Climbers on a glacier at 5900 m altitude, en route to cross the Ice Col, a pas of 6100 m. In the background Makalu, 8481 m altitude, the 5th highest mountain in the world.
One of the highest crossings in Nepal is from Makalu Base Camp near the Arun Valley to Baruntse Base Camp in the Everest Region. This is not a trekking route like the popular 5750 m Trashi Labtse Pass from Rolwaling to Everest Region, 5400 m Mera La Pass, or the 5800 m Ambu Labtse Pass, but a 4-5 day mountain climbing crossing, best combined with climbing Baruntse. It requires climbing Sherpas and high altitude porters, and members must be very fit with previous experience at 6000 m as it involves a long day crossing two passes around 6100-6150 m, a steep rocky climb to reach the first pass and two 100-200 m rappels at each pass.
The day of crossing the Sherpani/East (6100 m) and West Col (6135 m) requires careful planning and is a 10 hour trip. The biggest problem is not how to get the members across, provided they have past experience at this altitude, but to haul the camping gear and 20 kg duffels bags with personal gear across the two passes.
During our trip, the fastest members took only 7-7.5 hours non-stop but the normally very quick kitchen staff took 9 hours and some of the porters even longer. There were long delays across the 6100 m East Col as the last 100 m up is partially a grade 3-4 rock climb and going down a 100-150 m rappel (abseil) on a 45-60 degrees snow and rock face. The multi-pitch rappel at this altitude is a very tiring if you do it following the safety rules, an eight for lowering (ATC could not handle the thick rope), a prussic for safety, and a safety sling for passing the knots of the multiple pitches.
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