A PASSAGE TO MT. MAKALU BY EAST RIDGE.


Tsuneo SHIGEHIRO
Summary of Expedition



 Mt. Makalu (8,463 m high), the 5 th highest peak in the world, is situated in lat.27゜ 53'23''N. and long. 87゜ 05'29''E. on the Nepal-Tibet border. The British Mt. Everest Expedition Team in 1921 was the first men who saw Mt. Makalu nearby.
 Shipton and Hillary were the first men to go to Barun glacier, which runs West at the foot of Mr. Makalu. Hillary, the first summiter of Mt. Everest in 1952, at that time saw Mt. Makalu 30 kilometers away in the southeast from Everest.
 An American Team and New Zealand Team took on the challenge of Mt. Makalu, but no one was able to reach the summit, as the teams had to with draw under compulsion due to accidents and bad weather.
 In 1995, Jan Franco, the French team captain, and 11 members made a reconnoiter climb in Autumn 1954, and achieved the first ascent of Mt. Makalu from the final camp on the Northwest face of Mt. Makalu.
 This success was the fruit of France's high altitude climbing studies, which made remarkable progress from the first ascent of Mt. Annapurna. Mt. Annapurna was scaled by a French team in 1950 and was the first ascent of an 8,000 m class peak in human history.
 Next, in 1970 the Tohkai Branch of the Japanese Alpine Club succeeded in climbing Mt. Makalu for only the second time by the Southeast Ridge. Since then Mt. Makalu has been climbed by over 8 variational routes.
 Mt. Makalu has become popular amongst expert climbers, but there is one route no one ever goes up. The East Ridge is very long, and falls into the Karma Valley, which is derived from the Arun River, and connected to the Ganges River.
 In 1921 Mallory and his team saw the East Ridge in the distance, while they were looking for an ascent route up Mt. Everest, from the Karma Valley or Kangshung Glacier. Since then the East Ridge has been hidden in a veil of thick mist for over seventy years.
 After their success in climbing Mt. Everest in 1970, the Japanese Alpine Club succeeded in traversing the Nanda Devi mountain-range, India's highest mountains.
 After that the Alpine Club was lucky enough to get permission to climb the world's highest mountain, Mt. Qomolangma (the Chinese name for Mount Everest), from its Tibetan side during the pre-monsoon season in 1980. It was the first expedition after the World War ll. At that expedition Mr. Yasuo Katoh achieved the first ascent of the North Ridge (it was called “Northeast ridge" in those days) of Mt. Everest. After that Mr. Takashi Ozaki and I reached the 8,848 m peak by the North Ridge at 9 p.m. (Beijing local time) on May 10 th. The sun had already set deeply below the horizon and all the Himalayan Mountains were becoming dark. In that situation I saw Mt. Makalu shining like a piece of burning charcoal. Though I was very tired, I was deeply impressed by the huge and brilliant Makalu.

 We successfully managed to traverse the Nanda Devi mountain range from the East to the West peak in 1976. Moreover we made another super high altitude climb in 1984, successively tackling Mt. Kangchenjunga from the South Peak to the Main Peak via the Center Peak, the 3 rd highest mountain in the world. This success awoke the extreme adventurous spirit in us more.
 We were planning to traverse Mt. Everest crossing at the top of the mountain from Tibet to Nepal, and from Nepal to Tibet. In Dec. 1987 when I flew out by a Cessna plane from Lhasa (Gonggar) airport to reconnoiter Mt. Qomolungma, the North face of Mt. Makalu dazzled my eyes. I made up my mind to climb to the summit through this East Ridge.

 In 1973 I joined the Mt. Everest Expedition which aimed to climb the mountain by the Southwest face. After that expedition, I took part in various epoch-making expeditions, so I could study the way of climbing in the Himalayas and route finding skills and so on.
 And I also had the chance of making the acquintance of the climbers who had various experiences and thoughts of the mountains.
 And after participating in “Japan, China, Nepal friendship mountaineering in 1988", I took part in the Namchabarwa Expedition]the world's highest unclimbed mountain, from 1990 to1992. Through these experience, I set a next goal to climb Mt. Makalu by that long east ridge.
 On Dec. 18 th, 1993, the first ascent of Mt. Sagarmatha's (Mt. Everest in Nepalese]8,848 m) South-West Face was completed by the Gunma Mountaineering Association. In my opinion, “The Iron Age of the Himalayas" had arrived at its puberty by this great achievement. Now we have reached the stage where we mountainners are using a mixture of mental and physical skills and techniques as routes become more complicated. Because of this we asked the China-Tibet Mountaineering Association to permit the climing of Makalu by East Ridge.


Facing to Makalu

 On Oct. 6 th, 1993, we got the long-awaited for permission to climb Mt. Makalu from the Tibetan side. We started preparing for the first step to reach the summit which nobody had ever climbed. After a long preparation, the former climbing team left Japan on Feb. 15 th, 1995. The caravan route was covered with deep snow, so reconnoiters could not take any satisfactory action. After all this they had to descent to Nyalam which is located near the boarder of Nepal. On March 15 th they departed from Xegar, the town at the foot of the mountain, and built the base camp at 3,920 m on March 30 th.
 The climbing was challenging as we didn't know the most difficult point of the route, because no one had ever reached the East Ridge of Mt. Makalu, and it was much more complicated than we expected. Because of an avalanche, we couldn't continue on our chosen route. Every day our members began to seriously wonder over the radio whether we should continue climbing or not, because of the danger we faced. We were worried about our saftey on the mountain. Every day we fell into a dilemma.
 On April 4 th, we built Camp 2 at the point of 5,180 m, and on April 14 th, we built Camp 3]Advanced Camp at 5,650 m. On April 28 th, after great hardship we built Camp 4. On May 13 th, we built Camp 5 at 6,820 m.
 And on May 19 th, we built Camp 6 (7,350 m), and lastly on May 20 th, we built Camp 7 at 7,650 m, and there we made final preparations for the summit.
 “We are eager to reach the summit. We want our team to stand on the top. Thanks to good weather condition and good fortune, eight members successfully climbed up to the peak of the 5 th highest mountain in the world on May 21 st and 22 nd.

 We climbed up avoiding the top ridge. This was a matter of regret for me because we did not achieve the perfect climb, but the success of climing to the top deeply impressed the other members. We recognize that our success was a fulfillment of one of the challenges we had set ourselves in mountain climbing, and now serves us as a starting point for our continued devotion to mountaineering.