We have covered close to a thousand expeditions in 2007. It's difficult to choose the best, as they all contributed in their own way, sharing their story - their very soul in fact - with us and the world.
And yet, there are those who linger in our minds long after their final debrief. We have chosen 8 expeditions who have contributed in an extraordinary way to the Spirit of Adventure in 2007.
Today number 7: Dodo Kopold - 3, 8000ers in 4 months
The first time we heard of him was in 2005. Slovak Dodo Kopold, 27, and his climbing buddy Gabo Èmárik had climbed 'Assalam Alaikum' - a new route on the southwest side of Great Trango Tower. The climb took eight days and was done in alpine style, sans sleeping bags. This was Dodo's second visit to the spires. In 2004 he and two others also did the first repetition of the Khanadan Buttress route on Shipton Spire.
In 2006, Dodo and Gabo came back to Karakoram - this time for an Uli Biaho, Shipton and Cats Ear triple header. They arrived two months earlier than usual, greeted by freezing nights and plenty of snow fall; "a perfect time to climb these difficult routes" Dodo wrote in his debrief, The taste of Karakoram ice.,
The young climbers spent two months, including 54 frigid hours to the summit on the unclimbed north-west face of Uli Biaho.
Hello high Himalaya
Few climbers hit high Himalaya the way Dodo did this spring. Teeth well cut on the sharp Pakistan spires; the young gun was ready to take on the big ones.
The plan was grand: Dodo would try to scale 4, 8000ers in one season: Cho Oyu, Shisha Pangma, Nanga Parbat, and last K2 via the unclimbed west face. All without supplementary 02, and preferably in Alpine style.
Pavol Lazar (expedition leader), Jaro Dutka, Dodo Kopold and his friend Marek Hudak landed in Kathmandu, crossed into Tibet and headed straight for target number one. The first team to reach ABC on March 23, Cho Oyu was a walk in the park for Dodo. Marek turned back at 7,800m but Dodo continued up - for the first Himalaya summit of the season, bagged on his first attempt, barely one week after reaching BC, alone on the upper parts, using no Sherpa or supplementary O2 support.
It wasn't difficult, Kopold reported. You breathe as after running up three floors, really.
This was however only a preparatory stage for the expeditions main goal - a new route on the south face of Shisha Pangma. Our four-man team will now face more than two thousand meters of climbing with average incline of 50°, including several sections of steep rock and ice, Dodo reported.
Once in BC, the team would decide whether to climb all together or divide in two groups. They expected four days on the wall, bringing just the essentials: three days of food, a stove, sleeping bags, spare gloves and climbing gear. Plan B, for bad conditions, was to climb one of the established routes on the face.
Dodo and Marek had bonded into twin souls already months before Himalaya; training in Chamonix, planning expeditions. They climbed together on Cho Oyu, and they climbed together on Shisha Pangma, sharing two cold bivouacs on the British route for 3 days with no sleeping bags and no tents. Dodo stepped on the summit; but Marek fell to his death below.
We separated," Dodo said. "Marek was a bit slower than me, but I always held for him. On summit day, I waited for him about 200 meters below the summit."
Marek was strong and motivated. He wanted the top but, "if I can't keep up then you must go on; I will go down and wait for you in C2, were his last words to Dodo.
50 meters below the summit, Dodo looked back and spotted Marek descending along the old, fixed lines. Taking 30 minutes for the last steps to the top; Dodo soon quickly descended in Marek's tracks. At 7600m, on a fixed line anchor-point, Dodo found Marek's ice axe. There were no more footprints.
Dodo figured that Marek fell while changing from one fixed line to another. The slope was steep and icy. "He must have gathered speed fast and probably fell over the rock precipice near C2," Dodo wrote in his debrief. "I searched around C2 and found his torn glove, and what seemed like traces of self arrest.
Bad weather prevented further search. The team spent 5 tense days in BC, before building a small memorial to Marek Hudák and leaving Shisha Pangma.
"Could I have done something else, should I have done more" are questions bothering all Himalaya climbers especially at the first loss of a mate to the thin air.
But the ascents continue. Shattered, the young Dodo arrived in Islamabad.
Teaming up with fellow Slovak Peter Hamor and Polish Piotr Morawski, the three were to attempt an alpine-style first ascent on the west face of K2. They planned to acclimatize on Nanga Parbat before moving to K2s BC on Savoy Glacier.
In 2005, Piotr Morawski made the first winter climb on Shisha Pangma with Italian Simone Moro, who described him one of the best Polish climbers today. Peter Hámor had summited Cho Oyu, Annapurna main and Broad Peak only last year, besides Everest earlier and "the Alpine Trilogy" - the difficult north faces of Matterhorn, Grandes Jorasses and Eiger.
Together the two climbers, as part of the Pustelnik's Himalaya trilogy team, won ExWeb's 2006 awards.
The old wolfs gave Dodo no time to dwell. A single-push summit bid was launched on Nanga Parbat only days after reaching BC. Braking trail in very deep snow, they retreated 400 meters shy from the summit and returned to BC.
All of Himalaya suffered heavy snow fall this year. In Karakoram, wave after wave of summit attempts had already been pushed back in the severe weather.
But the two high altitude veterans and their young apprentice didn't linger. Days later they launched a second summit push. They reached C4 in two days and planned to go for the summit from there the next morning. Meanwhile, another storm moved in, trapping the men in their camp at 7100m for two days, nearly without food.
"Sunday arrived, and at one o'clock in the morning it was still cold and the wind was blowing. But we had run out of choices; it was now or never. We decided to go up. I was hungry and tired. My fingers were freezing, but I still wanted it" Dodo reported.
"The ascent from C4 is incredibly long and weary. Although we had lots of snow we actually enjoyed being there alone. At 13h38, we reached the main summit of Nanga Parbat."
Dodo had bagged Cho Oyu on March 31. He summited Shisha Pangma April 22. This was July 15, and Dodo had topped out three 8000ers in less than four months.
A cold wind called for a fast descent. Polish Kinga Baranowska, her Spanish partner Roberto Gorri Rojo, a Chilean team led by Carlos Bascou, and French climber and high-altitude skier Jean-Noel Urban were waiting for their own summit pushes below.
"The Chilean expedition helped us a lot," Dodo said. "Their fixed ropes came handy on our descent from C3, when the visibility was bad."
The three climbers were content. The acclimatization stage was over, they were all well and without frostbite. Now the time had come for the main event: An ascent of K2's unclimbed west face.
Nanga Parbat became Peter Hamor's fifth 8000er, Piotr Morawski's fourth, and Dodo's third. They reached K2 BC with a bottle of rum and mixed feelings.
The Russians wont leave until they climb it, Dodo commented Kozlovs team, relentlessly working above the huge bastion on the west face. The weather had already put a severe gloom over also the normal routes of the frightening mountain.
Dodo and his mates couldn't see the west wall yet. They still harbored the idea to try their new route but the first-hand information from the Russians wasn't encouraging.
The initial news about the face are more horrible than great," Dodo said. "Questions without answers pile up until we just decided not to talk about it."
K2 was summited at last, by a joint effort of international teams on the Abruzzi spur, but two were lost.
Dodo and the Peters reconsidered and decided for a fast ascent up the Cesen route, joining a second, small wave of very skilled climbers.
In normal conditions, the ascent of K2 by the normal route takes 4-5 days. The idea to ascend and descend it by a route other than the normal in 48 hours was more mad than real," Dodo recalled in his debrief of the attempt. "From 5000m to 8611m! Was it possible, in such a short period of good weather at all? We only knew that we were trying.
They had moved fast, arriving in C2 (6400m) at 8:00 am. After a two hour break, the climb to C3 (7100m) proved more difficult with fog, wind and deep snow leading to the old American camp, now buried. Three hours later the men had melted snow for drinks and continued the long climb to C4 at 7750 meters in deep snow, over rocky passages in bitter cold.
At 2:00 am, 24 hours after departure, they reached the Cesen and Abruzzi merging point. Desperate for food, drink and rest, they had only just melted snow when the sun went up and they had to be off again.
It was cloudless, but cold and windy. Loads of fresh snow at the Bottleneck signaled high risk of avalanche. The wind was getting stronger. We were at 8000 meters, 600 vertical meters below the summit and another 12 hours of climbing ahead of us. The five of us: German David Gottler, Austrian Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, Polish Piotr Morawsky, Slovaks Peter Hamor and Dodo Kopold (me) all agreed to turn around.
After 35 hours of climbing, Dodo and the Peters were back in BC the same day after reaching the Bottleneck.
Now, only Dodo, Piotr and Peter were left on the peak, except for their Russian neighbors still working on the west side. Weather forecasts cried monsoon, wind and snow. Still in BC, we are waiting for a miracle, Dodo reported. Everyone else gone, the Slovak/Polish combo hoped for a last chance to summit K2.
But a new blizzard swept K2, sending a clear message; time had come to go home.
Dhaulagiri - New kids on the hill - Kinga and Dodo!
Entering the death zone for his first time this year, Dodo Kopold was returning home with a remarkable score. But it wasn't over yet.
After Dodo, also Kinga Baranowska topped out Nanga Parbat. The young Polish beauty had summited Cho Oyu in 2003, and became the second Polish female climber to reach the summit of Broad Peak last year.
With only three weeks to organize the expedition, Dodo and Kinga arrived Dhaulagiri BC to attempt the NE ridge this fall. A half meter of fresh snow greeted them, along with tons of discouraged climbers digging their way out of high camps all over Himalaya this autumn season.
The two's deposit left at the landing by their helicopter was buried under 1m of snow, the solar panels were broken and the laptop battery was fried. Some time later, a final trial: Dhaulagiri summit - or not?
Growing up proud
Serap Jangbu, Nives Meroi, Romano Benet and Luca Vuerich were only some of the climbers who had been fooled on the peak before. "Summit" said Sherpas (this is their job and they want to go home), but - it turned out - not the main top.
Fighting through the very deep snow and wind blowing hard, the tired climbers - Kinga, Dodo, Swedish skier Fredrik Ericsson, and a handless Korean with two Sherpa-helpers climbed on the summit ridge to a top marked out by a pole. Sherpas and the Korean proclaimed summit.
Fredrik doubted it. He tried to continue, but soon came back, "skied down the hill, arrived successfully to BC and left. That was the last we saw of him," Dodo wrote. The question now - would they, could they - claim summit? Double checking with Liz, Dodo says not. "We climbed to the ridge, but will have to come back for the main mountain top."
In his first taste of thin year, which was supposed to involve only 2 8000ers, "but expanded to four after a night of drinking in a pub with Peter Hamor," Dodo told ExWeb, and a later call from Kinga - the Slovak young gun attempted no less than 5 8000ers in 6 months, summiting three.
Dodo stays in our memory for his courage, determination, self reliance, and honesty.
By their performance, the awarded expeditions have proved themselves outstanding in all or most of the following:
- Self reliance
- Respect towards competition
Previous in the countdown:
8. The fastest trek - Hannah McKeand, South Pole crossing
Jannu West Ridge First Ascent: Valery Babanov and Sergey Kofanov
Torres del Paine Base Jump: Valery Rozov
In the hoofsteps of Genghis Khan: Tim Cope
NW Passage in ice catamaran: Sebastien Roubinet
Lhotse Shar, G2 NF & Jasemba, Lhotse south near-winter ascent
More about Dodo: Dodo Kopold was born in 1980. His new routes on Himalayan big walls have garnered him recognition from the Slovak Mountaineering Union every year since 2002.
His openings include Sharp Knife of Intolerance on Castle Peak, Himachal Pradesh (2002, capsule style); Last Minute Journey on Mt. Mahindra, Indian Miyar Valley (2003, alpine style); Khanadan Buttres on Karakorums Shipton Spire (2004, first repetition, alpine style); Assalam Alaikum on Karakorums Great Trango Tower (a new 3,000m-plus long route opened alpine style in 2005); plus two new alpine-style routes last year on Karakorums Haina Brakk (Dolzag Dihedral) and Uli Biaho (Drastissima).
This year, on March 31, 2007 Dodo achieved the first 8000+ meter summit of the year, on Cho Oyu. On April 22, he summited Shisha Pangma via the British route and July 15, he summited Nanga Parbat via the Kinshofer route. All three ascents were done without oxygen.
These great climbers are now getting sponsorships and that's good to see. Piotr Morawski was sponsored by Alpinus, Grivel, and Lion, Peter Hamor by Cez Slovensko, MAN, Aquacity Poprad and Vaud; Dodo Kopold by Black Diamond, La Sportiva, and Marmot.
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