It was a dead end but we didn’t know it. We curled westward up the unnamed glacier, roped together for the possibility of someone dropping into a hidden crevasse. Our intent was to hook around the bottom of the west ridge, then come up along the sunny south side. The snow on the north side was rotten and so was the chilling shade. Our mistake only gradually revealed itself. We eventually stopped to reconsider the route, scrambling up the rocky knoll splitting the glacier, for a better view. From there it was clear that the lower end of the west ridge, like the long spiky tail of a giant reptile, was impractical to circumnavigate. Yup, we were going the wrong way–and had been the entire morning.
Looking out over the Tibetian plateau from around 18,100 ft up Hkakabo. Part of the reason this climb was so challenging was the damp cold that permeated our bones day and night. On the Myanmar side of the ridge, a sea of moisture and wet clouds filled the valley, rising up and clashing with the cold gusting winds of the Tibetian plateau. It looks rugged out there. #MyanmarClimb @natgeo @thenorthface @camp4collective A photo posted by Renan Ozturk (@renan_ozturk) on Nov 11, 2014 at 11:10pm PST
The last 9 days spent ascending Hkakabo have been some of the most challenging of my life. The mountain was incredibly beautiful, complex, and wholly underestimated. We pushed as hard as humanly possibly, but ultimately turned back shy of the summit without the safety margins and resources to take the necessary few days we would have needed. Winds howled, I broke my wrist (and don’t even remember how), and we had an adventure unlike any other. Tonight we start the trek out, 12 days of walking. We will slowly trickle out some photos from the climb in the coming days. #MyanmarClimb #haggard @natgeo @thenorthface @camp4collective @sandisk A photo posted by Renan Ozturk (@renan_ozturk) on Nov 11, 2014 at 3:56am PST
In the past half-century climbing has branched into at least a dozen specialties. Sir Edmund Hillary and his contemporaries were all- arounders–they climbed rocks and mountains, snow and ice. Today, to say you are a climber is an ambiguous self-designation. You could be a sport climber (bolted routes on overhanging walls), a trad climber (rock without bolts), an ice climber (frozen waterfalls), a gym climber (plastic holds indoors), a big wall climber (tall walls that require artificial aid), an alpinist ( rock and ice in high mountains), an 8,000 meter climber (there are 14 8,000 meter peaks on the planet), etc. Our team was composed of a mix of several specialties.
Check back here and on thenorthface.com for updates from the field. The team will also be posting to Instagram using #MyanmarClimb to document their travels.Follow our National Geographic-The North Face team on a seven-week expedition in Myanmar (Burma) to attempt to determine the tallest peak in Southeast Asia. The adventure will take them overland by plane, train, bus, and motorbike to begin a 300-mile round-trip jungle trek across tiger reserves, into plunging gorges, over raging rivers, and through cultural areas that have only recently been opened to Westerners. From their base camp in the remote northern reaches of the country, the team—including expedition leader Hilaree O’Neill, writer Mark Jenkins, photographer Cory Richards, filmmaker Renan Ozturk, climber Emily Harrington, and video assistant Taylor Rees—will climb to the summits of 5,800-meter (19,140-foot) peaks Hkakabo Razi and, if time allows, to Gamlang Razi with a calibrated Juniper GPS system to determine their true heights and solve the mystery. This story will appear in an upcoming edition of National Geographic magazine and was supported by a National Geographic Expeditions Council grant.
- Nat Geo Expeditions