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Asia, Nepal, Ama Dablam

Ama Dablam. Nelson Max, Bruce Cox, Dave Karl, Ron Norton, Chip Kamin and I arrived at 15,000 feet at the normal Ama Dablam Base Camp above Mingbo on March 26. Though the weather had been clear for a week, it began a predictable pattern of clear mornings and foggy or snowy afternoons. After a rest day, we spent until April 2 carrying our gear without Sherpa help to 18,000 feet. Although exhausting, it was good for acclimatization. At this time, the Greek National Team arrived in Base Camp. With the help of yaks, the next day they moved camp to 18,000 feet and tried to occupy it, but a day later they were back in Base Camp, sick. With the approval of our liaison officer, we moved Base Camp to a small bench lake at 16,400 feet, which saved us three or four hours round trip. From there we were able to make quick progress and established Camp I on the southwest ridge on April 4. The tent platforms were encased in several feet of ice. It took two days of work to establish reasonably level tents. Our overall strategy was to fix the route to Camp III at 20,900 feet and then go alpine-style to the summit. From April 4 to 8 we stocked Camp I and began to lead on up the narrow ridge to Camp II. The rock was sound and the climbing enjoyable. On the evening of April 8 a storm began which put down a foot of snow. We descended to our new Base Camp, where we waited for two days. On April 11, just to get back to Camp

took eight hours, double the previous time. We attempted to go on to Camp

but were stopped 500 feet from the Yellow Tower by darkness and difficult ground. What had been an easy friction traverse became positively treacherous. Ice had filled good rock handholds. We established Camp II above the Yellow Tower on the 13th. Only three of us stayed, the other three relaying loads from Camp I. We realized we could not all make the summit. Several of the Greeks had used our fixed line and were being supplied by one hard-working Sherpa. Three of them and Sherpa Tenzing joined us. The route was out of condition. The overhanging crack at the first step was completely filled with ice. Up to there, the route had been stripped of all fixed rope; suddenly it exploded with line and gear, resembling a mountaineering museum. On April 16, Kamin, Karl and Max made it to Camp III at 20,500 feet, accompanied by the three Greeks and Tenzing. At five A.M. on April 17, all seven set out and reached the summit at four P.M. A long, cold night of rappels brought them back to Camp III and then to Camp II. Kamin suffered superficial frostbite of the fingers and toes. On the night of the 18th a storm set in. The two-day descent and stripping of the route, in which the other three assisted, was incredibly laborious.

John Iacovino