Another Makalu Fatality and a Partial Ski Descent

News of another fatality on Makalu passed unreported for 24 hours but is now public. The victim is Johnny Saliba, 60, of France.

It occurred as climbers launched a summit push over the weekend in what turned out to be rough weather conditions.

“We reached Camp 3 at 7,500m, but the weather window never opened,” Gonzalo Fernandez of Spain reported. It snowed non-stop and the wind blew strongly.”

After vomiting all night, Fernandez retreated back to Base Camp. There, he heard that a French climber had died on the mountain. The news was especially shocking, because he had met the Frenchman the day before on his way to Camp 3.

“I took some photos of him and told him I would forward them to him once we were back in Base Camp,” Fernandez said in an Instagram story. “Up here, the line between life and death is so thin.”

Fernandez did not share the name of the climber, raising alarm among the acquaintances of other French climbers in the area.

IG post with text in Spanish.
Intagram story by Gonzalo Fernandez Garcia.

Victim identified

The local press later confirmed the tragic news and identified the victim. Johnny Saliba was with a 10-member French team led by Serge Bazin and outfitted by Snowy Horizon Treks. On Sunday, Saliba was on a summit push with Bazin, Francois Paul, Jangbu Sherpa, and Furdeni Sherpa, when he felt sick at around 8,350m, The Himalayan Times reported.

Jangbu Sherpa helped Saliba down a little, but the Frenchman couldn’t make it far and breathed his last at around 8,120m, said the outfitter. Meanwhile, The Himalayan Times added, Bazin, Paul, and Furdeni Sherpa made it to the summit.

The team has a website with live tracking and updates, including yesterday’s summit news, but has not yet reported on Saliba’s death. According to their tracker, the team is now at Advanced Base Camp.

A week ago, Lakpa Tenji Sherpa of Seven Summit Treks also died on Makalu, seemingly of altitude sickness.

Makalu Expedition Unlimited website with tracker and news
The French expedition’s website, with tracker and summit news.

 

No-O2 summits and a partial ski descent

In a glimmer of good news, Bartek Ziemski and Oswald Pereira of Poland summited without oxygen or sherpa support yesterday. Using safety ropes, Ziemski then skied most of the way down to Camp 3. He had to step out of his skis briefly in the French Couloir. The pair stopped at Camp 3 for the night, Wspinanie.pl reports.

Today, they continued, and Bartek skied down to the end of the snow, at some 6,000m. On the way, he removed his skis again during a short bare section.

The pair of skis while descending toward the Himalayan glaciers at the foot of Makalu
During the ski descent on Makalu. Photo: Bartek Ziemski via wspinanie.pl

 

The Polish climbers had gone to Camp 3 last Friday and left for the summit on Saturday evening. They summited at 10:38 am on Sunday.

The Polish climber in yellow jackets and in a yellow tent.
Bartek Ziemski, left, and Oswald Rodrigo Pereira at a high camp on Makalu last week. Photo: Oswald R. Pereira

 

Some oxygen and sherpa-supported climbers reportedly summited too, while others turned back because of the tough conditions. Marcin Miotk’s tracker indicates that he aborted at around 8,100m, after 20 hours of climbing from Camp 3. The Polish climber wrote on social media that he wanted to stay loyal to his no-O2 style while ensuring he returned safely.

“I didn’t fall for summit fever and knew when it was time to turn around,” he said.

(In the Instagram post below, Miotk poses with Oswald Pereira):

https://www.instagram.com/p/C5SXsuoo4WH/

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