The culmination of this whole trip will be no doubt the climb of Baruntse. How high will I get? Will I get to the top? That is to be seen in just a few short weeks.
In short, the climb will go like this: trek from basecamp to camp 1, have an acclimatization day, climb to camp 2, climb to summit and back down to camp 1 or 2, descend to basecamp. It is as simple as that, but there are many factors that affect the schedule, weather being the most important of them, and people’s physical condition will matter a lot too.
Before going anywhere from the basecamp, two days will be spent for relaxation and preparing for the climb by doing the last trainings for the skills and equipment needed. These days will also be used to finalize the acclimatization, though it will be already 2,5 weeks since leaving Lukla. Don’t think you can ever be over-acclimatized 🙂
After everything is ready, we will leave the basecamp behind and start the few kilometre trek for camp 1 at the end of the valley and on top of the West Col. I’m not 100% certain on where the route will go, but that is not really a huge issue here. Anyway the route will go up the valley towards the West Col at the South of Baruntse. The route up till the West Col should be mostly rock, but the actual wall is 150m high snow and ice with some rocks in the midst of it all. We should have fixed ropes there to help us out.
On top of of the West Col is the top of the Lower Barun Glacier flowing to the South. The area here where camp 1 will be established is a wide glaciated plateau. From there you can already have excellent views of the Makalu and its West Face. To the North rises the summit of Baruntse and our route following the South-East ridge and to the South are Honku Chuli and Chamlang. At camp 1 we will spend yet another acclimatization day.
From camp 1 to camp 2 the route is not very long, just over 1km, but we will gain 300m in elevation during that. I do not have very accurate information about this and camp 2 could much further than that. This is only what I have gathered from various sources. Hopefully after a month from now I can tell you something more exact. Camp 2 will be at 6400m in a small col.
The summit push will start early in the morning. Soon after we have left camp 2, we will encounter a steep 75 degree ice wall, but that is a relatively short section. It will have fixed ropes put up and it is the technical crux of the route. From there at around 6500m the route will rise up a moderately steep snow slope up till the summit ridge.
The summit ridge is sharp and corniced and will also have fixed ropes put in place. We follow the ridge to the summit cone and the summit is then only a short spurt away. From the top you will have magnificent views all around you and you can see five eight-thousanders around you – Everest, Khangchenjunga, Lhotse, Cho Oyu and Makalu. After marvelling the views the descend will go along the same way as coming up. Depending on the weather and physical condition we’ll either descend to camp 2 or camp 1 or, if we are really early and feeling good, even all the way to the basecamp.
The next day will be spent – depending on where you left day before – either for relaxing or descending to the basecamp and celebrating the successful summmit. If the weather is not favourable, we will have several extra days dedicated for the attempts, but let’s hope that we don’t have to use those. As I have mentioned already before, there are very few objective hazards on this route on Baruntse, the corniced summit ridge probably being the most dangerous. The weather is really a big factor on this route so let’s all have our fingers crossed that we have good luck with it.
Now, the hardest things are over and it is time to go back. Next things to do will be packing the basecamp up and start the return trek to Lukla. The route is different from the approach trek and will first go over Amphu Labtsa pass to the North and from there it will join the main Everest basecamp trekking route and follow that all the way to Lukla.
In the last post I mentioned the “packing rehearsal” I was planning and I have to say it was quite smooth. I put almost everything I have now planned to put into the luggage and still there was some room for the items I did not put in. And there is quite a lot to improve on the packing quality too.