They say there is “no mountain is too high to climb” for those who are passionate, dedicated and willing to put in the hard work. Although not many people aim as high as the world’s tallest summits, an international mountaineering team led by Cian O’Brolchain was eager to put theory into practice as they ventured out to tackle the climb of Mount Lhotse. He and his team set out on their 46-day expedition on April 5- 21 May 2017. Cian, having conquered the likes of Mt Everest, Beding Go, Cho Oyu and Ama Dablam, is no stranger to The Himalayas and the challenges sure to present in tackling a summit like Lhotse.
High altitudes, uncontrollable weather conditions, and the fragility of steep, rocky terrain can be fatal to even the best climbers in the world. Therefore, time management is crucial during a climb, when to hold off, when to push through and when to rest. Of course, the extreme temperatures and high pressure mean that a lot of the equipment needs to be specifically designed to survive in that environment.
“Watches that keep working up there are a real challenge to find”, Cian expressed to Grant Menzies, General Manager of Australian watch manufacturer, Adina Watches, during a barbeque at a mutual friend’s house just weeks out from the climb. Inspired by the challenge, Grant responded, “I bet we could build you a watch that will keep on going in those conditions and temperatures!”
In support of the expedition, Adina Watches‘ manufacturing team set out to craft three special watches for the mountaineers – all customised by hand for the task. Only a couple of weeks later, after re-vamping a high-end automatic Adina Amphibian dive watch. The Swiss Made automatic movement was completely disassembled, re-oiled using Swiss sourced anti-freeze oils and reassembled before rigourous testing which included being frozen in a block of ice in the deep freeze! The mountaineering team (Cian O’Brochlain, Tsering Pemba, John Snorri) were equipped with the three mountain-proof Adina Amphibians now nick named “Thin Air”! “It’s not every day that we get the chance to tailor one of our watches to cope with such extreme conditions as were to be expected on the climb,” Grant said.
The family-owned and operated business, which started in the early 70s, is the oldest and one of the last remaining watch manufacturers in Australia. They currently produce 40,000 watches a year each one meticulously assembled by hand, and are well-known for their bespoke watches tailored for specific industries, and their limited edition branded watches for corporates, schools and universities.
“We’ve been fortunate enough to design and produce watches for diving, mining, and other specialised industries, but never anything with such low temperatures and high altitudes. It was a new and exciting challenge for us.” Getting both the watches and mountaineers condition-ready was just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the challenges they were set to face once on the mountain. Only time would tell whether watch and mountaineer alike would stand victorious atop of Mount Lhotes.
On the climb just after hitting the 8,200m mark, Cian was fitted with a virtually empty oxygen tank. Now well into the “death zone” with fatigue and lack of oxygen restricting his progress, Cian soon lost sight of fellow climbers Tsering Pemba and John Snorri who trudged on ahead. Ang Chirring, who unfortunately, due to poor health, dropped back and was unable to complete the summit. The last 300 meters without any supporting air supply seemed like an eternity, due to the slow pace he’d set as a result of the oxygen limitations and almost prevented him from reaching the summit. Cian was now racing against the clock to reach the summit before nightfall. “I knew I must make it to the summit and get down to the couloir before dark, but as I kept climbing I felt absolutely exhausted. I had little water left and no food or energy gels.” Cian said. Alone on the mountain, he was forced to rely on his own knowledge, years of experience, and the equipment he had on his back to push through and climb the last leg. At 18.00 Cian and his Adina watch made it to the Lhotes summit and was rewarded with a breathtaking view of the setting sun above the clouds that surrounded Mt Everest and that coated the Lhotse traverse.
Although the climb would not hold a place as his greatest climbing feat, it proved to be far more challenging than expected with lessons he will draw on in his own mountaineering business. “I have learnt so much from climbing Lhotse. It confirmed my view that climbing big mountains in the Himalayas and elsewhere needs preparation, experience and a capacity for self-sufficiency,” expressed Cian. At a height of 8,516m (27,940ft) Cian and his Adina watch wearing team proved their worth, withstanding the harsh conditions and the demands that accompany such an expedition. A fortnight later a second team summited Mt Everest, 8848m with Sherpa, Pasang Tenzig also wearing the Adina Amphibian “Thin Air”.
Short of planting a flag with the Adina logo on it, it’s a rare achievement for Australian’s, let alone an Australian watch, to get to the top of two of the world’s tallest mountains. It speaks for the innovation, the design, the craftsmanship and the quality, and of course the same qualities in the mountaineers to make it up there successfully and return to tell the tale.
Adina Watches has now released the ‘Thin Air Edition’ of the Adina Amphibian watch used in the ascent as an addition to their top-end adventure watches, available at a store near you or online at www.adinawatches.com.au