2 Baltimoreans prepare assault on west face of Ama Dablam

December 09, 1990|By Chris Warnerand Bryan Blair | Chris Warnerand Bryan Blair,Special to The Sun

KATHMANDU — Chris Warner, a project director with Outward Bound in Baltimore, is preparing to climb Ama Dablam, a 22,494-foot peak in the Mount Everest region of Nepal. The ascent by Warner, 26, and Glen Dunmire of Estes Park, Colo., will be the first of its kind on the mountain's west face. The following is the first of periodic reports from Warner and Bryan Blair of Baltimore, who will remain in base camp during the climb.

KATHMANDU -- From the roof of the Garuda Hotel, the snow-covered flanks of 24,000- to 25,000-foot peaks reflect the warmth of the sun. But the Kathmandu Valley, with its clear, crisp mornings and 65-degree days, belies the approach of winter.

The autumn climbing season is nearing its close and teams of mountaineers are poised to summit on the highest Himalaya peaks, blistered by an arctic cold. The fate of many teams will be decided by early December.

Rumors of success or failure filter through the crowded streets and restaurants of Thamel, Kathmandu's tourist district, but the first of the climbers have yet to make their descent.

While the autumn parties prepare to come down, we are preparing to go up on a winter climb of the west face of Ama Dablam along a route never completed before.

A mountaineering expedition in the Himalaya of Nepal is a complex ordeal wrapped in red tape. P.B. Thapa, a trekking agent who has handled the logistics for several expeditions to Mount Everest, had been hired to guide us from office to office, from official to official.

In a Datsun B-210 stuffed with six duffel bags, two backpacks and three Nepalis, we wound through the crooked streets of Kathmandu for seven days, among the sacred cows, honking cabs, raucous drivers and rickshaws.

In the markets, we have purchased more than 10,000 rupees of pots and pans, rice, lentils and flour -- and $3 worth of Buddhist prayer flags. The flags will flutter above our base camp at 15,600 feet. Each flutter will send up a prayer.

Before we arrived in Kathmandu, on Thanksgiving, Sherku Sherpa and Gylgen Sherpa set out with 792 pounds of gear for Lukla, an airport village a 12-day walk east of Kathmandu.

The Sherpas, a culturally distinct sect of Nepalis from the Everest region, make their living leading mountaineering expeditions, and at this time of year, the bars of Thamal are packed with Sherpas buzzing from too much rum and harmonizing to Rod Stewart and Madonna tunes. We have requested Sherpas who neither smoke nor drink.

Sherku and Gylgen seem well suited to the task of getting us and our gear to base camp. They are strong and fit. Our government liaison officer, however, is another matter. He is 40 pounds overweight and greedy. Already he has demanded a wage three times what the government requires and asked for more clothing and equipment than the government allots.

We are wondering whether he will complete the trek to our base camp. If not, well . . . nothing goes as planned in the Himalayan Kingdom.

Still, to a mountaineer, the Himalayan Kingdom is Shangri-La, Ama Dablam is the most awe-inspiring of Nepal's many hundred snow-capped peaks, and soon we will be before it, studying for our ascent of the west face.

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