Today we have a special treat – a guest post by Erin Brosterhous of Inside Out PR. Thank you to Erin for capturing Matt’s amazing feat so beautifully!
Although the 2014 Himalayan climbing season has been fraught with tragedy and political turmoil, Boulder-based climber Matt Moniz, famed mountain guide Willie Benegas, Pemba Tshering Sherpa and Nima Kanchha Sherpa from Khumjung and Thame, respectively, celebrated the true spirit of high-altitude, alpine style mountaineering with a quick change of plans, resulting in back-to-back 8,000-meter summits of Cho Oyo and Makalu. A helicopter shuttle to Makalu base camp allowed the duo to take advantage of their acclimatized condition and summit Makalu in just three days, the fastest known time from base camp to base camp. They completed both summits within eight days and Matt became the 14th American to summit Makalu.
This season’s expedition was Matt’s third Himalayan climbing experience (his first was a trek to Everest Base Camp and a summit of Kala Patar at 18,501’ when he was nine) and resulted in the realized goal of climbing an 8,000-meter peak as a father-son team before Matt heads to college. Mike and Matt had meticulously-crafted a three-summit plan called the Triple 8 Expedition. The original goal was to consecutively climb Cho Oyu, Everest, and Lhotse, finishing off the trifecta with a first-ever ski descent of the Lhoste Couloir.
After weeks of acclimatization on Cho Oyu, the Moniz duo, Benegas and Jim Walkley, a fellow climber from Denver and Mike’s 2012 Everest summit, took advantage of a break in the storms and successfully completed their push for the 26,906’ summit Cho Oyo on May 17th. Nearly one month after the fatal avalanche on Everest, the tragedy continued to weigh heavy on the minds and hearts of the team. They also realized that an Everest attempt was highly unlikely. Out of respect for the Sherpas’ wishes to close the mountain, the team adapted and made a quick change of plans.
Through the fog of bad news and negative press coming out of the Himalaya, Matt and partner Willie saw an opportunity to resurrect the spirit of alpinism, which both men treasure. They acted nimbly, packed lightly and hitched a ride via helicopter to advance base camp of Makalu – a mountain considered to be one of the world’s most difficult to climb. Upon arrival at base camp, the duo and their full team of four climbing Sherpa landed and immediately ascended to Camp 2, the next day they climbed to Camp 3 and reached the summit at 4:00am on May 25th, Day 3 – the fastest known ascent of 27,825’ Makalu to date.
Matt and Willie celebrated their feat in their tent (for five days) thanks to an oppressive snowstorm that kept them bound to the side of mountain.