Makalu ( 8481 m)
towering above the Sherpani or East Col Glacier (5700 - 6100 m)
One of the
highest crossings in Nepal is from Makalu Base Camp near the Arun Valley to
Baruntse Base Camp in the Everest Region. This is not a trekking route like the
popular 5750 m Trashi Labtse Pass from Rolwaling to Everest Region, 5400 m Mera
La, or the 5800 m Ambu Labtse, but a 4-5 day mountain climbing crossing, best
combined with climbing Baruntse. It requires climbing Sherpas and high altitude
porters, and members must be very fit with previous experience at 6000 m as it
involves a long day crossing two passes
around 6100-6150 m, a steep rocky climb to reach the first pass and two 100-200
m rappels at each pass.
Base Camp at 4900 m a rocky trail along the SW side of the Barun Glacier leads
in only 4 hours to the first camp at 5200 m just below Makalu with views at
Lhotse and Everest to the NW. The advanced base camp of the easiest NW route up Makalu is across the valley. An
extra day of acclimatization at this location is recommended but we did not do
this. The camp site has a clean stream and between big boulders several level
sites are carved out for pitching tents. With such magnificent views and high
altitude sickness striking hard, a day of panoramic rest is a must.
camp at 5700 m takes 5 h along a poor and partially steep and tiring trail marked with Cairns. It is dominated by loose boulders, many of
significant size so you are often jumping from one big boulder to another. Test
each boulder before you continue a step else you may have a surprise rocky
slide. The camp at 5700 m is very
scenic sitting at the tip of a white
glacier coming down from the East Col. Another rest day is needed at
5700 m to get ready for the main crossing.
The day of
crossing the Sherpani/East (6100 m) and
West Col (610035 m) requires careful planning and is a 10 hour trip. The biggest problem is not how to
get the members across, provided they have past experience at this altitude,
but to haul the camping gear and 20 kg duffels bags with personal gear across
the two passes.
trip, the fastest members took only 7-7.5 hours non-stop but the normally very
quick kitchen staff took even 9 h and some porters even longer. There were long
delays across the 6100 m East Col as the last 100 m up is partially a grade 3-4
rock climb and going down a 100-150 m rappel (abseil) of a 45-60 degrees snow
and rock face. The multi-pitch rappel at this altitude is a very tiring if you
do it following the safety rules, an eight for lowering (ATC could not handle
the thick rope), a prussic for safety, and a safety sling for passing the knots
of the multiple pitches.
Rappel and lowering
equipment down the Sherpani or East Col at 6000-6100 m. Height of snow and rock
face about 100-150 m.
equipment was lowered along a nylon rope system resembling a cable car and this was slow.
It is only
one hour across the 3 km wide glacier to the 6135 m West Col and you walk at
the base of the 6700 m Little Baruntse (no official name). We already had camp
1 established at the West Col. Jacco and I got here after 4-5 hours between 11
and 12 AM, but many members did not get here until 4-5 PM as they took went up
slower, enjoyed the magnificent views and had to wait for their turn at the
part from the West Col to Baruntse Base Camp at 5450 m is a gentle 200 m rappel
along a 30-45 degree snow and ice slope
and 3-4 hours down along a glacier and boulder fields.
Col with 100-200 m rappel
across snow and rocks is well-marked by cairns but very tiring at the end of
such a long day due to the high altitude, between 5500 and 6100 m is
Going up Little Baruntse requires 200 m fixed rope
along the direct route due to many new crevasses since the late 90's but this
is not recommended. Only when teaming up
through camp 2 at 6500 m of the main Baruntse Expedition it is feasible.
However, the originally 2 day trekking peak now becomes a 4 day mountaineering
climb. In 2004, we concentrated on main Baruntse and the attemps by Steven and
Claudia to climb Little Baruntse failed.
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