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Climbers on the Lhotse face

Normally, at this time, our Everest climbing team would have just finished two nights at Namche Bazaar and trekked on to the village of Deboche where they would be spending the evening with our friends at the Rivendell Lodge and looking forward to six more days on the trail towards Everest Base Camp.

But as you know, this terrible COVID-19 pandemic has changed just about everything for all of us.  Our thoughts are with everyone impacted from the dire to the inconvenienced.  Included in that are all of our Nepal staff, including Sherpa and other mountain workers who depend on the spring climbing season for such a large percentage of their annual income.  Income that is used to support their families, buy food, pay school costs, maintain their homes, and more.  This year’s loss of income will be a considerable hardship for many of them.

While Madison Mountaineering will be doing what we can to lessen the loss, we need your help!  Please consider making a generous donation to the GoFundMe campaign we have established to assist our impacted Nepal staff.  All proceeds will be distributed directly to them.

Also, friend of Madison Mountaineering, Alan Arnette, who for many years has been providing excellent daily coverage of the Everest climbing season (and other climbing expeditions year-round) has this year created a wonderfully entertaining fictional day-by-day ‘coverage’ – Virtual Everest 2020 – that we hope you will follow and enjoy!

We will get through this together and be climbing again soon!

Climber on Mount Everest

Late last week amid all of the rapidly evolving global cancelations and shutdowns to slow the spread of the coronavirus, the government of Nepal officially announced the cancellation of all Spring expeditions along with additional changes to their tourist visa requirements.

While we are saddened that all of the hard work and preparations of our team members, our guides, Sherpa, and staff won’t allow us to enjoy the challenge and beauty of Himalayas this spring, we applaud and respect Nepal’s decision.  The health and wellbeing of all of us global citizens is top priority.

The mountain will always be there — let’s go climb Everest next season together!

The Everest summit ridge on May 23rd

Welcome to Everest 2020! Our annual spring Mount Everest expedition begins in just 30 days. Our strong team of international climbers will gather at the Hotel Yak and Yeti, our Kathmandu home-base and the launching point of countless Mount Everest expeditions over the years. Here in Seattle, we are now gathering expedition equipment, food and supplies, making logistical arrangements with our Nepal support staff, and ensuring that all of our climbing team members and trekkers have everything ready to go. Busy times at Madison Mountaineering HQ! We are looking forward to our continued best-in-class rate of success and safety on Everest. Leaders in setting the fixed ropes, we have put the first team on top in 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019.

We are excited by the upcoming season and hope that you will all follow along with our expedition dispatches as the team makes their way to base camp and then up the mountain!

If climbing Mount Everest is in your future, please contact our office, we would love to have you climb with us!


In addition to these expedition dispatches, you can also follow our teams as they make their attempts on the world’s most formidable mountains on:

Amazon Alexa devices with the Madison Mountaineering Flash Briefing skill:

  • Enable the skill and add to your flash briefing to hear Garrett Madison’s daily audio expedition updates

Instagram:

Yesterday at 9:15 AM the Madison Mountaineering team reached the top of the Unclimbed Peak, Tharke Khang, located in the Nepal Himalayas near Mount Everest at over 22,000′ (6670m).  We began our summit day just after midnight on November 3rd, and departed our high camp (19,200′ / 5820m) on the Nup La glacier near the China – Nepal border at 2 AM.  This was the culmination of more than a year’s planning, we were anxiously anticipating what the route to the summit would entail, and wondering if we would be able to ascend to the top of a peak that no climbers had yet attempted before us.  Although seemingly doable in our eyes from google earth and helicopter reconnaissance, we expected the route would likely have some unexpected challenges in store for us, perhaps preventing us from reaching the summit.

From our high camp we traversed the Nup La glacier 45 minutes to the North Face of the peak, ascending a firm 45 degree snow slope about 500 ft. up to the ridge line, breaking through the corniced ridge, then ascending the ridge through varying degrees of steepness, sometimes vertical for sustained portions.  Over the previous 2 days our team had ascended about two thirds of the route and placed fixed ropes over the steep and exposed sections, however the remaining 1/3 of the route to the summit was still unclimbed and our plan was to find and establish this portion of the route as we climbed on our final summit push, in a ‘make or break’ style.  As our team ascended the route in the very cold and dark night, we were divided into two groups.  The first group was focused on climbing ahead and fixing (problem solving) the remaining portion of the route and the second group was making steady progress towards the goal of reaching the top.  I climbed with my friends Aang Phurba and Lakpa Dandi Sherpa, Aang Phurba led the final steep pitches to the ridge just before the highest point on the peak.  Aang Phurba and I have climbed together many times in recent years on Mount Everest, K2, Lhotse, etc. His brother was part of my team in 2014 on Mount Everest and perished tragically during the avalanche in the Khumbu Icefall on April 18th that ended the climbing season for us, Aang Phurba and I have a special bond that goes beyond the singular focus of climbing.

Before reaching the summit, Lakpa Dandi and I climbed up to join Aang Phurba just below the highest point on the peak, unfurled some prayer flags and silk Khata scarves, anchoring them near the top where they would float in the breeze, then together walked the final steps to the highest point and true summit of Tharke Khang.  We could not have had a better day for climbing in the Himalayas, there was not a cloud in the sky and only a small breath of wind.  We gazed upon Mount Everest, Mount Lhotse, Mount Cho Oyu, and many other of the surrounding Himalayan peaks.  Shortly thereafter, a few of our other climbers ascended to the summit and reveled in the majesty of this spectacular mountain range on such a glorious day.  After savoring our time at the summit, we began our descent down the ridge, a series of rappels over exposed terrain, where often both sides of the ridge dropped away into nothingness. After descending around 2800′ (910m) we traversed the Nup La glacier back to our high camp and settled in for the night. Today, we awoke at 6 AM and helicoptered down to our base camp located at the Gokyo 5th lake, then continued by helicopter to Kathmandu for a celebratory dinner this evening.  It’s been somewhat of a culture shock for us today, going from isolation in a high altitude alpine zone in a remote corner of the highest mountain range on Earth, to a bustling city. We all feel very blessed to have concluded a safe climbing expedition in a beautiful mountain environment, and to now be heading home to our friends and loved ones.  For me personally, yesterday was an extra special summit day, as it was my 39th birthday and I was able to share it with friends in a spectacular place never before visited by anyone.

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Unclimbed Peak

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Unclimbed Peak

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Unclimbed Peak

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Unclimbed Peak

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Unclimbed Peak

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On November 3rd our unclimbed peak expedition team reached the Tharke Khang summit! Garrett Madison checks in via satellite phone and reports beautiful conditions with views of surrounding peaks in the Himalayas. Our climbers will now descend to high camp to eat and rest up. Nice work team!

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Audio dispatch by Garrett Madison

Our unclimbed peak expedition team checks in from high camp as they prepare for a summit push tonight. Everyone is doing well and the snow conditions are looking great on Tharke Khang.

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Audio dispatch by Garrett Madison

Our unclimbed peak expedition team is now in base camp, preparing to make a recon up to the peak to scout the potential climbing route. Our peak, Tharke Khang, looks to have a ridge line beginning from the west that appears climbable, with steep snow and ice slopes. Our base camp is comfortable with a heated dining tent and great food!

Garrett

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peak expedition

We made our from Machermo up the valley to the village of Gokyo, situated next to a beautiful aqua marine lake. After lunch a few of us hiked up nearby Gokyo Ri, at just over 17,500’. We glimpsed our unclimbed peak in the distance, still a long way off…with major challenges between us and the start of the route, about 10 miles of glacier moraine and glacier/ icefall. This will not be an easy walk to say the least…accessing the base of the route is one thing, climbing the technical ridge is another.

Exploration in essence is venturing into the unknown… and that is exactly where we are headed.

Our team is good, everyone is acclimatizing well. The weather has been favorable and we hope this trend continues. We look forward to reaching our base camp the next day or two.

Garrett Madison

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Tham Serku peak

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Ama Dablam

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Trekking through the high country towards base camp

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First view of the unclimbed peak, Tharke Khang

Machermo

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At the top of Gokyo Ri today, 17,500′

Machermo

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The village of Gokyo, at 15,600′ high in the Himalayas where we are staying

Machermo

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At one of the Gokyo lakes today

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Our head Sherpa, Aang Phurba

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Stairway to heaven

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Old chorton (in Sherpa language) means stupa

 

The Unclimbed Peak expedition team is approaching the mountain. We are trekking up the beautiful Khumbu Valley in Nepal past the iconic villages of Namche (Capital of the Khumbu), Khumjung, and soon Gokyo. Our climbers are all anticipating the moment when we pass Gokyo and can first glimpse this virgin peak. The idea of embarking on a journey where we don’t know what will lay in store for us is part of the excitement we share as every day we make our way closer to the mountain. Lead guide Sid Pattison assisted by my myself is overseeing the schedule as we push our way up the valley. The team is feeling psyched and happy to be on the move after a rest and acclimatization day in Namche drinking coffee and eating pastries.

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Unclimbed

Madison Mountaineering Everest 2017 Recap, “The Leader” on Everest

Success / Safety:

All of our climbers and Sherpas are off the mountain and now and preparing to head home! We have had a fantastically successful expedition, with all 8 of our clients reaching the summit of Everest, along with 4 American guides, and 15 Sherpas. We also had several of our climbers complete the Everest & Lhotse “peak to peak” combination, where they climbed Mount Lhotse (4th highest mountain) the day after reaching the summit of Mount Everest. This amazing and unmatched level of success among all the teams on Mount Everest is secondary to our number one priority, that all members (clients, guides, & Sherpas) made it safely off the peak.

Rope Fixing to the Summit:

Our team took the lead in partnership with the British – Nepal Gurkha team in fixing the ropes to the summit of Mount Everest on May 15th. This was not part of our original plan, as the rope-fixing project was taken upon by several other teams at the start of the season. Unfortunately, after several mishaps, the lead team had to abandon the rope-fixing project along with their partners. Without any clear consensus on how or when the lines would be put in to the summit, our team stepped up to finish the job. This “mission critical” project was necessary so that teams could begin their summit attempts on Mount Everest, with teams reaching the summit the following day on May 16th and continuing to reach the summit today. We are glad that our team had the capability and prowess to organize and execute such an important task, when no other teams on the mountain could summon such an effort, at such a critical stage in the climbing season.

Rescues:

Our team was at the South Col when several climbers who had pushed themselves very hard on summit day returned and needed critical medical attention. Our guides came to assist with medicine (dexamethasone, etc) and supplemental oxygen. However, what stands out the most is that one of our veteran guides, Brent Bishop, along with our Sherpas, rescued the Slovak Climber from the Balcony (27,500’), lowering him all the way down to the South Col high camp. Our Sherpas gave up their oxygen for him to use on the descent. This heroic effort by Brent and our Sherpas involved abandoning their own summit attempt, just hours away from the top, and spending the day giving their all in an effort to save a life.

We feel very fortunate that our expedition was a stunning success. We attribute this to our careful team selection and training, our top notch Everest guides and leadership, and of course our incredible Sherpa team who we invest heavily in year after year.

Photo: At the top of Mount Everest on May 23rd, 2017

Everest 2017 Recap

Our Sherpa team in base camp

Everest 2017 Recap

Descending Mount Everest with a little wind on our summit day!

Everest 2017 Recap

Lhotse climbers Sid Pattison and Ingvild Settemsdal near the summit of Lhotse with Everest behind

Everest 2017 Recap

The South Col high camp on Everest with Lhotse behind

Everest 2017 Recap

Guide Billy Nugent taking a pause on the descent from Everest

Everest 2017 Recap

View from the top!!

Everest 2017 Recap

Summit ridge of Mount Everest all to ourselves May 23rd, 2017

Everest 2017 Recap

We are now going to relax and enjoy the post summit euphoria before returning to our friends, families, and loved ones, as well as our busy lives back home! Thanks for following along!

Garrett Madison