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Peak 4 Népal
Peak 4 Népal
Millet Expédition Project... Peak 4 (6720m), Chamlang/Makalu, Nepal...
(Incomplete) Birthday Present
By Tomeu Rubí & Cati Lladó
Peak 4 (6720m), Chamlang/Makalu, Nepal
March 27th- May 3rd 2015
Clearly without having it planned, it had turned out perfect. The submit day would happen on Cati’s birthday. What a present! Unfortunately it wasn’t so perfect. The top was at the same time, very close but very far. Close because we were only at about 150m but far because a very big crevasse prevented us continue, at least to the degree of risk we were willing to take. However, let's start the story at the beginning!
April 2014: good news
In late April last year we reached Namche Bazaar (Nepal) a little discouraged because, mainly due to bad weather, we had not had even an option at our summit. When we opened the mail, joy and enthusiasm were instantaneously back. We were one of the six projects financed by the "Millet Expedition Project 2014" . In our case, the project would take us back to Nepal the next spring to try a virgin peak, the Peak 4 (6720m), in the area of Makalu.
Spring 2015: Back to Nepal
This spring we are back in the noisy streets of Kathmandu, with its rickshaws, its colors and people’s smiles. Spent a few days here, for the briefing and food shopping, since it seems that the tea houses in which we will stay throughout the expedition will have little more than Dal bhat (traditional Nepalese dish consisting of rice and lentil soup). Then, we flew to Turmlingtar, where we take an SUV that gets us to the village of Num in 5 hours. The day after, we start the trek to Makalu base camp.
Six days of trekking in which we cannot help but recalling the words of Lionel Terray when referring to this region when describing the expedition that achieved the first ascent of Makalu: "Despite the heat, humidity and attacks of thousands of leeches, this approach through a much wilder region than the one we crossed when we went to Annapurna was constantly bewitching me. With some variations, I returned to find everything that I had liked from Nepal: the poetry of its abundant vegetation, the philosophy of its smiling inhabitants, and basically all the charm of this country that had bewitched me when I visited for the first time and will remain inside me until the day I die. "
On the afternoon of April 6th we arrived to Base Camp at 4700m. We say goodbye to the three porters that have accompanied us here. Mandip, the trekking guide, stays with us; it seems that for legal reasons should be at the base during the entire expedition. The weather continues its standard pattern since we started the trek. The day wakes up with a clear sky, moving to clouds, and some rain/snow in the afternoon/evening.
The east face of Peak 4 (the one that we can see from Makalu BC) leaves few options that are not exposed to a large seracs line crossing the broad wall. On the left side we see a possible route that will remain in our minds as is very aesthetic and we can glimpse it daily from the base camp.
Not a very lucky one…
The morning of the 8th we climb to the foot of the South Est ridge of Peak 4 since we believe it will be a good option to get to the submit. We aim to get as close as possible since the low part of the ridge is rocky and has sections that offer many unknowns. When we arrive to the foot of the first vertical section we realise that we will need climbing gear from now on. The weather has gone worse and the clouds cover the top, but it seems the ascend will be feasible climbing light. We have climbed to 5200m and thereby contributed to our acclimatization process, but still must improve our adaptation to the altitude if we want a chance to get to the 6720m of our mountain. Our idea is to climb this mountain in alpine style, without fixed ropes, no porters ... We’d like to do it the same way we climb in the Pyrenees, in the Alps. We know from experience that this is not the most effective way, the chances of success are lower, but that's how we like it.
On April 9, we walk to the Swiss camp at 5200m, where we spent the night. The next day we climb up to 5700m. Our intention is, regardless of acclimatization, to study a possible route from the north. From here, it seems that the access to a secondary summit of 6585m (as on the map) would be easy. However, we need to keep in mind that after that, we would have to overcome a long ridge to the main summit which does not look too good.
We decide to spend the night at this point, with the intention of climbing higher in the morning to continue the acclimatization, but things do not always go as you want. We need to make a platform for the tent since not many people comes round here. Tomeu, moving a stone big stone feels a strong pain in his back. Tomorrow will be hard the simple return to base camp. The first aid kit that we always carry and almost never use will be useful now. Still many days to go and we do not want to be negative but if Tomeu’s back does not improve we might not even be able to make an attempt to Peak 4. At this time, Tomeu also doubts about being able to just make the trek back.
A white recovery
We spent the following days at base camp. Heavy snow lefts it blanketed and both porters working for Makalu expeditions and us fill the hours with cards. With the help of massages, stretching and light walks, it seems that Tomeu's back has improved enough. Makalu climbing groups have started to arrive. They stop a few days here to acclimatize and move afterwards to the advance base camp. This also means the arrival of weather information. We do not have any type of communications infrastructure and so cannot have the weather forecast. However, both the Belgians, and the Slovaks tell us that Sunday 19th will be sunny (as for a submit day). We do not know how many days the good weather will last, so we will leave the 18th to make the approach to camp I. We cannot miss many days and no later than the 24th must start the trek back. We would have liked to acclimatize better but Tomeu’s back problems and the weather of the last week did not allow us to. We think we have to use this window of good weather to attempt the summit.
Finally, good weather…
On the 18th dawns clear, but as is typical, it is beginning to cloud over at about ten. When, after lunch, we start the trek to camp I it is all covered and snowing quite a bit. We trust the forecast and continue with our plan. Mandip, eager to help, cannot understand that we do not want him to porter us stuff to Camp I. We try to explain him what Alpine style means. However, it seems he still does not comprehend.
The recent snow and the weight we carry make the march not as easy as it was when we did our exploratory hike. Even so, in about 3 hours we arrive at what will be our camp I, where we put up our tent, at about 5100m. All the way it has been snowing but now is clearing up a bit. We’ll see how’s tomorrow! Hopefully it will be clear! Trek’n Eat food and some cheese. We had prepared our precious oil biscuits from Mallorca but left them on the base. Too bad!
Pi-pip, pi-pip, pi-pip… 3:30. So far, clear. Tea and biscuits and here we go. We have decided to go as light as possible so we can go as fast as possible. This way, we leave at camp I the tent and some food. Moreover, we have also taken one of the tow double ropes, so when we cannot climb together, we will have to do 30 meters pitch as maximum. We also carry only one ice-axe each. We even think that if the wall conditions allow it, we might be able to get to the top today. (¡We wish!).
After and easy bit, we rope together just after sunrise. From this point, we go through sections where we climb together and through more vertical ones where we do 30 meters pitches. Time goes by and we realise it will not be possible to reach the top today. Last days snow has not yet transformed which makes the climbing much harder. Ten hours after having left camp I, we are at about 6000 meters and it is a good place for a bivouac. We also think that the snow conditions will be better early morning after a cold night since from this point the route is all on snow. Some tea, a couple of food bars and we get into the sleeping bags.
(Incomplete) Birthday Present
The night is cold, the time seems to have stopped… finally, the alarm clock sounds. The sky is still clear. We spent more than one hour to get ready to leave the bivouac. We also leave all the rock gear since we will be coming down the same way. It takes us a long time to get warm. The snow condition is not any better than yesterday and it is impossible to pick up pace. Despite the relays we can only gain about 100 meters every hour. In many places we sink to the knees.
About six hours later we arrive at a crevasse that forces us to skirt it. When doing so, Tomeu even falls into another hidden crevasse, perpendicular to the previous one. Luckily, this last one, is not very wide and it stays in a fright. More crevasses to go though! At about 150m above we found another one, much wider the even looks like a bergschrund.
We value the options to try to cross it but we think it is too risky. Big disappointment since we have not seen at any moment indications that there could be an obstacle like this.
Therefore, we start a long way down. We not know if will be able to arrive at camp I before the sunset, but will try it. If we cannot make it, we will improvise another bivouac. We want to lose as much as possible height since we prefer not to have another night as the last one.
On the way down we combine rappels with down climbing. The clouds start appearing in the sky, moving into different areas and heights, covering and uncovering our way back. Lastly, we can see our tent at camp I. It seems that we will get there today…. just before down. “Birthday Present” should have been the name of the route since today it is Cati’s birthday. Without having reached the top, we will have to add “Incomplete”.
The other side of the coin
Despite not having reached the summit, we are satisfied with our expedition. The weather has not been great but has allowed to do enough and to make a good attempt to summit. We would have liked more time for another try, but we cannot choose! The other side of the coin awaits us at the end of our trip. Although we are personally not affected (we did not even notice it), the earthquake of April 25 is a tragedy for Nepal. We encourage everyone to visit this magnificent country one day, thus helping its recovery (and if you can, collaborate with some of the NGOs that now work there).
Thanks to all who have helped us to make this project real: Millet Expedition Project, Federación Balear de Montañismo y Escalada, Ayuntamiento de Porreres, ACIE Bomberos de Palma y Bestard Mountain Boots.