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 Lhotse 2008: Constantin Lacatusu LHOTSE (8516M) Expedition 2008 4 new updates with great pictures

TO: everestnews.com


-last 4 dispatches, newest first: 

DATE: O5 may 2008:  Safe in base camp, Thank you, China !




I spent 3 nights in Camp1 to get recovered and acclimatized after the hard push over the Ice Fall with the heavy pack. 

The weather was good, just slight windy in the last day. 

April 25: I’m moving to Camp 2. It’s a 4 hours day, sunny and pretty nice with the LHOTSE FACE ahead all way. Going up you look at the face and imagine possible routes to the summit. The Face seems very steep and icy, same the final couloir going to the summit ridge. Everest summit is not visible from here. I am still in the area so called Western Cwm, the long and crevassed upper part of Khumbu Ice Fall.

Except the landscape, the things to notice on this section are the huge crevasses  cutting the glacier all way from Everest to Nuptse walls. Most of the crevasses are crossed frontaly over the aluminum ladders. One Sherpa fell in crevasse a day before but was lucky to have some friends around who helped him get out of hell. 

The Camp2 (6500m) is at the end of the Western Cwm, at the bottom of the Lhotse Face. Many tents already here pitched up by the Sherpas. The Eco-Everest team camp is closer to the face, left side, on the moraine. It took me 2 hours to dig and prepare a platform for my VAUDE Space Explorer tent. But working is good at this height, keeps you active, focused and helps acclimatization. 

I spent 2 nights here at Camp 2, looking at the possible route to the summit, drinking a lot and eating the delicious TRAVELLUNCH food brought from Romania.  

On April 27, I am back in Base Camp, looking for the news from the Everest North Side. Now, all our work, preparations, schedule and even success depend on how fast the Chinese will get to the top with the famous hypoxic Olympic torch. We’ll see. 

Meanwhile, in the first part of May we are not allowed to go above base camp. The Olympic show is just for people on the other side and for the rest of the world. Like always, should be some collateral victims; I mean us, the climbers on the South side of the mountain. 



April 18 was Puja ceremony in base camp. A monk from Pangboche monastery did the job, a nice show which climbers always like. Every expedition starts like this with prays to the Himalayan Gods before entering their sacred kingdom.   The signs were good. No wind and bright sun. We may start the climb. 

On 19-th of April it was  the big day for me. My second daughter was born. I was in touch with Irina by telephone; I knew it’s going to happen. I ordered a chocolate cake at the bakery organized in base camp by Dawa Sherpa. With white cream, the cook wrote: Welcome PETRA and again welcome but in Nepali. We celebrated IRIS-PETRA’s birth in the evening with French red wine brought especially from Kathmandu. I thank Mother and God for this unique gift, the most beautiful ever to get.  

April 22 was the start of the climb. Although I did not feel very good yet, after taking antibiotics (for a throat infection) for the last 10 days, I filled up my VAUDE backpack with over 30kg and moved on. The Khumbu Ice Fall, one of the most dangerous sections of all 8,000m peaks looked a bit strange to me with all these moving ladders over crevasses and seracs ready to fall at the impact of just a sunray. It’s more a Via Ferrata in ice but it’s funny and also very historical because this was the way of the famous British 1953 expedition led by John Hunt. It was here, in the area called ‘Atomic Bomb’ where Hillary fell in a deep crevasse but was saved in the last minute by Tensing Sherpa. All this ice field, broken in all directions is like an icy river flowing down steadily with 1m/year, between the steep walls of Everest and Nuptse. In some points, the movements are instantly and in just seconds huge seracs fall down keeping the Ice Fall alive, active and extremely dangerous for climbers. A day after I crossed this area, a serac of a big house size fell exactly on our route but by grace of God nobody was there.  

Camp 1 is above 5900m, in a pretty safe site, between larger crevasses. From here you can see the majestic LHOTSE FACE and The Summit. The way to Camp 2 looks much sweeter for it’s not as steep as it was to Camp 1.     

I arrived in Camp 1 exhausted after carrying the too heavy backpack but I had no choice. I am my own Sherpa on this trip. While Sherpas carry 20kg above BC, I had to take up over 30kg. Now I have enough gear and food to survive and acclimatize here for several days. 



The road to Base Camp was nice, in good weather and spirits. All way I remembered how me and Irina have trekked all corners in Khumbu, 10 years ago, filming for a tv doc. At that time I was well trained after the fastest ascent of the season on Cho Oyu (11 days from BC with no previous acclimatization) but Irina just came from the city stress and office work. She was doing so well while our 1 month filming around, although for her this harsh environment was not common at all. 

The other thing to notice from the approach to base was the incredible meet in Dinboche with 2 great friends and partners during the Everest 1994 expedition from the Tibetan side, Russell Brice and Marty Schmidt. Without any previous arrangement each of us planned to stay overnight in Dinboche at the same date, at the same lodge.  

Russell Brice (NZ, lives in France), was heading with a small group to Island Peak after was forced to cancel his regular Spring expedition on the Everest north side.  He looked same strong as before and got married meanwhile with a French journalist. He was accompanied by some of the Sherpas I remember so well from both 1994 and 1995 ventures to Everest.

Marty Schmidt (US, lives in NZ) was leading a small team to Everest. Plan is to make an oygenless ascent with Tom (USA) while his wife Giannina will take care of communications and base camp logistics. I remember so well the bad weather and bad luck we had in 1994 when we were forced by a huge avalanche to abandon our hard first ascent climb on the NNE-Face. Then, moved to North Ridge, we were involved in epic rescues of some friends. 

I reached BC (5300m) on 16-th of April, 10 days after leaving Romania. Base Camp site, on the moraine of the end of Khumbu glacier, dominated by Everest, Nuptse, Pumori, Lingtren and Khumbutse, was so crowdy as I’ve never imagined. Maybe half thousand people here altogether, maybe more. More than 200 climbers are heading for Everest, some 25-30 for Lhotse ; I will check exactly the official records later on. This remote place, near Nepalese-Chinese Himalayan border will be our home for the next 5-6 weeks. 

Although I am alone for this mountain, in BC I will join the expedition organized by Asian Trekking, the ECO-EVEREST EXP. 2008, led by Dawa Steven Sherpa, the Ang Tshering’s sun. Dawa is a young guy who is at the beginning at his Himalayan career. He was educated in Europe, Scotland, returned to Nepal and last year summated Everest. In The Eco-Everest project, besides Asian Trekking as field-supporter, the main partner is ICIMOD (International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development), which is making 25 years in 2008. I have interesting talks with the researchers in base camp, including ICIMOD president, Andreas Schield, a nice Swiss living in Nepal since the 80’s. Their project is focused on climate change and glacier melting, but also on eco-friendly expedition’s logistics.

The Eco-Everest climbing team includes experienced climbers from US, Austria, Spain, Mexico, Brasil, Japan and of course, Nepal. For Lhotse there are 3 Americans (Will, Stuart and Brian) and 1 Mexican (David) so, we may combine strategies and forces on the mountain.

Earlier: Constantin Lacatusu’s LHOTSE (8516M) Expedition 2008 

From Nepal’s capital Katmandu to Sherpa’s capital Namche 

I am in the Sherpa capital, Namche Bazaar, after everything went on pretty smoothly.

But the 2 final preparations days in Katmandu were even busier than in other occassions because there were many people to meet and things to sort out. So, I just spent in my hotel room bed a full night in arrival day and just 3 hours the night before departure for Lukla, that was yesterday (09.04.2008). 

On my arrival day (7.04.2008) in Nepali capital, Katmandu, I was already in the hotel bed at 8.30 a.m. hoping to get some sleep after 2 consecutive white nights. But this did not happen because after just 15 minutes already spent in the other world I heard the phone ring, that means it was pretty noisy (smthg.like a truck horn). Only one person in the world could call me in the hotel room after less than 1 hour after landing Nepal: miss Hawley, the Reuters (and some famous mountain magazines) correspondent in Katmandu for many years who was doing her job. She should be in her seventies but she is still doing a very good job with the same passion and professionalism as some decades ago. She keeps the only complete records of Himalayan climbing in Nepal, that means Himalayan history, a wonderful and helpful work for world climbing community.    She interviews climbers before and after expedition and put everything in files. She is just using a manual typing machine and only few years ago she agreed to have all her records on a CD, The Himalayan Data Base, published in US and updated every season. So, in just 30 min. I was in the hotel restaurant talking with this active woman who taking into account my sleepy/dreamy situation looked to me even more impressive.

The rest of the day I didn’t touch the bed, I had to go to Asian Trekking, my expedition travel agent to get news on Everest area situation. I was informed that due to general elections in Nepal on May 10, I have to fly Lukla a day before as all flights maybe cancelled for the elections. In the evening I met my very good friend in Katmandu, Deepak Bandhari who owns a travel agency and manages a nice hotel in Thamel.  

Next day, the 2-nd and the last in Katmandu before leaving was dedicated to sorting the expedition gear, buying some expedition food, final arrangements to fix with Asian Trekking and pleasant meets, lunch and dinner with Ang Tshering Sherpa (Asian trekking owner) and Deepak Bandhari.  It was a full and nice day although it had a catastrophic start. At 8 am, that means in the morning (!), the phone ring put an end to my dreams: “Good morning, my name is … (no name to remember in that case), I am miss Hawley’s assistant, I would like to speak with you, I am down at the reception, please give me some minutes”. Due to deep respect I have for miss Hawley I was down in 7 min. and heard (I did not see anything being too sleepy) the excuses of a local guy who made the mistake to not notice on the paper in his hands that miss Hawley has already met me. I remember I said the normal short word people say in this abnormal situations but all was heard was “no problem”.  

The night of April 8 to 9 was very short, just 3 hours sleeping. Luggage finish 2 am,  wake up at 5.  

The yesterday flight to Lukla (2840m) was fine, that means we survived, which is good. In Lukla I was expected by my guide, Chuldim Sherpa from Khumjung. He will take care about porters to carry my hundred kilos of luggage. He quickly found 3 young guys from Solu (the region South of Khumbu).  I will carry just 25 kg. Trekking to Phakding was pleasant, same the today one to Namche. Not too much to notice except the vivid coloured Rhododendrons on all way. 

Few words about Chuldim: he is a tall guy. That means he is over 1.70m; so, very different here in Khumbu, Nepal. Until now if someone had asked me how did you feel in Nepal, the first word to come was ‘tall’; but in the last 2 days I did feel just ‘great’. We will go together to base camp at 5400m. Still 5 days to walk along a classic Himalayan trekking route. 

Few words about weather: the mornings of the first 2 days were good, clear sky but the afternoons were cloudy with just slight wind. Chuldim came to Lukla from higher (Khumjung), he said me, while I was taking a picture to a rhododendron, that above Namche no more rhododrendons ! Bellow Namche is spring, above Namche is winter. I was also told that it was a soft dry winter but there were heavy snowfalls some 7 days ago. Climate change reached the Himalayas as well, this is no news. The news will follow next days, probably not very rich, not in perfect grammar but I will try do my best. And don’t forget, no news is good news, which means I’m climbing or I’m sleeping… 

Earlier: All pre-expedition hard time including the stressful waiting for an OK from Nepal Tourism Ministry has gone. The adventure starts today, April, 6. From my previous experiences I know that this approaching section of the expedition, with goal to reach BASE CAMP is extremely important for the next section, THE CLIMB.
Last time, in 2006, my luggage was lost and I had to wait several days in Kathmandu for it. Now, I am more confident because I have 2 airlines supporting my undertaking: TAROM and GULF AIR, so hopefully all 3 big packs will land Kathmandu same time with me.

I'm writing this first dispatch waiting for the next flights to BAHRAIN and then, KATHMANDU. I am pretty tired, I did not sleep at all last night but I do not complain. This is an expedition, so.. People wanting to sleep in expeditions should not go in any Himalayan expedition.

I am tired but happy to reach this point. I always feel like that. Once Romania is left, most important task of all project is done. Now it's just a matter of patience and luck.

I would not leave Europe (I am in Istanbul now but I do not know which side, so let's say Europe) without saying a big THANX to Irina for understanding me and letting me go out for a while in a quite difficult period for us. Most people would say it's crazy. Yes, it's crazy but this is our way. After I'll be back home I will find one more kid in the family so it will be again great and normal (this 2 words will fit together which not happens too often).

I am also grateful to my long-term supporter, RIFIL, a romanian-italian joint venture (the first in Eastern Europe after WW2 !), without them this expedition, same as many others before, was not possible. I know I will never be able to offer them in return what they really deserves, I will just say Thank you for your confidence !

I am going for a such big adventure that I already feel it, at thousands kilometers before landing Nepal. Be with me and it will be our Adventure !
Watch this space by kind help of EverestNews.com

Powered by RIFIL

Also supported by BAUMIX, VAUDE, HP, Piatra Neamt municipality, TAROM, GULF AIR, BOREAL

Everest from the South Side in Nepal

sbrr2.jpg (46375 bytes)

Full size picture

Base Camp - 17,500 feet (5350 meters)

This is a picture of the popular South Col Route up Mt. Everest.  Base camp is located at 17,500 feet.   This is where climbers begin their true trip up the mountain.  This is also where support staff often remain to monitor the expeditions and provide medical assistance when necessary.  Many organizations offer hiking trips which just go to base camp as the trip is not technically challenging (though you must be very fit). 

From base camp, climbers typically train and acclimate (permitting the body to adjust to the decreased oxygen in the air) by traveling and bringing supplies back and forth through the often treacherous Khumbu Icefall.    This training and recuperation continues throughout the climb, with the final summit push often being the only time to climbers do not go back and forth between camps to train, bring supplies, and recuperate for the next push. 

The Icefall is in constant motion.  It contains enormous ice seracs, often larger than houses, which dangle precariously over the climbers heads, threatening to fall at any moment without warning, as the climbers cross endless crevasses and listen to continuous ice creaking below.  This often acts as a testing ground to judge if less experienced climbers will be capable of continuing.   The Icefall is located between 17,500 and 19,500 feet.

Camp I - 5900 meters

After the Icefall, the climbers arrive at Camp I, which is located at 19,500 feet.  Depending on the type of expedition, Camp I will either be stocked by the climbers as they ascend and descend the Icefall, or by Sherpas in advance.

The area between Camp I and Camp II is known as the Western Cwm.  As the climbers reach Camp II at 21,000 feet, they may be temporarily out of sight of their support at Base camp.  Nonetheless, modern communication devises permit the parties to stay in contact.

Camp II - 6500 meters

As the climbers leave Camp II, they travel towards the Lhotse face (Lhotse is a 27,920 foot mountain bordering Everest).  The Lhotse face is a steep, shiny icy wall.  Though not technically extremely difficult, one misstep or slip could mean a climber's life.  Indeed, many climbers have lost their lives through such mishaps. 

Camp III - 23,700 feet (7200 meters)

To reach Camp III, climbers must negotiate the Lhotse Face. Climbing a sheer wall of ice demands skill, strength and stamina. It is so steep and treacherous that many  Sherpas move directly from Camp II to Camp IV on the South Col, refusing to stay on the Lhotse Face.

Camp IV - 26,300 feet (8000 meters)

As you’re leaving C4…it’s a little bit of a down slope, with the uphill side to the left. There are typically snow on the ledges to walk down on, interspersed with rock, along with some fixed rope. The problem with the rope is that the anchors are bad, and there’s not much holding the rope and a fall could be serious. Fortunately it’s not too steep, but there is a ton of exposure and people are usually tired when walking down from camp. The rock is a little down sloping to the right as well, and with crampons on, it can be bit tricky with any kind of wind. There’s a little short slope on reliable snow which leads to the top of the Geneva Spur, and the wind pressure gradient across the spur can increase there as you’re getting set up for the rappel. Wearing an oxygen mask here can create some footing issues during the rappel, because it’s impossible to see over the mask and down to the feet. For that reason, some people choose to leave Camp 4 without gas, as it’s easier to keep moving down the Spur when it’s important to see all the small rock steps and where the old feet are going. Navigating down through all of the spaghetti of fixed ropes is a bit of a challenge, especially with mush for brains at that point. One lands on some lower ledges which aren’t so steep, where fixed ropes through here are solid. At this point, it’s just a matter of staying upright, and usually, the wind has died significantly after dropping off the Spur. The route turns hard to the left onto the snowfield that leads to the top of the Yellow Bands.

Camp IV, which is at 26,300 on the Lhotse face, is typically the climbers' first overnight stay in the Death Zone.  The Death Zone is above 26,000 feet.  Though there is nothing magical about that altitude, it is at this altitude that most human bodies lose all ability to acclimate. Accordingly, the body slowly begins to deteriorate and die - thus, the name "Death Zone."  The longer a climber stays at this altitude, the more likely illness (HACE - high altitude cerebral edema - or HAPE - high altitude pulmonary edema) or death will occur.  Most climbers will use oxygen to climb and sleep at this altitude and above.  Generally, Sherpas refuse to sleep on the Lhotse face and will travel to either Camp II or Camp IV.

Camp IV is located at 26,300 feet. This is the final major camp for the summit push.  It is at this point that the climbers make their final preparations.  It is also a haven for worn-out climbers on their exhausting descent from summit attempts (both successful and not).  Sherpas or other climbers will often wait here with supplies and hot tea for returning climbers.

From Camp IV, climbers will push through the Balcony, at 27,500 feet, to the Hillary Step at 28,800 feet.  The Hillary Step, an over 70 foot rock step, is named after Sir. Edmond Hillary, who in 1953, along with Tenzing Norgay, became the first people to summit Everest.  The Hillary Step, which is climbed with fixed ropes, often becomes a bottleneck as only one climber can climb at a time.  Though the Hillary Step would not be difficult at sea level for experienced climbers, at Everest's altitude, it is considered the most technically challenging aspect of the climb.

Summit - 29,028 feet (8848 meters)

Once the climbers ascend the Hillary Step, they slowly and laboriously proceed to the summit at 29,028 feet.  The summit sits at the top of the world.  Though not the closest place to the sun due to the earth's curve, it is the highest peak on earth.  Due to the decreased air pressure, the summit contains less than one third the oxygen as at sea level.  If dropped off on the summit directly from sea level (impossible in reality), a person would die within minutes.  Typically, climbers achieving the great summit will take pictures, gain their composure, briefly enjoy the view, then return to Camp IV as quickly as possible.   The risk of staying at the summit and the exhaustion from achieving the summit is too great to permit climbers to fully enjoy the great accomplishment at that moment.  

As most readers of this page know, the return trip can be even more dangerous than the climb to the summit.

Pictures from Enrique Guallart-Furio web site http://ww2.encis.es/avent/

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