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Untagged  19 Apr 2008 6:52 PM
by Don Bowie

The weather over the last few weeks has been atrocious. Day after day we are greeted in base camp by the rising sun, but by mid morning watch the mists rise from the valley below, bending around the base of Machhapuchhre, the great Fishtail Mountain. By mid day, thunder ehchoes over the high passes, and the snow begins to fall. If it were not for the ridiculously sublime view framed by breaks in the clouds, the storms would be nothing but dreary.

 

Inaki at camp 1, 4900 meters, with Mustard lounging. Mustard the wonder mutt. Image Don Bowie. Mustard following Horia above camp 1. Image Don Bowie. Horia arriving at Camp 3, 6000meters. Image Don Bowie.

Across the glacier, the tilted, overgrown football field we call the "Mixed Salad Traverse" has been piling up with snow, frequently cleaning itself with avalanches. To cross it safely, we need at least few days of sunshine. Every morning the melting snow loosens the dirt walls guarding both sides of the glacier, and huge stones careen down in massive, roaring earth slides. There is only one safe gully exiting the far side of the glacial floor, and this needs to be ascended before the melting snow starts to loosen the walls into a veritable gauntlet of falling stones.

Horia and clouds rising over Machhapuchhre. Image by Don Bowie. Horia climbing above the main ice fall. Image Don Bowie. Horia and Inaki climbing the dirt couloir out of the glacier. Image by Don Bowie. Don and Inaki climbing the narrow couloir on the rock island. Image Horia Colibasanu.

After enduring three straight weeks of inclement weather a break from base camp was due, and I could find none better than to descend to the warmer air of Chomrong Village. My visit happened to coincide with the historic elections in Nepal, and it was fantastic to see the villagers enthusiastically line up to cast their votes for the first time in years. Experiencing firsthand a moment so significant is something I shall never forget, and there remains something about those few days in Chomrong which shall never leave me.

Feeling empowered and refreshed, I made the usual 2-day trek back to base camp in a mere 5 hours, and the following day climbed alone up to Camp 1 for a day of solace. The following day Inaki and Horia joined me, and we moved camp another 100 meters higher toward the wall. The next day we retraced their steps to the previous high point to further explore the upper glacier directly under the left side of the wall- at least until I decided to find a huge, hidden crevasse, a la Bruce Normand style. Well prepared, my partners quickly tensioned the rope and I clumsily crawled out of the gaping maw, rather wide-eyed, so I am told. A few weeks ago a visiting trekker from Canada asked me "How do you guys dangle up there?" My smartass reply was, "I never dangle." I guess I lied. Apparently I do dangle, but certainly not by choice- and hopefully not again soon. After the extrication, I peered into the Don-hole and saw nothing but blackness. I hate crevasses. We all have things we hate. Inaki hates lightning. I hate crevasses. Horia hates communists. (hey, he's Romanian)

After dead-ending on the left side of the glacier, we turned our attention towards the huge 400 meter high rock island in the center of the glacier. The "easiest" way up it appeared to be a series of narrow, near-vertical couloirs on the right side of the massif, which Inaki disposed of quickly while I belayed him on the Korean fixed rope- sans protection, of course. Inaki's brilliant lead up thinly iced slabs led us to a long, sloping ridge, angling upward and left. Exchanging leads, Inaki and I broke a trail through another 200 meters of steep, rotten, snow (and worsening weather) to 5800 meters, where we stashed our gear and turned down toward Camp 1 in low visibility.

Next- Camp Two and Mustard the Wonder Mutt…



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