Friday, April 30, 2010

Then and Now

Hello this is Brad Johnson writng. Today, April 30th, is our last rest day at basecamp before going up the mountain for the next 4 days or so. Our intent is on reaching Makalu La at 7400m (24,400ft,) and spending the night there for our final acclimatization bid. Then returning to basecamp for a good rest and waiting for summit weather.

The last time I was here was in 1989 and 1992. Both of those expeditions were with 5 other friends, no Sherpa support and only one other expedition on the moujntain. On each of those trips we did not have the luxury of heated dining tents and satelite weather forecasts to pinpoint our summit windows Instead we relied on our altimiters to watch for the oncoming of high pressure and guessed that it was time to go for the summit. In 1989 we had guessed corrrectly but were stopped at 8100m (26,600ft) by dangerous slab avalanche conditions. In 1992, we waited one day too long to depart basecamp for our summit bid and missed the summit by one day, again reaching 8,100m but turned around due to high winds.

I have witnessed big changes since 1992, not only in the technology world and what people bring to basecamp, but also in the journey to basecamp. On the trek from Tumlingtar to basecamp in 1992 the small hamlets of Num, Sedua and Tashigoan, consisted of 3 - 6 houses, now they are villages of 15 - 20 houses and hundreds of people.
Beyond Tashigoan there was nothing but trail and difficult places to camp. Now there are tea houses and cleared out areas in the forrest to camp.

The biggest change I have seen is that advanced basecamp is located 2 hours walk further up the glacier and several thousand feet higer from where we camped in 1992. The glaciers have receeded not only in length but in depth as well, by as much as 300ft lower in depth.

In 1992 the glacier was smoother and we walked on hard snow, this year the mountain is very dry and we are walking on white ice and sometimes blue water ice on the glacier.
Camp 2 is still in the same place we used in 1992.

I am anxious to reach the Makalu La and see what the upper part of the mountain to the summit looks like from there.

Thanks for keeping track of us on our blog and sending us your thoughts and good cheers.
If you don't hear from us for the next 4 days it is because we are out for a new adventure.
Have a great day and big hugs to you all.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

ABC to Camp 2

The day started sunny and bright, we left camp with loads of food, sleeping gear, and great attitudes. Chhiring had left at about 6:30 am to put in a new route from depot camp to Camp 1. At this point we have two separate depot camps. Depot camp is where we store our light weight hiking boots, our harnesses, and ice axes. No matter what Depot Camp we use it is always a pleasure to arrive. It signifies a transition to actually getting on the glacier and moving up the mountain. The route up to Camp 1 requires crossing the Barun glacier, keeping an eye out for new crevasses that might have opened up and being aware of your surruoundings.

There has been some debate about whether it is easier to climb rock and scree, or hike ploddingly up the glacier to Camp 1. I prefer the rock ands scree because it allows me to put off putting on my heavy mountaineering boots until almost 6200m (high depot camp) versus at about 5900m (low depot camp). The time differential is not that significant, but energy savings is the debate. I like hiking on the rock and jumping from one rock to the next, other prefer to french step up the glacier. I think my preference is ingrained in me from spending my summers in northern michigan at my cabin, which is surrounded by rock.

As we climbed up the mountain yesterday we saw the weather changoing with a sun dog and high mares tails lining the sky. We left AC about 8:15am in the morning and after a leisurely stroll up reached Camp 1 at about 12:15pm. The wind had started to pick up and some light snow was blowing across the top of the Barun glacier and we decided to push on to Camp 2. The route up to Camp 2 takes you up a moderate ice fall, with ice ramps and glacial walls all around you. As we were ascending up to Camp 2 the winds really started to pick up with grapple blowiing and hitting us. Grapple is similar to hail, but it is snow. I can speak from personal experience and say that it hurts when it hits you.

We reached Camp 2 at about 2:30pm and dropped our loads in preparation of spending two nights there when the weather clears. This is a big part of our acclimitization plan that includes us climbing the Makalu La and returning to Camp 2. After that we will decide if we will spend a night above Camp 2 prior to going to the summit. Our French teammates spent two nights at Camp 1 and returned this morning.

We returned to ABC at about 6:30pm last nite, exhausted and happy. We had a fantastic dinner with spaghetti, french fries, veggies, and a fruit cup for desert. This morning I woke up at about 5:30am, went in to the mess tent, and switched the tanks on the heater. Yes, Klinke and Klimek fixed the heater. What an amazing addition to our lives. I made a cup of espresso and wrote in my journal until 7 am, when I did the radio call with the French who were still up at Camp 1. The snow we were expecting did not materialize, although they got about 10cm at Camp 1 and we got about 3 cm at ABC. Then I opened the Espresso bar and made Café Latte's for my teammates in bed. Then since it is a rest day we took a leisurely brunch when the French arrived into ABC. It was then clean up time. The sun was out and there was no wind, so we lined up for showers. It is amazing how a little thing like a shower can make such a difference in your personal attittude. Some people did their laundry others read, then we had lunch. With Sandrine from the French Team providing Foie Gras for the team. What a treat.

Life is great at ABC and we are waiting on the weather gods to provide us with a clear picture of what will happen next.

Chris Klinke, Makalu ABC

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

April 27th mid morning... ABC

Good day all, Robbie writing today the 27th of April and it is a windy/chilly morn. Temps are in the high teens (-8 deg C) right now and we received a light dusting of snow. It is supposed to get a lil' warmer before the weather changes. Scuttlbutt around the camps pertains to a weather pattern that is not in our favor for the upcoming three days. Snow and higher winds from the NW are to come in this evening. We we are trying to plan for tomorrows move up to Camp 2 with this in mind. Yesterday was stunning for mountaineering!!!! Too bad we weren't acclimitized for a summit bid for there was 0 wind and Mediterranean skies til 1100 hr... Basically we were climbing thru the pages of National Geographic... We were all able to move efficiently and confidently to camp 1 and all were feeling well. Camp 1 is @ 21,000' & change... It is situated on a spectacular bench that over looks the upper 2/3s of the route... There is a stunning couloir that we will ascend that feeds us to a summit plateau that then leads us to the summit ridge. The climbing yesterday was all glaciated with a section of 100 meters of 65 deg blue ice as well. There were 4 other expeditions ascending /descending which made for rush hr traffic at the fixed lines... Plans are to have a couple of us set up another fixed line system to alleviate the clusters @ the toe/head of the lines just below Camp 1. Highlights are as follows... Heavy laughter with the French (quite the eclectic group of individuals), stunning 360 deg views, route finding discussions and tactics for how we wish to climb the upper mountain, gourmet high altitude pizza, the Klinke/Klimek morning lattes, and lastly,assisting with some altiude related medical issues... Right now we are reconfiguring the mess hall in anticipation of the storm that is coming in. Thanks to all that have written back to us... It is always a pleasure to hear from our friends and loved ones... Keep it coming.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

At Makalu ABC

We arrived at Makalu ABC after a gruelling climb up from Base Camp. It was a sad departure from Base Camp given that Ann, Jim, and Leslie were leaving us to head back to a warmer climate. They had trekked all the way up to 4650m with us and it we were all sad to see them depart. I know Jim and Leslie are anxiously awaiting the arrival of their nephew so hopefully it coincides with them having access to a phone or internet.

When I say it was a gruelling climb up to ABC, I mean it was steep, filled with boulders, and a lot of scree and glacial slopes to walk up and down. We gained almost 1000m in the trek over the course of about 5 hours. But we were rewarded with views of Lhotse star, Lhotse, and Everest as we went up the valley.

Yesterday we spent just chilliing, getting our facilitiies in order. We have an amazing double walled dining tent, but unfortunately our heater for it got damaged. So we are dining at ambient temperatures which is good training for higher on the mountain. We have a stone kitchen area with a tarp for a roof. It is always a great place to go to get a cup of tea and a little warmth. We have a shower tent set up, 2 toliet tents, and then we each have our own tent at base camp. I have mine set up with my Valandre Thor bag which is keeping me toasty at night, but unfortunately my sleeping mat has a hole in it and it keeps going flat during the night. Despite the best efforts of everyone we cannot find the leak.....

We started today with a Puja cermemony conducted by Chhiring Dorje. As Chhiring said himself, he is not a lama, but he knows the gods to pray to. So we sought the blessing of Makalu to tread safely upon her, and we were rewarded with a bird landing on our altar which is a sign of good luck and a blessinig. Then we spent the rest of the day getting gear ready to go up to the mountain. Keep in mind we had a total of 120 porters each carrying up to 50lbs of gear. So we have almost 6000lbs of equipment and food that needed to be sorted and tagged for the different camps. Chhiring has a great crew that was able to get it the group gear done quickly while the rest of us took some time during the day to get it done.

On Monday morning we will do a carry up to camp 1 at 6400 or 6800m depending on how we feel. Then return to Base camp for a rest day on Tuesday.

Climb Hard, Climb High, Come Home,

Chris Klinke, Makalu ABC

Thursday, April 22, 2010

2010 Base Camp Oddyssey

Seven days of trekking has brought us from the hot lowlands of the Makalu district at 600 meters through rainforest, cloud forest thick with rhododendron in bloom, on up through the subalpine, and finally into the glaciated high alpine region of Makalu Base Camp at 5000 meters. We are psyched to be here!

Our team is healthy and in great spirits, though the day before we learned that one of our advance kitchen staff dropping off supplies at Advance Base Camp (ABC) was being heli-evac'd with pneumonia as a chopper overflew us in the lower Barun Valley. He is now doing well back in Kathmandu.

We are resting today, allowing our bodies to engage in the physiologic process of acclimatization. Lots of changes are taking place in the days and weeks spent at altitude. The rate and depth of breathing increases, the kidneys increase their excretion of bicarbonate ion which slightly acidifies the blood, stimulating respiration. The bone marrow is prompted to start cranking out more oxygen-carrying red blood cells. Blood flow to the brain and lungs rises enormously.

Tomorrow we will make our way up to ABC at 5600m. It's important not to go too high too fast. The symtoms of Acute Mountain Sickness (headache, poor apetite, difficulty sleeping, shortness of breath) are early warning signs that it's time to rest or even descend. If ignored, they can quickly lead to the serious complications of High Altitude Pulmonary Edema(HAPE) or High Altitude Cerebral Edema(HACE). So far, only mild headache has been experienced by a few of our members.

As physician for the team, there have been daily medical and minor surgical issues I've encountered within our team, the porter staff, and villagers without access to medical care. I'm grateful to Adventure Medical Kits for their generous equipment support.

This afternoon we've been playing on the slackline(fortunately no injuries!), and tonight we're invited to the Ukrainian camp for some social time and to check out their sauna which they are firing up. Namaste all!

Eric Meyer, Makalu Base Camp

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

One Day out from Basecamp

We have been moving at a steady pace to Makalu Basecamp. We are camping tonight at about 3950m. Tomorrow we move up to base camp at an elevation of 4870m. We are camping at a little tea hut and I have no idea how to spell the name of where we are at although my best guess is Tadosa. There are waterfalls surrounding us and prompting us all to think about coming back in the winter to do some amazing ice climbs. Eric and Robbie have been been treating a porter a day with a mix of the Adventure Medical Kit and personal medical equipment. Most of the injuries are just minor issues like smashed fingers and wounds that have not healed.

Our days are predictable, we get up at 5:30am with Bed Tea and wash water, eat breakfast at 6:30am and start trekking by 7:30am. The weather has also been predictable. We have sun in the morning until about 11:00am then we get clouds moving in and creating a damp atmosphere and obscuring the amazing views that can be seen in the Makalu Barun National Park. Then we get a few light showers as we are setting up camp. A little rain in the night and then clear by about 8:00pm, so that we can see the stars occassionally.

I need to apologize for a little technical difficulty that we had on the blog. For some reason my computer decided that it liked the year 2005 much better then 2010 and decided to send the last two dispatches under that date. So I am not sure that they have been posted. But my wonderful sister is working to fix that problem for us.

Chris Klinke, Tadosa

Monday, April 19, 2010

Hello Everyone,
This is Amy again -I just spoke with Chris - he sounds very happy - so apparently the new posts have been going to 2005 - I have to figure out how to change the dates on this site, and don't have the time to figure it out now - there is a photo - so if you get a chance, go back in time to 2005 to see the photo of everyone -

here are two of the posts that have gone up!

Hello to all, Robbie writing to you on the 16th of April from Seduwa and all is great!!! We have meshed well with our new French friends and we are traveling with great strength and bright smiles. The Nepali children have have helped us along the way and have provided us with some well deserved entertainment... Aside of a lil delay getting out of KTM we finally are hiking in some of the more remote areas of Nepal. We are in the Makalu/ Barun Valley and today was the most strenuous day of the trek so far for we had had to actually hike. Yep, we didn't have jeep support, no really today was spectacular... We are definitely in the thick of the Nepali culture... Broken english is par for the trek and the remoteness and the surreal landscape adds to the journeys mystical milieu... An interesting mix of tropical and high alipine flora.... Thick cummulus clouds obscure the high mountains though for a brief moment we were able to glimpe the lower South Face of Makalu from above Num. We have been blessed with no ailments aside of some low grade Gi issues and a loving leech that afixed itself to Leslie's index finger..Iodine works well for leech removal!!! We are so Psyched that all is going so well and we are hoping that our great fortunes continue for the rest of the expedition...

at 12:55 PM 0 comments Links to this post

new post -

In The Du

Just a quick update to make sure my sat phone and electronics are in working order before going out into the mountains. I had a great flight over, slept soundly, and ready for the days ahead. Today is all about checking the list for the fourth time .

at 5:25 AM 0 comments Links to this post
Hello Everyone,

just a quick update from Chris's sister, Amy- I received a voicemail from Chris this morning.  He indicated he did post an update, but it apparently did not stick - he sounded good and from the schedule it looks like they are still trekking their way to base camp and should be there by the 26th.

hope this finds everyone well,

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The team has all arrived and it has been a whirlwind of activity. Today we went for a blessing with the Lama Rinpoche, where we received the traditional Kata, a hearty blessing, and an amulet that provides for protection from rock fall, avalanches, and protects the wearer from bad things happening. It seems to work because a gust of wind came up during lunch and knocked an umbrella over, the way the umbrella fell almost took out Robbie because he had taken his off to jump in the pool. We were told that we would have an auspicious climb. After that we came back and finished our packing. I believe it was about the 8th time repacking for me. Then we headed out to the Ministry of Tourism for our briefing, we were introduced to our Liasion Officer and handed our permit in a little ceremony.

Now we have a few hours of downtime and then we head out for a group dinner with the entire team including the sherpas. Tomorrow we will fly out from Kathmandu to Tumlingtar, where we will jump in jeeps for an 1.5 hour drive and set up camp. The next day we will drive until the road becomes unpassable. As Chhiring said today, when the truck starts slipping going up we will start walking.

Attached is a team portrait of the American Team taken at dinner last night, and a picture of Eric Meyer with the Rinpoche.

This will be last update from civilization, I have tested the satellite phone connection and it appears to be working. The goal will be to send an update about every two days.

Chris Klinke, Kathmandu

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The whole team is almost in Kathmandu. Brad Johnson arrived today, Ann Wagner as well. The French Team arrived yesterday, and Eric and Robbie are in the air making their way to Nepal.

I have had a few new experiences this time around in Kathmandu. First and probably the scariest thing I have ever done was ride on the back of a motorcycle( For Cris and Beth, yes the Bitch Seat) through Kathmandu. There appears to be as many of motor vehicles in Kathmandu as people and only about 1/8th of the required roads to accommodate them all. Imagine driving through Chicago with no stop lights, no police, and a mere suggestion on the rules of the road. Riding on the back of a motorcycle while navigating this makes life very interesting for all concerned. Helmets are only required for the driver of the motorcycle. Therefore I had to beg to get a second helmet and the Sherpa’s all laughed at me. I figure that they think if you are going to need it, it will not do any good anyway. So I basically jumped on, closed my eyes, and prayed that I would survive. I actually think climbing a mountain is a safer past time.

The second new experience has been doing long distance night rides on a bike. I was invited out to a few amazing dinners with my friend, Billi, her friends Sam, Maske, Richard, and Stephanie. Maske is an amazing cook, and the meal was simply outstanding. But the real challenge came riding my bike home at 11:30 pm at night without a head lamp. There are no street lamps and the roads are very similar to single track mountain bike trails with potholes, various posts scattered in the middle of the road like big tree roots, and oncoming traffic that sometimes have their headlights on.... 

Oh and I watched a motorcycle almost achieve a hat trick. It took out two cyclists and himself in quick move trying to dart between the two cyclist. Everyone appeared to have walked away.

The conclusion to this entry is that I have improved my mountain biking skills, reaffirmed my dislike for riding on the back of a motorcycle and am looking forward to get into the mountains.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Well, I am back in the land of sounds, smells, and climbers, although at this point they are not responsible for the smells of Kathmandu. Give it a few months and it will be all their fault. I have been meeting wtih Chhiring Dorje and his amazing crew gettting all the last minute preparations ready to go. I have been able to meet his family and share a few meals. I have also been staying with my great friend Billi Beirling. She bikes around Kathmandu interviewing all of the teams heading out to the mountains for Miss Elizabeth Hawley who has been chronicling 8000 meter peaks since Sir Edmund Hillary's time. It is really quite amazing the information they provide on an ongoing basis.

The rest of the team will be coming in over the next week and we will be heading out to the Makalu on the 14th of April. I am not sure if my satellite email is working yet, I have tried it a few times and emails are not seeming to go out. So hopefully I can get that resolved so we can keep everyone in touch.

Chris Klinke, Reporting from Kathmandu

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The expedition season is upon us and all over the world, climbers are packing their down equipment, climbing gear, food, and luxury items (toothbrushes, shower bags, and chocolate). The list is being checked twice and most times thrice to ensure that nothing is left behind.

The airlines flying into Kathmandu are dreading the onslaught of overweight luggage, and the climbers are trying to figure out how to make their baggage fit the weight restrictions that are so arbitrary with airlines the world over. If you are coming from the USA and flying a USA based airline it is restricted to two 50 lbs bags, if you are flying an international carrier out of the USA it is two 70lbs bags.  If you are coming from Europe you have one 32 kg bag that you are allowed to bring with no charge, and that is true for most of the world. It makes layovers and delays a joy because you now have to learn the new restrictions on your baggage. But all the challenges of preparation are worth it because you get to go pursue what you love.

I am no different I am getting my gear into place and rechecking twice, about to start the thrice. I keep going through it and trying to figure out if I can leave something behind, or should I bring it just in case. A great example is a spare ascender in case someone loses one, or a spare harness in case one breaks, or a spare length of webbing in case we need a really big belay point.

We now have 3 amazing people joining us for the Trek into Makalu Base Camp. I am honored and thrilled that my dear friend Ann Wagner is joining us. She climbed with me in India and is one of the people I credit with giving the lust for the mountains. In addition we have Jim and Leslie Kendrik joining us who are traveling around the world on their honeymoon. They heard from their friend Rob that their was a possibility of trekking into Makalu and they re-routed their tickets to join us. We will have an incredible time trekking into Base Camp.

 I have to send a few Thank You's, First to Chhiring Dorje and Rolwaling Excursions for all the fantastic work he has done in making this trip happen. Their is a link to his website on the home page of the blog if you have an interest in doing something unique in Nepal.

Second one is to all the Sponsors who are making this trip happen and providing us with amazing equipment to use: Valandre, Adventure Medical Kits, Talus Outdoor Products, Point 6, Dermatone, and Steripen.

Please visit the newly created Team Page and Sponsor Page!

Climb Hard, Climb High, Come Home!