November 20, 2006 Reflecting on High Mountains and Friends

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Climbing from Camp I to Camp II on Ama Dablam

We left Base Camp today before midday and headed toward the valley for Pangboche.  Peter and I stopped once to look back at Ama Dablam and reflect on the past days here near this spectacular mountain.  After our success on Lobuche earlier in the expedition we arrived in Pangboche with confidence and with hopes of another summit.  Not long after arriving at our lodge we heard stunning news from high on the mountain.  The distinctive feature which is a hanging glacier for which the mountain receives it’s name, had partially collapsed resulting in an avalanche that swept Camp III.  Camp III has been used for summit attempts for decades.  Lost were one British, two Swedish and three local climbing Sherpas here from the town of Pangboche.  This has never happened on this mountain.  It was clear that our plans definitely had to change.

Ama Dablam as seen from further down the valley

Myself, along with Peter, Ang Temba our Sidar, Dasona one of our climbing Sherpas and others discussed what would be our plan.  After all we had hoped for the summit, the climb up the southwest ridge which is a classic and beautiful line. Past Camp I the climb is technical, exposed and always demanding your attention.  The route follows close to the ridge crest and once Camp III is reached the climbing changes, it becomes a bit more straightforward with snow and ice leading to the summit.

Because of the recent avalanche the level of risk had changed and how much was really uncertain.  As is the custom here Lama Geshi was consulted and Dasona met with the Lama before joining us at Base Camp.  Before hearing from Lama Geshi Peter and I had discussed that he and I would climb together as far as Camp II.  The climbing is amazing to this point and is not exposed to the hazard from the Dablam.  Peter would then return to Camp I and then to Base Camp with Dasona.

I had hoped that Pasang and I would continue the next day from Camp II to the summit and possibly re-fix ropes on the way by going from Camp II to the summit and back to Camp II we hoped to limit our exposure to avalanche hazard.  Of course reassessing any risk we perceived along the way.

The Buddhist faith is an integral part of life here in the Khumbu region and it guides and enriches life here and has for centuries.  When Dasona reached Base Camp with word from Lama Geshi our plans changed again.  With respect for our climbing Sherpas and the religion that guides them we would not climb under the Dablam this season.

So now we are safe and sound back in Pangboche.  As Peter describes it, It was the best climbing and most fun he has ever had in the mountains.  Our plan had been to reach the top of Ama Dablam and along the way we found that being with friends and climbing in the high mountains can be a summit no matter how high you get.

Our objective:

Ama Dablam
Nepal Himalaya

22,494 feet
6857 meters

First Ascent:

March 13, 1961
Barry Bishop
Wally Ramanes
Mike Gill
Mike Ward