American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Nepal, Ama Dablam, North Ridge Attempt

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1988

Ama Dablam, North Ridge Attempt. Steven Davis, Charles “Mick” Holt, Jeffery Alzner and I attempted the north ridge of Ama Dablam. After some delay in getting our baggage because of the continuing monsoon, we established Base Camp on September 25 at 16,400 feet at the end of the lateral moraine of the Ama Dablam Glacier just under the end of the north ridge. The initial section of our route ascended a spur that forms the right side of a large rock triangle at the base of the ridge. We made an equipment dump at a 17,300-foot col at the base of the spur. Above there we made extensive use of fixed rope. Camp I at 19,300 feet was on the corniced ridge above the apex of the triangle. Conditions had varied from mixed rock and snow to 75° unconsolidated snow. On the remaining ridge we generally climbed on the eastern side just under the large overhanging double cornices on the crest. We often had to carve around and through them. We also had pitches of steep or overhanging ice as well as 5.10 rock. On October 13, Davis retreated to Base Camp with pleurisy. Two days later, Holt joined him suffering from exhaustion and bronchitis. Alzner and I with the help of Tsering Lakhpa Sherpa reached our high point at a shoulder at 20,900 feet on October 17 and left equipment for Camp II. Two more climbing days should have put us on the summit. Unfortunately it began to snow and we descended to wait out the bad weather in Camp I. Heavy snow fell for two days, destroying our Camp I tents. In a whiteout, we began to retreat. Alzner was caught unroped in an avalanche but miraculously stopped himself without injury. After hours of post-holing, we found Base Camp under five feet of new snow. Only two of the seven tents were usable. After three days of sun, the deep snow finally consolidated enough to let us evacuate Base Camp.

Frederick Ziel, M.D.

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