15 januari 2014

Ama Dablam 2013 - The Climb

Kathmandu & Khumbu - the Climb - Logistics & Gear - Full Gear List

So, I've finally started writing up this report of my Ama Dablam climb, which I did in november 2013. To start with the finale: I summited on november 22nd! This is part 2 of a 3 part report, about the climb of Ama Dablam itself. The first post is about Kathmandu and the Khumbu valley. The third part will feature the gear and logistics of the trip.

We reached Ama Dablam Base Camp on november 9th, after an initial puja at the monestary at Upper Pengboche. The puja ceremony is for luck on the climb.
Ama Dablam from Upper Pengboche
Views of Ama Dablam from the walk down from Upper Pengboche
After a few hours of walking we arrived at our home for the next few weeks. When you go on an expedition you know you will be going back to a more basic lifestyle. However, our BC was pretty good. One personal tent per member, dining tent, supply tent, shower tent, and 2 toilet tents (affectionately know as turdis (don't ask if you don't get the reference ;-)).

The first day at BC we had a 'technical training session', where we reviewed the required techniques of going up and down the mountain safely. Off course nobody learned anything new (this would not be time or place for that), but it felt good to finally do a bit of climbing and ropework. By the way, the expedition was organized by Tim Mosedale (www.timmosedale.co.uk). Tim has been to Ama Dablam over 10 times, so I felt I was in good hands.
Tim demonstrating an ascender - what goes up must not come down
The next day we had our Base Camp Puja. A monk came to BC (at 4450m) all the way from Tengboche monestary for this blessing. The ceremony took about an hour and a half, but luckily it's allowed to walk around a bit. 
Ama Dablam Base Camp
Base Camp during the Puja - Ama Dablam in the background
Because the puja was in the morning, we had time in the afternoon to familiarize ourself a bit with the first part of the route, so we went for a hike and a gear carry up to Advance Base Camp (ABC) at 5350m.
I only took a few light items like my sleepingbag and -mat for the high camps, as I didn't want to overexert myself. However, I was still pretty tired when I got to ABC! The first part of the route goes over a ridge of what I think is an old moraine which tops out at 5000m. After that you loose a little altitude and then you get to a gently angled slope which seems to go on and on (and on...). You can see ABC from when you get on the slope, but it's a long way away.
Ama Dablam ABC
Almost at Ama Dablam ABC!
After our first time up to ABC, we started our rotations to get acclimated. In a rotation you sleep at a higher camp, climb a bit higher the next day, but sleep at the same camp, and then you descend again. The goal of the first rotation was to acclimate to the altitude of ABC and get a few nights sleep there. The day after the first night there we went up to Camp 1 for the first time, which ment getting on the ropes for the first time. The fixed lines on Ama Dablam start at the slabs below Camp 1.
Jon working his way up the slabs below Camp 1
On Ama you actually have mobile phone reception at camps 1 and 2 if you get up on top of the ridge (which is only a few meters scrambling), because of at those points you have sufficient altitude for a line of sight to the repeater station. So I was able to phone my girlfriend, which she appreciated!
Ama Dablam Camp 1
Camp 1 on Ama Dablam

For the next rotation we slept at ABC for one night and moved to Camp 1 (5800m) the next day. The plan for the day after that was to go up the route to Camp 2 (5950m), but I decided to stay put at C1. There's not much vertical distance between C1 and C2, so no need to acclimate to the higher camp. So I had a rest day. I was brewing and eating the whole day. Well, as much as you can at atlitude, anyway.
Route from Camp 1 on Ama Dablam
The view from my tent at Camp 1

2013 was a bit different from other years on Ama Dablam. Mid-october the tropical typhoon Phailin had hit India, which also caused a lot of snow to fall in het Himalaya. Up to 2 meters more then usual at some points, and there was snow all the way down to BC. To put it in perspective, in a normal year you can go up to C1 and not set foot in any snow!
Route between Camp 1 and Camp 2 on Ama Dablam
Looking down at Camp 1 from the rout to Camp 2
Because of this the route to the summit could not be fixed until very late in the season - 16 november. In fact, I had just settled in at Camp 1 when the route setting sherpa's (from the Alpenglow team - thanks guys!) came down. So only from that day it was possible to summit. This proved to be perfect timing. On 18 november we descended back to BC, after which we had a rest day. On the 20th we moved up to C1, and then to Camp 2 on the 21st. By that day, most climber that had been waiting for the route to be opened, had gone up and summited, and so it wasn't too busy high on the mountain when we were there.
Just below the Yellow Tower (I'm the one with the orange pack)
So on the 21st of november I was in a position to try to get to the summit of Ama Dablam. On the 22nd we left Camp 2 around 4 am, which meant we had to climb the Grey Couloir by the light of our headtorches. Luckily the moon was fairly bright, which helped. By the way, when I say 'we', I mean Lhakpa and me. Lhakpha was the sherpa that climbed with me, to the summit.
Lhakpa Sherpa
The Grey Couloir is a bit mixed, but mostly ice/neve. There can be a lot of blue ice here, but this season (probably due to the snow) not so much. After the couloir comes Mushroom Ridge, so named because of the shape of the snow on the ridge. This ridge was the main difficulty in the route fixing, so we were very careful here. After that we moved past the location where Camp 2.9 is located some seasons (weather permitting), then past the Dablam (the hanging glacier wich gives the mountain it's name) and up the summit slopes. Just before noon we reached the summit (6956m).
On the summit of Ama Dablam
On the summit I sent a tweet, called my girlfriend, took some pictures, almost coughed my lungs out and then it was time to descend. Because most of the ropes were free when I got to them, I rappelled a lot, only using an armwrap on a few sections. This way I the descent was fairly quick, and I was back in my tent brewing by four in the afternoon.

Kathmandu & Khumbu - the Climb - Logistics & Gear - Full Gear List

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