Our team of 4, managed to summit Ama Dablam (6812m) on the 12th Nov 2011. I reached the summit at 1230h after a grueling 6.5h summit push and took another 3h to get back to camp 3 after spending 1h on the summit.
After 2 failed summits on mustagh and cho oyu, this has been the most exhilarating thing that has happened to me over the past 5 months. This has been the most elating and relieving moment of my climbs after experiencing so much disappointment and being tested in all aspects of self fortitude extensively. This climb, however, has not been any easier than the other 2. In fact, this has been the most challenging climb to date. I have been pushed to my physical limits. The diarrhea persisted all throughout the climb. Lunches were skipped and I had a big collection of snicker and toblerone bars at the end of the day. Breakfast consisted of meagerly porridge and dinner was instant noodles, both of which I didn’t have the appetite to finish even half the portion that were handed to me. Even that wouldn’t stay inside of me sometimes. I vomited twice in camp 3 and once on the summit due to excessive coughing. Energy levels were rock bottom throughout the 6 day summit push and I was running on nothing most of the time. Somehow, with all these odds, I managed to summit and I’m extremely proud of having done so. By god’s grace, the weather was perfect and there wasn’t any fixed ropes problems this time round.
When people said the mountain was technical, I never imagined it to be so damn difficult. Joanne, our team leader and one of the members of the Singapore women’s everest team said that climbing Ama Dablam was harder than climbing everest. Another one of our Sherpas who had climbed Everest 7 times successfully, both from the north and south sides but who was trying AD for the 1st time also said the same thing. I don’t know how hard everest is but this sure was one heck of a climb.
Base camp to camp 1 was a long 7.5h trek which consisted of some simple navigation over huge boulders towards the last part. Camp 1 itself was perched precariously on the ridge. It was the 1st time I saw tents with their ends floating in mid air as there wasn’t enough flat ground to anchor them completely to the ground. I slept with as much uneven rocks beneath me and I wasn’t able to move any of them as they were lock sealed with ice and snow. I found myself sliding towards the end of the tent with the cliff drop most parts of the night. If I thought that that was bad, I was in for a further surprise when I reached camp 2.
The route towards camp 2 was incredible. Knife like ridges, mixed climbing of rock and snow, jummaring and traversing over precarious small ledges linked by fixed ropes of all types, caliber and age. You’d only know that some of the ropes that you were placing your entire body weight was totally frayed towards the later segments. You’d then thank god for keeping you safe and not letting the frayed rope snap while u’re at it. Then there was the infamous yellow tower, a 10++m vertical segment of a rock cliff which you had to cross in order to get to camp2. That took all the energy out everyone who climbed it. This segment is notorious for having turned around many climbers who’ve tried to proceed past it. Finally after all these treacherous obstacles, you reach camp2, and true enough it is perched high upon the terrible tower that has become an icon in many photos. Camp 2 is a terrible place to stay and many choose to skip it and go directly to camp 3 if possible. There is so little space that if nature calls, you’ll have to answer it directly outside your tent. The whole place is literally a pile of shit and piss and litter. The smell is terrible and it’s dangerous to venture even 2 steps away from your tent. Some have even clipped onto fixed lines while sleeping in their tents.
Crampons are adorned after camp 2. Dangerous traverses await right after camp2 and from the 1st traverse, you can have the 1st glimpse of the incredible camp2 that is perched on the beautiful tower, the iconic photo that initially inspired me to climb the mountain. Soon after, the endless 70deg slope of rock,ice and snow called the ‘mushroom rock’ awaits. Here, one has to front point and jumar all the way up this segment for about 4h. Seeing sparks fly as my crampons crashed against the rock as I missed jabbing the ice was a 1st for me. Skillfully placing the front spikes of my crampons in the nooks and cracks of the rock was also super interesting. Rock climbing using all 4s were also always required. Throughout the section from camp 1 – 3, there isn’t any flat ground for one to rest on. If you wanted to take off your backpack, you’d have to clip it to the fixed lines and have it hanging while you rest it out. Then there is the constant problem of descending climbers while you’re trying to ascend. Since there is only one route up and down and only 1 fixed line at certain segments, it becomes really irritating and dangerous when there’re both ascending and descending climbers on the same line at the same time. Make shift lines have to be laid, colour coding the ropes and communicating with the rest of the team becomes crucial. Just when you thought that the ‘mushroom rock’ segment never would end, it ends and the segment called the ‘mushroom ridge’ takes over. Steps have to be taken in a single file on this knife like ridge and some more jummaring and flat traversing would finally lead you to camp 3. Camp3 is a cold, windy and miserable place that climbers try to avoid but have no choice but to launch their summit attempt from. Some really good climbers start their summit push from C2 or some rarely even from C1. Temperatures from C2 are always below zero and motivating yourself to do things in this bitter cold always takes a lot from you. Having chronic diarrhea in the middle of the night never helped at all.
Summit day started out early for us. A 70 – 80 deg ice, rock and snow slope awaited us all the way from C3 to the summit. You’ll pass the famous ice cliff called the ‘dablam’ after about 3h and after another 2h or so, reach the summit. Excellent views of Everest and 4 other 8000m mountains await at the summit. Pictures and videos to be uploaded shortly once I return back to Singapore.
It has been an incredible journey so far and the magic indeed did last all the way. I’m very appreciative of this summit and thank my lucky stars and the mountain for allowing me to set foot on her. The Singapore and the NUS flag did stand proudly on the summit as I promised TJ and the rest of the MIR gang when they came to the airport to send me off. Your good luck, motivation and support did carry through all the way. Thanks alot guyz! Being part of the 1st Singaporean team to attempt and summit Ama Dablam is wonderful indeed. This has been my dream mountain and to have seen the journey through has also been exhilarating.
We’ve descended from base camp and have arrived in lukla after 2 days trekking. Finally there has been reception here for me to start using my internet package effectively. There hasn’t been a flight out of lukla for the last 6 days due to bad weather. Due to this, there has been pile up of over 1000 climbers and Trekkers in this small town unable to fly back to Kathmandu. The whole place is super busy and lodges are completely full. The plan is such; if the weather tomorrow isn’t good, we’ll have to walk 4 days from lukla to jiri bazaar to catch a bus back to KTM from there in order to catch our international flight back home. Else, we fly off to KTM directly and spend a few days of R&R in KTM. The choice we’re hoping for is obvious and we’re keeping our fingers crossed that the weather clears up!