American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Nepal, Makalu

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1956

Makalu. The French expedition to Makalu led by Jean Franco deserves high praise. Thanks to excellent organization, splendid equipment, especially in their oxygen apparatus, perfect and nearly windless weather and a strong team of climbers, they managed to get every one of the Frenchmen and one Sherpa to the 27,790-foot, fifth highest summit of the world. After having been severely buffeted by cold and stormy weather in the post-monsoon season of 1954, when they climbed Makalu II (25,460 feet) and Chomo Lonzo (25,581 feet), they returned in the spring of 1955 to lay siege to the mountain. They brought 11 tons of supplies to the base camp and over 1,500 pounds to their 24,442-foot Camp 5. The climbers spent a month between 16,000 and 20,000 feet acclimatizing. They were lucky with the weather, for they state that with poorer snow conditions, there would have been avalanche danger. The final assault took place after Camp 5 was established in the Makalu Col on May 9- The rock spur between Camps 4 and 5 necessitated 1,350 feet of fixed rope. From Camp 5 the route lay comparatively flat across the north slope and then up a wide couloir, luckily covered with excellent firm snow. After passing through a few threatening séracs they placed Camp 6 at 25,600 feet. On May 15 Lionel Terray and Jean Couzy, the first summit party, climbed the first 1,000 feet above this high camp up the right side of a snow terrace on wind-etched snow in an hour! There they rejected the corniced ridge on the right in favor of a steep rock climb onto the northwest ridge on the left of the cirque at the head of the terrace. Once on the summit ridge it was not difficult climbing, though the actual top was a gloriously small one-man snow spire. The next day Jean Franco, Guido Magnone and the sirdar Gyalzen, followed in their steps, and on the day after, May 17, the remaining Frenchmen, Jean Bouvier, Pierre Leroux, Serge Coupé and André Vialatte climbed to the summit.

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