03 Dec

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AMA DABLAM – Himalayan Beauty

Here we are again in Nepal. It’s as though I never left. We landed at Tribuwan airport and after picking up our luggage we took the minibus to our hotel. Time continues to stand still in this city. That is the only conclusion one can make looking out the window. Those who have been here before cannot stop smiling and compete in telling anecdotes from previous expeditions. The others don’t smile, but their eyes give away what they are feeling. It is a state of amazement and admiration of what they are seeing, hearing and feeling. While the team members spent the day purchasing the equipment they were lacking, I conducted the usual business regarding the organization and continuation of our trip. It is always busy in the city and it is difficult to get to several places in one day. All of this needed to be done before our departure to Lukla. I thought there would be difficulties this time with organizing the BC and High camp, but my Sirdar Kami Nuru arrived from Pangboche and brought much good news from the mountain. The Hindu festival Dasain is going on in Kathmandu, so many shops are not open. To top it all off, the ministries are not working due to the 15-day festival! We acquired our permits only by having the clerk coming to his office from home, so that we could complete our paperwork. Of course, we had to reward the man, as well as the one who made it all possible – Nepal. But when I think about it, we’re no better.

The following morning we woke up at 4 am and packed our gear into the truck. Some of us didn’t even sleep from the excitement. Due to fog at the airport the plane didn’t take off until after 9 o’clock. It seems the pilot’s mind wandered during landing, because it felt like we had fallen several meters when we crashed onto the landing strip. Our Serpa Lakhpa met us at Lukla with several porters to transport our gear to the base. We are finally in the Himalayas! Here, people realize how simple life is, and how much they complicate it themselves. In the Himalayas they usually promise themselves that they will change something in their lives when they return home, but then they end up falling back into the same rut they came from. We continued our trip through Tok-tok, Monjo and Jorsala where we checked in at the entrance to the Sagarmatha National Park. Having completed all our paperwork in Kathmandu, this check-in was simply a formality. The sky was overcast, so we quickly arrived in Namche Bazaar (3440m). There we met many friends we knew from previous expeditions. We did not stay at the lodge we have been staying at for years, because the owner’s brother had built a new lodge and insisted that he would provide us with the best accommodation. Of course, we accepted his hospitality. Early in the evening the weather changed and the Kwangde peak emerged from the clouds. A sunny morning in Namche Bazaar heralds good weather in the following days. We climbed to 4000m for acclimatization. However, the view of Ama Dablam from this vista point was more important to us. Some of us screamed with joy when they first saw Mt. Everest, and others wouldn’t put down their cameras, as though they were shooting “Jurassic Park”! Some were calm. Perhaps they are skillful at hiding their emotions, perhaps it is out of respect for the mountain. I don’t know, time always tells all. This was an excellent opportunity for me to point out the route we would be climbing. In the afternoon we descended to Namche, where the clouds had already gathered.

After checking our climbing permits with SPCC, we headed towards the Tyangboche monastery. Around the monastery, Japanese visitors with large telephoto lenses waited for the perfect moment to capture a shot of Mt. Everest and Ama Dablam. Below, surrounded by a rhododendron forest is Deboche village, where we will spend the night. The clouds descended in the afternoon, so we spent our time playing geography games in the lodge. If I’d died yesterday, I would never have known that a stump is a plant, and Vardar is a mountain! There were many more “pearls of wisdom”, and we laughed like crazy. I like Deboche because of the spring that definitely wakes you up after washing your face in the morning. The water is cold as ice, but it feels good. It took us three hours to reach Orsho, where we will spend the next two days acclimatizing. In the afternoon, after lunch, we all went climbing. The lodge is next to several boulders, so we had fun almost till nightfall. Like children climbing a cherry tree! We slept next to the peak that we’ll be climbing soon. The team was a little impatient, which is understandable, when you can see the Himalayan beauty Ama Dablam through the window of your room. I planned for us to stay two days in Orsho for some good acclimatization climbs. The next day we climbed to the snow line, Taboche Peak (6501m), more than enough for acclimatization. We enjoyed the view of the surrounding peaks, from Lhotse, Island peak, and Makalu, over Ama Dablam, Kangtenga and Thamserku up to the Kwangde ridge over Namche Bazaar. From that point we had a great view of our Ama Dablam route. The snow looks compact and well frozen. In the afternoon the clouds gathered again from the south, and are formed by evaporation in the valley. In the evening the sky clears and overhead a view of the Himalayan sky explodes with thousands of stars. This is something I have never experienced before in the Himalayas!

After the acclimatization climbs we returned to Pengboche with a group that had been with us on our trek through the Khumbu region. After having tea they were supposed to continue to Namche Bazaar and we were to turn left over the Imja Kola river and up the hill to the base camp. But then tears welled up, and there was no way to say goodbye! Some of them didn’t want to go home, they were so thrilled by the things they had seen and experienced. They said they envied us for staying longer than them :) After our farewells, we somehow climbed to the BC almost too quickly, as if we could not wait to climb the icy cliffs of Ama Dablam. We got a little windblown, and the temperature dropped significantly.

Our Sherpas had already arrived at the BC the day before and immediately set up the complete infrastructure. It got even colder in the evening, so we unpacked our down jackets. We finally got into our tents and sleeping bags. Base camp life has special charm. Who has not tried it doesn’t know what I’m talking about. There is nothing better than when the morning sun hits your tent. You go out, you stretch, and the view makes you smile. The first thing you see is, of course, Ama Dablam. While I was preparing the solar panels and other technical gear for the normal functioning of the base camp, the rest of the group spread out their equipment in front of their tents to be checked and adjusted before setting out on the route. Around noon the clouds had already come in from the valley and our battery stopped charging, but we were able to recharge the batteries of the computer and satellite modem, so we will be able to send reports about the expedition. In the evening, we stayed up for a long time talking about the upcoming climb. In fact, it was mostly my monologue, as well as answering questions. The next day the tents in BC got a little frozen on the outside, since the days were growing colder. On the other hand, the snow and ice in the mountains are compact, which makes us happy because of the climb. We left the base with the intent of reaching our mid-camp at 5400m. The day was beautiful. We walked quite quickly so it took us only three hours to cover the 900m altitude difference. When you have a good team everything is easy. We left all our equipment up there in one tent and immediately headed back to base. On the way back we got caught in clouds and wind, but it wasn’t too bad. We had some problems with the solar panels because clouds cover the sun as early as 1 p.m. but we managed somehow.


It started snowing so we rested at the base for next two days. Nothing much was going on except that we sang again in the evening, to the delight of our Sherpas! They say that the weather will soon change for the better. We’ll see. Either way, we will adapt. Nature dictates our climbing plans. Finally a clear morning dawned. After breakfast we packed up and headed to C1 (5800m) sleep there. Lakhpa Sherpa also went with us. We picked up our gear from the Yak camp in the afternoon and arrived around 3 p.m. at C1. Everybody felt fine and no one had any trouble with the altitude. The plan for the following day was to climb to C2 (6100m) and then return to base camp in the afternoon. However the next day, due to bad weather, we returned halfway to C2. There was no need to push ourselves any further because the altitude we had reached was sufficient for acclimatization. Especially since the rock became wet and was difficult to climb. In the late afternoon we descended to BC. There was no singing that night, and the team went to bed immediately after dinner. Now comes the wait for good weather and testing of our patience. We packed food and gas for the final ascent. The only thing we have left to do is to watch the sky and wait… In these times it becomes apparent who has a talent for Himalayan expeditions.

Then a bright and sunny day dawned. A western wind was blowing at a speed of 10km/h. Lakhpa lit a Puja for good fortune on the final climb. Through the smoke I see Ama Dablam glittering in the sky. It really deserves the title of Himalayan Beauty. The team is ready and in a good mood. Everybody has positive jitters. This time, the trip from BC to C1 lasted slightly longer on purpose. We are conserving our energy. In the afternoon, the clouds blew in from the south, but the upper limit of the clouds remained below 5500m. When you get to the high camp, the most important thing is to hear the sound of the Primus! You can never hydrate enough, and that means melting a lot of snow. In the early morning the next day we headed for the Yellow tower (C2). Everything was going great until we came across a group of climbers from China. They were so slow, that we stood still below the Yellow Tower for almost two hours! Just as we passed the Chinese expedition, the clouds suddenly descended and it began to snow. It was a question of whether to continue on to C3 or to stay at the Yellow tower for the night. Knowing that it gets dark here around 5 p.m. we decided to spend the night at C2. We have more than enough food and gas and the atmosphere in the team is better than good. If, at midnight, we have the stars above us, we’ll head for the summit from C2 at 2 a.m. local time.

However, it would not stop snowing. During the night, it eased up a bit, but not enough to continue climbing. Just before dawn, it was perfect for climbing: cool, clear, the pressure rising… However, new snow on the mountain is dangerous, especially if the following day is sunny. Potential avalanches await impatient climbers. We decided to abandon the climb today. We waited for the sun to do its job, and then we slowly climbed the rest of the ridge and arrived at C3 (6300m) around 3 p.m. We had more than 12h to rest, so that we could start off at dawn for the summit. We will have to see, the weather is very unstable.Patience… a lot of patience and good decisions are necessary in such situations. It is not important who reached the summit first, but who was THERE and who returned HOME. That day Nature said NO and we honored that… During the next night I left my tent several times. It was unusually quiet. There was no wind. In the sky to the right of Jupiter, a large meteor burned as it passed through the atmosphere. Elders would call that a good omen. The new moon appeared. I remember once the Lama from Pengboche monastery told me that the new moon brings several days of good weather. I hope he’s right.

The next morning was perfect for the final assent. The weather is perfect. No clouds, steady pressure and the adrenalin is pumping! It’s a little cold until you dress, put on your crampons and harness, one easily looses one’s breath, but when you clip onto the rope, everything is forgotten. While we were in the shade we were making great progress, but when the sun hit us, we slowed down significantly. After C3 there is a frozen part to the right of the famous “Mushroom” which is quite inconvenient. The ice is so firm that it is difficult to cross with bad crampons. After that bit, it takes a lot more strength to make it to the end, but there is no inclination steeper than 60 degrees. There are those who are wondering whether to give up. That is why you need the rest of the team. It is important not to be alone during an assent, that there is someone to help you and encourage you to reach the end. After a lot of effort, the team reached the summit around noon. The first thing that people do is sit down and catch their breath. After a huge effort it is important to drink water, electrolytes (if you still have them in your backpack) and eat a candy bar, because we need to go back down to our tents, which now look like little ladybugs in the snow. At that point there was not a single cloud in the Himalayan sky! Such days are rare, but they do exist, you just need to discover them. The view is indescribable. This is the moment that remains with us for the rest of our lives.

The descent to C2 was relatively quick, because you can go faster using a rope, than just walking down the side of the mountain. I know they were all tired and they would rather go to sleep, but they must melt snow because they were completely dehydrated after the climb. Those who have the energy prepare something to eat, but most of them fall asleep as soon as they get into their sleeping bag. Whenever you have a good rest, it is not difficult to continue your descent to BC the following day, especially if you know that there is hot soup, dal bhat and a smiling cook waiting for you down there. After arrival in BC, in the dining tent, while the adrenaline is still pumping, we recount the details from the ascent with a lot of laughter and teasing. We drink chang (an alcoholic beverage made of rice) and praise our success. After a battle, everyone is a general J… and it all happened by the grace of Nature. Tomorrow we will leave the base camp and return to Namche Bazaar.

We were met there by my friend Dawa who managed to get hold of five liters of red wine!!! He says such a success must be celebrated!!! I hope we survive it :)

Dragan Jacimovic
Extreme Summit Team


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