48 NAVY NEWS, AUGUST 2010 Next month Next month
● The team struggle up the ridge of Makalu as it’s lashed by the jet stream
URNU wise – on summer deployment with
Exceedingly good golf from Alex
THERE’S a new name on the RN golf roll of honour following the 2010 Championships played at Hindhead, writes Cdr Gary Skinns.
Thou shalt have a fi shy – on patrol with HMS Severn
A ridge too far
TWO sailors and a Royal Marine made a valiant attempt to become the fi rst mountaineers to reach one of the world’s highest peaks by a notorious unclimbed route.
Lt Cdr Paul ‘Tigger’ Hart
(HMS Raleigh/BRNC), Surg Lt Simon Hornby (CLR) and C/Sgt Steve Jones (CTCRM) were part of an eight-strong Forces expedition which spent three months trying to reach the 28,000ft peak of Makalu by the South-East Ridge. The route is accepted as one of
Easy PC – the simulator teaching
Brain waves – the behind- the-scenes experts of the Maritime Warfare Centre
the greatest remaining challenges in the Himalayas, equalling in diffi culty routes on K2 – generally regarded as the most diffi cult mountaineering challenge in the world.
The majority of Makalu’s 10km South-East Ridge is knife-edged, with immense drops into Tibet and Nepal on either side. As such it is fully exposed to the effects of the prevailing weather and especially the jet stream which lies over the Everest-Makalu region. As well as the obvious dangers
of the weather, the route has many other hidden dangers. Some of the route can involve travelling across overhanging corniced snow, where there is the ever-present danger of the snow collapsing. The alternative is bullet-hard blue ice which is almost impossible to gain any purchase on.
After reaching base camp –
located at an altitude higher than the summit of Mont Blanc – the team set about establishing a series of camps along the ridge. In so doing, the climbers had to contend with some very demanding conditions: strong winds (regularly in excess of 80mph) and extremely cold temperatures (regularly below -20˚C),
efforts to move up the mountain. The advance base camp was sited on a hanging glacier which (worryingly) was inexorably moving down the mountain, albeit at what should have been quite a slow pace.
team, one of whom was showing signs of pulmonary embolism. The American team were at an altitude of 7,200m and off the side of the South-East Ridge, but because of snowfall and the danger of avalanche they couldn’t descend the route they had come up. The Brits went to the aid
of the American climbers and successfully helped them to descend the British route The climber with pulmonary embolism was airlifted to Kathmandu for treatment.
● The 24,000ft stare... The team shelters from the elements in an ice cave on Makalu
“There is nothing like lying in a sleeping bag at night with your head only inches above ice that is cracking and groaning the whole night through,” said Lt Cdr Hart. The route up from ABC to Camp 1 was highly-dangerous with constant rock-fall. One area in particular, known as ‘Bomb Alley’, presented serious risk due to the way rocks were constantly breaking off high up the mountain and were funnelled down between two ribs of rock. There was no alternative to crossing this chute and it was a matter of preparing mentally to go and then getting on with it. Due to the altitude, limited the width of
the chute and the steepness of the ground, it was impossible to simply dash across the gap. From Camp 1 onwards, the route became ever more hostile along the impossibly-narrow and steep ridgeline. The team were either walking on the top of the ridge – in places no more than 12in wide – or they were forced to toe-point in their crampons along its side. Toe-pointing across bullet- hard ice when there is a several thousand foot drop beneath you
tends to concentrate the mind and the team were commonly pushing the boundaries of high-altitude mountaineering, particularly when they were exposed to the effects of the freezing winds. It was on the open ridge line
that the weather started to really hinder the team.
The maximum safe wind level for the team to work was about 45kts, anything above this level buffeted the climbers so much that they started to expend too much energy just trying to steady themselves as they moved. There was also the constant danger of an unexpected turn in the weather and on two occasions team members were trapped on the ridge by unpredicted storms. During one storm, Lt Cdr Hart and his climbing partner, Spr Ben Sherwood, were trapped for three nights on the ridge in freezing winds and the constant danger of frostbite or being blown into Tibet.
Despite such close shaves the team made steady, if slow, progress along the ridge and set up further camps towards Makalu’s summit. While the climbers were moving up the ridge, they were asked to come to the aid of an American
partner, Marty Schmidt – one of the top guides in the world and a successful summit climber of several 8,000m peaks including K2 – stated that the descent along the South-East Ridge was one of the most awe-inspiring and diffi cult things he had ever done and was equal to anything he had faced on K2. The team fi nally got into a position to go for the summit – much later than they had originally intended. The weather in the whole region had been particularly poor and somewhat atypical for a normal climbing season. There was an anticipated good
weather window, but unfortunately it never arrived. Instead there was a completely unpredicted half-metre dump of snow on the mountain.
From this point on the snow continued unabated and the team found themselves in the position of having to make a highly-dangerous and extremely diffi cult evacuation of the mountain. Fortunately, and against the
odds, all the team managed to descend to safety without any life- threatening injury. “In the end, the conditions
were so bad that just getting down became the real challenge and that we did so safely was as much of a success as getting to the top,” said Lt Cdr Hart.
“The conditions were the worst
I have experienced in 30 years of mountaineering.
“It came as no surprise to fi nd out that there had been Continued on page 46
above) joined the Navy at the beginning of the year with an excellent golfi ng resumé, having been a regular Somerset county player.
AB Alex Kippen (pictured
representative matches for the RN, he duly went on to win the individual title over a demanding course in some blistering-hot conditions. For the second time the event included the ladies and their participation appears to have been a popular move although the hope is that numbers will increase in this category in future years.
Following a couple of
Scoring was disappointing overall, but the championships opened with a number of players in the hunt initially. Round 1 saw excellent play at the top of the order with Kippen (HMS Raleigh) setting the pace with a creditable level par 70. His nearest challenger was CPOMEA Lee McCathie (HMS Blyth) with 74 while a number of players in the high seventies were still within sight. One name missing from the leaderboard at this stage was six time winner and reigning Champion PONN Scott Gilbert (Fleet CNR Ops) who opened with 82 but his week was set to improve as it progressed. The second round saw Kippen slip to a 77 allowing McCathie to leapfrog him with an excellent 71.
LAET Craig Merralls (829 NAS) followed his fi rst round 78 with a much-improved 73 to move into third while Gilbert shot ten strokes better than the fi rst round to lie fourth. With all the leaders scoring in the mid-70s in round three, the cut was made and the stage set for the fi nal round with McCathie ahead of Kippen by one shot.
Merralls and Gilbert were some ten shots plus off the lead and seemingly out of contention.
Gilbert, however had different ideas and mounted a fi nal round charge. His one-under- par 69 proved to be the best of the week lifting him into third place and fi nishing just three behind the winner.
The two leaders matched each other stroke for stroke over the fi rst nine holes of the fi nal round.
record a bogey and two double bogeys in quick succession at
Continued on page 46 Sadly McCathie was to
Published by Navy News, HMS Nelson, Portsmouth and printed by St Ives (Roche) plc.
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