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Dhaulagiri Expedition 2002

Wednesday, May 15, 2002: It has been quite some time since we have had a chance to send an update on what we have been up to. A lot has gone on, but at present we are at Base with everyone safe and sound. I will try and recount our last foray up on the mountain, but I must start with us at Base camp waiting for a good weather window.

The weather was pretty terrible and then all of a sudden, it went calm. It did this late at night and early the next morning we got started on a long day. Everyone was excited about climbing. We went from base camp, flew by Camp 1, and arrived at Camp 2. A long day was behind us with high expectations in front of us.

The next day, we moved to Camp 3. It was a hard day, but as we got our first experiences with the Northeast Ridge we loved the climbing. The ridge gets steeper as you go; as we arrived at Camp 3 we gained a small perch with an awesome view. Everyone was tired, but excited that we were marching along. If the weather held, maybe we would climb this mountain in a few days.

Weather has a way of bringing you back to reality. We ended up spending a couple of days at camp as high winds on the ridge made going up not possible. During this stretch, JJ and the Greek went down to Camp 2 for more food and supplies, while the Climbing Sherpa made their way up to Camp 4 placing fixed line along the way. They established high camp on a marginal day. Then a morning came that had us set our sights up the ridge.

As we got going on a fine calm day, we were a smaller team. JJ and the Greek would climb to Camp 3 and we would move to Camp 4. As we started, the ridge was tough going with sugar punch snow where it is very difficult to gain a purchase. The ridge kept getting steeper as everyone struggled upwards. In the morning, after struggling for a few hours, Ben got to a point where his concerns regarding his feet and what lay ahead for this day made him make a difficult decision to go down. Again, we continued. The ridge kept getting steeper. Soon we found ourselves in mixed terrain. This means, we climbed ice and rock, the day kept getting longer and longer. Late in the day the winds started to grow, our struggle became harder over this technical terrain. As darkness fell, we still were climbing. It is amazing when team members come to the aid of their team. This night, as we struggled to reach Camp 4, the Climbing Sherpa who had been here the night before helped us as we reached Camp. We were pretty exhausted after 14 hours of climbing. What a day!

Upon waking at Camp 4, we realized Camp 4 was even more of a perch than we guessed upon our late arrival in the dark. The winds blew. There was no chance to think about climbing on this day. We tried to rest in the thin air.

As we went to sleep on the second night at high camp, it was unthinkable that we would climb. The tents were being battered by the heavy winds. Somewhere in the early morning, the winds started to cough. Maybe they were about to end? At 2:30 in the morning, it was late to start a summit climb and we still had to get ready. But how many days can there be with no wind on Dhaulagiri? We got ready. We put on oxygen and started to climb with the winds at times still blowing. The climbing kept up its difficulty. We climbed higher and higher. The day started to grow long. As it became early afternoon, we got to 25,000 feet. The winds, the lateness of the day and flaky route conditions forced us make a hard decision, we had to go down. What is great about a good team is that everyone knew this was the correct decision. We all got to the business of getting down safely. As we neared high camp, we knew that JJ and the Greek were on their way to high camp. With very little tent space, Ole, Tommy and myself headed down to Camp 3. We arrived as darkness fell. Everyone rested. Those at high camp rested a little less, as the winds got stronger.

With the winds blowing hard the next morning, everyone at high camp came down to camp 3. Once at Camp 3, they all fell into tents to recoup from the hard effort of down climbing the ridge. At Camp 3, everyone wanted to go to base camp, however the safe call was to go only as far as Camp 2. It felt great to get into thicker air. Interestingly, as we neared base camp, the thoughts of the group were heading in many different directions.

On a nice day, we descended the rest of the way to Base. What a surprise, Ang Dawa and the kitchen staff met us a half an hour away from camp, they made us a great meal and drinks. What a way to arrive at our home away from home!

What is next? For some, home, children, and work make for a difficult decision; they have decided to leave the mountain. For the remaining climbers, we will rest and head up for another try. Adam, Dave, Ole and Ben will certainly be missed. This is a huge loss for the team, however everyone is behind their decisions.

They have all received a lot from the expedition. We wish them a safe journey home. Mike Lindaas

Wednesday, May 15, 2002: We miss our mates very much. A chopper came this morning, picking up four team members and dropping off more rope, O's (oxygen), food and beer. In spite of this, we are trying to focus on the task at hand. Tomorrow, we begin our third summit attempt. With any luck we will stand a top Dhaulagiri in a weeks time. Andy Mondry
May 15th: The remaining team members.   Photo: Tommy Heinrich
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