The Lipstick Blondes
Devon skiers beaten by Chinese peak
A 7,500m mountain in China has proved a challenge too far for two dedicated skiers from South Devon. Carole and Suzy Madge hoped to lead the first female team to reach the summit of Mustagata and then ski down again.
Two sisters from Marldon have narrowly failed to fulfil a lifetime ambition – to climb and ski a 7,500m mountain in China.
They brought together an all female team to tackle Mustagata, the highest ski peak in the world.
BBC Spotlight presenter Carole Madge and her sister Suzy, who is a personal trainer and life coach, made it to within a few hundred feet of the summit after an eventful 10 hour climb.
Carole and Suzy Madge in their tent
"The final push was a huge task from 6,900m up to 7,540m and after eight hours we were doing really well," explained Carole.
"But at that point our guide had to turn back because he was feeling very unwell. He left us to carry on alone with two sherpas to see if we could get to the summit.
"At 3.30 in the afternoon we just about reached what we thought was the summit.
"By this time we'd been climbing for 10 hours and were all completely exhausted.
Mustagata, the highest ski peak in the world
"Unfortunately it turned out to be a false summit and the real summit was another two hours away. So we simply ran out of time to get to the very top of the mountain.
"At that point we put our skis on and had a celebration before skiing down.
"Considering we spent three days climbing up the mountain, we skied down to the snowline in about two hours."
Only one other British woman has reached the summit of the mountain, and they were hoping to become the the first all female team to complete the climb and ski.
The little known sport of ski mountaineering combines endurance with adrenaline.
Training walk at the acclimitisation camp
Specially adapted skis allow exponents to ski up and then down the mountain.
The skis have fabric skins attached to the bottom, which prevent the user slipping backwards during the ascent.
But the challenge didn't come without risk. The team prepared for avalanches, frostbite, crevasses and high altitude sickness.
"We reached camp three in good weather, but then the heavens decided to open and throw everything at us," said Carole.
"It was the stormiest night I have ever experienced. At times it felt like the tent was going to be blown off the mountain and we were all convinced they wouldn't let us try for the summit the next day.
"We had to stay up all night boiling water to try and get enough water to get us through the following day. Because it was so cold the stoves would hardly work, so we were sitting there freezing at 6,900m all night just trying to gather together enough water.
The team's transport
"We set out up the mountain at five in the morning in pitch black with all our extreme weather clothes on to make sure no part of our bodies were uncovered.
"We didn't quite get to the top, but we did really well. We reached 7,400m and not many people have skied that high.
"It was amazing to be so high up and have so much beauty all around you and to be skiing."
Carole's two young children, Bella, 7, and Juliet, 4, followed her progress at school.
"It's far more remote and challenging than anything I've attempted before," said Carole.
"I'm completely exhausted by the experience, but exhilarated as well.
"Ski mountaineering is one of the few experiences where you get a reverse hangover. You get the headache first from the altitude and the exhilaration comes afterwards."
last updated: 31/07/07
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