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> Oct. 22, 1997
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Wednesday, October 22th, 1997
Cleaning up the mountain (The Expedition).

After the sudden death of Per Lyhne, the expedition decided to abandon the climbing on Makalu. But still the ethical (and legal) obligation to leave the mountain the way we found it, or even cleaner, remained. Although we mostly felt like leaving the mountain alone. On October 16th, the evacuation of Per Lyhne was finally finished as Erik on the radio from Base Camp (15.250 ft.) tells that Per Lyhne was finally picked up by the helicopter and now on his way to Kathmandu. It is now time to start cleaning up on the mountain. Once again we climb up the mountain, but the climbing is more heavy than ever, all pleasure and purpose gone. Our high-altitude sherpa Nima leave straight for Camp 2 and Per Bager leave for Camp 1.
In Camp 1 Per Bager prepare the loads for the descent. The next day Michael and Nima continue towards Camp 3 in rising winds, and finally, after five hours' climb, they reach Camp 3 in a snow storm, which makes it very difficult to break the camp. The drifting snow and the wind makes everything fly round, and it is a hard struggle to keep a hold on the tent, that does it's best to fly to Tibet! The Australian expedition had spent the night in our tent during their ascent of Makalu II (with 25.067 ft. a kind of fore-summit to Makalu I). They succeded in reaching the summit, but the whole team had suffered from frostbite, one of them had a serious 3rd degree frostbite that probably will result in an amputation of most of the big toe. During their night in our Camp 3 they had caused so much condensation in the tent, that our sleeping bags had turned to ice bags. Luckily we were not going to sleep in them, which would have been impossible.
Now we had to carry them down, but several pounds heavier because of the ice, even after knocking off most of the ice on the outside of the bags! After several hours of difficult descending, Michael and Nima succeeded in bringing all the gear down to Camp 2. On the way down, at 23.300 ft., a funny incident occurred, as Michael lost the tent from his backpack. After having tumbled several hundred feet down a crevassed area, it finally came to a rest on a precipice. It would take at least an additional two hours to fetch it from there, and not quite safe. But by chance a curious bird eyed the black bundle and landed on it, whereupon the tent started rolling again, and it was fated that the tent finally landed right at the entrance to Camp 2!
At the same time when Michael and Nima arrived in Camp 2 in the late afternoon, Per Bager arrived from Camp 1, happy about not needing to climb up to Camp 3 the next day, as Michael and Nima had brought down such big loads that the high camp in the pass now was fully cleared. As fast as possible they all took shelter in the tents in Camp 2, as the snow storm made it unbearable to stay outside.
The next day (Saturday) the storm had luckily subsided, and we could carry on the cleaning up on the mountain. As the first thing in the morning, we had to dig out our McKinley tent from more than three feet of snow drifts. The strong construction of the tent had made it withstand the pressure of the snow. Following this we made makeshift sledges by use of mattresses, backpacks etcetera, so we were able to haul and carry all the gear down to Camp 1 (100-130 lb for each of us), which in the meantime had been cleared by our sherpas. With the last of our efforts each of us carried a load down to ABC where we arrived the same evening, totally exhausted.
The following day (Sunday) our sherpas climbed up one last time and cleared the last of Camp 1, the cleaning up on Makalu was now completed. It was celebrated the same evening with the last of our whisky. Today, October 22nd, we all are down at Base Camp waiting for a helicopter to arrive in a few days, as soon as the weather improves.

A tribute to the memory of a good friend, Per Lyhne. We will all miss you.

"High are the mountains, it is more beautiful than heaven. This is my homeland."

the expedition

Makalu as seen from basecamp Tengma