Sunday, May 30, 2010

Chris's Summit Account

I know many of you have been waiting for the details of Mountain Climbing versus Mountain Summiting, and I am finally going to go through all the gritty details of the summit push. I have been waiting for everyone to arrive back in Kathmandu and to give everyone the chance to put together their own version of events.

The reality is that our summit push started May 20th. I left ABC at 5800m early on the 20th to give myself the best chance at getting some rest at Camp 2 at 6800m. I left ABC at about 6:15 am and started the arduous climb up to camp 2 via the depot camp, the ice fall, and the serac field to reach Camp 2 at about 11:30 am. It was actually one of the best parts of the climb for me because I was feeling strong, healthy, and arrived with enough time to level out our tent at camp 2. One of the interesting things that happens to tents on a snow field is that the middle of the tent melts out due to the solar reflection and heat that collects inside the tent. I call it the bathtub effect, and you get this sloping wall inside the tent not unlike laying in a bathtub. Not real comfortable to sleep in and you either have to move the tent or chip away the ice wall along the sides and then build up the center. This is what I spent the afternoon doing, so that by the time my tent mate Robbie arrived we had a nice level tent again. Which was  a great thing because we ended up spending two nights at Camp 2 due to extremely high winds on the morning of the 21st.  The forecast had called for moderate winds of 20-30km/h during the night of the 20th and through the morning of the 21st. Reality was that we had winds close to 80 km/h with gusts that were stronger. In order for us to make a successful bid for the summit we would have to leave Camp 2 no later then 9:30 am to head for Camp 4. If everything would have been perfect we would leave no later then 6:30 am to head for Camp 4. It is about a 5 hour climb to the Makalu La and then another two hours past that to Camp 4. We needed to have enough time to get to Camp 4, set up tents, make dinner, brew water, and rest before leaving for the summit. We were up and ready to go at 6 am, but the winds kept howling and a few times I thought the tent would blow down due to the gusts coming off the Makalu La. The winds did eventually die down as they were supposed to but it did not happen until close to 1pm. Therefore we had to delay our summit bid until the 23rd. The winds picked up again on the evening of the 22nd but luckily they were in the 20-30km/h range on the morning of the 22nd when we left Camp 2 and started up towards Camp 4.

The journey up to Camp 4 winds through the upper German Camp 2 and proceeds up the lower rock band, the snow field, and the upper rock band in the Makalu La. It takes about 5 hours to make your way through the nearly vertical rock bands that are layered with blue ice and sugar snow. Once you successfully navigate that area. You have a two hour hike across a snowfield to reach Camp 4 at about 7500m. This is where our journey to the summit began.

On the morning of the 22nd I left at early and arrived at Camp 4 by about 1:30pm. I arrived and helped set up the tents at Camp 4, started boiling water for hydration and food by 3pm. Robbie arrived at about 4 pm and jumped into the tent. Things were going well for our summit push. The winds had died down, their was some afternoon convection clouds happening but nothing that was serious. Chhiring and Furtemba had left to fix a few sections of rope through the serac field that lead to the base of the French couloirs. Brad had made a climbing decision about heading to the summit the day before from Camp 3. Unfortunately his bid for the summit was not successful.(He will tell his tale in a few days). Eric was still coming up to Camp 4. Robbie and I were in the tent resting and getting all our gear ready to head to the summit. For me this included going through my Valandre down suit and making sure everything was in the right pockets. Batteries for foot warmers on inside pocket right side, water bottle on inside pocket left side, Camera, Dermatone Sun Block, Spare Batteries for head lamp, Spare Head Lamp in zipper pocket, food stashed in thigh pocket, Camelback full, Radio, spare radio battery.  Then I crawled into my down suit, Crawled into my Bloody Mary sleeping bag, and started to nap for our departure for the summit. Eric M arrived into camp 4 just before it got dark and he started his process of getting ready. Our original plan was to leave for the summit at 12:00am but because so many people had arrived so late in the day we made the decision to push that back until 2 am.

By the time everyone was out of their tents and ready to go it was almost 2:30 am. We headed off towards the summit walking in a single file line through the lower glacier field to avoid crevasses. It always an interesting experience to walk in a line of people through the dark with headlamps glowing ahead and behind you. In the dark you cannot really see anything except a dull outline of what is ahead of you, and you simply hear the breathing of the person behind you. If they happen to be on oxygen then you are pretty sure that Darth Vader is following you in the dark on the way up the mountain. In total their was 11 of us who left for the summit that night. Finjo had returned to Kathmandu because of an illness, Brad had already made his summit attempt, and Mica(a member of the French Team) had felt that he was not rested or hydrated enough to make a bid for the summit that night. So as the 11 of us trudged through the dark we were expecting about a 10 hour push to reach the summit by noon. The reality of a 16 hour push was not something we had considered when we started out, but as the night turned to day it became clearer that was we were looking at.

The glacier and serac fields had fresh snow on top that made some of the traverses a little tricky in navigating. We pushed up through the Serac Fields and reached the bottom of the French couloirs at about 1 pm. The weather was still clear but we had become a stretched out line of climbers. Robbie K had decided that it was not his day due to lack of sleep and food and turned around. So at about 1 pm we started pushing up through the French Couloirs, which is strikingly similar to the Makalu La  but starting at 8100m and slightly more vertical. We had Chhiring who was fixing rope in the lead, followed by the Phillipe, Alexia, and Yeti on oxygen, then Andu and Sandrine, and I was batting clean up on the way up. When we were about half way up at about 3:30 pm The weather started to change on us. We started getting some wind gusts, and we saw the sky starting to speckle up with mares tails and when I was looking across at the ridges spind drift was blowing. Yet we continued to push on thinking all the time that we were almost there. We got to the summit ridge at almost 5pm, at which time we were still about an 1 hour from the summit. The sky was white, the wind was up, and spin drift was blowing everywhere. Sun had disappeared and the temperature was definitely cold. We decided to go for it.

The Summit of Makalu is really only about 3 ft wide and it is proceeded on either side by a little tiny ridge that drops off on both sides for thousands of feet. It is covered by ice and corniced snow and you have to traverse past a false ridge to reach it. It is very tricky to reach. So after making our way up to the false summit, and moving across the ridge. I finally reached the summit at 5:59 pm!!! Alexia and Sandrine summited before me, and I was followed by Phillipe. Yeti had  made the decision to turn around prior to reaching the summit ridge based on weather conditions which was probably one of the smarter decisions of the day.

As we started making our way down the mountain the weather progressed into real nasty storm. Now we were descending the ropes that we has put up and to add insult to injury, they were difficult to find under the snow that had just fallen. We finally reached the bottom of the couloirs after about 2 hours of descending into a worsening storm. We were all aware of the crevasses that we had passed over to reach the couloirs but none of us were sure of our ability to spot them in a white out in the dark. So we roped up and started our descent. It took me until almost 10:45 pm to reach our Camp 4. And along the way there were a few issues, but in the end we all safely reached our Camp 4 by midnight. Everyone was safe.

In the morning, I headed down to ABC. Being completely wiped out a journey that had previously took me 6 hours ended up taking almost 12.

Then on the morning of the 25th a large part of our group was heading down for a helicopter ride from Yangle Kharka which is about 29km trek from our ABC. They headed out at 11:00am. After they left Robbie, Yeti, and I were planning on leaving on the 26th or 27th from ABC. But at this point they became like caged animals and wanted to leave right away. So they headed out after lunch at about 1pm for Yangle Kharka, and I followed at 2:30 pm. By this point I was wiped out and decided the helicopter was the best way out for me. Robbie and Yeti then went on a death march from Yangle Kharka to Tumilingtar and did the simply amazing feat of completing the trek in two days!!!!

Now we have celebrated Robbie’s 40th Birthday in Kathmandu and plan on doing up a party for Eric tomorrow!!!!

Pictures will follow, I am still waiting for my stuff to arrive from Base Camp!

Chris Klinke, Kathmandu

Brad's Climbing Push

During the days of May 15 through 18 I decided to escape the wind and doldrums of ABC and hike down to the lower altitudes of Makalu Basecamp for a rest. I ended up staying in the basecamp of Marty Schmidt and Chris Benway. During this time I met up with Marty Schmidt who had been attempting a new route on the opposite, side of the mountain with Chris Warner, but Chris ended up getting very sick and was evacuated from the mountain, leaving Marty without a partner. Marty decided to try and solo the N.W. ridge route that we were climbing on and then is when I met Marty.
Talking with Marty, he and I both knew we did not want to be "guided" up the mountain by Sherpas, nor did we want to get in line and just follow fixed rope to the summit.
May 23rd was the day chosen by our team of Sherpas and climbers to try and summit. The weather was also suppose to be great on the 22nd as well.
Marty and I decided to climb to Makalu La, alpine style from Camp 2 on May 21 ahead of the 14 people going for the summit on the 23rd. This way we would have the first shot at the summit on the 22nd and it would be just the two of us route finding and breaking trail to the summit. We chose to make our summit bid from Makalu La, 7500m, and not from a camp 4 at 7600m. the distance between Makalu La and Camp 4 being 1-1/2hrs.
Although I knew  we should depart Makalu La at midnight, we overslept and ended up leaving at 3:30am, already putting us behind schedule.
The night was perfectly calm and stary and not too cold. We climbed to 7800m by 8:30am, then found our way through a very steep broken glacier / ice fall, pulling out of the snow fixed rope from last year and replacing some anchors. This used up valuable time as well.
Once through the icefall we climbed a crevassed slope that seemed to go on forever up to approximately 8,100m where we stopped to rest at 12:30 noon.  Being above 8,000m now we both could begin to feel the lack of oxygen, althugh up to this point we both felt strong climbing without bottled oxygen.
Looking up at the summit pyramid, we calculated how many hours we still needed to climb the French Couloir to the summit ridge, then across the summit ridge to the "false summit", around that and the final 100m to the true summit. We decided that if all went well we would need at least 4 more hours. Meaning we would summit around 5:00PM.
The weather was still perfect and no wind. If there was ever a day to push the limits today was the day. We were both worried though, about summiting so late in the day and then descending as the sun was setting and obviously coming back down through the crevasses and icefall in the dark.
We ended up making the deciscion not to continue, which left me heartbroken that we were turning around so high on the mountain and the summit seemingly so close.
Our descent to Makalu La ended up being faster than we thought and the evening weather stayed clear and calm, telling us that all would have been fine if we had been descending in the dark.
As we stood at Makalu La re-hydrating from the days effort, my American and French teammates and the Sherpas, came up over the La from Camp 2 on their way to Camp 4. Some looked stong and ready for their summit attempt and some look exhuasted from the steep climbing with a heavy pack. Two of the French climbers could not make the Makalu La without the aid of using oxygen. By dark they were all in Camp 4, hydrating and getting ready for their summit bid.
At 2:30am they departed Camp 4 and began their ascent. By the time the group reached 7,800m, Robbie and Silvia had already decided that they did not have enough energy to continue. The main group continued throught the steep ice fall, with several Sherpas out front fixing rope as they went. By 11:00am they all arrived at our high point and rested for a long time. Then they al decided to push on, crossing the slope above to the start of the French couloir. Although the Sherpas found lots of old fixed rope in this section, they also fixed their own rope, caused more delays. By mid afternoon they had reached the summit ridge in deteriorating weather. Pushing on the lead Sherpas climbed to the false summit and fixed more rope around this and up to the main summit.
At 4;15pm Erik Meyer and Lakpa Sherpa, both climbnig without bottled oxygen, decided that because of the lateness of the day and because it was beginning to snow, that they would turn around and head down. This was a very difficult decsision only 100 vertical meters from the summit. Ahead of them the two lead Sherpas, two French ladies, one Fench men and Chris Klinke pushed on. Ultimitaley they all summited Makalu between 5:30pm and 6:30pm in a brief window of clear wether, then began their descent.
In the long hours that followed descending in the dark, Lakpa and Erick had difficulties finding the start of the fixed rope back through the steep icefall. In their searching, Lakpa suddenty slipped on blue ice and dissapeared down the ice cliffs to the horrow of Erick. Erick searched for Lakpa for several hourse before the group of summiters had descended to where he was searching. Further searching came up empty handed and they assumed that Lakpa had died in a crevasse. They slowly made their way through the icefall in the dark snowstorm and back to Camp 4, where to their shock and amazement found Lakpa in his sleeping bag in one of the tents. He had miracoulously survived a 250m fall, without much injury or ending up in a crevasse and found his way back to Camp 4. By 11:00pm everyone was safely back in Camp 4 exhausted. That night it snowed all night and by morning there was 18 inches of new snow.
Packing up it took them all day to descend from Camp 4 to ABC in a snow storm and very heavy packs.
It was a big releif to have the entire team of climbers and Sherpas back down from the mountain safe and sound for the last time.
Starting the next day we packed up our equipment and headed 30km down valley to a point where we could be helicoptered out of the mountains and back to Kathmandu.
We are now resting in Kathmandu and eating lots, with skinny bodies and sunburned faces. It was a great trip and we all came back good friends.
Thanks for all of your support and we will see you when we get home..
Brad Johnson

Thursday, May 27, 2010

I just wanted to let everyone know that ALL team members are doing great. Some team members flew into Kathmandu yesterday, and two members are trekking (Rob and Yeti)  back and should arrive tomorrow. I will make sure a new  post is up by tomorrow regarding the climb itself and the last few days, plus some Pictures......

Monday, May 24, 2010

There is a reason they call it Mountain Climbing and not Mountain Summiting...

That is the title my brother specifically asked me to lead this post with.  Hello, this is Chris's sister, Amy, writing again.   I spoke with him around 8:30pm (EST) on Sunday 5/23.  He and the team were in camp 4 and 6 out of the 14 (I think I have that number right) summited.   He would not specify who summited, and frankly, I was just happy to hear that everyone was happy and safe and well.    So in summary, some summited, some did not, and they are all safe and coming back down.

They are heading all the way back down to ABC as I write this blog so they can post their own update and we will hear all the gritty details then.

Thanks for all the good thoughts!

Be well,

Friday, May 21, 2010

Hello Everyone!

This is Chris's sister, Amy.  I spoke with Chris (and heard Rob in the background)   They are at camp 2 waiting for the winds to die down and hope to make the summit push on the 23rd.   They sounded happy and are looking forward to the summit.

Be well and thanks for sending all the warm and safe thoughts,


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Revised Summit Plan

Weather is weather and completely unpredictable at this point. After having been informed by the various weather services that the previous weather window was "short lived and dangerous" we abandoned our summit plans and have been waiting. Well, the window was good, and we missed the first one, but we are going for the second one with gusto and commitment.

The goal will be to summit on the 22nd of May. Based on current forecasts it should be a stable weather window starting on the 21st and continuing until the 24th. It gives us plenty of time to get up to high camp in semi-decent weather and have the opportunity to get to the summit on a clear day.

So the question that you may have is what have we been doing in the meantime. Well, not much. We went up to Camp 2 on the 16th which was the start of our previous window and slept a night to keep our acclimitization in order, had a horrible, sleepless night and returned to ABC for breakfast. We have taken showers, shaved (some of us), and done laundry. Life in ABC has not been exciting. Although in the last 24 hours we have arranged a helilcopter for a portion of the team who want to fly back to Kathmandu rather then trekking the 5 days out. There is some logic to this decision. I have decided to trek out because I want to enjoy the fun of seeing green and smelling something other then rock and snow.

So to sum up our plan.We will leave ABC on May 20th and go directly to Camp 2. We will try and arrive early in the day so that we can have plenty of time to rest and hydrate. Then on the 21st we will head up the Makalu La and go to our Camp 4. Again leaving early and trying to arrive in Camp 4 with time to spare for hydration and eating. Then we will leave on the morning of the 22nd at about 1 am to arrive on the summit by 10 am. Then we will return from the summit, break camp 4 and descend to Camp 2 by 5pm on the 22nd.

Climb Hard, Climb High, Come Home

Chris Klinke, ABC Makalu

Sunday, May 16, 2010

May 15th Update

Robbie K writing the blog for the 15th from ABC. The news isn't too good for an accent up Makalu until later in the month, hopefully around the 23rd of May... The French and the Germans left two days ago for their summit bid and we were to leave today The winds have been ripping for the last week from C1 all the way to the summit. When I say ripping, I mean our flesh would be frozen in seconds without remorse if accidentally left exposed. (Upwards of 100km winds with -28 deg C temps.) We have been diligently watching and getting weather updates from France, Germany, and Switzerland. We utilize as many meteorological resources as possible so that our guessing is minimized and a more calculated decision can be ascertained as to when we should make our way up the hill. The information that we had been originally given gave us a window for the 16th and 17th to make our summit push and we were to leave today. We decided to stay in ABC for the last two days because there were going to be 23 people ahead of us. We wanted some room to play and we wanted to make a speedier accent (3 days). In addition we want to spend as lil time above C2 as possible. But the window is too small and the winds have been nuking since last week. So... the French and the Germans are now heading down because of the deteriorating weather... Right now, outside our fabric walls, we are having a mix of snow and rain. So, we are in a hold patern and we are going to see how the winds and weather fair over the next couple of days. So that is all that we have going on right now. We are relaxing and getting "plumped" up for our attempt. It looks as though we are going be in ABC for a few more days so we will keep you all posted. Again, thanks for all of the comments... And please keep them coming...

Friday, May 14, 2010

Summit Bound

This morning we awoke to the very familiar winds of the past week, but noticeably less intense. Conditions have been unstable this past week, causing our three consultant weather forecasters in Europe to really scratch their heads about how much improvement there might actually be during the May 16-17th period.

It looks like the jetstream will split North/South around Everest and Makalu as it approaches from the NW. Our weather sages think this will mean a decrease in winds from 60-110 km/hr to 20-30 km/hr from the Makalu La(7400m) to the summit(8467m), with temps warming from from -35 C to around -20 C near the summit the 16th and 17th. We will definitely appreciate the warmth and comfort of the Talus Cold Avenger masks and the Point 6 socks!

So today, the six French climbers of our group, four team sherpas, and Chhiring Dorje left for the summit push, targetting a May 16th summit. Right behind them out of BC was a party of 13 Germans with the same game plan. The four of us haqve decided to hold back our summit departure till the day after tomorrow, May 15th. Our reasons for doing this are that we want to summit on the 17th, avoid crowding(including icefall and rockfall risk) in the technical areas of the route, and since we are not using botttled oxygen, to minimize our high altitude exposure time, skipping the camp at Makalu La with a push from Camp 2 to a final staging camp at 7600m.

The waiting is hard-reading books, watching videos, and going on hikes around BC are a reminder that high mountains are not "conquered", but rather snuck up on, and that planning,preparation, and commitment are keys to a successful summit of an 8000m peak. The reality of the experience is that it's just not possible to get to the top of a peak like Makalu without climbing in at least some bad weather. Communication and trust amongst teammates, continual reassessment of risks and benefits, and conservation of energy, are all really important at this stage.

"dolendi modus timendi non item...
to suffering there is an end, to fear, none..."

Eric Meyer, M.D.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Preparation, Pain and Patience

Brad Johnson writing from ABC.
We are resting in ABC, for our third day, since our last foray up the mountain to camp II and to Makalu La at 7,475m (24,500ft.) Those 3 days on the mountain were to be our last days of preparation before a summit attempt. Of course we have been preparing for the summit in many ways. Back home training and organizing, then the 9-day trek in to Advance Base Camp (ABC), all fall under the title of Preparation. A few days rest at ABC to acclimatize and then up the mountain to camp I and camp II. It all sounds so easy in our dispatches, Even a climber who knows a little about Makalu would say we are "only" climbing the "normal"or easy route up the mountain. Not something as daunting as the West Ridge. However Makalu is not a mountain that has and easy route to the summit. Yes from ABC to camp II it is non-technical glacier climbing, but each new altitude brought long, uncomfortable nights in the tent, headaches, nausea, cold temperatures and the longing for the sun to return to warm ourselves. The sun also meant we could get out and start moving or climbing again. This movement always got the blood flowing, bringing more oxygen to the brian and the releif of our headaches.

Returning to ABC for a rest, shower, good meals always helped our bodies get ready for another trip up the mountain. Usually the 2nd and 3rd nights on the mountain were not so painful as our bodies were now used to our previous highpoints.Thinkiing we would be ready to go higher we would strike off again for Makalu La, only to feel like we had lead in our legs. Our minds are asking what is wrong with our body, why is it not responding like we think it should. Maybe we had not rested enough in ABC?? and so a few return to camp II to rest and hydrate to try again the next day.

With 3 other expeditions here climbing the same route to the summit, it is usually the first group to arrive that takes on the work of finding the way up the glacier to camps I and II. In addition above camp II, where the climbing really begins, it is their decision to find the best way to climb to Makalu La.

Having been here twice before, both times our expedition was the first group on the mountain and both times we chose to climb the 2,500ft snow couloir from camp II to Makalu La. It was straightforward climbing, allowing the climber to develop a rythim of kicking each step up in the snow. This year the German group arrived first and when they began setting the route to Makalu La, instead of climbing up the couloir, they chose to climb up steep rock bands, mixed with hard ice. Why you ask? Because, that is the way people climbed it last year and the anchors and some rope were still there. Because it seemed less work to fix the route to go this way using what had been left behind.
This year when I saw that the route to Makalu La was through 2,000ft of rock bands, I felt depressed knowing how painful, tiring, and time consuming the climbing would be.

Our expedition of 6 French and 4 Americans, began our first climb to Makalu La on 2 different days. The French team, all of the Sherpas, as well as Erik Meyer, went on the first day, with 3 of the French carrying a tent and sleeping bags to the La, where they spent a cold, windless night. Erik and the Sherpas reached the La for a short visit and then descended to camp II. The other 3 French did not quite succeed in reaching the La because the climbing was too tiring and time consuming and returned to camp II to spend the night.
The following day Robbie, Chirs and Brad climbed to Makalu La, meeting the 3 French who were headed down to ABC for a rest. This day was ecceptionally calm and sunny with great views of Everest and Lhotse and countless other mountains. We reached the La between 1:pm and 2:pm, and took photos of the upper reaches of the mountain. From Makalu La to the summit is now cake walk either. There is still 3,000ft of climbing up glaciated terrain. The final 700ft. Of climbing involves steep rock and ice climbing and a narrow final ridge of snow and rock to reach a summit that can only accommodate 2 or 3 people ata time. We three stood and tried to memorize the route that we will have to climb by headlamp on our summit bid and then we made a hasty retreat to camp II, where we drank and ate. With just enough daylight left in the day we decided to descned all the way to ABC, arriving just in time for dinner, ending a very long, 12-hour day. We all felt the pain of such a push from 22,000ft to 24,500ft and back down to ABC at 18,800ft. It was good to be "home" again and off the snow, where we ate and slept to our hearts content.

We have now had 3, windy rest days in ABC. The top of the mountain is being raked by the jet stream, with winds of 70-mph or more at times and the forecast shows stronger winds to come for a few more days. Patience is now the key to our success. It is obviouse we have all lost weight. Our lips and noses are blistered and chapped. We have more than the "farmers" tan. If we took our clothes off I think we would resemble a turtle without its shell on, a brown head with white meat beneath. We have been in the mountains almost a month now, there is already talk of eating big saladas, hot pizzas, fresh pastries, getting a massage, going to the beach and wondering how much it would cost to hire a big helicopter to fly us out once we have reached the summit and returned with all our digits. Are we putting the cart before the horse too soon? Patience is the key now to wait for the weather to be in our favor.

To pass the time we have been reading and watching DVD's, we even had a coctail party yesterday afternoon and invited a few members of the other groups here to partake.
All the wine and whiskey meant for a summit celebration party ended up being consumed. I guess the party is over and it is time to focus once again.

As is usual, there is a variety of nationalities here in hopes of reaching the summit of Makalu. English, French, American, German, Italian,Turkish, Isreali, Dutch, Swedish and an Austrailian who is back for his second time after turning back 50m from the summit when he realized he had frozen his nose and his toes.

We are as prepared as we will ever be for our first summit attemp. It is going to be painfull climbing to 27,767ft, with or without oxygen and when the weather forecast shows us when the winds will dye down we will let you know when we will make our summit attempt. Until then we hope your day is as sunnny as ours but with less wind.
Have a great day,
Brad Johnson

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Hello Everyone,

This is Chris's sister again - he called this morning from Base Camp - there are really high winds so they are waiting for the weather to clear to make a summit attempt.  They are deciding on an attempt possibly the 16th and 17th, though that is entirely weather dependent.

Email is currently not working.  They hope to have it fixed soon, but Chris wanted me to post a brief update to let everyone know they are happy and well and waiting for the summit bid.

Be well,

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Makalu La and back again

Since the last posting we have gained almost 2000m in elevation, spent 2 nights at Camp 2 and achieved an altitude of 7474m at the Makalu La. My mom had asked me what the route is like up the mountain and since it is Mothers day I thought I would try and describe the route from ABC to the Makala La so that you have at least a verbose description since sending pictures has been rather difficult.

ABC (5600m) to Camp 1 (6400m) (approx 4 hrs)

When you leave ABC you head up a scree and talus field of boulders that is situatued between two ice falls or pentitentes. The ice fall has large blocks of ice and glacier coming down the mountain for about 3 km. In between the ice fall is the scree slope that we actually go up. It is a twisty path of rock sitting on top of ice, so the route changes slightly every time you go up up it. In an earlier post I talked about the two different routes to Camp 1. Now we are only using the route that traverses the Barun Glacier at the top. The 3 km of scree takes about 45 minutes and you gain about 400m in altitude jumping from rock to rock and walking on the gravel and boulders. There are a couple of vertical sections that require you to scramble up the rock walls carved out by the receding glacier but nothing that is all that tricky. Once you reach the tongue of the main glacier we switch from hiking shoes to our high altitude boots, put on our harnesses and crampons and strike out on the glacier. The glacier walk is another 3 km to Camp 1. On the glaicer we have a wanded route to help avoid some of the larger crevases and the challenging section is the last bit which is a semi vertical 250 m ice wall. There is a fixed rope here and it can create somewhat of a bottleneck if there are a lot of people moving up. Currently in ABC there are about 40 people wh are attempting to climb Makalu not including climbing sherpas. So you have to time your ascent to avoid a little crowd. Once you get to top of the ice wall you have about a 20 minute into Camp 1. Up to this point none of us have actually slept at Camp 1, we instead have chosen to go the next 2 km to get up to Camp 2 at 6700m to sleep.

Camp 1(6400m) to Camp 2(6700m) (approx 2 hours)

The route between Camp 1 and Camp 2 is a zig zagging route up through several large seracs (ice cliffs) and crevases. The route heads out to the east from Camp 1 and starts up a steep ice slope. Luckily the ice slope has had a firm layer of snow on it for the past few weeks so it does not require front pointing or even ice tools. You can use the fixed line and just dig your heals in as you ascend. At the top of the ice slope you have a choice of the low road or high road. The high road requires you to make a leap of faith of 3 ft or so over a gap in an ice bridge, but then you have a gentle rolling slope to ascend. The low road does not require a leap of faith but does send you up and down through a series of ice bridges that brings you out onto the high route. It is really about how confident you feel in your footing and making the leap. Most people seem to choose the low road after a fresh snow, but if the wind has been blowing people use the high road because it is shorter. Once you get through the series of seracs you have about an 1 hour journey going up the final 150 m to Camp 2. Camp 2 is sheltered by a series of large seracs and is protected from avalanche and rock fall. From Camp 2 you have an amazing view of Everest, Lhotse, and what seems an infinite number of mountains to the west. The sun rise and sunset from Camp 2 is truly something to see. You also have a great view of the Makalu La. La means pass in Nepali.

Camp 2 (6700m) to Camp 3 (7500m) AKA Makalu La (approx 6:30 hrs)

The crux of the climb really comes into play on this next section. The current route has us going up the rock bands to reach the Makalu La. The distance is probaly not more then 3 km but you gain a significant amount of altitude in short distance and the climbing is technical and tricky. You leave Camp 2 and cross a large snow field to attain the base of the rock bands. As you ascend through the rock bands you are going at an almost 70 degree angle through most of it. You have rock and ice mixed, covered with snow. So you have to place your feet carefully, and make sure you are always in contact with at least two points of your body. You wind your way through the lower rock band and go though the various machinations of your body to achieve the middle snow band. Once you reach the snow band you cross about 1km of snow and ice to achieve the second rock band. Here is where your mind plays tricks on you. You think you should be almost at the top of the La, but in reality you still have almost two hours of hard climbing before you top out. The route through the upper rock band presents several false summits for you as you look up. The route winds it way through the rocks and snow fields in such a way as to be constantly suprising you with a little bit further to go. The time it takes to climb this relatively short section from Camp 2 to Camp 3 is about 6:30 hours. It is vertical and the first time through you are trying to learn the rhythm of the route. Unfortunately the route is as tone deaf as I am and there is not a rhythm to be had on the route. So it makes it very tiring as you climb your way up.

Rob, Brad, and I climbed frrom Camp 2 to the Makalu La and then descended all the way to ABC in the same day taking approximately 11:30 hours to do so Eric had ascended to the Makalu La the day before and came back down and slept in Camp 2.

Yesterday we definitely were feeling the effects of such a strenous effort Currently we are watching the jet stream touch the summit of Makalu and waiting for a weather window so we can put together our summit bid. We have a tenative plan of trying to summit around the 15th of May, but that is entirely weather dependent at this point. The Jet stream is supposed to move away from us mid week. We are resting very comfortably in ABC. This morning the team of Klimek and Klinke made omeletes with cheese and mushrooms, and bacon for the team breakfast. The KK esspresso bar is open, and tonight the French have invited a few other teams over for an Appertif of wine, cheese, and a selection of meats. Last nite we watched a movie with the Andrew Kostners team with their laptop projector. So life is good and everyone is continuing to be healthy if a little tired from recent energy expedentitures.

So please send good thoughts on a weather window opening soon, give your mother a call, and be thankful for all that you have.

Happy Mothers Day to everyone, and especially to Veronica who is celebrating her first Mothers Day.

Chris Klinke, Makalu Base Camp

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

May 4th Update...

Where to begin... What a change in biodynamics with a significant gain in altitude and a decrease in temperature. Throw in some inclement weather and dehydrated food and you can see where this blog is going... We are so excited to be resting today post our 2 days @ C2 which is @ 6,642 m. We arrived under azure skies, calm breezes,and pumped spirits. We had stunning views of Everest and Lhoatse to the west, Ama Dablam to the south, and we could see the proposed route above us. We had previously discussed that we were going to head up to Makalu La on the 2nd which would bring us up to 7,400 m That was going to be our greatest acclimitization move thus far. At 0000 hr, unbeknownst to us, a storm building to the southwest was going to slam us @ C2. And it did. I was already struggling with the unfortunate realization that I didn't have enough insulation between me and the tent floor... Those that do know me know that I don't have a surplus in that dept. I slept or tried to without plausible results. I didn't bring my Thermarest so I used coiled ropes and a thin pad to separate me from the glacier beneath me. I was able to get a couple of winks in before IT arrived and what a party THEY had. A well choreograghed blend of snow, graupel, 30 km winds, and our now unfriendly prayer flags beat our tent fly and souls for over 24 hrs. Needless to say we made no progress in elevation. Big ideas and massive progress were thwarted by this storm. The Germans, with whom we hiked up to C2 the day before, were descending (as well as team Marmot)We decided to stay... It was a decision that we felt would better our acclimitization efforts... May 2nd was spent removing snow, pacing, boiling H20, trying to develop interesting conversation, and keeping the aspirational lies to a minimum. I was certain that we were going to go to the La for the weather on May 1st was sans pariel and would continue for the next couple of days so I didn't bring cerebral stimulation devices or read-ables for we would be climbing.... Need to rethink that one!!! Being couped up was brutal, for the mind can travel to locations where not even the bravest Navy Seals would be dispatched... Mountaineers need to be continously stimulated and if not, read the warning label before opening. :) so on the morning of the 3rd, it was determined that we were going to head to ABC to get out of the weather for 24-48 hrs. Collective realizations post trip to C2... Bring your Thermarest, we don't like dehydrated food, bring tunes and something to reign in your thoughts IE: books, Sudoku, etc... It is mid morning on the 4th and we are enjoying some quiet time. We all slept SO well and it's nice to recoup. Tomorrow we are planning to head back up to C2 and start again. We are still pumped and looking forward to making progress again. As stated, we love hearing from you all, so keep the comments coming!!! We appreciate it.
Robbie, ABC

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sitting at 21,790

We are currently waiting at Camp 2 for a break in the weather to go up the Makalu La. Snow and wind are oour constant friends. Hopfully our better friends Sun and stable air will visit soon.

Chris Klinke , Camp 2, Makalu