NEWSLETTERS - Ama Dablam 2014

The Daily Moraine - Ama Dablam 2014 #64 Novemeber 2014

We came, we climbed, we failed.

It was with great disappointment that we decided not to continue climbing at 6,500m yesterday.

High point from BC
High point from BC

Everything seemed to be in place for a successful summit day. The 4 Sherpas had fixed rope along the exposed and difficult final ridge the day before. so the fixed rope was already at about 6,500m. Everyone was very positive for a summit day. There jet stream seemed to recognise this and actually changed direction a little meaning that there was only about 5km winds on the ridge, and no high cloud cover. The Sherpas were fired up and left C1 at 04.30 and reached the high point just under 3 hours later. Then they started to lead the final 200m of fixed rope, but i am afraid this was in bottomless snow. It seemed that foot steeps were going through this years snow and then deep into last years snow in the shaded corner before being able to get on top of the hanging glacier that then affords easier access to the summit. There was just one steep section remaining, but it seemed almost impossible to climb this. In fact Urken fell off during his first attempt, with no injury as he just landed in deep snow, but serious enough on this exposed ridge. Having gained this last steep snow mushroom the team were then confronted with waist deep snow across and up a potential avalanche bowl. Over night we had noticed that a large bowl on a similar aspect had naturally released on neighbouring Bharuntse, so we were already uneasy about this slope. After discussion by radio Phurba elected that this was too dangerous and would take too long. By this stage the Sherpa team had already spent over 2 hours to make about 25m of progress. So obviously a summit was not going to be possible in one day.

Near high point
Near high point

Also of interest is the guides and Sherpas had been observing the increased avalanche activity on the East face, with many very large avalanches pouring down the face. But yesterday morning there was apparently a huge avalanche which not only went down the face but jumped over the NE rib and reached where our Base Camp was last year. Lucky we were not there this year.

Summit ridge
Summit ridge

Looking back along ridge
Looking back along ridge

But as all this decision making was going on we received the sad news that there had been yet another accident on the normal Ama Dablam route. It was very unnerving for the Sherpas to be watching this rescue by long line from a helicopter as two foreign climbers who were badly injured and one Sherpa who had been killed by a serac fall were evacuated. It made us all very aware of the precarious situation that we were in on our North ridge. The reassuring thing was we knew that we had fixed our own rope, and we knew that this was good quality rope, and that we had a good route all the way back to BC. From the limited information that we have been receiving from the Normal route, it seems that the rope fixing was a total farce. Although the EOA had responsibility for the rope fixing, and they purchased 4,000m of new rope appropriate for this mixed rock and snow route. However there seems there was very little co-ordination in the actual rope fixing with various teams fixing their own rope or using old rope. The team that said they would do the fixing apparently did not fix as promised. Earlier during the season a Russian climber fell to his death by using this old rope, so then apparently there was understandably protest from the various climbing teams, so eventually the proper rope was fixed, but only to 6,200m. Then there was another death, but it appears that this was from natural causes. But of course to have 3 fatalities on the normal route is not good news, and still the season is not finished there.

But we also hear that the Base Camp is totally over crowded and that there are just so many people on the route, which makes us appreciate our own quite but beautiful BC. But it is hard to critique from afar and without all the correct information.

The Sherpas all returned to BC mid afternoon as Woody and Rochelle went up to C1 for one night yesterday. Today we are packing BC as the two climbers come back down, and tomorrow we will return equipment to Pheriche and continue down to Phortse.

This will be the last newsletter from BC, but I will post a follow up from Kathmandu.

High point
High point

We have busy days ahead as Phurba and Urken head to the Mani Rumdu festival where they are helping with organisation, Narwang and Nima are heading to the US Visa office to get visas for their visit to Salt Lake City, Woody, Shinji and I are all keen to get back home after being here in Nepal for almost 3 months living in tents.

Regards Russ