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.