For centuries, the mountain known as Makalu had been admired and studied by many while standing tall in isolation just 14 miles east of Mount Everest. Previously attempted but not ascended until a group finally made it to its peak in 1955. It is an impressive pyramid with sharp ridges making for challenging climbing; only 5 out of 16 attempts were successful.
Six of these are recorded when looking back over our previous history lesson about mountains outside Nepal’s Khumbu region – none more famous than this one near where most expeditions set their sights for Everest, equally known as the world’s fifth-highest mountain.
Because of its tallness and isolation, it was believed to be the most difficult among all mountains that are over 8000m above sea level except for Mount Everest itself, which is not surprising since only one out of four people attempted to make it. At least, this is what we thought until recently when two different reports changed everything including the global perception of this mountain.
Climbing Mt. Makalu
The Makalu was considered one of the most difficult mountains in Nepal and with good reason. The mountain is notorious for its steep pitches that make climbing it an open challenge to all sorts of weather conditions- even winter where there have only been a handful of successful expeditions so far. Despite this notoriety, however, Makulu has seen more than its fair share of success stories from those who venture up despite treacherous terrains or high altitudes.
Makalu was first climbed by two Frenchmen, Lionel Terray and Jean Couzy of a French expedition led by Jean Franco, via the south face on May 15, 1955. It took them four days to accomplish this feat and only five out of sixteen attempts since it is a rather difficult climb with extremely steep pitches and unpredictable weather conditions.
Lionel “Teddy” Terray is a notable climber from France who is most famous for being the mountain guide to Maurice Herzog on his expedition to summit Annapurna, the first 8000m-peak that was climbed in 1950. Herzog himself was an important figure as well as a French mountaineer and writer whose successful ascent of Annapurna claimed the lives of three other teammates, marking a pivotal moment in mountaineering history when members can be abandoned for safety.
Jean Couzy was the deputy leader of the expedition and contributed to successfully reaching Annapurna’s summit along with Herzog. Although Makalu was not his first 8 000m-peak, he has more successful ascents than any other climbers who attempted it before him with 10 successful climbs recorded. Other than this accomplishment, however, he also participated in the French Resistance during World War II which makes him an even more notable person just by having lived through that experience.
|Elevation (feet)||27,766 ft.|
|Elevation (meters)||8,463 m.|
|Range/Region||Central Nepal Himalaya|
|Difficulty||Major Mountain Expedition|
|Best Months For Climbing||Apr, May|
|Year First Climbed||1955|
|First Successful Climber(s)||Lionel Terray and Jean Couzy of a French expedition led by Jean Franco|
|Nearest Major Airport||Kathmandu, Nepal|
|Convenient Center||Hille, Nepal via Dharan Bazar|