Makalu West Pillar

Ueli Steck ‘s solo attempt

23 September 2009    From Ueli Steck site:   "I left BC to Makalu west pillar on Saturday morning at 00.30 am. I ascended directly to my small tent at 6700 meters. Basically it is more an overstepping than an ascent. The way to the actual west pillar passes over the two Jumeaux. Two summits: one of 6220 meters, then down and over the second one of 6462 meters before coming to the Makalu. A long way with a 20 kg heavy backpack.   For the trek to my tent I needed solid 9 hours. Tired from the long ascent, I arrived a little late for mid-morning snack to my camp. The tent still looked out the snow. I had my doubts that I would ever find it again after the heavy snowfall of last week. For the time being I was happy to find everything intact. After a long day of waiting, a short night followed. I woke up on Sunday morning at 3 am and made myself breakfast. Coffee and muesli. At 4 am I continued my ascent.   My plan was to climb up to 7600 meters, deposit the cooker and some gas and go back at 6700 meters. As from 6900 meters the snow masses increased drastically. Bottomless fresh snow. Also in the steep rock passages the rock was stuck together by thick snow layer. I had to properly dig the rock free to find some halt. In the couloir and on the snowfield I fell back exhaustingly in the powder snow.   A nerve-racking matter. You never know why it stops in this loose underground. Such conditions let you get older faster than you would like to. At 7200 meters I had to give up definitively. Hopeless to try a summit attempt like this. I had to go down: back to 6700 meters. At the very first moment I was devastated. Tired. Completely exhausted. For 500 meters of altitude difference I needed 4 and a half hours. I was close to take all my equipment back to BC. I would have liked to fly back home the very next day! After a long seesaw I decided not to give up so fast! At the moment there is far too much fresh snow to climb a difficult route or even an easy one. The conditions at present make a summit attempt hopeless.  But conditions can change! During my way back to BC I was in radio contact with Röbi and Andy. They are on the normal route. They were sinking in the deep snow, too! Today, Monday morning and after a 12 hours recreative sleep, I woke up at 8 am. My legs were very heavy. My motivation was quite down at zero. Now the world looks much better. For this week I can’t do very much. Nature will decide what will be next. All this deep snow first has to settle. So far I will be obliged to wait and do nothing."   ms    
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