Ama Dablam – the second big decision

Gosh I have forgotten how hard, and fun, acclimitizing on a big hill can be! We slogged our way up to Yak camp (just below camp one) and left some gear then returned to Base to rest. It took about five hours of hard work, and cruel false ridges, to get to Yak camp, then about two hours return.

The following day we packed more gear and returned to Yak camp. This time our bodies had taken the hint and made more red blood cells to allow us to more efficiently work in the thin air. The going was still tough but we made it to Yak camp, sorted out gear and crashed.

The following day, we wandered up to Camp one. Camp one is, in a word, incredible. It is set on a ridgeline under the imposing peak of Ama Dablam and affords views right down to Pangboche, across to Namche (well the mountain above Namche) and you can see the route to the summit of Ama Dablam. The famous, and fearsome yellow and grey towers loomed above us. Bish and I shared a tent which was set on a built up platform of rock and snow right at the high side of Camp one. The camp is so steep that our tent was mostly on terra firma but around the lower edges was hanging in thin air. It was weird to put a water bottle down only to have it slump like it was in a hammock, hanging in the fabric of the tent floor. With mild altitude headaches and aching bones we ate our dehydrated meals on a ledge outside our tent then crawled into our beds. The plan was to climb up and ‘tag’ camp two, then to descend, rest and ready for a summit bid.

Due to space restrictions, Bish and I were forced to sleep top to tail so my feet were kicking his head and vice verca. Being as cold as it was (minus ten by 6:30pm) we had stored everything inside the tent. My head was between my stinking boots and Bish’s stinking feet. Bish was on the ‘drop-side‘ of the tent so he was rather motivated to stay closer to me than to the edge, no way would I begrudge him this!

Not for the first time on a mountain, I did not sleep a wink that night.

My mind was working overtime, trying to justify being in this unforgiving environment while my awesome wife was at home, alone in Melbourne worrying about my safety. Without wanting to cause the families of the other lads on this exped concern – they are all proving to be great, safe, level headed climbers – I was struggling to justify being here, an environment where one silly mistake could well have serious consequences.

I tossed and turned all night and got out of my tent in the morning knowing that I would have to make a hard decision.

Mal bounded up to our tent full of enthusiasm with a big grin (bloody morning people) to ‘give me a hard pill,’ “C’mon Ben, time to go mate.”

“Sorry Mal, I am not feeling it today, I am going to pass on this one dude…”

“Seriously! All the hard acclimitizing is done though Bro…”

“Yeah mate, I’ll just chill out here, enjoy the view and let the other boys go for it…”

“Fair enough, your call mate.” It is great that Mal gets it, he is not one of those summit or die type dudes but is happy to let each member make their own call without undue stress – this is meant to be fun after all!

Soon I was alone at camp one, chilling out amongst astonishingly beautiful mountains. Clear blue skies all around me and views that would make any self respecting geologist gush, combined with local birds soaring the ridge and that soul filling mountain silence left me in a contemplative mood. I relaxed on my rock thinking of home, wondering if I would regret this decision, but pretty sure I had made the right call. The last thing you want is to go for it half assed, nervous, or distracted – and I was all three. The good thing is that I seriously, seriously enjoy playing on mountains with good dudes – and we have done plenty of that. In no way do I judge the success of an expedition on a summit. To do this means gambling months of hard slog on one or two days of the right conditions (physical, mental and weather), if you just enjoy the process then every trip is a success…like I said, I was in a contemplative mood!

So there I was, sitting on my sleeping mat brewing a coffee when I go up to get something out of my bag. A gust of wind grabbed my mat and whipped it over the ridgleline. My intrepid sleeping mat then soared the ridgeline higher and higher before catching another gust to well above the next ridge. In a rather graceful flight it then flew around and around 200 meters down, to land at the feet of a surprised French climber who rolled it up and bought it up for me… at least my sleeping mat is up for being extreme and pushing limits on big, pointy Himalayan mountains!

Now, as for the other boys…they are currently resting at base camp, nervously watching conflicting weather reports with fingers crossed hoping for a weather window. I will be staying down at base camp with Dave, (who has forgone a summit bid for similar reasons as me) we will be checking the boys’ progress if they do get a summit window, and then it will be a few more days trekking back to Lukla to face that scary flight out to Kathmandu.

I am sure that we will come across more blog-worthy moments before this expedition is though so stay posted.

Blue skies and happy feet,


7 Responses to Ama Dablam – the second big decision

  • Guy says:

    Massive repect to you bro. Looking forward to catching up on your return.

  • Walter says:

    Glad to hear common sense prevails and you are cautious. Good on ya, you have my respect Ben!

  • anne says:

    gut feeling never lies… enjoy the beautiful mountains mate! looking forward to hearing & watching all about it soon!! warm hugs from melbs

  • Linda Cash says:

    Hey Ben – Linda here, you may remember we met at Khare “base camp” – and you helped me at Kote with some well needed cold and flu medication – I have just arrived home after an amazing month in Nepal – I will forever remember your kindness to me during my sheer terror at walking down from Khare after the great Himalyan storm – thanks again :-) … our side trip to Namche Bazaar didn’t quite replace the non-summiting of Mera Peak, but we got some great views of Ama Dablam from the Everest View Hotel and I decided you guys really are all crazy – what a beast of a mountain !! But good to read in your blog that common sense does prevail :-) take care of you, all the best for your new baby, and if you ever up Byron Bay way – do look me up … thanks again x

    • Ben says:

      Hey Linda, thanks for the message mate. It was my pleasure to help out and was great to meet you. Ama Dablam is a beast and sadly we didn’t get up but it’s not going anywhere…Likewise, if you ever get to Melbourne it would be lovely to meet up for a coffee and debrief!

  • Mark Gleeson via Facebook says:

    Good call mate. Stay safe.

  • Catherine West via Facebook says:

    Tough choice after all the prep but seems like expedition leader and head sherpa came to the same decision 24 hrs later. Safe decent B.

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