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Dhaulagiri Expedition 2002


April 20, 2002: Having guided the longest endurance climb in America 23 successful times, Mount Rainier (a 9,000' ascent) I already knew that an ascent to 15,900' Kalo Pani from 8,700' Jomosom was not going to be an easy day.  After saying goodbye to Lindsay at the small airport in Jomsom, the Greek, Khanshe and I began our short flat walk into Marpha the last stop before our monster climb.  It was here that our ascent began to take on a new venture.  Expecting to pick up a 20-30 pound load we could give to our porter we were met with a monster weighing in at nearly three times the expected amount. Now it was the Greek and I that had tears in our eyes, knowing there was no way we could eschew that much weight to the porter we split it between the three of us and struggled the 7,200' steep and very extreme gain to Kalo Pani with 55 pounds a piece.

Dawa Sherpa traversing to assist the other Sherpa fix rope on a steep section heading towards Camp 1.   Photo: Jeff Justman
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If this were not enough the storm that moved in on us at around 14,000' feet caused mass confusion in a 20-degree whiteout environment that coupled with a stiff 15 mile an hour headwind our empty struggling stomachs and heavy lead filled legs could hardly tolerate.  With the first cloud splitting slice of sunlight our cold grizzled souls finally spotted our destination, Kalo Pani.  When we arrived, the Greek and I were greeted by hearty Sherpa and what we believed to be the greatest cup of coffee we had ever had. Robert

April 20, 2002 Mike Styllas

Everything was going really well among the members of the expedition; all of us had overcome different types of colds, diarrhea and other illnesses, until fortune struck one of our members like a thunder. Lindsay, Ben's girlfriend and our potential base camp manager, learned the bad news about her mother's health situation through an e-mail. There was no second thought; Ben and myself were to accompany her in Jomsom so that she could get the first flight back to the US. We started walking out with the ultimate goal to make it down to Jomsom in a single day. That proved to be really hard considering Lindsay's emotional and physical situation since she did not get any sleep or food since the time she learned the sad news. So, we had to break the hike out in two days, it was really amazing to see how this young girl was fighting the thoughts of her going back home and face a new reality. We stayed in Kalopani where the Sherpa had left a tent. Next day we made it to Marpha and then to Jomsom where we got some rest, food and a warm sour.

Next morning Ben and I walked Lindsay to the local airport where she took an early flight to Kathmandu and then she had to take a number of flights to make home. It looked more like an odyssey to me. By the time she said her last goodbye her eyes were worth a million words. Lindsay we wish you all the best! For us mountaineers life is like climbing a mountain, full of unpredictability but we keep fighting. Difficulties are to overcome!!!

It was so weird being back down in Jomsom that after a while we realized that we'd better push back to base camp because our companions were already working their way up the mountain. So that turned to be the case, Ben and I trekked back to base camp in two days carrying an unexpected heavy load, but that did not matter. Better acclimatization was obvious and we moved pretty well. When finally at base camp we found out that the rest of the expedition members had already made two trips to Camp 1 and that Camp 2 was also established. Everybody looked healthy and excited since the main part of our climb had put into effect. I was so excited that I felt that I didn't need a rest day so today I made a carry to Camp 1 together with JJ and Olie. The weather remained really good until noon so we came back right at lunchtime.  Weather permitting tomorrow all the expedition members will move to Camp 1 and maybe the next day do a carry to Camp 2 and inhabit Camp 2 the day after. As I mentioned before everybody here in base camp looks strong and healthy and there is positive energy buzzing all around. In case you do not here from any of us in the near future it means that we work our way up on the White Mountain.

       Mike "The Greek" Styllas

Dispatch April 20, 2002 Mike Lindaas

We are sitting here at Base Camp with a couple of great days of climbing under our belts.  The efforts just to get here were high, as loads and the setting up on the moraine took quite some time.  When everything was set, we had a ceremonial Puja that has allowed the team to switch the focus.  Up to Puja, our emphasis was on getting to Base and being healthy.  After the ceremony, we could start to put all of our energies into climbing the mountain.

The Puja was an exceptional ceremony where the whole team participated and reflected on where we have been and where we are heading.  It allows one to focus on the here and now and thus savor the moment of camaraderie, beautiful setting, and challenges to be overcome.

The route to camp one travels under and past a large icefall.  The climbing is steep, but the team is up to the challenge as we have pushed a ton of gear up the mountain.  Today, camp two was reached and gear placed at the col.  

Here we come.