to the river below. During a training run, Pierre Andre Gobet, a Swiss chemist, had reached the river in seven minutes. On one of my training runs, I had done it in twenty. Gobet would win this race in just over four hours: it would take me almost six and a quarter. Both of us would be severely tested by the long uphill awaiting us on the river's other side.
This is it. The 32 km mark. Namche Bazaar is such a steep mountain town that it literally has an 'uptown' and a 'downtown'. From where I sip a 'flatted' coke, I can look down o the finish line. My watch indicates just over four hours. People crowd the main street below. I still have a 3.1 mile trail to do and I watch George move on ahead of me. I'm just beat. That's been pretty typical of my twelve previous marathons and three triathlons. I ran this hilly 10 km eight days ago as a training run; it took me 49 minutes. As I start forward, I wonder how long it will take me today?
How long? The trail (out and back) is turning out to be a motivational bonanza. Runners coming back from the small village of Thami, shout encouragement. That matches what I am saying to them. I reach the check point and have absolutely nothing left. Leg muscles are starting to cramp. Hills. My friends think I love to run and bike hills; the steeper the better. Until now, I thought I loved to do hills. Now. I'm only sure that I want to get back to Namche as soon as possible. Soon is two hours and twelve minutes after I last looked down to the finish line. I finish 31st; I finish 6 hours and 14 minutes. My 10 km took over two hours!!!
As I sit on a rock wall and wait for some friends to finish, I see the ambulance pass by above. David Blakeney and one of the medical team are walking behind the last of the runners and carrying heavy medical packs. All of them are walkers at this point. In just over three and a half more hours, the race will be over. All I can think of is that I want to do this again. In 1993 or 1995, my plan is to come back. Amazingly, although I know I'll train for the next Everest Marathon, I don't care about placement or time. It is the people of Nepal and the entrants and staff of the race that make the marathon worthwhile. And it is the beauty of the Himalaya that makes any excuse to return the right one.
The training for the 1995 race involves remembering the hills from the last visit. Eden, Utah - in the western United States -is located in the fortunate confluence of five roads leading out and two roads leading to ski resorts. Running the Indian trail in Ogden canyon or the Skyline trail to the North Ogden Divide - or even the precipitous incline to Powder Mountain - all of it is steep and helpful. As a present, friends Jon Contos and Rick Stephenson helped to organise a Rim-to-Rim Grand Canyon run in late September. There was fourteen miles of downhill and six miles of unrelenting uphill. And now. in mid-November, there will be another 16 hour plane ride to the Nepali capital of Kathmandu. And some people I have just met will take part in one of the most meaningful parts of their lives: Nepal and the Everest Marathon.
Summary: 'Everest Marathon', in the Nepal Himalaya.
THE SOUTH PILLAR OF NUPTSE
WHEN A TEAM OF CLIMBERS chooses a very technical aim in the Himalaya, it is well aware of the risk of failure. In fact, one does not climb faces of 2700 m without accepting an important commitment. But this same commitment makes all efforts hazardous; and the smallest incident or an unfavourable climatic factor can make the project a failure.
Our expedition, consisting of Patrick Berhault. Christophe Moulin, Gerard Vionnet-Fusset and myself, left for Nepal on 13 September 1994. A few days of formalities and the approach walk led us to base camp at 5200 m on the right bank of the Nuptse-Lhotse glacier on 22 September.
Patrick who had been very sick with high fever having caught a virus at Namche Bazar, had to return to France. Thus it was three of us who started this climb. The first day of climbing enabled us to scale the Square Tower (200 m of granite of difficulty level 6B). Three days of rest at base camp and we left, taking along ropes, tent and food, for two days during which we attained 5900 m. This section of the pillar posed us problems of mixed terrain and very lofty glaciers (very thin bottlenecks of ice, fissures blocked by ice, and inconsistent snow).
A few days of rest and still charged up, we left for three days of climbing. In these three days, we attained 6200 m, clearing a third very steep climb, and followed it by a very short halt. Bottlenecks of ice at 80 degrees and vertical walls of snow were the principle difficulties we encountered. As we set-off for these three days. Gerard who was already sick because of an early morning omelette, leaned against a boulder which was unfortunately unstable. He lost his balance and fell amidst the great boulders of the moraine. Immediately, he felt acute backache. Nevertheless, he spent three more days with us with virtually a dagger in the back! The doctors whom we consulted at the hospital in Pheriche (a day's walk from base camp) advised him rest. Gerard made one more attempt, but had to abandon a little after base camp, and return to France.
Thus we were only the two of us, two days on the wall, from where we studied the 'Tower of Diamond' (thus named by its discoverers because of its shape). The projection comprising this tower is technically the most difficult. Here, we came across passages of difficulty level 6B and A3 for rock climbing, bottlenecks of ice at 80 degrees and inconsistent walls of snow often overhanging; eliciting long hours of effort from us. The summit of this climb marked the end of the difficult phases of the pillar; as also the end of our fixed ropes. We were now at 6400 m.
The weather still being as good as on our arrival at base camp, we once again set off hoping that an equally long period of bad weather does not set in.
In one day, we once again climbed up the fixed ropes, retrieved our material and food from the bivouac. We progressed 100 m to attain the cornice combing the summit of the pillar. We installed our bivouac, sheltered from the wind which blew in gusts, and from the immense bundles of snow above our heads. The day had been full of excitement. A mushroom of snow gave away under me, twisting my support and throwing me down a dozen metres on my back, head-first. Christophe who was supporting me. surprised and uncomfortably placed, was blown away from his platform and hurled into the passage. Luckily the ice-axe held on, and this incident only resulted in a big fright, and the loss of one of my two ice-axes.
The next day we left early. Some metres from the bivouac, we were thrown on the ground by the wind. Having so far progressed on the eastern part of the pillar, we had been well-sheltered from the violent wind blowing from the northwest since a couple of days. But on reaching the shoulder formed by the summit of the pillar, we were on a ridge perpendicular to the wind. Sitting on this ridge like on a horse, I held on to it; and struggled for some moments to regain the hood of my Goretex, which was stuck under my backpack. Finally relatively sheltered, I gauged the ferocity of the wind that was going to confront us henceforth. We continued our forward flight, at times standing upright, at times crawling on all fours. The contour of the last projection separating us from the main face, allowed us to be little protected against the wind. We were still regularly thrown to the ground by gushes of wind, measured by the Americans on a nearby summit at 180 km/h! Completely spent by the constant fight against the elements, we looked for a sheltered place to establish our bivouac. At around 7000 m we discovered a small crevasse which after two hours of efforts was able to shelter our little tent. It was unimaginable to pitch our tent in the open; we would not even have been able to open its packing without having our hands blown away.
We planned on leaving in the middle of the night in order to climb the 300 m of the slope of ice before dawn. We would then use the day to scale 500 m of mixed terrain which separated us from the summit. At midnight, the wind being still violent, made all our attempts to start go in vain. Early in the morning, we felt that the wind had subsided a little. Hence, we left in the direction of the summit.' Very soon, we realised that the calm was only temporary. We decided to continue knowing that it was impossible to wait for a long period of calm at such altitude. Laboriously, we attained the summits of the various slopes of snow. We realised that our predecessors on the pillars who spoke of the slopes of snow leading to the summit, had omitted these 500 m of mixed terrain. The rock is now of gneiss where the degree of safety is particularly delicate and hazardous. We progressed 200 m in such difficult terrain until we reached the top of a slope where the wind doubled in intensity. It was 5 p.m. We had only one more hour of light ahead of us. We would need at least three hours to reach the summit, assuming that we can progress in a straight line to the summit, which seeing the wind seemed highly unlikely.
We quickly realised that continuing would drag us into the realm of the irrational, from where one does not return unharmed. With death in our soul, we began our descent. In the middle of the night, we returned to our shelter harbouring a secret hope that
tomorrow will be a better day; and that perhaps we could make one more attempt! In the early hours of the morning, we were awakened by the roaring wind! We had to descend. We needed two more days to remove all our equipment, fixed rope and other material from the pillar.
Summary: An attempt by two French mountaineers on the south pillar of Nuptse (7855 m) in September 1994.
HIGH TIME IN NEPAL
Summiting Ama Dablam and Imje Tse
Flying across THE Pacific gives a person an enormous amount of time of think about all the fantastic sights and sounds that define Nepal and its rich culture and people. This was my third expedition to Nepal and I was eager to see old friends and lose myself in the mountains and valleys of the Khumbu.
The goal of this trip was to ascend Ama Dablam. 6812 m and Imje Tse, 6188 m. I orginally had a climbing p;ermit for 1985, but the team could not put the required money together in time. Now it was March 1995 and I had a solid team of financially-committed climbers. It was a go!
We were four fclimbers in the team: Dave Bridges. John Cleavery, Joel Koury and myself. We had another five people who wanted to climb the lower peak and also trek to Everest base camp and do the 157-mile Annapurna circumnavigation trek.
We left the U.S. on 30 March. The flight took 21 hours and left us a little out of it when we arrived. Dealing with adminstrative red-tape took us only two days. We then flew by Russian helicopter to the small airstrip at Lukla, 3200 m where we met our Sirdar. Mingma Dorj, and his base camp crew.
We hiked for six hours to Phuckding village (pronounced the same way!), where we spent the night. The next day we completed the hike to Namche Bazar and the comforts of the Panorama Lodge, owned by my good friend Sherpa Jangbu and his wife. After two days acclimatising, we moved up the valley to the Thyangboche monastery - quite an amazing place.
We received the personal blessings and prayer flags from the reincarnated head Lama and went to the Imje Tse base camp, at 4570 m. After a rest day, we moved to advance base camp at 5180 m. What a windy and terrible place, but oh, so beautiful! We had the north face of Ama Dablam looking at us, the full face of Lhotse wall and the border of Tibet defined by Chomo Lonzo.
Getting up at 3.00 a.m. was quite a struggle, as the air temperature was minus 10 degrees (F) and windy... but the mountain called.
At first day's light we were at the foot of the steep head wall to the summit ridge. The way was blocked by a large opening below an ice schrund. We had to rappel into the crevasse and re-climb the opposite ice wall to gain the slope. After doing this, we ascended a 150 m, 55-degree ice wall to the summit ridge, which had two false summits. Next came the photo session. The summit was glorious! 9.30 a.m. with a blue sky, full view of the Lhotse wall, Everest, Ama Dablam and into Tibet. Wow!
The descent was safe, with the exception that one of the our team got snow blind due to losing her sunglasses. We made it to base camp. The next day, the Sherpas carried our 'blind' climber down the mountain to our base camp.
We spent the night and then walked back to Pangboche, where we bid a fond farewell to our trekker friends, and headed on to the Ama Dablam base camp.
What a great walk! We found we were the only team at the base camp. What luck as the entire mountain was literally ours. After a good night's rest, we climbed to Camp 1 (5800 m). This took nine hours: It was a gain of 1500 m over five miles on a long, long ridge.
Our plan was to climb Ama Dablam alpine style: no load carries, no Sherpa support at altitude and minimum gear. As it turned out the climb was accomplished in five days, base-summit-to-base. Packs were heavy and the climb was steep, steep, steep.
Camp 2 was at 6100 m on a rock/snow ramp. Getting there required climbing a rock ridge covered with technical gendarmes and climbing difficulty up to 5.8. All in plastic double boots! Oh, boy, what fun.
Camp 2 was split into two parts, with half the team at the correct bivy site above the Yellow Tower and two of us at the base of the Yellow Tower, dug into the snow and ice. Morning temperatures were around minus-20 degrees (F). The ascent to Camp 3 was over, through and below a massive number of mushroom snow and ice cornices. It was an all-day operation, but left the team at a fantastic bivy site on the southeast wall, below the hanging glacier (or Dablam).
At this point, the team divided into two assault teams. Joel and I went to assess the identity of a dead climber we had spotted on a ledge 150 m below our camp. The other two climbers continued the climb to the summit. Joel and I rappelled to the body. We were able to determine that it had been a women climber. Dave and John, in the interim, were just below the summit. Joel and I decided to descend to base camp and inform our Nepalese liaison of the body we had found.
As we approached base camp we saw that John and Dave had made, the summit! After informing our liaison officer about the body, we did not have enough time to re-climb to the high camp and go for the summit ourselves. The next day, John and Dave returned to camp at 11.00 p.m., absolutely beat. They told us that the upper part of the final 240 m was hard, blue ice - some of it at an angle of 70 degrees - and that it had been some of the hardest high altitude climbing they had ever done. We had a good party with the Sherpas and left camp two days later for Namche.
Three days later we were back in Kathmandu and hitting the local restaurants and pubs - putting on those lost pounds! Meanwhile, my wife, Linda, and her friends had hiked to Everest base camp and walked around the Annapurna massif and were on their way to ride elephants in southern Nepal.
But that's another story. Great trip. Our team was successful. No one died, and there is always tomorrow.
Ascents of Imje Tse (6138 m) and
Ama Dablam (6812 m) by an American team in summer 1995.
WE, A GROUP OF EAST GERMAN mountaineers who knew each other from trips in the former Soviet Caucasus and Pamirs, decided on the relatively unknown yet beautiful Manaslu (8163 m) to fulfil our common dream of climbing an 8000 m peak. The usual climb through the north was technically undemanding. However, because of the weather, snow conditions and avalanches this mountains is rarely visited.
After permission was received, a year of intensive preparation followed, including various training expeditions and the necessary organisation.
On 21 March 1995 the last members of our group arrived in Kathmandu. On the 23 March 1995 after organising our last store of equipment and receiving the necessary official permission, we able to commence our 12-day trek to the base camp (BC). We discovered on arrival at BC that the area lay under 80 cm of snow.
Our official liasion officer disappeared without explanation in direction of Kathmandu, a day before we arrived in our BC. He returned twenty days later, without any sense of guilt. After we had established ourselves, we began to familiarise with the route. On 5 April we reached Cl at 4850 m and C2 (5500 m) on the 8 April. From the beginning the weather pattern was stable. Nearly every morning the sun shone. By 2 p.m. the weather changed and snowstorms started. Out of 41 days on the mountain, on 3 9 days we experienced extremely harsh weather conditions. The heaviest snowfall occurred after arrival in C2. In the night from the 10 April, 180 cm of snow fell. Our planned idea to wear modern, light snow shoes from Sherpa/USA for this expedition proved to be correct.
The most difficult part of the ascent was between C2 to C3, around 6100 m. We encountered a dangerous avalanche gully, directly below a hanging glacier and crossed a rugged icefield. To cross this area, we utilised 200 m of fixed rope. The first 50 m had an 80 degree gradient and rest 50-55 degrees.
In C2, we stored plenty of tents, food and fuel. In C3, which was our last fixed camp on the ascent, we deposited an extensive medical store and our oxygen-rescue bag (Certeg-France). After acclimatisation and transport of equipment, we rested in BC for 5 days, before eight of us started the ascent to the summit.
In C3,I suffered acute pneumonia and was accompanied by Mario Bornschein and Franz Felsner to BC, while Steffen Thomas, Hartmut Petter, Michael Zunk, Jorg Bartock and Jorg Starke continued.
They climbed next 4 stages together to C7 (7500 m). At 7500 m, Jorg Starke decided to return to C2, for rest and better acclimatisation. Hartmut Petter accompanied him, as previously decided.
On the 30° 'Japanese Wall', with Hartmut Petter in the lead, Jorg Starke fell 300 m. Despite resuscitation attempts by Hartmut Petter, Jorg Starke died at 7000 m. During his attempts to revive Jorg Starke, Hartmut Petter suffered extreme frostbite on his hands, which lead to amputation of 3 finger-tips.
The group Michael Zunk, Steffen Thomas and Jorg Bartock continued to C8 (7800 m) unaware of the tragedy. On the following day, 7 May, they began their final ascent and reached the top (8163 m) at 1.10 p.m.
As they descended, the weather deteriorated. Around 4 p.m. they reached C8. On arrival, Jorg Bartock went into the tent at C8. Outside the tent Steffen Thomas prepared cooking equipment. Suddenly the wind increased almost to storm force and as he looked around and for Michael Zunk, he saw him at a distance of 30 m north from the tent, disappear over the 'Japanese Wall'. Despite the storm conditions, they searched the area around the tent again on the following day, but could not find Michael Zunk.
They continued their descent, while the remaining members of the team climbed from BC to 6200 m, to ensure a safe descent through the huge ice gully. The team that had reached the summit returned safely to base camp.
A few days earlier, the liasion officer had returned - only after the threat of a possible fine from the Ministry of Tourism. He sent a ill-informed first accident report from the police station at Namru (about 8 hours away) to the Ministry of Tourism in Kathmandu.
While the rest of our team continued their return, four of us (myself included) hurried for 4 days to Kathmandu. One reason was that we wanted to inform the relatives directly and in person. The other reason was that Hartmut Petter urgently needed medical treatment of his 3rd and 4th degree