NEWSLETTERS - Makalu 2014

The Daily Moraine - Makalu #611 May 2014

There is a weather window at the end of the tunnel

Billi and Heidi in the Makalu Hair Studio
Billi and Heidi in the Makalu Hair Studio

It has already been 11 days since we got back from our second acclimatisation rotation and life at base camp has not changed much since the last newsletter. Every day seems the same, starting with a hearty breakfast and followed by a shower, a walk to crampon point, a phone call home, a visit to the other camps or, in case of the Sherpas or the Germans, a game of cards. The German climber Luis Stitzinger and his mate Florian came down to our camp wondering whether anyone knew the Bavarian card game "Schafkopfen", and as I am a very keen fan of this game I got very excited and we "force-recruited" Rene and Heidi and taught them how to play this traditional card game. "Rene, you will certainly impress any Bavarian when you tell them that you can play this game. And on top of it, you and Heidi already play it very well," said Luis looking a bit worried about the rupees he might lose to the strong Swabian-Dutch team once we will start playing for money.

Our Russian member Sergey spent the 9th of May with his compatriots at a neighbouring camp, celebrating their "Victory Day" and as he was not seen all day, we gathered that the party must have been a success – and we were certainly right. "I had a very tough day yesterday and I am still trying to recover," he said being slumped in his chair looking a bit rough during lunch the following day.

Suzanne topping up her sun tan
Suzanne topping up her sun tan

Other base camp activities involve sitting in the sun getting a sun tan, washing hair, watching videos at a neighbouring camp and throwing rocks into a barrel, which had been put in the middle of the frozen lake: an activity Dr Joe proved to be the champion in, however, not without consequences. "I can feel my arm from throwing all these rocks – it's really painful," he lamented.

Weather window on the horizon

On Sunday morning, Suzanne, Jacob, Loppsang and Pasang were sitting together to discuss the action plan for next week as the winds promise to abate around 16th May, which means we could look at a summit attempt around that time. "The weather forecast from Meteotest Bern has been very accurate and I guess we can rely on it for our summit push," Suzanne explained.

Pasang, Loppsang, Suzanne and Jacob in their meeting room discussing plans
Pasang, Loppsang, Suzanne and Jacob in their meeting room discussing plans

In preparation for our summit bid, we also checked our oxygen systems to make sure that everyone is happy with their set-up. "It always feels weird having the mask on my face and it would be nice to go without it," said Heidi. "However, Makalu is a big mountain and I know that the oxygen will help me protect my fingers and toes from the cold," she continued.

Naoki, Stuart and Rene trying on their oxygen masks
Naoki, Stuart and Rene trying on their oxygen masks

Looking back at history, Makalu has been climbed almost 370 times, of which 150 people used supplemental oxygen and the rest did not. When Jean Couzy and Lionel Terry from France became the first people to set foot on the 'Black Mountain'on 15th May 1955 they also used supplemental oxygen. It then took 20 years for the first person to climb Makalub without 'gas, which, according to the Himalayan Database of Miss Elizabeth Hawley, was Marjan Manfreda from the former Republic of Yugoslavia ion 6th October 1975.

We will certainly try and send another update with more detailed information about our summit plans before we head back up the hill, but in the meantime we would like to wish all the mothers out there a happy Mother's Day and a lovely Sunday.

Billi Bierling, Makalu Advanced Base Camp