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The Expedition
 
Alex Gavan and Mihnea Radulescu are attempting Makalu this spring (April 10th-June 3rd), aiming for a first Romanian ascent of the mountain.

With its 8463m, Makalu is the 5th highest mountain in the world and was regarded by Sir Edmund Hillary as "One of the hardest propositions of all".

The mountain is notorious for its steep pitches and knife-edged ridges that are completely open to the elements. The final ascent of the summit pyramid involves technical rock climbing. On the very summit there is barely room enough for two people to stand in the same time. Makalu is the only Nepalese 8,000 m peak which has yet to be climbed in true winter conditions. The mountain has proved to be a challenging climb, as only five of its first sixteen attempts were successful. Makalu is located in the Central Himalayas, 22 km east of Mount Everest, on the border between Nepal and Tibet.

The name of the mountain was probably taken from the Sanskrit word Maha-Kala, which means Big Black and is a one of the names of Shiva the destroyer - one of the most important gods of Hinduism.

Makalu was first climbed on May 15, 1955 by the famous climbers Lionel Terray and Jean Couzy. The French team climbed Makalu by the north face and northeast ridge, via the saddle between Makalu and Kangchungtse (the Makalu-La), establishing the standard route.

To date, no Romanian team has ever been to Makalu. Alex and Mihnea will make their ascent via the French route.

On October 2nd 2006, Alex reached the top of Cho Oyu-8201m in Tibet Himalayas, the sixth highest mountain in the world. Thus, at only 24 years old he became the youngest Romanian (and one of the very few co-nationals) to have summited a peak above 8000m. True to his approach philosophy of the mountains, he used no supplementary oxygen and no Sherpa support above base camp. In the same time, he achieved the second Romanian ascent of the summit.

Only ten months later (July 30th 2007) this time in Pakistan, Alex made the first Romanian ascent of Gasherbrum 1-8068m, part of a four men international team. And he did it Alpine Style (the purest form of Himalayan climbing, not using oxygen or a set of pre-established camps on the mountain and no previous reconnaissance of the route; climbing in one big push from base camp to the summit and back, carrying the food and gear altogether).

For this feat Alex Gavan was awarded “The 2007 Romanian Sportsman of the Year in High Altitude Climbing” by Romanian Federation of Alpinism and Sport Climbing (together with Horia Colibasanu for his First Romanian ascent of Dhaulagiri).

Although Mihnea will make his first steps in Himalaya this season he had extensively climbed in Carpathians, Caucasus, and the Alps. Some of his climbing achievements include first ascents and first winter ascents in Fagaras and Bucegi, an enhancement of 4 major routes in less than 24 hours in Costila, repetitions of the some of the most difficult multi pitch routes in Romania during summer and winter, difficult ascents in Caucasus and French and Italian Alps (up to VII grade UIAA).

Alex will try later on a fast ascent of Gasherbrum 2 in Pakistan.

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