NEWSLETTERS - Ama Dablam 2014

The Daily Moraine - Ama Dablam 2014 #427 October 2014

Slow progress

Progress is slow on the technical ground above Camp 1. Shinji, Phurba and Mingma have been staying at C1 and working each day on the route. I was surprised as to how far they managed to go on the first day, first having to negotiate the overhanging rock band where we are fortunate enough to be able to utilise an old hanging wire ladder, of course with our own new rope as security. But still the team managed to fix another 200m above this rock band, on loose and hollow snow. Yesterday the progress was fast to the top of the fixed ropes, but then it slowed considerably as Shinji picked his way up the unconsolidated snow. The weather forecast predicted wind and snow shows in the afternoon so as this weather approached I called for them to stop climbing and to return back to BC for a well deserved rest.

Everest & Lhotse from camp 1
Everest & Lhotse from camp 1

Camp 1
Camp 1

Phrba above camp 1
Phrba above camp 1

Below ladder
Below ladder

Ladder
Ladder

Puja
Puja

Today we had a second Puja, the Sherpas had already had one before they started climbing, so this second one was more for members, but we had already decide that this would be a rest day in any case as the forecast predicts cold temperatures and strong winds on the hill. Better we are here resting rather than battling with these conditions. It is Ok if one is leading and therefore keeping warm, but for those who are belaying and standing still, makes for cold toes and fingers.

Looking up to Col
Looking up to Col

Col
Col

Nice Climbing
Nice Climbing

In another couple of days when the temperature is expected to rise by 5 degrees Shinji and Woody will both go back up to C1 along with Nima and Urken supporting. At a meeting this morning we decided that it was unfair to have the Sherpas being involved with the belaying of those who are leading, although they all want to be supporting once the fixed lines are in place. I fully support this as it is not for the Sherpas to be in danger for us to achieve our own goals, but Shinji and Woody are both keen to do battle with the route. This is not like a normal Himalayan guided route and we all fully understand that, although the Sherpa team are also very keen to reach the summit via the North Ridge. I on a personal level am pleased to see that even with modern equipment and techniques that we are still struggling to get up this narrow ridge, as I well remember that I struggled all those years ago in 1980 when we did the first ascent of this ridge.

Exposed work
Exposed work

Real North ridge
Real North ridge

High Point
High Point

Shinji at high point
Shinji at high point

But even more memories came back when Narwang Karma from Pheriche arrived at BC totally unexpected, bringing with him a small charger that we had sent in from Kathmandu. Although Narwang lives less than 2 hours from our BC, he had never been here before and he had always wanted to visit the lake. Back in 1980 Narwang was our Sirdar and from that time he has always remained as a great friend, and in fact we store much of our equipment for Lobuche Peak at his lodge in Pheriche. In the old days I used to come and visit his father and his kids who now run the lodge where we stay on our way to Everest, and one of his sons has been to the summit of Everest with us. And here is Narwang coming to pay a visit as a great friend.

Basecamp lake from camp 1
Basecamp lake from camp 1

That got me to thinking overnight, just how much time and effort these local people have put into helping us on expeditions over the years, and how great these friendships have become. Something that I think that the young lads who caused so much of a problem at Everest Base camp last Spring seem to fail to recognise. So many people are asking me what do I think will happen on Everest next spring. Well I suspect that those with long term relationships will continue to work as a close and efficient unit as normal. I see that thanks to these young lads tourism in Nepal is down by 50% and of course these recent storms and loss of life is not going to help this increase immediately. I see that many will go to Tibet to attempt Everest, but actually this is still dealing with the same staff, so will not take away any potential union problems. In fact this will make it better for us on the Nepal side as I suspect the mountain will be less crowded, and we will be back to the Khumbu Sherpa staff, who have a tradition of climbing here and who want this to continue in the future. We have seen some of these instigators of the Everest unrest during our expedition to Manaslu, but we notice that they are staying well away from Sherpas from other teams as well as from various operators, so obviously not feeling so strong right now. Talking to many Sherpas from many teams, they do not want such events to happen again, and they are already aware of the early warning signs, so I am confident that they will not allow this to happen. Which brings me back to my original thoughts, just how far we as expedition companies and how far Sherpas have evolved to make this dangerous expedition business so much safer and with very strong and loyal friendships for so many years. I just hope that some of these younger lads can look and learn from this, so as they will in turn have the same relationships in the future, which will be to their and everyone’s benefit. Thanks Narwang for that friendly smiley face the other day that brought back so many fond memories, and a positive hope for the future.

Regards Russ