2002 Dispatch Two April 7th, 2002
I'm RD Caughron from Berkeley California, currently on
the Makalu 2002 expedition being led by Piotr
Pustelnik and this is my first progress report.
Hopefully more will follow if there is any outside
a nutshell right now 10 out of 12 members and some
trekkers are in Namche Bazaar just having returned
from a successful ascent of Island Peak for acclimatization.
Day after tomorrow we're leaving from Lukla by
helicopter to Makalu basecamp. We're definitely in
good spirits and good to go.
more detail. We're here to climb Makalu (8463 m)
via the NW Ridge which is the route normal. Piotr
Pustelnik from Poland is our leader and he is the
common link between many members on our team. This
will be Piotr's 11th 8000'er in his quest to climb all
14 of the world's highest mountains. Other
members of our team include me, RD Caughron and Jay
Sieger from USA; Anna Czerwinska, Ryszard Pawlowski,
and Dariusz Zaluski from Poland; our team doctor Piotr
Klepacz also from Poland; Floriano Castelnuovo and
Diego Fregona from Italy; Martin Gablik, Peter
Frankovic and Vladimir Strba from Slovakia; and
Gonzalo Velez from Portugal. We also have some
trekkers who have been with us from the start:
George Natkanski, Magda Lakomiak and Stavomir
Lachowski all from Poland. These great
folks have fit right in. I'm sure in basecamp
you would be impressed to listen into our expedition
table discussions in 4 different languages.
arrived in Kathmandu around March 27, and by the time
we got organized left on March 30 for Lukla in the
Khumbu. Our group actually split up with Anna,
Floriano and Diego doing the normal approach up to the
Barun Valley, and the rest of us going from Lukla to
climb Island Peak for acclimatization, which we just
did on April 5. The reason for the split is that some
members have been many times to the Khumbu, have
already done Island Peak and wanted to see the Barun.
Let me tell you about our current morale and
condition. First, this Khumbu area is simply one
of the awesome destinations in the world. Its just
stunningly visually impressive. Of course the
big appeal is Mt Everest with all that implies, but
for us, the combination of views and being able to
acclimatize and be active and climb something was just
the best. Our idea to acclimatize and get to
know each other was to go climb Island Peak (6189m).
After trekking from Lukla to Phakdung, Namche Bazaar, Khumjung,
Thangboche, Demboche to Island Peak Basecamp just
across from the Amphu Lapcha Pass near Baruntse.
Brilliant. From the top the full panorama was awesome:
Cho Oyo, Nuptse, Lhotse, Makalu, Baruntse and Ama
Dablam to just name a few. All glistening in the
sun with beautiful blue skies and no wind. Wow.
It was just great for team bonding and trusting the
body. Not everyone made the top, but reacting to their
body adjustments stopped at various elevations in
excellent form and everyone returned to basecamp in
great health and great sprits. Those on top were
Piotr, Richard, Martin, RD,
Jay and George. (Note our Polish trekkers seem to be
quite strong. George has also summited G2 and spent a
winter on Nanga Parbat several years ago).
are some glimpses from our climb. We had
breakfast at 5am, and were off at 5:30 on April 5.
About 9am we were able to reach the snow level and
could see a German team making the final few steps to
the top. Wow, it really looked like a long way
away, both up and in distance. Around 10am we
were at the base of the 200m vertical wall below the
summit ridge. As we jumared up a fixed line left
by the German group, a German guide down climbed the
fixed rope using great ice climbing technique, mostly
by using his hands on our line for balance.
Awesome. Several more highlights. Martin
recorded our climb on a digital recorder and no
Hollywood opening has had a more favorable review
after we returned to basecamp for a showing.
This climb in my mind is especially memorable because
of Richard [Ryszard Pawlowski].
Richard won the mano a mano climber award in our group
with this one climb. He led the final pitch, and as
the consummate guide checked everyone's rappel setup
before we could descend. He is going to make us
all better climbers in the end. Together he and Piotr
are such an impressive climbing team. I think
Richard has around 12 8000m peak ascents to date, and
Piotr has 11 ascents overall. On Island Peak, a Sherpa
on the German team forgot his pack and as we were
waiting for Richard and Piotr to rappel I told
him he was witnessing one of the really fine climbing
teams in the world. He agreed and was thankful
to get his pack back too. Since many on our team
have done multiple 8000'ers I'd say our accomplishment
on Island Peak was consistent with our current hopes
and expectations to climb Makalu coming up.
Island Peak was definitely a great climbing experience
some other tidbits:
Our stomachs are intact. No small achievement.
Someday there will be a definitive gallery of toilet
portraits in the Khumbu, but for now no one has
identified any sponsors to do this much needed task.
2. If you like lemon tea, veggies, rice and dahl you
will love the Khumbu.
3. Trekking up the Khumbu is better people and yak
watching than a Paris boulevard will ever be.
4. Everest is a big money attraction. I expected
and we have met several climbing guides who are
guiding there this season. They are truly the
"stars" of the climbing world which is not
unexpected due to the money from the promotional
interest and fame of Everest. The good news is that
they and their clients are not "rhinestone
cowboy" climbers I had expected to see. You know,
the sort of folks who talk the talk, but can't walk
the walk. The flip side is the commercial emphasis
Everest is getting. It has changed the challenge
of climbing Mt. Everest. Huge resources and
support is available on this mountain like no other.
Even with this, the problems of congestion are an
5. As for the trek itself, someday people will be able
to journey up the Khumbu with only a sleeping bag,
jacket, a toothbrush and some Cipro....and most
importantly a Visa. But that doesn't detract
from the friendliness of the locals or the stunning
appeal of this area. Truly a spectacular visual
and friendly destination by any measure.
6. I'm still adjusting to sleep with a pee
7. Martin is one hell of a good guitar player, and he
can sing.... So we are off to Makalu basecamp.
Two other teams are there and those reading this know
more about them than I do. Hopefully more news
will be available to you from Makalu.
wishes to all our families and friends. For now
we're off and good to go. For www.everestnews.com.
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