With our original plans to climb Cho Oyu, Everest and then Lhotse permanently altered by the tragic loss of life in the Khumbu Icefall on Everest this season (great interactive article on that here), we worked diligently and from every conceivable angle to get a permit to climb Everest from the North/Chinese side. All of those efforts have been thwarted by the Chinese. To salvage our plan of climbing multiple 8,000 meter peaks this season, we set our Plan B sights on Makalu, the world’s 5th tallest peak at 27,765′. Unfortunately, we did not have the necessary resources to get the entire team to base camp via helicopter, so we sent young Matt Moniz (just 16 years old) and super-guide Willie Benegas.
I’m happy to report that they summited on May 25th at ~4am in a building storm after an unprecedented, highly ambitious, 3-day, alpine-style ascent. They descended safely and then waited out a snow storm for four days before returning to Kathmandu yesterday (5/29). They completed the fastest-ever ascent of Makalu, put the first Argentinian on the summit (Willie), only the 14th American and the youngest-ever on the summit (Matt). They even managed to say hello to our dear friend Heidi Sand on the summit, who is the first German woman to summit Makalu (Heidi was on my 2012 Everest team). Small world.
This is a tremendous feat and I’m proud that our team persevered to successfully climb the world’s 5th and 6th highest peaks in great form and in a single push. It wasn’t quite the Himalayan triple we had imagined but it is an incredible success amidst the most difficult of Himalayan seasons.