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Note, several updates below, delayed because of sat phone problems. Also note they didn't go directly to Makalu from the beginning.  They went to Imja Set (Island Peak) first and they mention other peaks, before going to Makalu.  They had to go back to Lukla to then start their real approach to Makalu.

TRAGEDY: "One of our Sherpas has been killed"


We were crossing the second Col, the West Col, 250 very tight meters.  The worst rock ever, all broken and bad.  They are still installing the fixed lines, they beg the porters to wait.  No way, it was the West Face, at 9 am the sun didn't shine.  They went up in a rush all together, I guess because of the cold.  Someone throws a stone, which hits a porter on his load, he loses balance and falls a hundred meters bouncing on the wall.  Dead in the act.

After half a minute the porters go out in a stampede.  They leave their loads scattered by the wall and go away.  We all go crazy to convince them to wait for the sun and to not go away.  Thanks to three who didn't go, they go down with the loads, risking their lives again.  There is no way to convince them to use a harness.  Then it is time to move the body down.

We make a stretcher with canes and ropes and it takes seven people hours to move him down and out of the glacier.  We have to stop every 30 meters.  We can't give one more step.  Only desperation moves us to keep going down, leaving a trail of blood on the snow.  Finally four porters come to meet us and they move him down, in a ball inside one of their baskets.  It looks like we are more touched than they are.  We end the day where we started, we arrive with the last lights of the day, physically and psychologically exhausted.

After the meeting during dinner we ask ourselves: Do we go home?  Should we continue the trek by the easy side?  Do we go by helicopter to Makalu's BC and continue despite everything with a slightly heavier backpack?  We will ask our pillows about that.


We decided to go to BC by helicopter.  The problem is that it looks like there is no one available.  The one that was working in this area have just crashed, precisely at BC in Makalu.  It looks like our agency is negotiating with the army.  We had to arrive today to BC.  From today, each day we lose we diminish the possibilities of success on the mount.  The food for the trek was calculated until today, from today it will be trouble.  So we are going down to 5,000 m.

If a helicopter shows up it could pick us up here easier, and if there is no one, we are on our way down by our own means.  The caravan is on the move again, down the valley, this time the last one is the DEAD SHERPA who goes in a basket of a teammate.

Because of the problems to get a helicopter to evacuate the body and us, they have decided to bury him here.  They have only made a hole, put the body in it, thrown three fistfuls of rice, lit two candles and covered it.  Nobody said a word, prayed or showed some emotion.  It looked like they were just doing some other field work, like going to get water.

Not even all the Sherpas in the caravan came.  It looks like death is lived here with less drama.


There is no helicopter, so we continue going down.  We look like a defeated army.  We are hungry, and what is worst is that we continue losing days of BC, disillusioned.   We are going down by the Khulu valley, which is the fastest and safest way to go down.  In the worst of cases we will have to go by foot down to Lukla, fly to Katmandu and fly to Tuglintar and to the normal trek to Makalu.

We passed Mera pass at 5,400 m.  It is covered with fog and it is a glacier of half a Km. that has to be crossed.  We can only do that because the track is open, but the environment is impressive.  It is like following the line of life between the crevasses.

We ended fine, in the first human settlement in 6 days walking above 5,000 m.  They gave us dinner in a kind of barracks where there is a fire with no chimney.  You can barely breath because of the smoke there, but we lived the authentic rural Nepalese environment.


From heaven to hell.  Today it all started fine.  We will arrive to Lukla today.  The porters go down singing and shouting curses, they go down happy, they go home today.  Halfway we can confirm a helicopter to take us to BC tomorrow. 

During the afternoon we arrive to Lukla, where it all started, the situation turns like a Kafka story.  One of the porters denounces to the police that the death was not an accident, that the dead one was pushed by other teammates.  The result, five porters go to jail while it all is investigated.  We can't fly tomorrow either, for that motive.  We'll see if we fly day after tomorrow once and for all.  And there is no big cargo helicopter.

We will have to make three flights with a smaller one, that climbs lower, and that won't get to BC.  So we will have to walk one more day to get there.  We have got to Lukla and it looks like we have came down from our expedition.



April 30, 2008

From the optimism of the last note until today, there have been numerous events that will be a little complicated to summarize.  Today our trekking friends have flown to Katmandu, concluding their Nepalese adventure and going back to the busy civilization of the cities.  We were a little desperate and we wanted to fly by helicopter to Jangle Karka, to reach Makalu's BC, something that is now looking impossible.  Let's wait luck changes and everything starts to get better.

These past days we have had difficult times which I now tell here:

On the 22 we confronted our first peak of the three we had to cross to get to BC.  Anphu Lancha, 5,845 meters, with our 20 porters we worked for 9 hours to cross the difficult Col with some very vertical parts, the installation of 250 meters of fixed lines let us finish the journey tired but satisfied by the success over this complication.

On the 23 we spent the night before going to the glacier that had to take us to the West Col.  We explored the access by the afternoon and we prepared all the material, to leave in the first hours of the day to equip the wall that is our part of the Col.  Still in the darkness of the night we left with Babu the Sirdar, a porter and three climbers.  With the first lights we were by the foot of the wall and we found some installed lines which we followed, fixing our own safety line, everything was going quickly, thanks to the help of those lines but even so we could not finish equipping before the porters began to arrive.

Although the Sirdar gave instructions to not get into the wall before finishing the equipment installation, soon the lines were being used.  It was a very vertical terrain, easy, but with a very loose rock.  What followed was very unfortunate: a rock came loose impacting one porter and making him have a deadly fall of over 100 meters.  The terrible event made all the porters in the wall to run in fear, abandoning their loads.

As you can imagine a series of situations that had to be handled without  losing calm started for us, something the facts hardly let us do.  The first thing we did was to pick up the loads at the foot of the wall and take them down, a job that was mainly done by the Sirdar and three or two porters.  We gathered all the group and porters at BC of Barruntes and we proceeded to recover the lifeless body of Dorbe Mongar, who us climbers brought down to the end of the glacier where we were relieved by four porters.  

All the porters denied to pass the Col again, we were a day away from BC but actually we were many days away.  We tried to get the agency to get a helicopter, but it looked impossible to get one with enough room and that could fly to the altitude where we were.  The phone started to work, doing a fundamental labor, which left us without communication with you, while trying to organize such a situation.

Facing that we started to descend to Lukla, which was five days away.  On the 25 we went down to 5,000 meters and we buried Dorbe, after we didn't get any instructions from the family or the agency.  On the next day with hardly any food we started the quick descent of two and a half days that took us to Lukla.

Before the phone went dead everything was prepared so that in several flights the 7 climbers could get out of Lukla on the 29.  But… when we got to this town we found that one of the porters, who we considered a good person because of his work and behavior, apparently argued with his teammates, abandoning his load and went to the police with the lie that it wasn't an accident and that a fight between porters was the cause of death of Dorbe.  As you can imagine in Nepal this is serious.  Flights cancelled, wait for the family, 5 innocent porters arrested, the police, the political representative in office…  Finally everything was solved and this morning we met little Ratna Ranja, 6 years old, son of Dorbe and his wife, who we waited for and we feel in need of helping them in the future.

Today we had to fly also but the cancellation of the flight for the next day has provoked a delay in the arrival of the helicopter and since noon the sky is covered with clouds and it is better to wait for the first hours to fly safely.

Will we fly tomorrow at 6 h?

Will we arrive to BC?

We have our spirits a little low, because days are more necessary every time.  We still trust our strength and that maybe our luck changes soon.


MAKALU 2008 

Translated from Spanish by Jorge Rivera


Stranded in Lukla.  During the evening, a crowded dinner of brotherhood: expedition members, trekkers, two of the dead Sherpa's brothers, our liaison officer, the agency representative, the military authority in Lukla, the Maoists representatives, all the porters (those who carried the bag are the ones that serve the tables).  The helicopter had to take of at 8, we are right beside it at the runway.  Suddenly there is an emergency in Everest, then at 12, no, something at 2, the weather got bad, better to take off in the afternoon. Another day in Lukla.

Translated from Spanish by Jorge Rivera



May 11, 2008 

10 desperate days of work with the few electronic devices we brought but it looks like they are working perfectly today.  We are at BC in Makalu at almost 5,630 meters of altitude, where we arrived on the 2nd, not without trouble, to reach this place which looked impossible.

The 3rd was used to organize a little and to rest, for calling it something.  Considering we arrived with acclimatization to altitude and a kilometric very important march, we planned to ascend for 5 days to let us improve our acclimatization, sleeping one or two nights in camp 3 (C3) above 7,400 meters.


Coordinating our job with two of our Sherpas, we ascended on day 4 to C1, located at 6,400 m, where we spent the first night with no altitude problems.  I have to recognize that the route to this place looked different from what I remembered from the winter expedition of 1997.  I think that no matter how much they tell us, we are not conscious of how fast we are wrecking our planet and I make this comment after having the opportunity of looking at the impressive glacier retreat that is looked by these slopes of Makalu.

The weather has been nice for days and that let us enjoy some extraordinary days of mountain, although cold during the nights and by sunrise, with these conditions and by a glacier terrain that hid some dangerous crevasses, we arrived to the second high altitude camp, not far away from C1 and located at 6,685 m.  We spent two nights there and on May 7 we started to ascend the mixed wall, with rock, ice and snow that takes to a Col called Makalu La.

During winter we attempted to ascend by a corridor located to the left of this one, but in this occasion the work of other expeditions, fixing the needed lines to progress safely force us to remain in this zone.  It is fair to recognize that the work that is done by other expeditions let us progress quickly over the whole mountain.

The wall presents very vertical sections and progress is slow, because to the difficulty we need to add the altitude that is felt heavily once you start to move at 7,000, we need almost 7 hours to get to C3 (7,455 m), where we spend two very hard nights, because of the altitude, the cold and some typical symptoms due to the lack of adaptation.

On the 9th in 7 hours of descent we reached BC, anxious to have some rest to recover and with the idea that in a couple of days, if the weather permits, we could attempt the summit.  Today a group of at least 8 climbers are attempting the summit, with excellent weather conditions and yesterday Juan Oiarzabal and Jose A. Rojo (Gorri), with a Sherpa, reached their objective.

We feel satisfied of how we are going, considering that we reached BC 8 days after what we have planned and we must recognize that we are a little nervous looking that in these days other climbers are reaching the summit and we are caught in a changed plan.  The luck that we've had lately in similar situations makes us not to trust all this.


BC  5.630 M. 2 MAY.

C1  6.400 M. 4 MAY.

C2  6.685 M. 5 MAY.

C3  7.455 M. 7 MAY. 

C4  7.700 m.

C463 m. 


MAKALU 2008 

Translated form Spanish by Jorge Rivera


We can not send the chronicle from our computer because the battery went dead and we are having problems with energy sources.  Today, 21, we are at the foot of Ama Lhapsa.  We had three very intense days on the mountain, from the last inhabited location for us in the next days, Chukung.  We have used it as BC to climb to Imja Set, 6,189m, which all the members of the expedition summated, including the trekking members, on the 19th.

After a nice day of rest yesterday, preparing the loads for the next four days, we continue today with this difficult and isolated zone which will take us to Makalu BC. 

Right now we are having excellent weather, with just a little nasty wind.


MAKALU 2008 

The Andalucia Makalu Expedition 2008, an official sports event of the Andalucian Mountain Climbing Federation is formed by Fernando Fernandez-Vivancos from Granada, Jorge Vasquez from Sevilla and 'Lolo' Gonzalez from San Pedro.  The three sportsmen will attempt to reach the summit of Makalu, 8,463 meters of altitude above sea level, which makes it the fifth highest mountain in the planet and is included in the group of most difficult mountains of over eight thousand meters, along with K2.

Earlier: We are in Namche Bazar at 3,440 meters of altitude, where we came yesterday after a complete journey walking.  Today we dedicated the day to visit the towns of: Kunjung (3,790 m) and Khunde from where all the group ascended a small summit of 4,200 meters.

In these days we met the members of diverse expeditions to Everest, among whom we see certain confusion, because also on the Nepalese side, the climbers and tourists won't be able to climb above camp 3 (C3) until after May 10.  All this situation and the closing of mountains like Cho Oyu by the Chinese government have taken a lot of expeditions to change objectives, heading to other mountains.  For us all this is not good news, because we wanted to feel nice on Makalu and we fear there would be too many expeditions (as we see it), which we will find at BC.

We will continue our progress tomorrow and we will reach Pangboche (3,985m) from where we will enjoy the beautiful sights of Ama Dablam.  And we expect two more days to reach Chukung, the last town before we get into the land of the three peaks.  This will also be our last BC to attempt the ascent of Imja Set.

Imja Set is also known as Island Peak and has an altitude of 6,190m, with this ascent we just want to continue acclimatizing our bodies to altitude, to attack Makalu with the maximum warranties.  


Translated from Spanish by Jorge Rivera



April 10, 2008

On April 7 we arrived to Katmandu, the capital of Nepal, and we started the numerous paperwork and shopping  that an expeditions of these characteristics need.  It has been a day of a lot of work dedicated exclusively to pack all the food, tents, gas, etc.  While the country has been paralyzed by elections.

The 7 climbers of the expedition (four Basque and three Andalucians) and the 5 Andalucian teammates who will go with us up to base camp (BC), have left everything prepared so that we could fly tomorrow to Lukla where we will arrive with 210 Kg of materials to start the journey that will take us to the base of Makalu.  Other 350 Kg will leave to the base of the mountain, with our Nepalese BC group and two high altitude Sherpas that will help us during the climb.

The route is known to the climbers and we hope to enjoy as always the singular landscapes of the route, to be on the 12th in Namche Bazar, where we will have a day, to dedicate to acclimatization to altitude and from where we hope to be able to send a new chronicle to tell you how the approach to the mountain goes.

During these days we will have a journey that is not usual to reach Makaly and is considered as one of the most interesting and hard treks there are in Nepal.  Three peaks are waiting for us, which are around 6,000 meters of altitude and the summit of Imja Set, located on the impressive south ridge of Lhotse.


Translated from Spanish by Jorge Rivera

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