Mt. Makalu - The fifth highest mountain on the earth

Makalu is the fifth highest mountain in the world at 8,485 metres (27,838 ft). It is located in the Mahalangur Himalayas 19 km (12 mi) southeast of Mount Everest, on the border between Nepal and Tibet, China. One of the eight-thousanders, Makalu is an isolated peak whose shape is a four-sided pyramid.


Makalu has two notable subsidiary peaks. Kangchungtse, or Makalu II (7,678 m) lies about 3 km (2 mi) north-northwest of the main summit. Rising about 5 km (3.1 mi) north-northeast of the main summit across a broad plateau, and connected to Kangchungtse by a narrow, 7,200 m saddle, is Chomo Lonzo (7,804 m).

The first climb on Makalu was made by an American team led by Riley Keegan in the spring of 1954. The expedition was composed of Sierra Club members including Allen Steck, and was called the California Himalayan Expedition to Makalu. They attempted the southeast ridge but were turned back at 7,100 m (23,300 ft) by a constant barrage of storms. A New Zealand team including Sir Edmund Hillary was also active in the spring, but did not get very high due to injury and illness. In the fall of 1954, a French reconnaissance expedition made the first ascents of the subsidiary summits Kangchungtse (October 22: Jean Franco, Lionel Terray, sirdar Gyalzen Norbu Sherpa and Pa Norbu) and Chomo Lonzo (October 30?: Jean Couzy and Terray).

Makalu 9916.JPG

Makalu was first summited on May 15, 1955 by Lionel Terray and Jean Couzy of a French expedition led by Jean Franco. Franco, Guido Magnone and Gyalzen Norbu Sherpa summitted the next day, followed by Jean Bouvier, Serge Coupé, Pierre Leroux and André Vialatte on the 17th. This was an amazing achievement at the time, to have the vast majority of expedition members summit, especially on such a difficult peak. Prior to this time, summits were reached by one to two expedition members at most, with the rest of teams providing logistical support before turning around and heading home. The French team climbed Makalu by the north face and northeast ridge, via the saddle between Makalu and Kangchungtse (the Makalu-La), establishing the standard route.

Makalu 9982.JPG

Climbing History

  1. 1955 North Face to Northeast Ridge FA by Lionel Terray and Jean Couzy of France.
  2. 1970: Southeast Ridge FA of ridge attempted by the Americans in 1954, was made by Y. Ozaki and A. Tanaka from Japan on May 23.
  3. 1971: The very technical West Pillar route was climbed in May by Frenchmen B. Mellet and Y. Seigneur.
  4. 1975: South Face – an expedition led by Aleš Kunaver reached the top of Makalu up its steep southern side, becoming the first Slovenes to summit an eight-thousander. The first amongst them was Stane Belak. This was the third ascent of an eight-thousand meter peak by a great mountain face and the highest peak successfully summitted without supplementary oxygen (Marjan Manfreda).
  5. 1976 – South pillar route completed by Czechoslovak expedition (first attempt in 1973 ended shortly before Makalu South – 8010m by fatal fall of Jan Kounický). Route goes via south buttress to Makalu South and then via southeast ridge. Makalu South was climbed by 11 expedition members. Two of them – Karel Schubert and Milan Kriššák summited main summit together with Jorge Camprubi from Spanish expedition which climbed southeast ridge. Karel Schubert died after bivouac near the summit. The route wasn't repeated till today.
    1980: The second ascent of the West Pillar was completed in May by John Roskelley (summit), Chris Kopczynski, James States and Kim Momb, without Sherpa support and without bottled oxygen.
  6. 1981: On 15 October renowned Polish climber Jerzy Kukuczka ascended Makalu via a new route up the north-western side and north crest. Kukuczka climbed solo, in Alpine style, without supplemental oxygen.
  7. 1982 : On 10 October Polish climber Andrzej Czok ascended Makalu via West face till 8000m and north-western ridge, Camp IV was reached by two more climbers – Janusz Skorek and Andrzej Machnik but when first peak attempt failed, only Czok decide to try one more time.
  8. 1988: Frenchman Marc Batard climbed in one day (after camps were set up) to the summit via the West Buttress on April 27.
  9. 1989: Direct South Face, solo new start by Frenchman Pierre Beghin to 1975 Yugoslav route.
  10. 1990: First female ascent, Kitty Calhoun via the West Pillar route
  11. 1997: After seven failed attempts between 1977 and 1996, the West face was finally conquered. A Russian expedition led by Sergey Efimov brought Alexei Bolotov, Yuri Ermachek, Dmitri Pavlenko, Igor Bugachevski and Nikolai Jiline to the summit. This ascent won the 1998 Piolet d'Or,
  12. 2006: On or about January 27 the French mountaineer Jean-Christophe Lafaille disappeared on Makalu while trying to make the first winter ascent.
  13. 2008: Brazilian Waldemar Niclevicz and Irivan Burda arrived on May 11, 2008 to the top of Makalu
  14. 2009: Makalu was first climbed in winter on February 9, 2009 by Italian Simone Moro and Kazakh Denis Urubko. It was the final Nepali eight-thousander to be climbed in winter conditions. Moro had previously made the first winter ascent of Shishapangma in winter 2005 with Pole Piotr Morawski.

Makalu is one of the harder eight-thousanders, and is considered one of the most difficult mountains in the world to climb. The mountain is notorious for its steep pitches and knife-edged ridges that are completely open to the elements. The final ascent of the summit pyramid involves technical rock/ice climbing. Makalu-Barun Valley is a Himalayan glacier valley situated at the base of Makalu in the Sankhuwasabha district of Nepal. This valley lies entirely inside the Makalu Barun National Park. Barun Valley provides stunning contrasts, where high waterfalls cascade into deep gorges, craggy rocks rise from lush green forests, and colorful flowers bloom beneath white snow peaks. This unique landscape shelters some of the last pristine mountain ecosystems on Earth. Rare species of animals and plants flourish in diverse climates and habitats, relatively undisturbed by human kind.
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