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 Winter Makalu 2000/2001           12-15-2000 Dispatch

We have the first camp on the southern slope

Landing ground for the moto-hang glide

In the evening of December 13 Maciej Pawlikowski, Dariusz Zaluski and Jaroslav Zurawski set up a camp at the southern slope of Makalu at the height of 5400m.

It is not known what forms the basis of the mountain because it being devoid of snows makes an impression of vast areas of movable talus, steep grounds of stones in piles waiting for a human foot to set it in motion, even though it seems a huge black monolith from the side of Mount Everest.

From time to time during night and day pieces of ice are torn away from the barrier of the six thousand meter high mountains causing spectacular avalanches. The barrier of seemingly still virgin six thousand meter high mountains is visible over the base.
Photo: Monika Rogozinska

As I stayed safely on the opposite slope I observed my colleagues' climb on a steep, brittle couloir. Only a large rocky bed separated them from a place which one would call a rock-fall. Huge boulders and small stones were rolled down the side of the slope with rumble, striking sparks in a cloud of dust. Also the couloir in which the Alpinists were descending, seemed more like a super-sewer than a Himalayan slope. It reminded me of a place in the Tatras called "The Mincer", but this one was a lot more brittle.

"This crawling in gravel and broken stones can hardly be called climbing. The real alpinism starts with the first camp - said Maciej Pawlikowski - We built a platform for tents. It is huge like a landing ground. What do you say?" Pawliczan (Pawlikowski's nickname) hit the spot - we talked about it in the base. My colleagues jealously observed the Honda engine, which, along with solar batteries, was the most important source of power for the computer, satellite phone, charging batteries for the flash lights and cameras. We even have music and light in the dining tent and a small lamp in my tent which serves the role of the press office, phone booth and bedroom all in one. As it turned out, separately and regardless of the height (which, according to many, was the cause of various mad ideas), the Alpinists decided to build a moto-hang glider to fly over the taluses and finally start climbing. Luckily the idea was not used in any way and the Honda still lies near my tent instead of flying away in space.

The upper parts of the southern slope of Makalu are still silent. It seems that there is too little snow for an avalanche. There have not yet been strong winds which are characteristic for this time of year. "Everything is fine, you just have to move up the slope" - said Maciej Pawlikowski after his comeback to the base and an additional securing of the couloir with balustrade ropes. Today Dariusz Zaluski, Krzysztof Wielicki and Jerzy Natkanski are in camp No.1 (5400m). Tomorrow the head of the expedition wants to check the possibility to approach the Southern Pass (6600m), leading to the ridge which goes onto the summit.

Lhotse and Mount Everest, only 20 km from Makalu. Three Polish Alpinists - Czeslaw Jakiel, Rafal Holda and Jerzy Kukuczka died on the southern slope of Lhotse, which is partly covered by snow. In order to get to the upper parts of Makalu one has to get through the talus flooded by avalanches of stones. Maciej Pawlikowski, Jaroslav Zurawski and Dariusz Zaluski are climbing to set up camp no.1 at the height of 5400m.

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: 12/19/2000 - White Stains on the Map Dispatches

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