Clif Maloney Climbs Cho Oyu
From Mike Southwell: This page contains a complete collection of the dispatches sent by Clif Maloney and his guide Marty Schmidt during Clif’s successful ascent of Cho Oyu on the border between Nepal and Tibet on 24 September 2009, and distributed by his daughter Virginia (Princeton ’10). Cho Oyu is the sixth highest mountain in the world, at 8,201m (26,901ft). Clif appears to have been the oldest person ever to have made this climb, at age nearly 72 years. The last dispatch is the shocking news of Clif’s sudden death while descending after the climb.
28 August 2009 To My Friends I am back in Nepal heading off to try to climb Cho Oyo which I tried to climb in 2002 but was unsuccessful - I only go to 23,000 feet where Marty Schmidt, my guide, and I spent the night. We head off on August 29 to go to the Chinese/Tibet border - we will be climbing again from the Chinese side. With luck, we expect to be finished by late September. I feel our chances are about 50/50 of reaching the top. Marty Schmidt, my guide, is someone I have climbed many mountains with - he is the best mountain guide in the world for individual clients. He has climbed: Cho Oyo 5 times - Denali 27 times - Aconcagua 31 times! We also have a sherpa, KB, who has climbed Everest to help us carry loads and cook. My daughter, Virginia, will be forwarding you e-mails that Marty will be sending to her either verbally by satellite phone or possibly by e-mail. She will be attaching photos that correlate to where we are; however, they will be from a web site and will not be our photos. Martys e-mails will also be sent to his many other clients and friends some of whom I have also climbed with. ======================= Namaste from Kathmandu, Nepal. We have landed and feeling great. Qatar Airways was the way to go, we felt rested upon landing in this 35 degree C heat. Loving this transition between the great city of Manhattan to the busting at the seams Kathmandu. We ended up getting all our food bought and packed the same day that we arrived, also with our gear...all is packed and ready to leave. So with this positive flow, we moved our departure date up one day, we are leaving tomorrow, the 29th August for the town of Kardari, the border of Nepal and China. Tomorrow our drive will be 4 hours through the muddiest road on this earth, having to stop several times to walk, to transport our gear from one road land slide to another truck waiting for us on the other side, if many transitions like this happen, it could take all day to get to Kadari. We sleep the night at this busy little town, many truckers are on this road from Lhasa to Kathmandu. There is a monastery above the town that we will hike to and spend quality time with the Monks. The next day is about the Chinese customs and crossing the friendship bridge into China. We will need the morning for this to be completed. Then a long ascent to the Tibetan land, climbing the famous Lhasa- Kathmandu highway. We reach the town of Nylam in the afternoon. Two days of trekking into the higher mountains will help us acclimatize for Cho Oyu's Base Camp and ABC. We will let you know how our ways go in a few day time, whenever we get near a website we will be able to write in. We are doing really well these days, happy and content with who we are and where we are going on this journey of called Life. Take care and good thoughts to you all from Kathmandu. Cheers, Marty and Clif. ======================= 1 September 2009 Hello and greetings from this amazing land of Tibet/ mainly China now. We traveled out of KTM with no issues, heading towards the town of Kadari where we arrived after 6 hours of traveling the average speed of 30 km an hour. The roads are constantly threatened from being washed out due to the monsoon rains still lingering around. We had a good rest, woke and walked across the border to Tibet/China over the Friendship Bridge. Built on a steep slope, Zangmu is suspended by solid concrete walls and foundations, the whole town is cement and steel. The contrast between Nepal and China is like night and day. We wanted to travel to Naylam during this whole day but we all were refused due to the road construction being done 24 hours a day on the road leading out of this town. This road is the Lhasa-Kathamndu Highway and a very important real estate for both countries. Instead of leaving we were staying put. We ate, drank a few beers, relaxed, took hikes and just had a quiet day and night. We had a peaceful sleep. We made it to Naylam, Tibet, at 12,000 feet, this morning, getting up at 0400 in Zangmu and getting out of this town by slipping in with the police and polictical diplomats so that we could drive by the road blocks that stopped all other people. The road being build is through a very deep gorge, it is amazing, steep, loose and wet. Imagine a road on the side of Yosemite Valley trying to be made. Concrete is being made 24/7. We are just glad to get away early and now enjoying the town of Naylam. Had an egg breakfast and bread, packed and took a 3 hour trek up a ridge for 2000 feet, to an altitude of 14,000 ft, I was forced to write this since Clif told me that his friends cannot add. Beautiful sights of the Tibetan plains in the distance, feeling good at the top of the ridge and headed back to town in time for lunch. All is prepared for us to leave early in the morning for the next town of Tingri, where we will stay for 2 nights, acclima tizing each day on long treks. In three days time we will be in our Base Camp. We will try to get more dispatches out to you in 3-4 days time. Thanks for following Clif and I along this journey through the top of the world. Till next time, take care, cheers, Marty and Clif. ======================= 3 September 2009 Tashi Dalay, Greetings from Chinese Base Camp at the foot of Cho Oyu. All went well with our travels through the Tibetan landscape. Four hour drive brought us from Naylam to the town of Tingri where we were greeted with the sight of Everest and Cho Oyu while walking the downtown streets. The contrast between the lush Nepalese land and this airid, high Tibetan plain brings many emotions to ones heart, all very positive. To experience this land, it's culture and the people will always bring a humbled state of presence. We are guests and we are One. We spent two nights in Tingri, taking long hikes up to the height of 4600 meters, the summit of the Matterhorn. Today we left Tingri for our Base Camp, taking one hour to drive here. Our cook, KB, left the day before to set up our camp. We arrived in the morning to an grand site of a cook tent, mess tent and our 4 VE25 tents set up waiting for us with a cup of tea for Clif and I to boot. This is the mark of a good expedition, well organized, no issues with permits or equipment, a great cook and amazing food. We are here in BC for the next 3 days, mainly acclimatizing to the altitude of 4835 meters, this is the summit of Mt Blanc. Eating and drinking well, getting the gear sorted for the yaks to take to Advance BC and waiting for one Japanese man who will share our BC and ABC camps during this expedition. He is 2 days behind in schedule. Clif and I will climb on our own and he will be on his own above ABC. This is what was planned. But in the 8000 meter realm, life i s on the edge and if help is needed, I will always side on the living. Like I have done several times in my past, mainly on Everest, north side in 1994, where I and my client rescued another climber from up high, preventing us from going for our summit day. But overall picture, this brings the light of living to everything we do on this earth. Clif and I just hope that everyone else on this mountain can take care of themselves fully so that everyone will have a good climb. So right now, we are enjoying the goodies of BC with hot drinks, good music, good company and plenty of wonderful thoughts about family, friends and clients. Just a quik saying......Noah, the Scrabble game is out of the barrell.....watch out till next time. Sending you all a very merry greetings from BC, Cho Oyu. Cheers, Marty and Clif. ======================= 9 September 2009 Hello to everyone from Cho Oyu, advance base camp. We arrived yesterday the 7th Sept, all set to plan. Clif did so well with the 2 day trek of 28 kms, rising from BC, 4800 meters to where our home is now at 5600 meters. Imagine living on the summit of Mt Elbrus. We will now make this camp our permenant home for the next month or so while we ascend Cho Oyu; establishing 3 high camps for our summit bid. This will takes us around 20-25 days to accomplish. The best words we have to say from Tibet is that we are happy, acclimatizing very well, Clif not having any headaches, body aches, tooth aches or brain aches and that we are on schedule with our plans. To discribe our home settings right now is like living in a cloud well above NYC, the joy of being away from the crowds when we want to be alone to climb hard into the spirit realm and at the same time we can have all the amenities that this mountaineering world can provide these days, like with a hot shower, great cooked food, mass communications with a sat phone and emails to let family, friends and clients all know how we are doing with our day to day living on the side of an 8000 meter mountain. Looking up right now I can see the summit of Goddess Mother of Tourquois, 8201 meters high, she is now shining her beauty upon us all. I look out from my balconey front door across the glacier toward the pass that leads to Nepal, the old trade route between count ries. 360 degrees I see the magic of these mountains, I see the beauty and at the same time I see the power that they can muster up upon us little human beings at anytime. Total respect runs deep within my blood and bones. It is a big climb ahead of us and we both look forward to each step and move to gain us the opportunity to climb upon her shoulders. Out of total respect of her ways and the ways of climbing these 8000 meter mountains we send back to you all our adventures, hoping you are enjoying the journay along with us. Thank you for your company. The next few days will be resting, heading off tomorrow to push a carry of 40kgs of gear, food, ropes, etc to camp 1 at 6400 meters. Clif will join me for half this day, I just want him to acclimatize slowly so when the time comes to push up to camp 1 he will be ready to sleep the night there. The day after we will have our Puhja, this ceremony is very important, we offer food, drinks and prayers to the Gods, asking for permission to climb and sleep upon her beautiful shoulders, not disrupting her natural flow of living. We clean up after ourshelves, leaving nothing behind us accept our footprints. After our Puhja, we will head off to camp 1 to sleep and get the feel of the mountain for our higher camps. Glad to have you all with us. Much love and light from Tibet. Cheers, Marty and Clif. ====================== 10 September 2009 Good Himalayan morning to everyone, It is snowing while I am writing this dispatch in my home tent at ABC, and at the same time, I am cooking and sweating from the intense altitude sun. It makes more sense if you were here with Clif and I in person, but for now please just know that we are well and content with what is happening all around us. Yesterday we had an early departure climbing towards camp 1. The goal was to get Clif on his legs and moving for 7 hours. He did well on the glacier route which is not easy do to the moving of all the stones on glacier ice. He made it back to ABC while I headed off to camp 1 with a heavy load of equipment. There is less snow at camp 1 then previous years making it hard to find level ground for our tent. This will create more issues when more people head up to get there camp 1 established. Clif and I are set now, we have our tent up and secured. Camp 2 will be different, there is more room for everyone. Camp 3 will be an issue again, only being a narrow, steep snow slope to pitch a few tents. I want to get out in front of the crowds, fixing lines and establishing our camps. When we have to many people that are not experienced ahead of us, this can create issues that I do not want to deal with, but if they come, then so be it, we will deal with it all. Keeping our journey safe and sound is my goal and to get Clif to the summit feeling good. Today we are resting and sorting out ABC things. Tomorrow Clif and I head off to half camp to sleep, then on the 12th we are climbing to camp 1 to sleep. On the 13th we are back home at ABC. We will write again in a few days time. Sending you all our best from these beautiful mountains of the Himalayas. Cheers, Marty and Clif. ====================== 16 September 2009 Greetings from the base of the Mother of Tourquois. It has been 4-5 days now since we last wrote to you all. I need to let you know that my new Asus Eee PC computer had a melt down. I left it alone in my ABC tent while away on the mountain for 4 days and coming back to write up this dispatch, only to find out that it would not boot up. Talking with my friends around ABC, Asus has a problem with a design that it has an internal battery and if this battery drains dead, the whole computer goes dead. I want my money back!!!!! So now I have a good friend who is in charge of one of the big teams on the mountain and he understands my issues since his history has a bit of issues with Asus as well. So this is the plan, this will be my last written distpatch until we get back to a city and onto the web, est time being on the 2-3rd of Oct. From now on I will be calling in our dispatches through the Sat Phone to Virginia, where she will write it out and send to all the emails. So sorry about this but one needs to be so flexible on expeditions. Simply what happened in the past 4 days was that Clif and I left ABC on the 11th and trekked to our half camp at the end the glacier. The altitude change is less doing it this way which gave us a good nights rest. Waking up to a beautiful morning, no clouds, no winds and only that route ahead of us to climb after breakfast. We made it to our camp 1 in under 3 hours at a height of 6,300 meters. We prepared our camp for the night, cooked a good meal of rice and fried ham and began to sleep for the night. Off and on went the night with waking to pee in the bottle, blow our noses and to drink.....on went the night in the high altitude. Morning came early and so did the sun to warm us up. We stayed around the camp to enjoy the last remaining moments before heading back to ABC. Had our Puhja yesterday which was wonderful, several teams pulled together to celebrate this ceromony. We head a head Lama lead us through this day. Very special moment for all of us to experience. I wanted to get out our thoughts yesterday but I already mentioned why this did not happen. So here we are, the 15th of Sept....having finished all the preparation for our higher camps to get established, Clif and I can rest, eat well, read, walk around camp to be social with other teams.....having a restful time. Tomorrow we are off to camp 1. Then on the 17th we are off to camp 1.5. I am making this camp for us to help Clif acclimatize for camp 2 with a better feeling. It is a very large jump between camp 1 and camp 2 and this helps the whole planning of getting us to our camp 3 feeling good for the summit attempt. The 18th of Sept bring us to our camp 2 at 7,100 meters. From here I will push our gear to establish camp 3 while Clif rests at camp 2. It will take me around 4-5 hours to do this job. Then we head back to our camp 1 for a night sleep and on down to ABC on the 20th. Our plan is to head up to camp 1 on the 22, then camp 2 on the 23rd, then camp 3 on the 24th and head off for the summit on the 25th Sept. Anything can happen with this plan but it is our plan and we are glad to let you all know what we are up to for the next 10 days or so. You will hear from us via the sat phone about our updates. It is with such pleasure to know that you are enjoying these dispatches about our journey upon Cho Oyu. We both are enjoying this experience together and really love letting you know about our journey while it is happening. Thanks for your campany and talk again soon. All the best from Tibet. Cheers, Marty and Clif. ==================== 17 September 2009 Hello Everyone - Just a reminder, that Marty and Clif will be calling with the stat phone from now on rather than emailing. I apologize if my updates are not as eloquent as Marty's were! If you need to reach either of them for an emergency, let me know and I will talk to them next time they call on the stat phone, however they can no longer send or receive emails while on the mountain. They report that they are high, happy, and with good weather! On Wednesday they spent the night at Camp 1, 64,000 meters high with a few other climbers near by. After a meal of miso soup, bacon, ham and pasta they settled down to sleep. Marty described it as having two people both sleeping and living and under your kitchen and dining room table. Today, they woke up early waited for the sun to rise and had breakfast before heading off to Camp 1 and 1/2 at 22,000 feet. They've had lots of fluids, some nice soup and are ready to go to bed after a tiring hike. To get to Camp 1.5, they hiked for about 5 hours up steep snow slopes with a little bit of snow and ice (Serac), and the last little bit was about 150 feet of steep verticle ice walls. Tomorrow they will push up to Camp 2. The weather is holding for them, but bad weather for 10 days is predicted on the 25th. The goal is to reach the summit by the summit by the 23rd. They send their best and are thinking of everyone at home, both friends and family. Another update soon! =================== 18 September 2009 Marty and Clif Report: After 24 hours of resting, they packed up their camp and hiked up another 1,000 feet up to 7,100 meters. Clif got up to camp two in under five hours through seracs, crevasses, snow and ice. They had a beautiful sunset. It is freezing cold when the sun goes down. -45, or -30 out. They are in a good position to establish themselves at Camp Three tomorrow. Then back down to lower altitude at 6,400 meters. They just had a good dinner and hunkered down at Camp 2. Positioned on a niche on the mountain, safe and sound. They are sleeping off and on due to the altitude. ================== 19 September 2009 Today Clif rested at Camp Two. 7,100 meters. 23,000 feet. Marty pushed a load up to the top of Camp Three - the highest camp - 7,500 meters, a little more than 24,000 feet. The route was covered with sugar snow. It was unstable and hard to climb. Hopefully in the next couple days it will pack itself down and they will have a good chance to get to camp three and try for the summit. All is well. Its like living on the side of an air plane. They are doing fine. They are headed down to Camp One tomorrow to rest and get some oxygen. They will rest for the 21st and take off on the 22nd or 23rd for the summit. ================= 21 September 2009 "Hello Everyone who is following Marty and Clif on Cho Oyu. It is the 21st of September and its a beautiful day at the high camp, which has turned into advance base camp. The 21st is our rest day - lounging around, doing some laundry, writing, reading, enjoying the sun and no wind, beautiful blue sky. People are coming and going from the camp - some are leaving the mountain, some are getting ready for their summit pitch, about two teams are on the same schedule as we are. Today is all about recuperating and enjoying the thicker air down at camp one. The game plan is to rest today, head off to camp two tomorrow, and where they will try to climb up in 7 or 8 hours to avoid the hot afternoon sun. On the 24th they will leave at between 10-12 PM to climb for about 6 hours into the dark. Hopefully the snow conditions aren't that bad. Clif is doing a great job. He is strong with the perfect attitude. We will be in touch! Sorry for not touching base yesterday, but they were focused on the thick air and resting up. We will try to send updates on the 23rd, 24th and 25th to let you know how we go. Much love everyone. Talk soon. Bye bye. " ================= 22 September 2009 "Hello Everyone following Clif and I on Cho Oyu. Its the 22nd of September, and we just arrived at Camp two. It was a 10 hour day - We did the whole distance in one go, unlike last time when they split it up into two trips. It was a very long tiring day. We are back up at 7100 meters, above about 23,000 feet. I started the stove right away as soon as I got to camp. I left Clif about 100 meters behind to get the camp set up. He was out in front of 4 or 5 other people. He wanted them to pass him, but they said he was going up at a very great pace. And Clif was very stoked about that. He led the whole 5 people into Camp. We took off our boots right away. Dried our socks, warmed our bodies up. Got some hot soup heated up. Dinner with some fried Spam, which is not bad after up here at altitude. Topped it off with some fresh fruit salad in a can and some hot cider. And some nice dark chocolate. So we are set in a good position right now for moving up for Camp Three tomorrow. It will take us about 5, 6 hours. Hopefully position ourselves up there in the afternoon. We will have one more dispatch before try for the summit on the 24th. So I'd just like to say hi to Tom Conney, and to Schumam. These guys that were with me in 2004 and did very well. Its nice to look back on the good memories of great people up on the mountain. A lot of thoughts about the last trip I did in Reineer, with the Buerers with my son Denali, I know you guys are all following this cyber cast so thanks for that. And I know that Clif's friends and family are following just as enthusiastically as we are as we are getting close to the summit. And a really big thanks to Virginia for interpreting Marty Schmidt's language into written words. Bye! " ================= 24 September 2009 "Hello Everybody. Its Marty and Clif. It was one heck of a day. September 24th. We got up at 12 and left at 2:00 AM and it was a long 9 hour trek up to the summit. We summited at 9:30 in the morning. It was a good day. It was breezy, with cold temperatures up top, although was expected. The weather is going to get worse and worse, so we are glad that Clif put the effort in now. He did a stellar, stellar job. He kept going. The base was good. Great cadence and breath work. And he used oxygen and that gave him a little bit of a boost. If he didn't have it, it would have been a very hard summit, if not impossible. Oxygen does work for him, so that was exciting for him. You never know what might happen on 8,000 summits. But we have no frostbite... [cut out and couldn't hear]... Clif was very much of a powerhouse. We had a beautiful summit view of Mount Everest and others. We were just ecstatic up on top! We got some photos, but didn't stay too long. Its just an amazing experience. I am glad that you guys have been able to follow along with this cyber cast, thanks to Virginia. A lot of hard work today. A lot of people started out this morning and turned around because of the cold temperatures. Its very hard to keep going for a lot of people. So it took us a long time to get down with steep snow and ice. You still had to be very cautious. I know Carolyn appreciates those words - Your husband is safe and sound. We are back at Camp Three. He is sitting with a hot bottle, warming up his bones, sleeping a little bit, and getting some food. Then down to Camp 2 and the on to Camp 1. And then on down to OBC (?) on the 28th. then back to the border of Katmandu and into Nepal hopefully on the 1st or the 2nd. We probably won't send out another cyber cast until we get back to Katmandu. Just to let everyone know we made it safe and sound. Okay, well this is a great life. Its has highs and lows. A lot of ecstasies. I think that there is a lot more joy than agonies. Thats why I keep coming back and taking good people like Clif. He is very excited and did an extremely great job. I know Bob Street will be very proud, and this family and friends will be very proud of him. He is 71 years old. He could be the oldest man to the top of Cho Oyu. We will find out when we get down. He did a magnificent job and It was a pleasure of being with him. We will talk from Katmandu in less than a weeks time. Much love to everybody. We say goodbye with a beautiful sunset at Camp 3 at 7500 meters. Its beautiful, what else can I say. Ok. Lots of Love. Bye bye." ================== 26 September 2009 Hello Everyone, I have terrible news. My father, Clif Maloney, passed away last night at Base Camp 3 on Cho Oyu in his sleep. Marty notified me this morning. Marty is safe and coming down the mountain... My dad's last words before going to sleep were “I’m the happiest man in the world. I’ve just summited a beautiful mountain.” We know that he died doing what he most enjoyed. Thank you all for following his last climb. Virginia