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Makalu 2014 Dispatches


We have just returned to base camp after pushing as high as possible on Makalu.

Above our Camp 2 at 22,500′ we found deep snow left by the recent storm that caused the avalanches and fatalities on nearby peaks in the Annapurna region. We felt it unreasonable to press on in such difficult / dangerous conditions, so have called off our climb. Currently we are packing up our base camp and preparing to head out in a few days.

We have had a great time attempting the world’s 5th highest mountain, and have made some great friends along the way.

Thanks for following!

Here we go! The summit push is on! We spoke with Garrett a little while ago from Makalu base camp. According the tracking map, the team has just left base camp and is heading up to Camp 1 (6150m / 20,177ft.). Weather and conditions pending, the rough target for summit day is currently October 24th. Follow along with the team by visiting this dispatch page and monitor the real-time RainOn tracking.

More details as we get them.

Greetings from Makalu base camp!

The forecasted storm came and deposited about 30 centimeters of new snow in our base camp.

Currently the winds are still very high, we hope they will drop in a few days. We are waiting patiently here in base camp, enjoying the clear blue sky and sunshine during the day, and if the weather cooperates soon we will make our summit push.

Everything is good here, as we have plenty of nice food, books, movies and some very friendly Slovenian climbers to share the time with.

We will check in again soon,
Garrett Madison


After a few nights up high on Makalu at elevations of approximately 21,000′ we are now back in base camp relaxing and enjoying the comforts of our camp. We accomplished our goal of stocking camps with gear and food, as well as acclimatizing to the higher altitudes.

We experienced perfect weather thus far, but we hear from our forecasting service that the weather is about to change. Apparently a storm is brewing in the bay of Bengal, and is moving north towards us, reaching our area on October 14th. We could have up to 12 inches of snow per day during this time. We are crossing our fingers and hoping a strong wind will appear and blow this low pressure system off track before it reaches us. The benefit of this storm is that it may push the jet stream (high winds), currently over the summit preventing a summit bid, north away from the mountain so that we have calm conditions for an extended period.

Our plan will be to rest a few days in base camp and see what happens…


Makalu Camp 2

After moving base camp 5.5 miles and 3,100 vertical feet up the Barun glacier and then climbing up to Camp 1 at 20,100 ft. on the Makalu standard North West route, today the team established Camp 2 at 21,210 ft. Garrett called in the following dispatch via satellite phone.

Hi, this is Garrett Madison calling in for the Madison Mountaineering Makalu expedition. Today is Tuesday October 7th. It’s 6:30pm and we are tucked in up at our Camp 2 on Makalu. Beautiful day climbing up from Camp 1 to Camp 2! We had clear skies. We could see for miles and miles in every direction and we are the only ones up here right now. Here’s a few down at Camp 1. But great to be up here on the mountain having a fantastic time. We are going to climb up towards Camp 3 tomorrow, probably come back down to this camp and then head down the following day. Everything’s going great and we’ll check in soon.

Makalu Base Camp

We had a great time the last few days up at our advanced base camp on the South East Ridge. Great views of the surrounding peaks and fun climbing on the ridge line! We are now enjoying a rest day in base camp, with hot showers and great food!

We have decided to change our climbing route to the Northwest side of the mountain or what is the normal route via the Makalu La. This means we will move our base camp tomorrow up the Barun Glacier about 2500′ higher than our current camp, to approximately 18,500′ (5639m). We are looking forward to exploring this side of the mountain as we have not yet seen it from this angle. It’s great that our climbing permit allows us to climb on both sides.

We are doing well, the days are typically sunny and clear in the morning with clouds and some snow in the afternoon / evening.

We will check in again soon!
Garrett Madison

Makalu Puja

Yesterday we went for an acclimatization hike up to 19,000′ and found a good location for our advanced base camp on the South-East Ridge route. The hiking was mostly on rock and scree and we reached the snowy ridge line where we took a break before heading down.

Today we had our Puja ceremony in base camp. We built a small stone altar and burned juniper at it’s base; asking the mountain for safe passage. This ceremony is an essential part of any Himalayan climbing expedition in Nepal or Tibet and sometimes Pakistan as well, depending on who is on the climbing team. Now that we have completed this important ceremony we can begin climbing the mountain.

Tomorrow, our plan is to rest and organize equipment, then the following day move up to our advanced base camp (ABC) to spend a night or two to begin acclimatizing.

Garrett Madison

Makalu Base Camp

After six days of trekking over approximately 80 miles have finally reached Makalu base camp! We are very excited to be here, as we can now settle into our new home here for a few weeks. At just under 16,000 ft, we are now above the clouds and rain that were present for much of our journey to base camp. Awaking for the first time to sun shine, and a view of the mountain, as well as the glistening peaks surrounding, deserves a moment of pause as we consider the challenge before us. Today we are enjoying hot showers, drying our gear, and organizing camp.

Camped nearby are a well provisioned team of British climbers, and further up the glacier moraine a small team of Slovenian climbers. It’s a very peaceful and scenic place to call home. After dinner last night we watched the film Top Gun, selected by our Nepali staff who really enjoyed the action scenes with fighter jets.

We will spend a few days in base camp, taking short hikes to acclimate, before heading up to the higher camps. We plan to have our Puja ceremony in the next few days as well. All is good for our team, and we look forward to checking in again soon!

– Garrett Madison

Garrett called in the following dispatch via satellite phone:

Hi! This is Garrett Madison calling in for Madison Mountaineering Makalu expedition. Today is Friday, September 26th and we are trekking from Yangle Kharka to Makalu base camp. We are excited to finally get to base camp later today. It has been a beautiful trek, up through the river valley. A little bit of rain and clouds at times, but we hear that base camp is in the sun. So we are looking forward to reaching base camp and to have some nice views of the mountain. We are doing great and right on schedule. So everything is going well and we will check in again soon!

Makalu RainOn track

Starting out in foggy conditions, the team was hoping for clearing skies as today’s segment of the trek to base camp was posed to offer the first views of Makalu. Continuing to climb the ridge to the Shipton La high pass at 4145m / 13,600 ft. they passed Thulo Pokhari lake [third party photo] before making camp at Mumbuk (3900m / 12,800 ft.).

Tomorrow’s segment will drop down into the Barun river valley and turn west towards base camp for the final two days of trekking. Once the team reaches base camp they will setup our satellite data modem and hopefully be able to upload some pictures of the beautiful scenery in this remote area of Nepal.

Stay tuned!

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