NEWSLETTERS - Makalu 2014

The Daily Moraine - Makalu #923 May 2014

Second summit attempt

It's already been five days since we came back down from Camp 2 and even though Gyanu and his kitchen team have made base camp life very comfortable for us, our patience has been tested. However - just as one week ago - there is a light at the end of the tunnel and the next weather window for our summit attempt is fast approaching. "The 25th May looks like a perfect summit day," Suzanne said after having checked the weather forecast for the umpteenth time. "The winds will be down to 30km/h to 35km/h and there will be some precipitation."

Gyanu, Loppsang, Sergey, Jacob and Suzanne waiting for the weather window
Gyanu, Loppsang, Sergey, Jacob and Suzanne waiting for the weather window

In order to catch this good day, we will leave ABC for Camp 2 on 22nd May, get to the Makalu La on 23rd May, Camp 4 on 24th and then leave for the summit in the night of 25th. "According to the reports of climbers, who have already reached the summit, it is a very long day, so we will have to have an early start," Jacob said.

Sergey and Naoki mulling over a picture of the route to the summit
Sergey and Naoki mulling over a picture of the route to the summit

Between 17th and 19th May, 23 members and Sherpas reached the summit of the 8,485m-high Mount Makalu, which actually has two advantages for us: firstly, there won't be that many people on the route and secondly, the ropes are now fixed all the way to the summit. "There was a bit of confusion about the fixed ropes on the first two summit days, but apparently all the ropes are now in place, which will make our summit day a lot less stressful," Suzanne said.

Everyone's habit

All our members have spent the last five days nurturing their usual habits: Naoki and Jacob have walked up to the "Internet Café" near Crampon Point every day; Heidi, who is a sculptress, has built a lovely sculpture garden in front of our dining tent; Rene has read about one book per day; Sergey has spent half his time on the phone to his business partners; Suzanne has checked the weather twice a day; and I have been busy interviewing the successful Makalu climbers for Miss Hawley's Himalayan Database.

Heidi building her sculpture garden
Heidi building her sculpture garden

While I am writing this, Makalu ABC is slowly getting empty with most successful summiteers being keen to leave this beautiful, but barren place. "I have spent far too much time here and I can't wait to move my legs properly again and walk back to the airstrip in Tumlingtar," the French ultrarunner Phillip Gatta told me during the debriefing for the database.

Our Sherpas and kitchen staff are also slowly getting ready to break down the camp as it will probably only be a matter of 48 hours between the members coming back from their summit attempt and getting on a helicopter to go back to Kathmandu. "It has been amazing here, but I wonder whether I have just set the record for spending the most time at Makalu ABC," Dr Joe said wondering whether there was a section in the Himalayan Database mentioning such a unique achievement.

Suzanne and Billi enjoying one of their rest day
Suzanne and Billi enjoying one of their rest day

What is certainly not mentioned in the database is the material and food needed to feed an expedition for such a long time. "I need two bottles of gas in five days for cooking, and the porters carried up 25 bottles in total," Gyanu said explaining that getting one gas bottle to Makalu ABC and back costs 18,000 NPR (180 USD). "As far as feeding the whole team is concerned, we carried almost 150 loads of food to ABC and that translates to more than four tons in weight," he continued. For the Sherpas, the turnaround time will be a bit longer as they will have to break down all the camps on the hill and then pack up base camp. "Once all the material is down, it will take us another day to get ready and leave. Of course, we also have to make sure that all the rubbish will get carried down and will be disposed of properly," Gyanu explained.

If all goes to plan, we should all be back at ABC on 26th May and I will do my best to send an update as quickly as possible. In the meantime, I would like to ask you once again to keep your fingers crossed that the mountain as well as the weather Gods will be kind to us on this summit attempt.

Billi Bierling, Makalu ABC