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Makalu 2001, the ascent details

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The protagonists of Makalu 200 give their version of the ascent to the summit of Makalu Himal, written by Giampaolo Corona plus some considerations by the 'Aquile di San Martino di Castrozza e Primiero'

My name is Giampaolo Corona and this is an account of my ascent of Makalu Himal (8475 m). I would like to state beforehand that this was my first 8000m peak. I “suffered” a bit and my recollections are not 100% clear.

Camp 3 Makalu Lha (7500 m). I leave together with Gelinde and Karl at about midnight after having said goodbye to Renzo, who is unable to continue due to a bad cough. Three mountaineers from the other Austrian expedition (Carinthia) are immediately behind us, as is another member of Gelinde’s expedition. The weather is good and it’s very cold.

After about two hours
we arrive at Camp 4, where Gelinde tells me she can no longer feel her feet. I let her into our tent, pitched for an emergency, where Karl, their doctor and Mountain Guide, tries to get the blood to circulate again. I ask for water for her from the Iranians who had descended the day before and from the other Austrians, who by now have reached the Camp, as my Kamelback water bottle has frozen up. Even now I still don’t understand why no one gave me something to drink for Gelinde.

Outside the tent
, I begin to freeze as I‘m not moving about, so I tell Gelinde and Karl that I will continue alone. In the distance ahead of me I see three headlamps (the Korean mountaineers) and those of the other Austrians who in the meantime have moved on.

It is extremely cold,
- 30°, and when dawn comes, the 4 Austrians 50m ahead of me and I decide to pause and warm up beneath the equipped seracs. From there I see Karl depart form Camp 4. The other Austrian from Gelinde’s group decides to turn back, passes in front of me and descends to Karl. They exchange words and he turns back up once more.

Immediately
above the seracs, above a lefwards slanting slope, I reach the other three Austrians. To tell the truth we don’t speak much, but I counted on their help, or vice versa, in case of emergency.

We alternate
at beating the track in the “bowl” beneath the “French Coluoir”. Just beneath the traverse that leads to this we stop and Karl reaches us, telling us that he has lost his gore-tex trousers and that he’s wearing an emergency pair which he had in his rucksack. The other Austrian is behind him.


The Austrians from Carinthia
, Karl, the other mountaineer and I start up the gully, composed of rock and snow steps. Gust of wind send the snow showering down from the others above me and I find it hard to look up.


At a certain point
the last mountaineer above me (Karin) drops a rock as big as a football and I manage to dodge it by lying flat against the rock. It’s too dangerous and I decide to wait there until they’ve moved away from the vertical line of fire.


I then continue
and, before exiting onto the windy crest, wait for the last mountaineer as I want to be filmed with the video camera. Perhaps its due to his tiredness or perhaps because of the goggle sunglasses and mitten gloves, but I notice that he continually frames me incorrectly.

I radio to Narci and Renzo from here and tell them that I’ve reached the crest. I then continue along the rocky crest, trying to avoid the stepped terrain to the left and to the right. I put on my mittens as I begin to feel frostbite due to having used the video camera and the radio.

The rock and snow crest that leads to the presummit can be followed in various different lines as it is not difficult. I try to avoid the wind gusts and stop every now and then to clap my hands. I couldn’t see where the other moutaineers were. The only ones I had seen were probably the three Koreans on the presummit.

I continue
to the beneath the rocky outcrop presummit where, by mistake, I try to pass on the left. Then I realise that the line goes rightwards, above a characteristic pillar on a steep snowy slope. I often stop to clap my hands and I’m not 100% lucid.

Between the pre-summit
and the summit there’s a snow crest, at first fairly flat, then steeper with the footsteps almost cancelled completely due to the wind. The summit is composed of snow with rocks on the right and a steep slope on the left when viewed from the line of ascent.

On the summit,
apart from not being very conscious, I can’t feel my hands (wrapped up in two pairs of gloves) and so I don’t open the zip on my jacket to use the digital video camera or, even less, to use the radio.

The descent is an ordeal;
I don’t remember the line of ascent very well and after the crest the rocks all look the same. I can’t state with absolute certainty whether I saw other people. The only person I remember seeing is Gelinde who was ascending. Then, lower down, the other mountaineer who, later, was reported missing. On the glacier, when the clouds come in, I descend directly and it’s pure chance that I don’t end up near the seracs or fall into a crevasse.

Luckily,
I begin to feel a bit better lower down and I first reach Camp 4 and then Camp 3 where I have something to eat and drink and where Renzo, Seba and Donato are waiting for me. With their fundamental help we undertake the extremely long descent and reach Advanced Base Camp late in the night.


Giampaolo Corona





 








"The rock and snow crest that leads to the presummit can be followed in various different lines as it is not difficult. I try to avoid the wind gusts and stop every now and then to clap my hands. I couldn’t see where the other moutaineers were. The only ones I had seen were probably the three Koreans on the presummit."













"Between the pre-summit and the summit there’s a snow crest, at first fairly flat, then steeper with the footsteps almost cancelled completely due to the wind. The summit is composed of snow with rocks on the right and a steep slope on the left when viewed from the line of ascent".








"On the summit, apart from not being very conscious, I can’t feel my hands (wrapped up in two pairs of gloves) and so I don’t open the zip on my jacket to use the digital video camera or, even less, to use the radio."

 
From "The Aquile"

With regards to Giampaolo Corona’s statement about the summit ascent we feel we have to make some considerations to better clarify some hazy points highlighted by our Austrian “colleagues”.
In the last radio communication to Base Camp towards 13.00, Giampaolo communicated that he was on the crest and moving up to the summit.

It is logical that this news provoked strong emotions in the companions, waiting anxiously since the day beforehand, and that the shouts of joy heard in the tents nearby are interpreted as the successful summit. From the crest to the summit, however, more time passed (about an hour and a half).

With regards to the fact that the Austrian mountaineers saw Giampaolo descend, even before reaching the summit, there are a multitude of different versions and accounts by those who reached the summit that day. These contribute to increase people’s convictions, in greater or lesser disagreement, about the real sequence of events.

Further, we spent a lot of time together with the Austrians in the days that immediately followed the summit ascent. The atmosphere was friendly and nobody from that expedition raised doubts about Giampaolo’s ascent or mentioned anything of the sort.

Proof of this good rapport is the fact that they, having to return via a different route (Sherpani Col) and being short of food, gratefully accepted a bin with our provisions, thereby finding an excellent solution to their problem.

This statement was necessary given the controversy and doubts that have arisen after the statement of the mountaineers from Carithia. Now however we would like to put this event into the past and move on.

We climbed Makalu according to a mountaineering ethic handed down by Aquile tradition, choosing neither to use additional oxygen nor to make use of the formidable help of the Sherpas.
We prefer to direct our energies towards climbing the Pale di San Martino and to dream about the next adventure at altitude.

The Aquile


Further information: www.makalu2001.org

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