The 2015 fall climbing season in the Himalaya was an interesting one. Upheaval in Nepal created a fuel shortage around the country and the normally bustling tourist centers were quiet. True to form, none of these hurdles stopped our team from venturing into the mountains. In the end the team put in a valiant effort to summit Ama Dablam but unfortunately were turned around before arriving at camp 3.
You can read more about the first part of the expedition by going back to our Ama Dablam 2015 – Update #1. This blog post picks up where the previous dispatch left off.
After the team fixed ropes up to Camp 2 and had a successful four day acclimatization cycle, they headed back to base camp to get some much needed rest before putting in the big effort. Two days of rest were filled with incredible food from our kitchen, warm showers and communications back home using the WiFi at the lodge.
During the rest days lead guide was diligently checking the weather forecast and chatting with other teams to target the ideal summit dates. Weather looked stable and the climbers were feeling good so the team decided to begin heading up on November 8.
On the morning of the 8th the team fueled up on a huge breakfast and managed to fit in an early lunch before departing base camp at 11am. They arrived at Camp 1 feeling great and settled in for the evening expecting to reach Camp 2.7 the next day.
The team awoke in camp 1 at 5:30am and departed by 7am. The schedule for the day was to breeze through camp 2 before making a final push to camp 2.7 where they would stay the night.
On their way to camp 2 the team was stalled at the Yellow Tower due to a few large teams descending. No problems though and the team pushed through this section as soon as it was clear. At camp 2 the team was in high spirits and ready for the final push of the day up through the grey tower onto camp 2.7.
As Brian led up and into the Grey Tower he started noticing signs of recent rockfall and also noted that the heavily traveled route seemed in disarray. The normally snow and ice covered rock section was unusually dry and previously solid blocks seemed to be teetering on edge, ready to tumble. Fixed lines were anchored to suspect blocks and Brian’s spider sense was screaming at him to reassess the situation.
Brian decided that to continue, the team would need to move fast through this loose section and had everyone remove their crampons and move one by one up the fixed lines so that they could climb faster over the dry rock. At this point, the team observed another natural rockfall and after a lengthy discussion decided it would be safer to descend back to camp 2 to regroup and go through their options.
At camp 2 the team made the tough decision to head down. No matter what techniques they applied (re-fixing ropes, waiting, moving fast etc) to the loose section the hazards would be the same. Everyone’s risk threshold is different in life but in this case the decision to descend was unanimous, if not heartbreaking for the fit and psyched team.
That evening the team arrived in camp 1 under head lamps and was completely exhausted. Although the team was bummed to miss the summit, they all knew they made the right decision.
By the following afternoon the entire team was back in base camp and had removed all fixed gear and camps on the mountain adhering to the clean climbing ethic. The team gathered for a huge dinner and celebrated the chance to get to climb Ama, even though she didn’t reveal her summit.
In true Alpenglow style the team decided to grab a helicopter and fly down the valley all the way to Kathmandu. Our incredible logistics team made the necessary arrangements and a helicopter arrived the next afternoon, swooping the team up and delivering them back to the quiet city.
Needless to say we can’t wait to go back. Our next expedition to Ama Dablam is scheduled to run October 17 – November 15, 2016.