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Ama Dablam 2008 Final Daily Report: Wednesday 12th November

by René Hochreiter

(See the Ama Dablam Gallery for René's Personal Photos)

Arriving back in Jhb today was really cool after a month away on the expedition. Even though it’s not as long as the Everest expedition was, it is good to be back home with Gail, Kims and Jax, alive and relatively okay. One usually gets the PEBs after an expedition, trying to fit back into normal life. (PEBs = post expedition blues, an adrenalin hangover that happens to most of us).

Nice to be home.

René on Pangboche bridge
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René, prepared
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René in action
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Playing Russian roulette with my life is not something to do at all, especially with the responsibilities I still have regarding my kids, wife and friends. I still believe the decision not to go for the summit was the correct one since another climber has been killed (an Chinese American climber) on the mountain since the death of a  French climber, which was a big shock to many of those on the mountain.  The day before he died, the French climber was, in fact, right next to me helping to look after the Sherpa from another team who had been struck by a rock on his head - making a deep copiously bleeding gash. As far as I know the French climber is still lying in the dangerous couloir and will lie there until a rock fall knocks his body down to the lakes below on the north side of Ama Dablam. Graphic, but this is the reality of mountain climbing, I'm afraid. This year was an exceptionally dangerous one. The three in our group who made it to the summit took their chances and they succeeded. Good luck to them, they deserved the summit. A few people said to me “Good decision” not to go! The others in our team who decided against going for the summit said that they would make the same decision again if they had to. Our guides said that when they got to the “Dablam” (the “necklace” of ice high on Ama Dablam that has become unstable since 2006 (when it killed six people camped on the C3 campsite – maybe due to global warming – and again poured down ice onto the C3 site on October 17th this year), it was a lot worse than they originally thought, and they would probably not climb this mountain again until the whole Dablam has fallen off.  The beautiful Fishtail peak in the Annapurna area was closed many years ago because too many climbers died on it and it is a sacred mountain. I believe that Ama Dablam may go the same way.

The late-year climbing season of 2008 has been one of the worse ones. Eight teams pulled out of Ama Dablam by the time we got there (there were 20 teams given permits this season, far too many in my opinion for such a mountain with very limited space on the ridge, camp sites and summit ice field). More teams were still starting their expeditions when we left. The congestion on Ama Dablam is really dangerous. I don’t think I will be back on this mountain although it is one I love dearly. Everest is a lot safer, in my opinion. On other Himalayan peaks, the expeditions on Pumori pulled out (a French lady guide was badly hurt when a piece of ice hit her in the ribs and she is still in a coma in ICU in Kathmandu), the Korean Expedition on Everest and an expedition on Annapurna also pulled out without a summit.  Heavy snowfalls this last monsoon season were apparently the reason for the instability of the snow and ice.

René's Tent at Camp I
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René's Sherpa, Sange Dorjee
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On the positive side, I completed what I wanted to for my MSc thesis on the Geology of Everest to Lukla. I have all the material necessary now to submit. I saw 95 new birds in the Chitwan National park and some fresh Tiger tracks, as well as wild boar, deer and yellow monkeys on my 10 hour walk through the Chitwan jungle. I even got leeches stuck to me just like the “Bridge on the River Kwai” movie! I got in some good climbing practice and I will definitely climb with my personal Sherpa, Sange Dorjee, again if I go back to the Himalayas. His fitness, safety and speed are of the best I’ve seen.

I think that ten years of doing a certain activity like climbing is long enough and the time comes to move on. I have been climbing since 2000, perhaps another two years and then it’s time to call it a day and go fishing seriously. Or maybe birding, seriously, or maybe….

To all my friends and family and business buddies, thanks for your support on this expedition. Thanks for the many messages, especially Gail who kept this website alive and vibrant every day and who  tolerates my idiosyncrasies and absences from home without too many questions. And to Kims and Jax who tolerate their Dad’s lack of summits.

All the best,

René Hochreiter

Ama Dablam - beautiful but elusive
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