Makalu, the “Great Black”, has been summited 323 times: only 13 times by Americans. The last time a new route was completed on Makalu was in 1997. It isn’t that Makalu is totally ignored, it is really hard. Almost every ascent is made by the French Route on the North Western side. Like most 8000 meter climbs, it is accomplished with the help of Sherpas, bottled Oxygen and big teams.
Our plan is to attempt to climb a new route on this giant peak. Our team is small, just two climbers. Chris Warner and Marty Schmidt are among the leading American 8000 meter climbers, with over 40 years of experience in the Himalaya, and over 55 years of exploring the world’s mountains.
We will be attempting a new route on the South Face of Makalu. This aspect of the face has never been attempted. Our route lies between the SW Ridge (Czechs in 1976) and the SE Ridge (Japanese in 1970). The route will ascend snow gullies and rock bands, up the 7000 foot face to Makalu SE (7803 meters). Here it joins with the Czech and Japanese route to the summit. Once on the SE Ridge it is no picnic to the top. The ridge is knife-edged and gendarme guarded. Above 8000 meters it joins with the top of the West Pillar route. At 8300 meters, a 100 meter rock band blocks the route, making for an extremely technical summit day. A rough estimation of the technical nature of the climbing is: Snow slopes to 60 degrees, ice to 85 degrees, rock to 5.7.