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Makalu SUMMIT - A beautiful performance!
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May 29, 2004 18: 35 EST
This just in from Christians brother. The climbers went out this morning after a windy and cold night, and then it got worse:

"The three climbers left this morning at 10 am after a very difficult night: Strong gusts of wind kept hitting them through the night.... At 8300 meters, tired by the rough night, Patrick Wagnon and Christian Trommsdorff decided to stop.

They encouraged Yannick Grazziani, who still had resources, to continue to the top. Alone, he breaks the trail, very hard.

At 4:30 pm, he is finally at the top of Makalu: 8463 meters!

After this achievement, he joined Christian and Patrick to spend a new night at 7600 meters. Congratulations to all the team for this exceptional ascent!"

And these are the details on the night prior to the summit:

"Friday, May 28th: The intensity goes up one more notch
It is 9:30 pm in Tibet and the night is coming. This time, our friends announce: "Things are no longer as good as they were this morning!" The wind rose, a very strong wind which blew at up 100 km/h gusts. The three mountaineers are at 7 600m, they are exactly below the summit line!

They placed their tent (they have in fact only the interior part!) on a very wind exposed plateau but had no choice. Their installation was hard, they built a platform in a kind of crevasse to protect the tent (two hours of labor!) and they have two sleeping bags for three. They have to tie the tent with ropes and secure it with ice axes.

Their biggest fear is that the tent tears apart... They once again feel like they are in a washing machine, they are not hungry and wait until the wind falls. If it does, they will leave towards the top, initially following the direct slopes above them and then joining the South-East ridge. Come on gu ys, only 850m left!"

Congrats, guys, to a good fight and final success!

Christian Trommsdorff, Patrick Wagnon, and Yannick Grazziani original plan was to attempt a first ascent on the Eastern side of Makalu (Tibetan side). A feat only once before attempted. After deciding against the the Eastern route they were climbing along the same route that the British services guys were climbing.

A team of 14 mountaineers drawn from the British Royal Navy, Air Force and Army were on Makalu this spring to climb the often attempted but rarely completed SE Ridge.

The British Services Expedition hoped to summit without bottled oxygen and with minimal Sherpa support, but had to abort their attempt due to heavy snowfall.

Makalu was first summited by a French expedition in 1955 via the North Face and NE Ridge. Though the SE Ridge was unsuccessfully attempted by the first expedition to Makalu – an American team in 1954 – the first complete ascent did not occur until 1970, when a Japanese team pushed a route to the summit. Since then, only three other successful ascents have been made by the steep and narrow SE Ridge – the longest ridge on Makalu.

Until this season began, 206 climbers had summited Makalu and 22 had died. The overall summit/fatality rate was thus about 11%, a little more than Everest’s overall summit/fatality rate of 9%. Statistically at least, the world's 5th highest mountain is the 7th most dangerous of the 14 8000+ giants.

Image of Christian Trommsdorff courtesy of his website.

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