The last few days have been a tough slog for the team.
We’ve done load carries to Yak Camp (at 5400m) back down to BC and then back up to Yak Camp to for a sleep and then carried on up to C1 (5800m) for and afternoons acclimatisation "stroll". Of course C1 was covered in afternoon cloud but we could just make out the tents dotting the side of the ridge.
Ama Dablam is notorious for not having much room for tents at C1 and above, and this year with all the snow there is even less. After we had packed up all our gear at Yak Camp we slowly made our way up to C1 where Lhakpa and Ringi were already hacking away at the snow and ice to find semi level tent sites. By the time all the team had arrived, crossing the now thawing snow covered slabby rock before the rocky, icy scramble into C1, the sun was shinning and the top of the mountain was looming above us – looking mighty fine and a little intimidating.
The main problem with Ama Dablam this season is the amount of snow and the lack of progress up the mountain. Previous teams had tried to make a push beyond the "mushroom" ridge but had encountered strong winds, cold temps and deep snow. A crust has formed over the snow and below this the snow has a characteristic of "sugar" – loose and unconsolidated. This is going to make things hard and a bit dangerous over the next few days as a fixing team tries to move up higher on the mountain.
From C1 it is a amazing climb up to C2 (about 6100m) along a narrow rocky ridge – at times you need to climb steep snowy ridge lines and then to traverse across bare rock slabs – this is done via the fixed lines. Clipping in the safety lines and tension traversing across these sections is quite fun and very very exposed. This all leads to the base of the Yellow tower – the gateway to C2. By now you are perched at a small cramped ledge with a line of people behind you – about 20m of vertical climbing above you with the assistance of a jumar, leads to C2 – it’s exposed and, at 6050m or so – hard work.
Most of the team made it to C2 – a few were stuck behind the traffic jam and, at the base of the yellow tower made the call to turn around and head back to the relative warmth of C1, get a quick feed and then continue down to BC. A huge effort was made by the whole team, but perhaps not as much as was made by Dave Tibbits. Dave had arrived at C1 the afternoon before with all the hallmarks of developing serious AMS. We sent him back down to Yak camp where he quickly recovered and spent the night in warmth and sleeping very well – he was being looked after by Ringi. at 4:30 am he woke up – full of fire and enthuisiasim – turned on the radio and called me up.
"Mal – I’m getting ready and am going to come up and make a push to C2"
Full points for style.
As we all made our way back to C1 from C2 the afternoon clouds rolled in, starting to snow due to convective buildup and we were heading down. Down to rest and for me to get a good grip on the weather and a possible plan for a fixing push to be made on the mountain.
Right now we are waiting to see if the weather will allow a fixing push to be made – starting tomoro – the 30th of October. There are a number of different weather forecasts – winds are predicted to become strong above 7000m and temperatures very cold. These winds may well be lowering – one source says not – the other says strong winds developing from this evening on from about 6500m. www.lookoutthetentdoor.com showed us strong winds up high today with plumes of snow being blown off the surrounding summits – however reports from C2 and C1 gave only mild to moderate winds.
We are getting prepared for a summit push possibly starting from either the 31st or thr 1st. This gives us a summit date of either the 3rd or 4th of November. This is all entirely dependant on if the Mushroom ridge is able to be negotiated not to mention the summit slopes.
To be brutally honest, it seems as if this summit has just under a 50% chance of happening. The team is quite accepting of the weather and conditions that we have been given. In reality this weather this post-monsoon has been the worst on record since about 1995 – loads of snow has been playing havoc with most mountain attempts – sometimes the mountains are just not in condition. Time will tell.
(we have been having problems with uploading images – we will upload a full image gallery when we get back to a more reliable internet connection)