NEWSLETTERS - Makalu 2014

The Daily Moraine - Makalu #33 May 2014

Everyone back down safely at ABC

"It's so great to be back here and eat good food," Heidi called out during dinner on Thursday night. "Even though I love it up there it is always good to be back." This little outburst of joy came after having been on the mountain for four days spending two nights at Camp 2 at 6,600m and one night at Camp 3 - the Makalu La - at 7,400m.

Suzanne with Everest and Lhotse
Suzanne with Everest and Lhotse

All members and guides left the comforts of ABC on 28th April and went straight to Camp 2, where they all arrived at about 2pm. Entertaining yourself at these high camps is sometimes quite difficult as there is not much else to do than boil water, drink and try to eat. Appetites vary up there and some people never lose their cravings for food, like our guide Jacob, and some people just don't have an appetite. "I never lose my appetite up there and I usually look forward to my delicious "boil-in-the-bag" meal every evening," Jacob said rubbing his tummy.

We were certainly not the only climbers up at Camp 2 with a variety of nationalities camping nearby us. "Even though it is nice to have the mountain to yourselves, it's always good to meet friends up here - it makes the experience a little bit less boring," said our Spanish friend Ferran Latorre.

Jacob on the second rock band
Jacob on the second rock band

On 29th April, our official rest day at Camp 2, we ventured out and took a little walk towards the rock band below the Makalu La. The Sherpas were fixing the rope that day and we could see a long trail of people going up. Jacob, Sergej, Heidi, Naoki, Stuart and myself only ascended for about 200 metres as we wanted to save some of our energy for the following day - the real climb up to the Makalu La. "I don't believe in exhausting myself on a rest day," Naoki, our Japanese mate, said. At about 2pm, we were all back in our tents trying to get comfortable, boiling some water or simply enjoying the amazing view of Lhotse and Everest towering above us. "I nearly did not recognise these two giants but I guess we all look different from behind," said Heidi and while she was marvelling at the stunning panorama, our Sherpas arrived to join us for the night at Camp 2. "We need our crew here to set up our tents at the Makalu La," Suzanne explained. "They will then go back to Camp 2 for the night and come back up the following day to take all the tents down and store it in a deposit tent, which we will collapse. The reason why we are not leaving any tents up on the Makalu La are the ferocious winds that can destroy everything," she concluded.

Exhausting day to the Makalu La

The following day we all had a hard time peeling ourselves out of our sleeping bags, and we actually only managed to get going once the warming sun had hit our tents. I guess we were all quite surprised by how far the way to the Makalu La was. "I have not felt so exhausted for a long time, Rene, our Dutch member said after the ascent. "I had no energy left." The weather was very kind to us and even though the climb was very tough, we were literally able to enjoy a breathtaking panorama. "The Sherpas have done a very good job at fixing the ropes," Suzanne said. "The anchors are bomb-proof and I am very happy with them." However, despite the fact that the Sherpas are known to be very strong, they were also quite depleted after their day up the Makalu La. "I am very tired," said Lhakpa, one of Russell's long-time and strong Sherpas, when I met him on his way down to Camp 2.

Rene on the way to Camp 3
Rene on the way to Camp 3

At around 6pm everyone, apart from Stuart and myself, had collapsed in their tents at the Makalu La trying to get some rest before they had to go back down the following day. When Stuart and I had arrived at the bottom of the second rock band at about 7,200m, we contacted our guides by radio asking how much longer it would be to reach Camp 3. "I guess it will be another 2 1/2 hours," Suzanne said slightly shocking us with this piece of news as it was already 5pm. The wind had picked up and it had started snowing so we decided to turn back and face the long abseils rather than carrying on up and getting too cold. "Had I known that it was that far I would have started two hours earlier," Stuart said. However, going down is always quicker and we arrived back at our Camp 2 at about 6.30pm. "Didi and Dai (the Nepali terms for 'sister' and 'brother'), do you want some hot water," Tashi, one of our Sherpas called out of the tent. It was good to know that we were in good hands and someone was looking out for us.

Sergej skiing down the headwall
Sergej skiing down the headwall

On Thursday, 1st May, we all descended to ABC and Sergej, who had carried his skis up to Camp 2 did some amazing turns down to crampon point. Watching him we heard the scraping sound of hard ice and we were wondering whether it was actually fun skiing down in these conditions. "It's certainly better and much faster than walking," Sergej said with a smile and he was right as he was already having a beer and scoffing down the pizza, which had been carefully prepared by Gyanu and Chuti, by the time everyone else arrived.

We will spend the following days resting, eating and rehydrating until we know what the weather gods are going to do for us in terms of a good weather window. "The next few days will see a lot of precipitation and we will have to get the latest weather forecast from Meteotest in Bern to see when we have a good chance to go for the summit," Jacob explained. "We also need the Sherpas to finish fixing the ropes to the summit and according to Lopsang, our sirdar, they got half way up the French Couloir on Thursday."

We will keep you posted on our progress but for the time being we will just rest and regain our strength in order to be fit enough to make it to the summit of the fifth highest mountain in the world.

Billi Bierling, Makalu Advanced Base Camp