Makalu 2017 Expedition Dispatches

Dispatch #7 – May 17, 2017 – Kathmandu

Apologies about the delayed posting of the final dispatch we have been experiencing problems with our server.

Well, we returned to Kathmandu, and have been resting, eating, drinking, and dealing with family issues from afar. Some have already left a rainy Kathmandu, where it seems like the monsoon has already been in full swing for 4 weeks. Our staff based in Kathmandu usually gets to the pool a few times whilst we are on the mountain, but couldn’t for the first time in years because of cold and rainy weather.

As for us, we left ABC on May 7 and arrived at Camp 2. The following day, we proceeded to Camp 3, which was quite a difficult task. We had high snow and blustery winds. Because of the weather, we had to remain an extra night at Camp 3.

The following day, we followed up the rope fixing team. Everyone that day did a fantastic job of climbing up 1,000 vertical meters. The reason we were able to do this is because of our 4 Sherpas who broke trail in knee-deep snow for the 1,000 vertical meters and 10 hours, and who fixed the 1,000 meters of rope along the way.

It seems we were actually short about 10-15 vertical meters from the actual top as all the Sherpas and the 25 climbers present that summit day deemed the corniced ridge a little too fragile and dangerous to continue on those last few meters.

Many are comparing this situation similar to the Manaslu situation last fall season. One difference however is that the Manaslu foresummit is a much longer distance away and much more vertical gain than the Makalu foresummit.

I am very proud of everyone there as the weather was brutal. I am especially proud of all the hardworking Sherpas whom without their hard work, most climbers would not have been able to proceed on the mountain past Camp 3.

The climbing I enjoy the most is when everyone returns home safe.

Phil Crampton – Kathmandu

Photos are courtesy of Ted Callahan.

We apologize that our recent expedition dispatches were not posted on time. All the team memebers are safe and back in Kathmandu. We will update the site today.

Dispatch #6 – May 3, 2017 – Advanced Base Camp

Yesterday we took advantage of the good weather and our team members tagged camp one and two respectively, some even spending a night there.

The weather forecast is showing good weather for Thursday and Friday for the fixed ropes to be placed the remainder of the way to the Makalu La and to camp four. The Sherpa Sirdars are meeting to discuss this plan but it seems as if some of the other groups Sherpas are not so willing to participate in the fixing of the mountain, even though they are associated with the larger groups on the mountain.

We were all hoping to take advantage of a possible early weather window so we hope the Sirdars can come up with a plan today.

We are pleased to say that a Sherpa from another group whom was suffering from HACE has been evacuated by helicopter for medical treatment in Kathmandu.

Phil Crampton

Dispatch #5 – May 1, 2017 – Advanced Base Camp

Our plans for a second rotation on the hill have been curtailed by the snow and high winds the mountain is experiencing. It’s still only May 1st but our team members are ready to get back to work on their acclimatization schedules.

At present, the ropes are fixed to the Makalu La and we are hoping the weather cooperates over the next few days to allow the collective rope fixing Sherpas to reach camp four. The plan will be for four Sherpa, one from each respective rope fixing team, to go ahead of the main group of climbers and Sherpa on summit day and fix the route where necessary.

The mountain is very quiet in regards to numbers of climbers and Sherpas, and it seems that everyone in base camp know knows each other and all the teams are all working together for the best possible chances of reaching the summit.

Phil Crampton – Advanced Base Camp

Dispatch #4 - April 29, 2017 – Advanced Base Camp

Apologies about the delayed dispatch posting. We have been busy in transit and climbing.

Our departure from Dingboche to base camp was delayed by two days, first by a heavy snow storm in the Khumbu region and then the second day by strong winds making the helicopter flight to Makalu base camp impossible. We got lucky on day three and flew directly from Dingboche to Makalu base camp with an amazing flight.

We spent three nights at base camp before moving to advanced base camp on the 20th in anticipation of climbing.

Our team members tagged camp one and two at 6,400 meters and 6,600 meters respectively on the 24th and then spent the night at camp one on the 27th.

Our Sherpa have been busy carrying loads and fixing ropes along with the Sherpa from other groups. We now have the fixed ropes placed just below the Makalu La and hope to have the rope into camp four in a few days if the weather allows.

Phil Crampton – Advanced Base Camp

Dispatch #3- April 11, 2017 – Namche Bazar

We are now spending our second day in Namche Bazar after arriving here yesterday by helicopter from Kathmandu. The weather for the helicopter flight was amazing and allowed us some great views. It was sunny all day yesterday in Namche and was very warm. Today the weather is also great and the trails are very busy with trekkers and climbers heading up to Everest.

We took it easy yesterday and relaxed at the awesome Sherpa Barista cafe in the smack center of town. Excellent coffee, food and service and pretty good people watching through the wall of glass windows, this has to be the coolest place in town to hang out.

Our Sherpa crew are all now at Makalu base camp, also called Hillary camp, and so is all of our gear. Over 3,000 kg of food and gear has been shuttled to base camp by helicopter and now the porters we brought from near Kathmandu are ferrying the loads to advanced base camp.

Tomorrow, we start the trek and will head to Pangboche. The following day, we will head to Dingboche where we will spend two nights before dropping down to Pherice and taking helicopters to base camp.

We are hoping the weather holds as on the 15th we will be making several shuttles from Lukla to Makalu base camp to Pheriche to Lukla as we have to get fresh vegetables and meat to base camp, as well as our climbers. Several of the climbers are arriving at Everest base camp today where they will be spending a few days with our Expedition Himalaya Everest Expedition team members.

The team are doing well and reminiscing about past their past climbs of Everest and Lhotse. We still have to remind one member that we are not climbing Everest this year but Makalu.

Phil Crampton – Namche Bazar

Dispatch #2- April 6, 2017 – Kathmandu

Our team members are now starting to arrive in Kathmandu, with a few already trekking up in the Khumbu with family members. I am pleased to say we have another dream team this spring as all our climbers are very experienced 8,000-meter mountaineers. Everyone on the team has reached the summit of Everest, some multiple times, and several also have summits of Cho Oyu, Manaslu and Shishapangma.

The Junkies Sherpa crew are on their way to Makalu base camp in anticipation of the helicopters arriving with all our food and gear. The plan is for our team members to take helicopters directly to Namche Bazar from Kathmandu on the 10th and work our way up the Khumbu to Dingboche where will spend a few nights for cautious acclimatization. If the weather allows we will fly directly from Dingboche by helicopter to Makalu base camp, where we will meet our staff. After three nights at base camp we will move to advanced base camp that will serve as our main base camp throughout the expedition.

We have been in contact with all the local operators with teams on Makalu this spring and going on preliminary investigations it seems as if there will be close to 50 foreign climbers and about 25 Sherpa in attendance this spring on the worlds’ fifth highest mountain. That’s a big difference in numbers to Makalu’s more famous neighbor to the North West.

The above photos show Samuli Mansikka’s successful Makalu summit day from 2013.

Phil Crampton – Kathmandu

Dispatch #1- March 26, 2017 – Kathmandu

It’s that time of year again and the start of our 2017 Himalayan spring season. This year for the first in many we will not be climbing on Everest but heading to Makalu instead. The increased numbers of climbers expected this season on Everest and Lhotse left us with a very difficult decision to make, and we decided for the safety of our climbing staff, to sit this year out and head to a mountain without the crowds. We do have some Junkies climbers from the 2014 and 2015 cancelled climbing seasons on “The Big E” this season and we wish them a safe and successful climb.

At a meeting held last week in Kathmandu with some of the members from the Expedition Operators Association whom have teams on Makalu this spring, it was decided to ask the Junkies to coordinate the rope fixing on Makalu this season. It looks as if we will have the largest number of climbing Sherpa in attendance and this with our experience of fixing ropes on Everest, Manaslu and Dhaulagiri we decided to accept the offer. All Sherpa present at base camp from the various groups will have the chance to contribute manpower to the rope fixing and will be paid bonuses accordingly.

Altitude Junkies have already purchased and packed all the rope and hardware and these items will make their way to base camp by helicopter in a few days time. A big thank you to both Black Diamond and Petzl for making our job of rope fixing safer this season with their awesome hardware and ropes.

Our team members will be arriving in Kathmandu the first week of April. We plan to spend a couple of days in Kathmandu finalizing permits, etc., and then we will fly directly to Namche Bazar by helicopter. After trekking up to Dingboche where we plan to spend a few evenings, we will fly directly from Pheriche to Makalu base camp by helicopters where we plan to meet our climbing and kitchen staff.

I was just in Pangboche and Namche for one evening this past week sorting out loads for an Everest expedition and was surprised how quiet the trail was of foreign trekkers. I am assuming this will all change in a few weeks when the Everest season kicks in.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish all western climbers and their respective Sherpa companions a safe and successful spring climbing season.

The above photos show our Sherpa preparing the rope and hardware for the Makalu spring season rope fixing.

Phil Crampton

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