Makalu (8463m) is located in Mahalangur Himal and Makalu Barun valley, 19 km SE of Mt. Everest and on the border of Nepal and China. Makalu is the fifth highest mountain in the world and its shape is a 4-sided pyramid.
The name of the mountain was probably taken from the Sanskrit word Maha-Kala, which means Big Black and is a by-name of Shiva, one of the most important gods of Hinduism.
Kangchungtse or Makalu II (7678m) and Chomo Lonzo (7804m) are two other peaks in Makalu Massif. Kangchungtse is about 3 km N-NW of main summit and Chomo Lonzo is about 5 km N-NE of it.
In 1934 a French group got climbing permit of Makalu from Tibetbut later their permit was canceled and they couldn’t try.
In spring 1954 there were 2 groups for the first attempt on Makalu: USA group leading by William Siri and New Zealanders leading by Sir Edmund Hillary.
Americans abandoned their ascent at 7150 because of bad weather and New Zealanders at 7000m because of AMS of Sir Edmund Hillary.
In autumn 1954, another group tried on Makalu. They were 10 men from France and Nepal. Lionel Terray & Jean Couzy from this team reached the highest point of 7800m on Makalu. Even though they couldn’t reach main summit but 2 French climbers Jean Franco and Lionel Terray with aids of 2 Sherpa Gyaltsen Norbu Sherpa and Da Norbu Sherpa climbed Kangchungtse and Chomo Lonzo as the first ascent.
These men came back to Makalu in a bigger group in spring 1955, 15 men:
Jean Franco (Leader)
Pierre Bordet and Michel Latreille (2 scientists)
Andrea Lapras (Expedition doctor)
Jean Bouvier, Serge Coupe, Jean Couzy, Pierre Leroux, Guido Magnone, Lionel Terray, Andre Vialatte, Da Norbu Sherpa, Gunden Sherpa, Pemba Tenzing Sherpa and Gyaltzen Norbu Sherpa (Sirdar)
On May 15, 1955 Lionel Terray and Jean Couzy reached summit. Franco, Magnone & Sirdar Gyaltsen Norbu summitted the next day on 16th, followed by Bouvier, Coupe, Leroux and Vialatte on the 17th. This was an amazing achievement at the time to have the vast majority of expedition members on summit, especially on such a difficult peak. Actually all climbers reached summit, except just 2 scientists, expedition doctor and 3 sherpas who didn’t make summit. Prior to this time, summits were reached by 1-2 people at most with the rest of teams providing logistical support before turning around and heading home. The French team climbed Makalu by the north face and northeast ridge, via the saddle between Makalu and Kangchungtse (the Makalu-La), establishing the standard route.
The first winter attempt on Makalu was on 1980, an Italy-Switzerland expedition leading by famous Italian climber Renato Casarotto. After 13 attempts by different groups finally Makalu was climbed in winter on 9 February 2009 by Simone Moro and Denis Urubko in 20 days.
Before 2015, 2028 people had attempted on Makalu which unfortunately 41 of them died…
Sources: Himalayan Data base by Miss Hawley and Wikipedia.
My plan for spring 2015 was climbing Makalu in a small group, alone just with Tshiring Jangbu Sherpa.
We started from domestic airport of Tumlingtar (410m) with jeep on 5 April to Num (a village on 1560m). From Num we strated trekking on 7 April and our path was: Sedowa (1500m), Tashigon(2090m), Kauma(3500m), Dobato(3870m), Tadosa(3960m), Hillay base camp(HBC-4865m) and finally reached Advance base camp of Makalu (ABC-5700m) on 15 April, 2 days were stuck in Hillary base camp due to bad weather and porter problems. After Puja on 20 April, on 21 April we climbed C1 and set our camp there. Just below C1 and its headwall, a slab avalanche hit Tshiring and me but nothing serious happened to us magically. We stayed 2 nights in C1 6400m for acclimatization and came back BC on 23 April. We were ready to go up again but on 25 April big disaster happened in Nepal: EARTHQUAKE!
In same day there were lots of aftershock and next day another strong earthquake. All people were safe in Makalu but we were worried about friends, climber and Nepali families in Kathmandu and other mountain specially Everest which we had received very bad news from there.
By a meeting in BC, almost all climbers agreed to stop climbing to respect lost lives & nature, problems of our Nepali friends’ families and unsafety in mountain as well. We quitted expedition even though had one year training and planning for this expedition with many hopes but it was destiny…
I started trekking back 29 April and came back Kathmandu on 5 May. It was unbelievable: normally crowded Thamel was empty and like ghost town, very sad ambiance. Every day lots of aftershocks, non-stop!
Many people passed away by earthquake and landslides and it was a very sad season for not only Nepalese but also all the world, Nepal is my second home like most of other climbers…
Waiting happy days and peace for lovely Nepal, I can return again someday to giant Makalu!