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 Winter Makalu 2000/2001  12-07-2000 Dispatch

EXPEDITION TO MAKALU

Up the mountain with a goat

I read a description of two expeditions up the then virgin Makalu with some amusement: a reconnaissance in the autumn of 1954 and the conquering in the spring of 1955. The equipment included: bombs against mosquitoes, dynamite to detonate avalanches and large quantities of French perfumes. However, leaches appeared a real threat. They abound in the jungle which finishes at the slopes of the eight-thousand-meter high mountains of Nepal: Dhaulagiri, Annapurna, Makalu. Maciej Pawlikowski, a participant of many Himalayan expeditions, including the present one, has especially strong aversion to these creatures. He told us that his colleagues secured entrances to their tents with salted rings, however the leeches found their way through the obstacle and then managed to sneak in through small holes of the mosquito net. Once they got in, the way back was not so easy due to their increased size... The leeches have nothing against Pawlikowski. The only creature we have met crawled on the mattress occupied by him just a second ago, after which she did a strange dance in search of a source of heat which dragged it to the place. A cold time of year and the fact that we crossed the jungle mainly with help of a helicopter made us forget the above described inconvenience of numerous expeditions.
The French took goats and sheep with them, they had plans to kill a yak, build an ice cellar and an oven to make bread. They had guns and hunted for partridges in the base. We did not want to set up a camp fire during bivouac in order not to give bad example to the people carrying the equipment. The reason was that we entered the Barun National Park, which took its name after a river with source in the glaciers of Makalu not far from the base of our expedition. We gathered around an oil lamp put on snow. We all know that the multitude of expeditions and tourists in the area of Mount Everest caused a real disaster there. Forests were cut out to organize camp fires for tourists and Alpinists which moved the upper border of woods by a kilometer. We preferred to freeze enjoying the wilderness and richness of pine and rhododendron forests of the Barun valley. The river forms deep and steep downcast here, thanks to which there is no way to reach the upper parts of Makalu. You can come here as if from the side, passing mountain chains on the way.

Not a long time after the French came here and set up a base in the autumn of 1954, their liaison officer died. Today we suspect that the height illness was the cause. The symptoms of the illness are lungs or brain swelling. We also suffer from the initial symptoms of the illness: enormous headaches, insomnia. We know that such is the process of acclimatization. The most important thing is not to give in to apathy, to be active, force the organism to function. I admire my colleagues who all, except the doctor, went up in order to carry as much equipment to the highest point possible. Nine people marked the route up the height of 5100 meters. Four of them, Gia Tortladze, Andrzej Samolewicz, Krzysztof Liszewski and Jarek Żurawski, will sleep there and in the morning they will try to go higher and reach the expected place of the advanced base.
The government of Nepal considers 1st December the beginning of winter. We call that date the official-calendar winter. According to the Polish Alpinists, winter starts on December 21 (please check that!) - this is astronomical time. Krzysztof Wielicki, the head of the expedition, has climbed three eight-thousand-meter high mountains during winter. He wants to outsmart astronomy a little bit and wishes to acclimatize his team a bit earlier and make such preparations so that the real climb took place in winter. He does not need completely exhausted Alpinists.

There is still no snow but very strong winds bring up mass of dust making more and more people cough. The summer monsoon brought very small precipitation. The local people consider this year dry. The Barun river is merely a small stream near the place where the base is set up.

We constantly discover history here. Three people - two girls and a boy - from New Zealand visited the base unexpectedly. The boy's father was here 46 years ago. Sir Edmund Hillary was the head of the expedition from New Zealand. They headed towards their beloved valley of Barun. Hillary was famous for ascending Mount Everest a year before that. He divided the expedition into several teams in order to penetrate the area untouched by a stranger's foot. One day, as he was coming back from a reconnaissance with a few friends, a snow bridge took two of them. They fell into a deep crack in the ice. Hillary broke three ribs while helping one of them - Jim Mc Farlane, which was fatal for the whole expedition. Both men got out of the crack, unfortunately Mc Farlane had his feet and hands frost bitten. It was his son that came here to understand his father.

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: 12/9/2000  - Rocks in the Tent      Dispatches

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