April 29, 2011
Makalu Advance Base Camp
"Greetings from Makalu Advance Base Camp, 5,700 meters, Friday 29, April, 2011...
We left ABC at 7:45 am, still shivering in the shade of Makalu's summit and West Wall rising over 2,000 meters above us.
A 2-hour walk up the rocky glacier led to Crampon Point, where we trade hiking shoes for double boots and crampons. The walk up the glacier is punctuated by the occasional crevasse, slots starting with blue ice and disappearing into the black below.
At 6,250 meters, the glacier changes from gentle to steep and the fixed ropes start, clipping in with jumars and using a combination of front points and ankles rolled out to ascend the blue ice. Half way up the wind begins to fill with snow and for the last hour we have whipping spindrift and snow swirling about us, arriving into a welcome Camp I at 6,400 meters.
Tucked under a few towering ice seracs, we are protected from avalanches, but the snow and cloud continues through the night, the next day, then the next night. Hibernation is a well-honed Himalayan skill and we practice it well, brewing, eating, drinking and shoveling out tents. It is a good introduction to a mountain Adele describes quite rightly as "a big boy's mountain."
By the next morning, feeling well acclimatized if a bit tent-bound with the snow now half way up the walls, we bundle up and slide back down the ropes to the heat of the glacier and a slippery trail through the rocks to ABC. Avalanches roll down the far peaks and we settle back into a few days rest, starting with chips and eggs, followed by showers and a welcome nap.
We have spent two days in ABC, with plans to head up again tomorrow, stopping at Camp 1 before moving onto Camp 2 for 2 nights.
The team is all well and healthy, having all been up to Camp 1, and we will update by satellite phone from higher up."
Climbing the world's 5th highest mountain, via the North Face and North West Ridge.
Makalu Altitude 8,463m/27,765ft » Duration 60 Days » Grade 5E
* Robert's team outfitted with the LOWA Expedition 8000 RD GTX®. To read more of Robert's dispatches, visit Jagged Globe.