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 Winter Makalu 2000/2001          12-06-2000 Dispatch

Across the Alps THE EXPEDITION TO MAKALU

All members are present in the base at the height of 4900 meters.

We first saw Makalu through the Keke La pass (4127 meters). The Alpinists will climb the  Western Ridge visible from its left side. It took almost three days of forced march to get to the base from the place where we took the picture. 

Photo: Monika Rogozinska

 We got to the foot of Makalu at the height of 4900 meters on  the night of the fourth of December, after two helicopter flights and four days of forced march along the route considered the most difficult trekking path to the eight thousand meter mountain.

We left Katmandu with delay. There was a blockade of the airport in Jiri, 80 km away from the capital of Nepal. The blockade was organized by porters who oppose the introduction of helicopters taking away their work. Due to the blockade an agency servicing our expedition started quibbling. From Katmandu we flew straight towards Mount Everest, to Lukla (2800 meters). The flight was exciting. A Russian pilot flying MI-7 found his way through wholes in a sea of clouds. We not only maneuvered left and right but also moved up and down and the other way round. We stayed a night in Lukla and got in the same helicopter to take us to a clearing cut out in the jungle near a poor village of Tashigaon (2070 meters). We virtually fell from heavens there causing big sensation. The Nepalese people greeted us merrily. Boys and men started showing off with their dexterity and strength throwing a huge stone. Our people did not let us down. A tall and slim doctor Roman Mazik along with thickset and very well built Jaroslav Żurawski won the competition.

We moved towards Makalu from Tashigaon. The helicopter headed right to the base taking three and a half tones of equipment, Dariusz Zaluski, who came back from the Himalayas just a few weeks before and was well accustomed to the climate along with two Nepalese people. Jerzy Natakński reached the base the same way the next day. Thanks to this move only 28 porters accompanied the members of the expedition along with tourists we met on the way.

Autumn is the time of year at such height. Ground frost painted exotic trees red. We passed the rhododendron forests. They grow above the line of regular woods here, such as dwarf pine in the Tatras. We walked the ridges above the sea of clouds and in the snow, surrounded by the smell of herbs and seeds of rhododendrons heated with the sun. We slept in tents three times at the height of 3500 meters and walked the passes above 4 thousand meters, we descended into deep beds and ascended again, as if we were actually walking across the Alps.

We built a base on Monday. The tents are torn to pieces by a strong wind and mass of dust. There is no snow. The clouds are not that high. Almost everyone feels the pressure of height and less oxygen content in the air: headaches, nausea, lack of appetite. We force ourselves to do anything, even the simplest activity costs us a lot of effort. Makalu and its Western Leg dominates over the base. It is said to be the most difficult goal an Alpinist may think of in the Himalayan winter, bearing in mind that we gave up using oxygen and did not hire Sherpas.

written by Monika Rogozinska, "Rzeczpospolita",
transl. by "TRANSLATOR" Technical Translation Agency
http://www.rp.pl  ("Rzeczpospolita") and
http://www.translator-warsaw.com.pl ("TRANSLATOR")

NEXT UPDATE: 12/07/2000 - Up the Mountain with a Goat  Dispatches

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