Ama Dablam (22,349 ft./6,812 m.) is widely photographed. Mountaineering guide services even promote commercial alpine climbing expeditions to those aspiring to climb the peak. So in many ways the mountain has become familiar, unexciting and even bland. But there was time, when it lacked a lot of context, that it was exotic.
The first time I saw a picture of this peak with the serac dripping from its summit was in an advertisement for The North Face. I later saw it again in a magazine’s photo spread of a hike into Everest basecamp, so I knew it had to be in the Khumbu Valley. I didn’t know it’s name for years but I later learned that it was Ama Dablam, which mean’s Mother’s Charm Box or Mother’s Necklace.
The peak was first climbed in 1961 by Mike Gill and Wally Romanes of New Zealand, Mike Ward of the United Kingdom and Barry Bishop of the United States. This climb stands out in history for two reasons. It was the first Himalayan summit topped out in winter. It’s even more curious for another reason, other than the time of year: The climbing team was part of a larger expedition, led by Sir Edumund Hillary. It was called The World Book Encylopedia Scientific Expedition.
Among the expedition’s scientific goals (like the studying the effects of altitude) was to search for evidence of the “Abominable Snowman” or Yeti. Perhaps I should have put the word scientific in quotes. While that goal was likely to drive public interest, there was a genuine interest in whether sasquatch’s cousin (a.k.a. Bigfoot) did in fact exist. Even today, some people are still searching for sasquatch. At the time, there was evidence that allegedly pointed to the Yeti’s existence — footprints, skins and scalps.
The findings on the Yeti are mostly irrelevant today, but it does remind me of a more romantic time. When beasts unknown lurked in caves and even under beds, and when mountains didn’t have names — they were just beautiful and tempting. And when adventure was in being the first.
Cheers to Ama Dablam, to eveyone who has summited and those of us that just dream about it.
Sources: 1962 American Alpine Journal