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Ama Dablam October 2003

News of Our Recent expedition: Ama Dablam October 2003
1 October to 1 November, 2003

AMA DABLAM SUCCESS, OCTOBER 2003, ASIA'S MOST FAMOUS ROCK-ICE-SNOW CLIMB, EASY-TECHNICAL:

Please accept our humble announcement of success on 6846 metre Ama Dablam, Asia's most famous rock-ice-snow peak, located just near Mt. Everest. Ama Dablam is a very technical challenge, yet accomplishable by a fit climber with basic technical skills.

Under the leadership of Daniel Mazur (Seattle and Bristol, England), and Jay Reilly (Cairns and Brisbane, Australia), we are proud to believe we have set two new records:

1. Placing the World's Youngest Woman on the summit: Camille Kinny, age 20, from Sydney, Australia, on 23 October, 2003.

2. Placing the First Nepalese Woman on the summit: Maya Sherpa, from Patale, Nepal, on 23 October, 2003.

3. Last year, in October of 2002, we believe we have placed the oldest man on the summit of Ama Dablam, 65 year old Paul Mitterbacher of Austria.

Maya Sherpa, the first Nepalese woman, and Camille Kinny, the youngest woman in the world, on the summit of Ama Dablam, 23 October, 2003. Chris Kinny Photo

We are inviting challenges to these claims, and will be holding a summit photo unveiling ceremony, autograph signing, and press conference on the rooftop of the Hotel Nepa International on 30 October, 2003, at 4:00pm. The Hotel Nepa International is located in Kantipath-Jyatha (Thamel), Kathmandu. For further information, and to rsvp us about your attendance, please email us at SummitClimb@earthlink.net, and telephone our Kathmandu agent Mr. Murari Sharma of Parivar Trekking at (9771) 4248813, 4249825. We wish to kindly invite all of the members of the press, media, newspapers, radio, and television, in addition to the representatives of the King of Nepal, and the Ambassador of Australia, and interested members of the general public.

3. Additionally, we at SummitClimb.com wish to announce the successful ascent to the summit of 9 full-service members and 5 basic-climb members (totaling 14 non-Nepalese members from our team), in addition to 5 super-strong Sherpas, according to the following dates:

20 October: Mike Boughton, and Dean Cardinale (Salt Lake City, and Ashford, Washington) summitted;

21 October: Antti Oksanen, Hansi Mietenen, and Ville Saarinen (Finland) summitted;

22 October: John Fawcett (Birmingham, England), and Jocelyn DuFour (Quebec and Calgary, Canada), and Shera Sherpa (Patale, Nepal) summitted;

23 October: Bryan Bonser (Iowa and Japan), Ryan Singleton (Bend, Oregon), Tony Kinny, Chris Kinny, Camille Kinny (Sydney, Australia) WE BELIEVE CAMILLE IS THE YOUNGEST WOMAN TO REACH THE SUMMIT OF AMA DABLAM, Larry Rigsby (Alabama), Daniel Mazur (Seattle, and Bristol, England), Maya Sherpa (Patale, Nepal) WE BELIEVE MAYA IS THE FIRST NEPALESE WOMAN TO REACH THE SUMMIT OF AMA DABLAM, Pasang Lama Sherpa (Wolung, Nepal), Tenzing Sherpa (Patale, Nepal), Galu Sherpa (Patale, Nepal) summitted;

24 October: Ali Naderi (Stockholm, Sweden) turned back at 6450 metres, Jay Reilly (Cairns and Brisbane, Australia), Kirsti Samson (Newcastle, England), Lakpa Sherpa (Wolung, Nepal), and Tenzing Sherpa (Wolung, Nepal) turned back just 50 metres below the summit in very bad weather.

25 October: Brian Rolfson (Salt Lake City), and Phurba Tamang (Solari, Nepal), turned back at camp 3 (6300 metres).

During the Ama Dablam expedition, Robert Rackl, the leader of the German Amical Exedition, fell to his death, apparently descending on an old rope. We would like to extend our sincere condolences to his family, friends and colleagues.

In order to protect our own members and staff and Sherpas, as well as all other climbers on the mountain, after Robert's death, we re-fixed the entire route with more than 1750 metres of rope, including the highest quality 8 and 9 and 10 millimetre kernmantle nylon rope.

We would like to extend our deepest gratitude to the amazing strong Sherpas and people of Nepal , and the two organizations working to provide environmental protection, health care and schools to remote areas where people now have nothing: The Mount Everest Foundation for Sustainable Development, and the Mount Everest Trust.

Please join us for our March 2004 expedition to 7161 metre Pumori, a spectacular and climbable peak just across from Mt. Everest, and for our APRIL-MAY 2004 EXPEDITION TO EVEREST.

We hope you will see Daniel Mazur and friends during their global multi-media slide, video, and live speaking tour this autumn and winter around the world. Please inquire for the lecture tour programme and schedule.

Highest Altitude Regards! Thank You Very Much, Yours Sincerely, from Daniel Mazur, Jay Reilly, and all of us at SummitClimb.com

ps. Would you like to read a bit more about our 2003 Ama Dablam expedition? Please examine this news article below.

...

Challenge of the climb

By Teri Greene
Montgomery Advertiser 4 December, 2003

Dr. Larry Rigsby of Montgomery and Gyula Sherpa emerge victorious at the Ama Dablam summit on Oct. 22. Behind them is Mount Everest.
-- Contributed photos

Adventurers like to tell perilous tales of near-death, of battling with the elements, of the onslaught of cruel nature and man’s attempts to conquer it.

Montgomery physician Larry Rigsby’s not telling those kinds of stories.

Sure, it happened to him, recently, when he set out to climb the 22,000-foot mountain Ama Dablam, a craggy, fierce-looking neighbor of Everest known to be more technically challenging than even that famous monolith.

But there’s no swagger or bravado in Rigsby’s tone as he tells of his journey to the Himalayas for the expedition, one of a team of 20 international climbers.

Rigsby’s a tall, lean, bearded man with the kind of soothing, soft-spoken voice that immediately conveys kindness.

“I’m not hung up on getting to the summit,” he said. “They say you can climb a mountain in style, and I wanted to remain healthy and climb, have the adventure.”

There are things that happened on that trip, however, that so moved him emotionally and tried him physically that he will never forget them.

Preparation

In 1997, Rigsby took his first serious climb in Colorado, where he’d been hunting elk, and fell in love with the sport. He gets a gleam in his eye when he talks about climbing whether simple mountaineering, Alpine mountaineering (in snow and ice) or ice climbing, his favorite. He has a closet full of gear in the Montgomery home where he lives with his wife, Virginia.

As an internist and medical director of Alabama Inpatient, Rigsby admits patients to the hospital and follows them throughout their stay. He’s able to work two weeks on, then one off an adventurer’s dream.

Constant activity and accomplishment has long been a way of life for him. Nothing surprises his family anymore.

“He graduated first in his medical school class, then he got into tennis, then into hunting, then running marathons and ultra marathons 50 and 100 mile runs and then climbing,” said Rigsby’s daughter, Amy McGhee of Mobile, who with her daughter, Layne, has followed him into climbing. “We’re always wishing he would go back to marathons.”

On his journey, Rigsby absorbed Eastern culture, including this pre-climb blessing and prayer shawl from a Buddhist monk at the Pangboche Monastery.

But he’s been climbing since he was a rough-and-tumble kid growing up in Huntsville. On weekends, as young as 9 years old, he’d venture out to Monte Sano Mountain there, hiking on his own, happy as could be.

 

These days, in addition to Colorado, he likes to climb in North Carolina, Chattanooga and Alabama locations like Sand Mountain.

“I like the exploration,” he said. “I like seeing what’s over the hill.”

Well prepared

By far, Ama Dablam was the biggest “hill” yet.

In early October, team members from all over the world, most strangers until then, gathered in Katmandu, Nepal and met leader Dan Mazur and the climbing sherpas people, most of Tibetan origin, living in the Himalayas’ Kumbu region who serve as guides and porters who were “the gentlest, kindest people you’ll ever meet,” Rigsby said.

The team began training fixed-line climbing technique, and rappelling down again using figure 8 devices.

Rigsby was no novice. For nearly a year he had prepared for this expedition, not only on U.S. peaks but in his Montgomery back yard. It boasts a climbing wall and a stand of tall Alabama pines ready for climbing he said the trees take to picks and crampons, the 12-point metal spikes attached to boots in much the same way as icy rock. At the gym, Rigsby would mount the Stairmaster equipped with a weighted backpack. A longtime runner, he upped his usual regimen of 25-30 miles per week in order to improve his endurance.

This summer, he traveled to Alaska for a rock and ice climb, specifically in preparation for Ama Dablam.

A smooth climb, and tragedy

The team went from base camp to advanced base camp, then back again; then on to camp one, higher up, back down one step, then to high camp, then back again, all the way to the summit.

Relaxing at base camp after the team's stormy descent, Rigsby is surrounded by Tibetan prayer flags, draped at each camp by the high-altitude sherpas.

All this to avoid altitude sickness, a special medical interest of Rigsby. On this trip, however, he wasn’t the team doctor, but a simple climber, though he agreed he’d help with any illnesses in higher camps.

They cooked meals in the tents at each camp, melting snow for water, subsisting on freeze-dried noodles, soups and rice. In the day, the sky was clear, visibility excellent the kind of conditions that might make a climber take a lot for granted.

Teams on the mountain shared the responsibility of fixing support ropes for one another; the German team had arrived at the mountain earlier than Rigsby’s team and was preparing rope at a higher camp when tragedy struck: The German team leader fell to his death.

“Nobody really knows what happened,” Rigsby said. “We think he was rappelling and one of the ropes broke on the rappel.”

The German climber’s wish, if killed, had been to have his body left in the mountains. Rigsby and others saw the climber’s body lowered to a final resting place, a memory he’ll only hesitantly speak of.

“I don’t glorify things like that that’s not why I climb,” he said. “I’d rather hear about success stories, climbs without problems.”

After the German climber’s deadly fall, Rigsby’s team sent porters to a nearby valley to procure nylon rope (stronger than the plastic rope the Germans had used), and they fixed 700 meters (2,100 feet) of it.

“I don’t take chances,” he said. “I don’t want to go and have a tragedy in the mountains. If it means not reaching a summit, I’d rather choose safety.”

When the team safely made the summit Oct. 22, it was a victorious moment.

But more struggle would come.

A change in the weather:

The descent

In a summit photo of Rigsby and Gyalu Sherpa, the two are arm in arm, jubilant against the brilliant sky and gleaming snow. But far over Rigsby’s right shoulder, a translucent white tempest swirls over Everest. That was the ice storm that would plague their descent.

When the storm hit after their summit, the team decided to stay at high camp at 21,000 feet rather than risk going down further.

“There were very high winds, and it sounded like the tents were going to rip apart,” Rigsby said. “It was just whipping and rocking the tent.”

Rigsby took this photo of his fellow climber, Australian Camille Kinny, during the team's storm-plagued descent. When 20-year-old Kinny summited Ama Dablam, she became the youngest female ever to do so.

On the descent, snow blew sideways, covering goggles and coating ropes with ice as the team attempted to rappel.

A descent that should have taken one day took three.

A Web site, Everestnews.com, was the only way Rigsby’s family had of keeping track of his team’s expedition. There were supposed to be daily dispatches from team leaders. And from the time the team set off from base camp to the day of the summit, there were.

Then, upon descent, the dispatches suddenly stopped.

Rigsby’s family has always been confident in his judgment and skills.

“I’ve got a very supportive wife, and they also know I’m very safe,” he said. But having no word for nearly a week from someone you love, who’s caught in a storm beneath a mountain peak in the Himalayas, can cause even steadfast believers to waver.

“I was scared to death,” said McGhee, who kept constant watch of weather reports. She’d read numerous accounts of expeditions gone terribly wrong.

“With stuff like this,” she said, “you never know what could happen.”

On the 25th, he made contact with them.

Going home

On Oct. 27, after five weeks away, Rigsby returned home to Montgomery.

“He was tired, and I could definitely tell the experience changed him,” McGhee said of her father. “They went through so much.”

His wife felt both relief and pride.

“I’ve always been proud of him because he’s doing all these things in later life,” Virginia McGhee said. “It’s an inspiration.”

For Rigsby, it was the best of both worlds, the most an adventurer could ask for.

Just above "camp one" on his climb of Mount Ama Dablam in the Himalayas, Rigsby flashes an ecstatic smile. The ascent of the mountain was smooth, with excellent weather conditions.

“The weather was so good going up that if you thought that was what climbing was about in the Himalayas, you might get a false impression,” he said. The storm on the descent broke through all those illusions.

One upcoming adventure for Rigsby: Everest in 2005, where he plans to join an American team that is already planning preparation climbs in this country.

Like a lot of climbers, Rigsby easily tires of being asked, “Why do you do it?”

“That’s an age-old question, and it’s not for the view,” he said. “It’s a challenge, a physical thing. There’s a lot of joy in climbing.”

 

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