All Ama Dablam expedition dispatches

Kristin on Ama Dablam

First Ama Dablam summit of the season! Big Congratulations to Kristin Bennett, Aang Phurba Sherpa and the rest of our Sherpa team on Ama Dablam!  They pushed through tough snow conditions and fixed ropes to get to the top on October 10th around 6:00PM local time! 20 hour summit day. Way to go team!!

Kristin on Ama Dablam

Sunrise

From his tent at Ama Dablam base camp, guide Sid Pattison checks in with this recap of the climb of Ama Dablam:

Camp 1

The climb to camp 1 was a big day for everyone.  But the views of our intended route made it all worth it. After about 1220 m (4000 ft) of elevation gain, we were happy to see our tents. But Ama kept pulling us out. Situated at the toe of the SW ridge, camp 1 let us see just about every step we will take to the summit:  the yellow tower on the way to camp 2, the gray tower just out of camp 2 and of course the intimidating Dablam with the steep fluted snow slopes leading to the summit.

Camp 1

Camp 1

Camp 2

Yesterday we woke up to beautiful skies, very little wind and the move to camp 2 ahead of us. While only a 2-3 hour day, the terrain we were to move over has little in common with the pastoral hiking we had done the day before. Right out of camp we put our harnesses on and clipped in for the move. Most of the terrain was steep, very exposed and held our attention.

The highlight of the day was the yellow tower, while only clocking in at around 5.8, with a full pack, approach shoes and at roughly 20,000ft, to say it was strenuous would be an understatement. Needless to say, we all made it up and moved into camp 2. I gotta say, camp 2 is one of the coolest places on earth! All of our tents are set on unlikely stone platforms just below the beginning of the vertical climbing. With a vivid view of what’s to come, hours are spent admiring the climbing route. We spent our day here napping, eating, prepping gear and generally wrapping our minds around the climb that would begin that night…

Climbing the Yellow Tower

Climbing the Yellow Tower

Camp 2

Camp 2

The Summit

1 am never seems like a sensible time to wake up. But when the day holds climbing one of the worlds most iconic mountains, you deal appropriately. In our case, it was wondering if the winds whipping at our tents were too much to climb in. After a few brief comments thrown from tent to tent, we decided the growl was worse than the bite.

We suited up and were off by 2:15. The night was perfect, with only two parties climbing from camp 2 there was no pressure, we could enjoy the climbing without worrying about other people. We climbed up through the vertical mixed ice and rock terrain of the gray tower, over the ridge that connects to camp 3 before the sun rose. As we stood, staring up at the Dablam and the face that rises above it we knew we would make it! Though much bigger than it appears, the mental boost was enough.

We crunched up the frozen snow, lost in our thoughts for several hours. As the valley villages below us started to show I mentally picked them out, Pengboche, Dingboche, Phortse, Phereche, also picking out the paths I had walked looking up at this beautiful mountain. At around 8:30 we stood on top. We hugged, high fived and knew we had a long road back.

Sid and Siddhi on the summit

Sid and Siddhi on the summit

Back to Base Camp

The descent is as much fun as the climb, with lots of rappels one was never bored. We arrived back at camp 2 and packed our things. We planned to be back at base camp for dinner. Reversing the exposed, technical terrain to camp 1, we put out climbing kits away and endured the 3-hour hike back to base camp where a fantastic meal awaited us. And now I’m in my tent writing this. Good night and dream of climbing Ama Dablam.

Rappelling below camp 3

Rappelling below camp 3

Ama Dablam Camp 2

We just received a satellite phone call from the team. They are standing on the summit of Ama Dablam (6812 m / 22,349 ft)!! After they safely descend, we will share the climb recap and some photos.

Fun facts: Ama Dablam is the third most popular Himalayan peak for permitted expeditions, first climbed in March of 1961 via the Southwest Ridge (same as our team uses) by an international team which included Barry Bishop of the USA.

Stay tuned…

Ama Dablam in the alpenglow

Lead guide Sid Pattison provides this update on the Ama Dablam extension climb following our first ascent of Nupla Khang:

The team is here at Ama Dablam base camp. We all rendezvoused after parting ways following the Nupla Khang climb. We met up yesterday in Pangboche and spent the afternoon resorting gear and getting ready for Ama Dablam. The team is in great spirits and really psyched to climb! We arrived at BC around 4:00 PM greeted by huge views of our anticipated route and a super comfy camp.

Tomorrow we will take a rest day to train a bit and pack for our climb. The following day, the 9th, we will head up to Camp 1. We plan to spend one night at Camp 1 and one night at Camp 2 before pushing for the summit on the 11th. Hopefully, the weather cooperates with our plans.

Heading towards Ama Dablam base camp

Heading towards base camp

Our objective: Ama Dablam

Our objective: Ama Dablam

Ama Dablam base camp

Team arrives at base camp

Ama Dablam: Ben and Vibeke on the summit

Ben and Vibeke on the summit with Everest behind

We had a wonderful climb to the summit of Ama Dablam just a few days ago, and since then have trekked down the Khumbu Valley to Lukla, and just this morning we flew by twin otter to Kathmandu. We are very happy to be back in the city after more than six weeks in the mountains climbing Makalu and Ama Dablam.

The conditions on Ama Dablam were near perfect. Much of the route was covered in snow and made for good cramponing on our way up to the summit in the pre dawn hours of October 30th. There was little wind, and a cloudless sky that allowed amazing views from the summit of the 8000 meter peaks Everest, Lhotse, Makalu, Kangchenjunga, and Cho Oyu, as well as countless other summits…

Ama Dablam: Team in base camp

The team in base camp after the climb with our Nepali staff

We descended from the summit to Camp 1 and spent the night, then continued to base camp the following day. We were fortunate to have experienced such great route conditions on the mountain, thanks to our Sherpa team that climbed with us, and our exceptional base camp staff that supported us with amazing meals throughout the expedition.

Unfortunately, this season has not been a good one for all teams on Ama Dablam, as there have been several accidents resulting in a total of 3 fatalities over the last few weeks, and one serious injury. We feel very fortunate that our climb was relatively uneventful, and we made the summit and returned without incident. Our thoughts go out to the families of the climbers who did not make it down from Ama Dablam this autumn.

We just received a sat phone call from the spectacular summit of Ama Dablam (6812m/22,349ft.). Garrett and team sounded fantastic and are enjoying a picture perfect summit day. A transcript of the call is provided below. Congratulations team!

Transcript:

This is Garrett Madison for the Madison Mountaineering Ama Dablam expedition and we are calling from the summit of Ama Dablam! It is October 30th, 8:30am Nepal time. A beautiful day here, not a cloud in the sky, hardly a breeze here on the summit and just a glorious day. We are really excited to be up here, fantastic climb, and we are looking forward to getting back down and being back in base camp shortly. We are really luck to be up here, wonderful climb, and we are going to take our time on the descent. All is well!

Ama Dablam Camp 2

After ascending to Ama Dablam Camp 1 yesterday from base camp, earlier today Garrett and team climbed on and established Camp 2 near 6000m (19,685ft.). Ama Dablam Camp 2 is stunningly located on the cap of a rock pillar with narrowly room for just a few tents.

Weather continues to be favorable. Tomorrow the team will either press on for a summit attempt or move up to Camp 2.7 (6280m/20,600ft.). Stay tuned for live tracking!

ama7

After a few days in Ama Dablam base camp we are now ready to begin our summit attempt. We have been reviewing fixed line techniques, rappelling and have sorted our equipment and food for the high camps. The weather forecast looks good, and the recent snowfall has negligible effect on our route as it is generally follows an exposed ridge.

Today we plan to climb to camp 1, then tomorrow ascend up the southwest ridge to camp 2, then summit the following morning. We are well acclimatized and looking forward to the epic climbing along sections such as the Yellow Tower and Mushroom Ridge, as well as the spectacular views along the way. We should be able to see at least 6 of the 8000 meter peaks from the summit!

Follow along with our real-time tracking. We will post another dispatch from Camp 1 tomorrow.

ama8

This morning we flew by helicopter (a brand new AS350 B3e) from the lower Makalu base camp to Ama Dablam base camp, it was a spectacular ride! We flew right by Baruntse, and many other high peaks before swooping down into Ama Dablam base camp. As you likely know, we called off our Makalu climb due to deep snow and avalanche conditions left by the recent storm, all other teams (British & Slovenian) have also abandoned the mountain without a summit. It was tough to walk away empty handed, but definitely the right call given the existing hazards. We will be back!

After spending several weeks at the upper Makalu base camp (5650m / 18,700 ft.) and higher camps we are well acclimatized and feel great at Ama Dablam base camp which is 4600m (15,200 ft.). It’s a welcome transition from a very remote camp to a very busy one, and we have already met many friends here this morning that we have shared other peaks with recently. Our cook from the recent K2 expedition welcomed us with French Toast and fried eggs, bringing back good memories of climbing in Pakistan last July. We will likely rest a day or two, then push up the route on Ama Dablam.

The weather forecast is good, with a bit of snow this weekend, hopefully not enough to shut down the route as happened last year at this time. All is well here at Ama Dablam base camp and we are excited to climb!

Ama Dablam presents a significant climbing challenge with sustained technical sections of snow, ice, and rock at relatively high-altitude with significant exposure. Trekking through the beautiful Khumbu valley and interacting with the local Sherpa culture combine with this challenging climb to create a truly remarkable experience!


Note from Garrett Madison, Lead Guide:
I first attempted Ama Dablam in 2003 with a few of my mountain guide friends after a Cho Oyu expedition, my first season in the Himalayas. We did not reach the summit due to complications on the route. I returned in 2012, as a seasoned Himalayan guide and Expedition Leader with 3 climbers, and had an excellent climb, reaching the summit with all climbers on November 7th. It was one of the most enjoyable climbs of my career. I returned to Ama Dablam in the autumn of 2014 with a few climbers and again had a fantastic climb.


Ama Dablam, or “mother’s necklace” is an iconic peak located in the Khumbu Valley of Nepal, and was first climbed in 1961.  At 6812m / 22,349ft, ‘Ama’ is a challenging climb because of the steep faces of snow, ice, and rock that one must negotiate during the ascent of the Southwest Ridge. Climbers must have experience with fixed ropes, and be comfortable climbing along very exposed ridgelines. The view from the summit is spectacular, as one can see Everest, Lhotse, Makalu, Cho Oyu, and Sishapangma.


We begin our expedition by trekking from Lukla along the Dudh Kosi river through the Sherpa villages of Monjo, Namche, Debuche, then Pangbochce. From here we leave the valley and climb up to our base camp.


We have the finest base camp on the mountain. Because our camp is built on a large grassy plain, we are able to bring a large dining and communications tent, as well as personal tents that you can stand up in with a very plush mattress for sleeping. Fresh food is brought up daily from the valley so our base camp meals are truly delicious! We have a state of the art communications system that allows us to receive regular weather forecasts, make phone calls, and check-in via the internet, as well as coordinating with our climbers and Sherpas on the mountain. The views from base camp are stunning, and often we take breakfast outside in the sunshine to start the day.


Our high camps are reserved by our Sherpa team in advance of the season, as space in these camps is very limited. By reserving these camps and stocking them with provisions such as food and cooking equipment, we are fortunate in that we only have to carry our personal items with us during our acclimatization rotations and our ascent. Our Sherpa team will arrive in base camp several weeks ahead of us and begin setting the route. This is a huge advantage for us as setting the route on Ama can take weeks. By the time we arrive the route should be ready for climbing.