Thursday, October 25, 2012 - 21:00

Just came back from Lhotse (8516m) in the Himalayas

I had the great honor to have as partner the Russian climber Alexey Bolotov, an amazing human being, role model and world class performer. To paraphrase an Italian friend, "climbing with Alexey is like having the Dalai Lama in your pocket".


Comparing with the spring season, where most of the action in all the 8000m Himalaya is concentrated on Everest (which shares with Lhotse a Base Camp), this autumn we pretty much had the mountain for ourselves: seven Polish and two Sherpas (these last two using oxygen) led by Artur Hajzer, one Korean (also with an Everest permit, with a Sherpa and oxygen), Alexey and myself. Also, for Everest, there was a Korean team – (ten climbers and four Sherpas, including the two above) and a Japanese climber, trying another route.


While we’ve done our first ascent up the mountain (and establish Camp 1 and left a deposit close to the place of Camp 2) we were too extremely short of having a closed call due to three avalanches and one serac fall in just two days. Too much white hair packed in a so short period of time.


In the meantime we found out about an avalanche in Manaslu-8156m, the summit I climbed last year on October 4th and the fourth most dangerous mountain among the 14 eight thousanders. Eleven people died, among which there was one climber I knew from two previous expeditions (while coming back to Kathmandu I also found two Russian climbers died in another avalanche in Annapurna).


After acclimatizing, Alexey and myself established our Camp 4 at 7800m, on the Lhotse face and we were also the first team to be in a position to try for the summit. We left the tent around 1am, Nepali time. We chose not to rope up. Strong wind, bad snow, cold. I reached about 8000m, close to the Lhotse Couloir entrance when I felt it is not realistic to continue. Alexey reached around 8300m when he turned back.


Back into the Base Camp at 5300m we tried to gather as much info as possible about the weather forecast from multiple sources using different weather models. All the data was indicating strong wind for an undetermined period of time (many times over 80 km per hour and real feel temperature of -47 degrees Celsius), unlikely to go down for a sufficient period of time in which to make another summit push.


I felt not safe to make another try in these conditions. And I long ago started to trust my intuition especially while managing risk into the mountains. In comparison, in 2007, while almost all the climbers left base camp following a yet another killer avalanche on Gasherbrum 2-8035m, I chose to wait and in the end, after almost two months of expedition, managed to climb Gasherbrum 1-8068m in a four people team.


Alexey chose to stay and have another try. Joining the Polish team, they tried for the summit two more times, retreating due to strong wind or cold or both. While going back in the last attempt, Temba Sherpa died. He slipped and then felled all the way down to the bottom of the Lhotse face. Some other people on the mountain got frostbite of different degrees.


None of us managed to reach the summit.


As always, this expedition would not have been possible without the significant involvement of my long-term partners from Totalsoft ( Main Partner ), Certinvest and Intercapital Invest (Leading Partners), Zitec (IT Partner), Accountes ( Accounting Partner), (Fitness Partner), Sanador (Medical Partner) and Worldclass ( Fittness Partner) and Thank you for your faith in me Liviu Dragan, Eugen and Carmen Voicu, Razvan Pasol, Alex Lapusan, Simona Lapusan and Alex Axon, Mihaela and Ciprian Teleman, Cristian Margarit and Alin Lupsa, Doris Andronescu, Mikael Fredholm. This project is as much yours as it is mine.

Alexey Bolotov fixing ropes in spindrift at around 7200m, high on the Lhotse face. On his left you can see our tiny tent in Camp 3. The summit on the upper right is Cho Oyu-8201m, which I climbed on October 2nd 2006 | Photo: Alex Gavan.



Lhotse seen from the Western Cwm – 6100m | Photo: Alex Gavan

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