The Daily Moraine - Makalu #125 April 2014
Update from Makalu Base Camp
First of all we would like to apologise for the silence from Makalu advanced base camp (ABC) even though we have been here for almost one week by now. Being tucked away in the middle of the Arun valley has reminded us once again that we are actually in the middle of nowhere and that communications are not readily available. We have not been able to catch a satellite signal since we have arrived here on 17th April, however, our guide Jacob has promised to try and find a signal by walking around base camp holding the computer high up in the air, which could finally connect us to the outside world. So hopefully this brief update will reach you!
So, what has happened since our arrival one week ago? The team took a helicopter from Pheriche in the Khumbu Valley over to Makalu ABC, which at 5,700m is one of the highest base camps for an 8,000m peak. "The flight was stunning and it made me realise how lucky I am to be able to experience something like that," said Heidi Sand remembering the magnificent views of Baruntse, Island Peak and, of course, Makalu. The Sherpas had already been here for one week setting up our temporary home in Himalayan Experience style, fully equipped with a comfortable dining tent, a communications tent, a nice kitchen for Gyanu, our head chef and the kitchen boys Dan Bahadur and Chuti as well as all the sleeping tents for all the members.
On our third day, a Buddhist Lama from a nearby village visited our camp to conduct the traditional Puja - the Buddhist blessing ceremony, which is instrumental to every expedition in the Nepal Himalaya. Everyone taking part in an expedition put a piece of their climbing gear or other important kit they are planning to take to the summit on the Chorten - the Buddhist altar built by the Sherpas - to be blessed and be safe on their trip up to the fifth highest mountain in the world. The Puja traditionally takes a couple of hours and usually ends with drinking a bit of whiskey or beer in honour of the Gods.
After the Puja, the members filled their backpacks with their down suits, high altitude boots, warm gear and food for three days and left Makalu ABC to acclimatise to the higher elevations of Camp 1 (6,100m) and Camp 2 (6,600m). "The team felt great and it was a pleasure to be up there with them. There were no medical issues and everyone was acclimatising well," said Suzanne our Swiss guide. Of course, we were all missing Gyanu's good food and even though most of us felt hungry, we just could not find our appetite. "I am starving but I have no appetite and it's almost impossible to eat anything," I said to Julian, our French member. "I bet your friends at sea level would be very jealous of that," he replied with a smile.
Climbing from C1 to C2
On Thursday, we all left Camp 2, which is positioned right underneath the Makalu La - our Camp 3 at 7,400m. After having carried up their skis to that high altitude, our members Sergey and Julian dared to ski al the way down to crampon point. "It felt good to ski, however, it's hard at high altitude and the snow conditions were not perfect - most of it was hard ice," said Sergey after this brave undertaking.
Sergey and Julien skiing from C2 to Crampon Point
Everyone will now rest and acclimatise for the next three days, before we head back up to Camp 2 for two nights and then to Camp 3 at 7,400m for the next rotation. However, before the members can make their way up to the Makalu La, the Sherpas will have to fix the rope up the steep couloir, which they are planning to do on Friday and Saturday.
During their resting period, the members will have the chance to meet some of the other mountaineers attempting to climb Makalu - and there are about sixty of them. "I think this is one of the busiest years on Makalu," said Sonam, one of the sirdars of another team. "We are currently having problems finding porters to get our climbing gear from base camp to ABC," he continued. Fortunately, Himalayan Experience had foregone that problem and used helicopters to get our climbing gear to ABC.
I truly hope that Jacob will succeed in finding a satellite signal and that we will be able to update you more frequently about our expedition to this beautiful mountain.
Billi Bierling,Makalu ABC