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  Ama Dablam Spring 2004: Dispatch Three

Okay, okay I have not been eschewing my duties sending updates. No I didn't abandon my post at base camp to go trekking in the Khumbu...we have had many days of horrendous weather!!! There was so much fog, snow, and lightening that my laptop battery was drained as I tried to charge the solar panels in the snow storm and thus why the delay.

4/21: Matt and Scott have moved to Camp 2 (6100 m; 20,000 ft) today. They will back carry to Camp 1 tomorrow to get the remainder of their cache. They are all doing well and I am sure they are feeling quite inspired from the team that summited today at 3pm. As I type (6:37pm) Adrian Hayes & Lakpa Wandi Sherpa are still descending and are at the Dablam area. As darkness and the fog is encroaching and they have been climbing since 3 am this morning I am sure they are ready to be back at Camp 2 where they started from!!!

4/22: A few inches of new snow are at Camp 2 and Matt & Scott are quite tired from their back carry. In fact they are still on the ridge just after the Yellow Tower and have not made it all the way back to camp yet. Scott had a very difficult time on the Yellow Tower due to losing feeling in his hands on the ascent and at one point gave up on the overhanging jugging of the fixed lines.

He then dug deep within and powered up and over the overhanging buttress of the tower afterwards saying, " (climbing up the Yellow Tower for the second time) was the hardest thing he had ever done in his life!" (The Yellow Tower is a pitch of 5.9 rock at 20,000 ft). Lars & Laila carried to Camp 2 and moved part of their things today. So, everyone will have a rest day tomorrow. Matt & Scott still have their dry hacking high altitude cough and everyone's Oxygen Sats are moderate. I was able to watch Matt & Scott on the Yellow Tower through the binoculars which made me feel at least I knew where they are and what they are up to on the mountain. 

4/23: Rest Day....

10 am check-in: 2" of new snow at Camp 2. Oxygen Sats: Scott=85, Matt=78. Scott took Diamox last night but Matt did not; hence, the discrepancy. Lars & Laila still have a cache of food and gear on the ridge near Camp 1. Scott's hands are doing great today and have remained warm since. (Scott had some frostbite this winter ice climbing in Alaska in -20F to -25F with fairly large blebs on his pinky fingers; hence, the concern and precautionary behavior on his part to keep his hands warm!) Adrian had a bit of an epic coming down the Grey Tower by himself in a white out and exhausted so Matt and Scott have decided not to go for the summit from Camp 2. On the next good weather day they will scout the route to Camp 3 and/or move to Camp 3 for a summit attempt. Matt and Scott decided months ago to climb Ama using bivy sacs instead of a tent. Which means they have versatility and can camp in places that are too small to set up a tent, which there are many on Ama. Lars & Laila do however have a small mountain tent which allows a more comfortable time when waiting out weather or bad conditions. Matt & Scott will be sharing a blueberry crumble freeze dried meal for lunch today and are quite excited.

At the 5pm check-in it had snowed most of the day...Scott did not get out of his bivy sack all day except to kneel over the 4,000 ft face to pee off of. In fact his Bibler Bivy was anchored in with a #8 Black Diamond stopper & a #1 Cam so as to prevent any rolling off the ridge in his sleep. Yup, Camp 2 is quite a tight place to sleep and I don't know if you would call it sleeping....Scott's nice new bivy kept him snuggly warm and dry in fact it's REALLY long even for a 6 foot tall guy so he could stuff it full of all the electronic gadgets and clothing one needs up high. Matt's on the other hand was an older OR version that had been neglected over the years and showed it up in the wet snow. He reported that everything of his was damp and he was hoping for any beak in the clouds to try and dry his things with the sun. Lars & Laila only have a few days (2-3) of food up at Camp 2 and thus might have to get their cache soon or go down if the weather doesn't improve....

4/24: 10am check-in: Matt & Scott are going to re-con the Grey Tower, Gulley and may move to Camp 3 if possible. They say they have only gotten 3" of new snow but Base Camp received what seems like more than 3", possibly 5-6". Matt also reports that it is clear up high with winds out of the east which seems to look like a change in the weather pattern. Matt & Scott only have 3 days left of food so if they can't make it up to Camp 3 today then they will have to come down to Camp 1 for the retreat. However, if they do go up to Camp 3 & the head wall looks stable then they will go for the summit tonight with a 3am start. Lars & Laila will be getting their food cache below the Yellow Tower today.

5pm check-in: Matt & Scott are still at Camp 2 getting pummeled with 1 foot of snow. Lars & Laila broke camp at 12 noon and are retreating to Camp 1. Everyone will be at Base Camp tomorrow. There are avalanches ripping off the face of Ama and other surrounding peaks. Scott has officially spent 35 hours in his bivy without actually leaving the bivy (meaning he has not put on his boots and walked around)!

4/25: 10am check-in: Matt & Scott are leaving Camp 2 now with only 2 days worth of food left. Lars & Laila arrived Camp 1 at 7pm last night but still have their cache below the Yellow Tower they will need to retrieve tomorrow. Lars & Laila will have a rest day today at Camp 1. Matt & Scott still plan to make it to Base Camp tonight.

5pm check-in: Matt & Scott are having "the epic of our lives"!!!!! They still have not reached Camp 1 due to all the snow on the ridge that is making it virtually impassable. They are still looking forward to Base Camp and will push on in the dark with their headlamps. They will want food, hot drinks, and tents when they arrive.

8pm check-in: "We are lost in a white-out somewhere below Camp 1 and above Base Camp. I don't know where the hell we are and we have set up our bivys for the night. We are so exhausted and cannot push on until the morning. I have had the toughest day guiding in technical terrain in my life...." said Matt.

4/26: At 9am after I had my breakfast, the sun came out to burn the clouds off so I was able to do some binocular searching of the ridge. No movement at Camp 2 or Camp 1 but I see one person coming off the summit ridge and footprints in the snow on the ridge out of base camp. I nearly fall out of my chair in excitement that its Matt & Scott coming down so I yell to my cook crew that I see them. As I watch the person he is slowly going uphill & my cook crew tells me of an American who arrived last night and went up early for a hike. Then as I continue searching the hill I see two people staggering their way down. Without a question of who it is I round up the Sirdar and head cook to go up with myself and help the weary souls with their loads.

 10am check-in: I am hiking up to reach Scott & Matt but I still haven't reached the guys and don't know exactly what has gone on up there yet. Lars & Laila will try and go get their cache today but their is so much new snow that they are unsure that they will make it. Laila is scared! Meanwhile, I am getting heat from the Sirdar who just got back from a "holiday" to Namche Bazarre to get his daughter her citizenship card, that we only have a few days to get to Lukla and the Yaks & porters arrive today to take everything down. I tell Lars & Laila to hurry up and that we only have a few days left to get to Lukla & Matt chimes in that they will take their time on that ridge; its deadly if its taken carelessly!!! I reach Scott & Matt whereupon the Sherpas have already harnessed Scott & Matt's packs and are heading down. Matt & Scott are staggering like they have been out drinking at the bar all night long and they say we haven't eaten dinner in 2 days. I throw them a candy bar and a Luna Bar to eat since they drank a smores dehydrated meal for their breakfast. Scott staggers down the hill and Matt sits down and starts complaining saying he dislocated his shoulder, bent his Petzl ascender in half, broke a Hotwire carabineer, broke the fixed lines on the Yellow Tower, and ripped a pin out of the granite! I am dumfounded and don't know what to say except I am glad you two are alive.

5pm check-in: Lars & Laila tried to get their cache but their was too much snow and they turned back. They will try again tomorrow morning. We tell them that their lives are more important than gear and they should keep that in mind when attempting the ridge again. Laila replies, "my favorite ice axes are up there and they are not made anymore so I would really like to get them if possible." We tell them that 3 porters and myself are going up to Camp 1 tomorrow to get Matt & Scott's cache and some of their stuff if needed.

4/27: 8am check-in: Lars & Laila will definitely be down in Base Camp tonight whether or not they can get their cache. I am hiking up farther behind the Sherpas and the weather is blistering. As I get to a cache at 18,500ft the sherpa have already been up to Camp 1 and are on their way down in what is now a snow storm. The Sherpas climbed from 15,200 ft to 19,000 ft in 3.5 hours when it took Matt & Scott 7.5 hours when they moved up! The sirdar said Lars & Laila got the cache and will eat some food, break camp and be down later. I sighed with relief that everyone and everything was soon to be off the mountain.

6 pm check-in: The Swedes are 1 hour away from Base Camp and looking forward to Chuldim's food. We told them we will be awaiting their return with hot drinks in hand. 7:30pm Our Swedes show up and we are gleefully calling them in through the fog with our chants and calls. It turned out to be a "Swede" reunion of everyone at Base Camp with a huge dinner and early bedtime.

4/28: We get up at 6am to head to Namche Bazarre for what would be a 6-7hr hike for us. It was a great morning everyone hiking together actually seeing the terrain up to Ama Base Camp. We all meet up at Thangboche around 1pm at a great bakery for pizzas and Danishes. Matt, Scott, & I take a detour to a town we had not visited yet called Kunde to see the medical clinic. However, we didn't make it since it started sleeting and snowing on us. We stopped at a tea house to warm ourselves then meandered down to Namche. Kunde is gorgeous with huge boulders and beautiful flora. We meet up with everyone and are glad to be greeted with hot drinks and dry clothes. Another good dinner and early bedtime. Matt & Scott hit the town bar to have a few beers.

4/29: Matt has to deliver our expedition trash to the SPCC to collect a certificate to try and get our environmental deposit back ($2,000 US) in Kat. Everyone meanders through the shops on their way out of town to Monjo where we will stay the night before heading to Lukla. We are all amazed by the sensory experience we regain with many people on the trails, yak jams, beautiful children playing on the trail, the gompas, mani stone walls, chortons, trees and flowers.

4/30: We had organized a plan for everyone to stick together on the walk to Lukla in case of Maoist interactions. Everyone split up from the moment we left Monjo and it turned out to be fine. No issues. Another beautiful, hot, and muggy day hiking as we descend into the "low-lands" (9,000 ft). We turned up in Lukla, glad to finally be there, and greeted by Nepalese army guards falling asleep at their post. We had an amazing dinner complete with an Ama shaped cake and Bakshesh celebration where we gave all of our help their tips and gifts of clothing. We sang and danced traditional Sherpa songs until our 9pm bedtime. We had an early flight the next morning.

5/1: Laila's Birthday!!! We all get on the plane with much chaos before hand that reminds us we are in Asia. With a bumpy ride we get into Kat to be greeted by the heat and sun again. We head to Hotel Nirvana where the name is so appropriate because we were all so thankful to finally be in Shangra La again. We had a great closing dinner celebration at the Rum Doodle restaurant which is famous for its Everest climbing history, Everest summiteers club, and autographs of most expeditions that come to the Himalayas.

Ama Base Camp Correspondent

The Ascending Path

Heather Rowland


Ama Dablam, Nepal 22,493ft/6,865m

Ama Dablam

This Expedition peak is located in the heart of the Khumbu region; Lhotse, Nuptse, Island Peak and Everest surround it. Ama Dablam is often sited as the most beautiful peak in the world. From far distances, Ama's steep slopes and curving ridges draw ones eyes up toward its spectacular summit. Our route, the South West ridge, requires exposed granite ridge walking, ascending fixed lines on steep buttresses and snow and ice climbing at high altitudes.

The Climb: This trip is combined with our Basecamp Trek.

As one team, we will journey into the Khumbu region. After our acclimatizing trek to Island Peak Base Camp, (and optional summit bid) we climb to the scenic Ama Base Camp near Mingbo. At Base Camp we will enjoy the comfort and reassurance of Satellite and email communication with the outside world, hand-held radios for daily team interaction and a spotting scope to view the route up close. From here, we say goodbye to our Island Peak Team and begin the climbing process. We will have the assistance of an experienced, fully insured High Altitude Climbing Sherpa for moving camps up the mountain. We utilize 3 or 4 camps on the mountain, depending on how everyone acclimates. Our Summit day client to guide ratio will not exceed 2:1. The "A" team will summit first, with "B" to follow the next day. This method guarantees the best opportunity for climber safety, service and success.


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