Thursday, November 24, 2011

FTA Ama Dablam 2011 - Summits!!

from stu in the usa office
24 Nov, 2011

Ben called in a few minutes ago from camp 2 with Ama Dablam summit news - here goes!

The entire team left at about 2:30am on a clear and calm morning and then made their way up the Grey tower fully in the dark. Ben said that it was a wonderful climb and that he enjoyed it even more than when he has climbed it during the daytime. 
There is something about climbing in the dark that is hard to describe but the small pool of light that illuminates your small section of the route give you complete focus on the next step but little more. The sense of scale and danger that can give you vertigo in the daylight are absence and the experience is much more intimate. Mostly just the sound of your crampons scraping on the rock or crunching in the ice and the distant din of other climbers the only hint that anyone else in the world exists.

The grey tower with the snow ramp visible just above the Brad's red helmet in 2005

The Grey Tower (really a couloir of sorts) is a wonderful mixed section of rock, snow and ice and always requires creative climbing from hooking ice axes on rock to grabbing icy pockets with gloves...anything goes in this couloir! The tower joins a steeply slanting ridge which is climbed to gain an airy traverse which then gives way to the purest climb on the route...2-3 pitches of 50-70° snow and ice. This section is always enjoyable and quite sustained leaving one breathless upon reaching the Mushroom Ridge
As the sun broke and they crested onto the Mushroom Ridge the wind picked up and it was very cold for a few hours but they were already well warmed up from the earlier effort. Ben estimates that they had winds of perhaps 15-20 km/h which was about as good as we had hoped for but this wind still sapped them a bit and it stayed with them for much of the rest of the morning. Ben said that they all climbed with down jackets on when it can be quite usual to only have on a down jacket at rest points.

They encountered very hard blue ice along the side of the "dablam" above the old camp 3 and Ben said it was very difficult climbing and they all enjoyed it thoroughly. As they neared the top the winds died down and Ben said that it was "stinking hot" climbing the last 20 mins or so and that he was really surprised how quickly the temperature moderated. As such they enjoyed a calm and beautiful summit celebration with view to Cho Oyu, Everest, Makalu and of course looking down on Island Peak where they had been just a week ago.

Between 11:30am and noon the following members of our team summited:

Benjamin Kane
Siddhi Bahadur Tamang
Meeagan McGrath
Bryson McLellan
Colin Carnahan

Brad made a prudent decision to abort the push about an hour or so from the top and begin to work back towards C2 and to be ready to support and challenges the summit group might have on the way down. Always good to have level headed climbers who climb within themselves and Brad is a great example. Taking several efforts to summit Everest and with climbs on Ama Dablam, Denali and more in his background Brad follows in the Ed Viesturs model of knowing the hill will be there next time and following gut instincts... good stuff Brad!

Ben noted that the summit area had changed considerably in the last few years and that it is no longer a long flattish top but rather marked by crevasses and a series of minor peaks. It will be interesting to compare images from Ben's last summit and this years. We'll have a great image gallery for the main site put together when the team is back in Kathmandu and post a bunch here.

The team will clear the hill and had back to BC tomorrow for a well earned summit supper! They have already moved up the flights from Lukla and now hope to be back in Kathmandu on the 29th if all goes well.

Next Up - Aconcagua
Ben will then get a well deserved break until the heads off to Argentina in January to lead our Jan 10 Polish Glacier climb and our Feb 5 False Polish Glacier climbs.  We have spaces still on both climbs as well as our Feb 5 Polish Glacier climb (with Stu) so let us know if you want to join Ben and FTA for a trip to the top of the Americas!

Further Ahead - Ama Dablam 2012
We are already taking bookings for Ama Dablam in May 2012 as well as Oct and Nov 2012 and are looking for motivated climbers to join us!

We'll have more updates as the team makes their way out to the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu so stay tuned!


JackieK said...

Namaste.Congratulations to you all on Ama Dablam! Can't wait to see the photos. Much love.

Saul said...

Well done to the whole team. Sounds like quite the summit weather. Will have an Argentine Malbec ready you BK when you get home! Chau, Saul