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 Fabrizio Zangrilli, Ama Dablam, the White Limbo, and K2

Fabrizio Zangrilli, owner and chief guide for Ultimate Ascents, a worldwide alpine guiding company, led a small expedition to Nepal’s Ama Dablam this spring. Fabrizio is a highly experienced guide, having worked for one of the larger companies in Britain, OTT, for many years. 

This enabled him to climb and guide all over the world, including on Cho Oyu, Shishapangma, Everest (the White Limbo route on the North Face), Gasherbrum II, and Makalu.  Perhaps his greatest achievement (in the summer of 2000) was turning his back on the summit of K2 at over 27,000 feet to save the life of a Balti high altitude porter. He has made notable first ascents, particularly on the granite big-walls of Queen Maude Land in Antarctica.  Fabrizio focuses his guiding on alpine climbing, using all of his experience in rock, ice, mixed, and big-wall aid climbing.  Thus, the southwest ridge of Ama Dablam was a compelling climb for him and his party.

Ama Dablam, also know as “The Matterhorn of the Himalayas” because of its resemblance to that distinctive European peak, is one of the most sought after ascents in the Khumbu region of Nepal.  Because of this, the classic southwest ridge route can see many aspiring parties in a single season.

However, due to depressed travel and tourism, it was quite a treat for Fabrizio, his two climbing partners, and cook to have the mountain all to themselves when they arrived at base camp in late March. The expedition began with the establishment of camp 1 at the beginning of the technical climbing and moving supplies up from base camp.  The weather followed the typical Himalayan pattern of clear mornings, then clouds by mid-day, with the inevitable afternoon snow storm. 

This allowed slow but steady progress pushing the route up the fantastically exposed ridge. In mid-April the team saw a  major change in the weather coming, signaled by thick clouds on the western horizon.  They had just finished fixing the Yellow Tower, one of the more difficult sections of the ridge.  Returning to base camp, they sat out several days of storm, leaving their grassy meadow covered in several inches of snow.  In addition to the snow, two new expeditions arrived.  One was a guided British group, the other a German television crew guided by famed climber Hans Kammerlander.  Fabrizio and Hans knew each other from both having been on K2 in 2000.  So it was quite a friendly atmosphere, which extended through all three base camps. 

Returning to the ridge, Fabrizio’s team moved the route to the half-way point.  There, steep rock covered by the recent, unconsolidated snow, stopped all upward movement.  With more bad weather on the horizon, and dwindling time, the team had to accept the inevitable.  Still, despite not reaching the summit, the technical climbing on such a dramatic ridge made the expedition a success.

Fabrizio had very little time to reflect on the climb. He is leading already thinking ahead to Ultimate Ascents ( www.ultimateascents.com ) expeditions this year to Alaska in May and June, then  Alpamayo in Peru in July, followed by Khan Tengri in Kazakhstan in August. Fabrizio will then return to Nepal in the fall, when he will guide the seldom climbed Pumori, just west of Everest. In 2002, he plans to return to K2.

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