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Asia, Nepal, Makalu, West Ridge

Makalu, West Ridge. On February 16 the French expedition to the west ridge of Makalu headed for Nepal. It was composed of Lucien Bérardini, François Guillot, Robert Jacob, Claude Jager, Bernard Mellet, Jean-Claude Mosca, Jean-Paul Paris, Georges Payot, Yannick Seigneur, Dr. Jacques Marchal and I as leader. The west ridge, straight as a die, rising nearly 10,000 feet, is the most beautiful structure imaginable. Conditions were bad from the beginning and even the approach march was made difficult because of deep snow. It took nearly a month to get to Base Camp (16,000 feet). Camp II (17,400 feet) was set up on March 27 as Advanced Base. It was at the start of the magnificent Twins arête, which led to the foot of the west ridge, where we placed Camp III (21,500 feet). The beginning of the ridge was a severe mixed climb, very steep, rising 3000 feet to the base of the big step, where we established Camp IV. The step, the key to our route, was a vertical barrier from 24,125 to 25,275 feet (UIAA V+, A2). Three quarters of the way up the step, prepared to here mostly by Seigneur and Mellet, was a providential shelf, which let us place Camp V (25,100 feet) after days of effort. On May 19 Mosca and Payot prepared the rest of the route on the step and pitched a single tent, Camp VI, at 25,275 feet. Oxygen was used only from there on. On May 20 they headed toward the summit but were stopped by malfunctioning oxygen outfits. An attempt by Guillot and Paris was ruined by a miserable night at Camp VI but they prepared several rope-lengths higher. On May 23, in beautiful weather at last, Seigneur and Mellet left Camp VI at two A.M. and reached the 27,825-foot summit at 4:15 P.M. They were back at Camp VI at 9:30.

ROBERT PARAGOT, Club Alpin Français