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Summit Push Approaches and the Cleanup Continues

Two mountaineers navigating a glacier on a Gasherbrum II Expedition

After a brief snowy interlude, perfect weather has returned to Ama Dablam and the Khumbu Valley and we are ready for our summit push! We are making a plan to leave base camp over the next 2 days for Camp 1, where some members will take a rest day while the rest of us put another cleaning day in on the route, this time focusing on Camp 2 trash and old ropes between Camp 2 and the Grey Tower. From there we’ll move to our Camp “2.7”, just below Camp 3 on the Mushroom Ridge. We choose to camp in 2.7 to avoid the risk of serac fall from the Dablam onto the camp. While some teams now choose to camp in Camp 3, this area sees huge avalanches almost every year (and has lots of debris from a recent avalanche this season). By camping on the Mushroom Ridge, we can minimize the time we need to spend in this hazardous area to a quick crossing across the plateau and the beginning of the steep ice pitches on the way to the summit.

To be ready for our summit push, we spent 4 days and 3 nights in Interim Camp and Camp 1 last week, doing an acclimatization climb to Camp 2 as well. Our touch of Camp 2 was my favorite day of the expedition so far– perfect weather, stellar rock, and really fun climbing. Everybody moved well on the fixed ropes and showed good rock climbing skills, so we are excited for more of the technical terrain we will cross on the way to Camp 3 and the summit.

While we were acclimatizing between Camps 1 and 2, our sherpa joined sherpa from other groups (AC, IMG, and Himalayan Ascent) to finish carrying and fixing rope to Ama Dablam’s summit. While a big part of our expedition is to remove old ropes from the route, when we realized new ropes had not yet been fixed on the entire route, we shifted some of our team’s strength. Good news is that today, November 2, the first climbers and sherpa reached the summit for the season! It was a perfect day, with little wind and no clouds, and the summit was reached a little after noon.

We also began the work part of our clean-up. The sherpa spent a day between Camps 2 and 3 (especially on the Gray Tower) cutting out and pulling down old dangerous rope. Meanwhile, a couple of our more experienced members and I worked between Camps 1 and 2, pulling ropes and gathering bags of trash, epigas cans, abandoned tent parts, and more. With AC’s sherpa deciding to place a few bolts on the challenging sections of the route between C1 and C2, we were also able to pull a bunch of old sketchy anchors and rope from this section. There is a lot more to do, but it’s been a good start and well received by the various teams on the mountain. A number of teams also accepted human waste disposal bags from our expedition, and with a bit of training, are now requesting that their climbers and sherpa use the Cleanwaste WAG Bags, and carry their waste down to an established and maintained bathroom in basecamp. This is one of the most important goals of our expedition, and hopefully will lead to much more pleasant camping conditions in future years!

Stay tuned for blogs and twitter updates from our summit push over the next 4 days! And for all our donors, sponsors, and individual contributors to our clean-up efforts, thank you!

-Adrian Ballinger, Alpenglow Expeditions