Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Island Peak Expedition Memoirs X - Summit Day

Tuesday 4th November Advanced Base Camp (5,700m) to Island Peak Summit (6,189m)

We rise just before 2am instinctively, just before the wake-up call – its weird how the body works sometimes – and get our gear together, easy as I’m wearing most of mine already! Brekkie is muesli & milk, biscuits and coffee, Saran forgot the tea but we warm the hands and innards with hot coffee which is a nice change! We finally push off into the dark just before 3.30pm with Nima (our climbing Sherpa) leading off into the cold morning. Our head torches blaze away, flickering into the dark like a bunch of fire flies in the darkest of night. We edge our way up the loose, exposed gully, I feel like a zombie as the body tries to wake up. We wind up the steep track; the toes start to warm and the body slowly starts to kick into action. I can suddenly smell beer and am thinking either Nima (now behind me) or maybe Ola has had a night on the turps, surely not! But no the beer (a can of San Miguel) has been punctured by my crampons in my pack – gutted - that was meant to be drunk on the summit as a celebration! We continue on balancing feet and hands up the loose path and rock walls as we elevate, partly scrambling partly tramping up. It starts to lighten as we near our first goal – “Crampon Point” – guessable as the place where we don the spikes for the snowfield. Saran comments about the fact that just before daybreak it always seems to cool down and then when the sun hits it starts the warming process as the earth gets blanketed with solar energy. Christine is really struggling but makes it to CP. We strap our crampons on, perched on a small buttress with striking icefalls all around us. Christina decides to pull the plug and head down – she’s had enough of dragging her arse and it’s the right and responsible call to make and we all really respect her for that, a tough call to make. Per, Nima and I form the lead climbing team, roping up and start winding our way up over a couple of crevasses in the snowfield as the view opens up we can see the large 100m headwall and the exposed ridge leading to our goal, the summit - what a great view and perspective. We plod on slow and steady as the air is thin in glorious sunshine and can make out a handful of climbers ascending the ramp in the distance. We continue on easy ground, and it’s not long before we arrive at the fixed ropes at the start of the 100 meter headwall. A Japanese man (very old - we later discover the youngest team member is 60 years of age in their party) is torturously making his way up the fixed ropes and almost looks on death’s door)! Saran, Freddy and Ola; in the second climbing team catch us up and it’s on, we’re ready to start the technical climb. Per heads up followed by myself with Nima skipping up next to the fixed line. This guy’s pretty casual, in his jeans and a smoke hanging out the side of his mouth, this is cruise mode for this Sherpa. The Japanese are creating a traffic jam at Anchor one but Nima does a great job in overtaking the old fella and getting our Jumas and safety slings around him. Some clear ice in front of us now, as our crampons bite into the 45-55 degree sloping ramp. The views are fantastic and again the bluebird day is just what we’d been hoping for, glorious conditions on summit day! There is the odd hole and crevasse slit so we take care and edge our way up slowly but surely as the adrenaline starts to flow. Snow and ice is constantly pelting down and it’s nice to have my trusty (and now battered) old helmet on, to duck in and avoid the deluge of ice debris. I reach another anchor with help from our lead Sherpa who doesn’t seem to even have an axe (ok so he’s summited Everest twice), a walk in the park is the impression he’s giving, but he’s in full control. I keep on going, determined, focused and feeling great, the preparation has been good and it’s paying off as I concentrate on step after step. I take my camera out to take a shot of Per in front of me, and just like the other evening, a big avalanche crashes down the other side of the valley onto the dirty brown moraine of the Lhotse Shar, a long way below us – what a view - spectacular! The headwall steepens to 50-55 degrees now and I use my axe pick style to really get some good purchase finally finishing the rope section and topping out onto the summit ridge. The hard part is done, now the 20 minute cruise up to the peak. The views are sublime Nuptse (7,879m), Lhotse (8,501m), Lhotse Middle Peak (8,401m) and Lhotse Shar (8,383m) to the North. To the East rising above the frozen waves of the Lhotse Shar Glacier are Cho Polu (6,734m), beyond to the red granite mass of Makalu (8,475m). To the South the Imja Glacier leads the eye up to the massive ice flutings of Baruntse (7,720m) and across the Amphu peaks to the large arrow head of Ama Dablam (6,856m). Down the valley we can see the village of Dingboche, peak of Tawache (6,542m) and way down to the Imja Glacier Lake. We can also see Mera Peak (another famous trekking peak at 6,421m) far away in the distance, superb crystal clear views.
I take a few more pictures on my camera and I clip my safety rope to head up the exposed South ridge. It curves up into the sky and the endorphins are really kicking in now, the feeling that you know you’re almost there is exquisite, step after step – I’m nearly there and bang then I am – summiting 9.30am on the dot. Wow a bit of wind up here but its crystal clear views 360 degrees, huge peaks and mountain architecture stretches for miles, the sublime beauty of the Himalaya is hard to describe, a wonderful place to be, harmonious as you’re surrounded by the biggest mountains in the world. I feel very small but contented and almost privileged to be up here. We snap away taking loads of pictures & video, soaking up the sublime atmosphere and feeling of achievement, Per and I celebrate and the rest of the team join us for the team summit photo. Soon it’s time to lead off down as only half the job is done! We head down the ridge to the fixed rope. I manage to sneak in front of the sloth-like Japanese man and I attach my figure 8 to abseil down. We cruise on down really enjoying the satisfaction of summiting but we know it’s a long way down too but just keep soaking up the wonderful views. We stop at the bottom of the fixed lines for hot chocolate and scroggin, but are soon cold from pausing and there’s a bit of wind cooling us down. The slow Japanese man is now “short-roped” by his guide and is literally being dragged down the 110m pitch which is rather disconcerting, and it looks like he might just die there and then – questionable about how much he is enjoying his experience. We rope up again and get moving, making a good pace down to “Crampon Point”. We arrive and are greeted by Hari (our Sirdar) with hot chocolate and biscuits which we heartily wolf down stuffing our faces. We de-gear and start the descent of the loose rocky path passing ABC and finally arrive in Base Camp exhausted around 2pm – what a day! A well deserved lunch of chapatti, sausages & spaghetti and we retire into our tents crashing out for the arvo absolutely exhausted to the max! We rise again, as hunger returns, for dinner at 6.30pm. The boys have been busy as we’re presented with a glorious dinner of Chicken Curry (nice and spicy), rice and lots of potato and breads. I pull out a celebratory beer (I had purchased 2 from Chukkung, one for the summit and one for the return, the major goals) which I of course share out with my team mates! As we devour our dinner down finishing off when Nima (Cook) brings out a congratulations Chocolate cake to celebrate a successful summit!!! What a great surprise and just amazing what the team has been producing from a basic rudimentary kitchen – great work guys! We’d done it and now it was time to crash out to bed and bask in our glory! Rock on!

For info on trekking/mountaineering Everest Base Camp, Island Peak Mountaineering Expedition check out:


Email: paul@sunstoneadventures.com

Island Peak Expedition Memoirs IX

Sunday 2nd November Island Peak Base Camp (Acclimatise/Rest Day)

Tea (black) arrives early as we lie in bed, a quick wash and we get stuck into a superb breakfast of porridge followed by potato pancakes and luncheon. I have a few extra pancakes with lots of jam just for good measure! I really believe food is a major key when acclimatising to keep the tank fueled up to maintain energy and not get run down at altitude, and we were certainly well treated to tons of food to fill our bellies. After brekkie we gear up and do some training with the ‘jumars’ on a fixed rope. We set up a course of a couple of ropes and practice climbing up using the ascending device called a jumar and abseiling down on our ‘figure eight’ devices. It’s my first time using a ‘jumar’ as I’m usually accustomed to more alpine style and traditional (or sport) rock climbing, placing protection as you move up the rock or mountain, they prove easy to use after a few goes and we’re having fun in the sun. A group of Japanese next to us are also practicing but look like they could do with some walking frames; they must have been all well over sixty years of age and looking rather frail. Lunch is the gorgeous Tibetan style bread with sardines, boiled egg and fried cauliflower pakora. Again some good variety in the menu which helps in keeping up the appetite – just the trick in our preparation. After lunch we perfect our jumaring and then take a small walk just halfway to base camp to again aid in acclimatisation and get the legs and lungs working!. We take in great views across the Imja glacier and its moraine lake. We soon head back to base and as I’m composing a photo of my roomy Per when a huge avalanche rips off the peak behind us thundering its way down to the valley floor in the pinkish hue of the late afternoon sun! It’s a little reminder of where we are – in a serious alpine environment and super close to the power of nature. Dinner time beckons and after a little lie down we get served up soup, pizza and apple pie – spoilt again with great food. Saran really has a great team behind him and we were starting to see the value in this. It’s off to bed at 8pm after continued cups of hot chocolate and another very cold night looms in the thin walled constraints of the tent but anticipation was growing, advanced based camp (ABC) tomorrow. Christina is not feeling well, which is a real bummer as she might not get the opportunity to summit. Fingers crossed for her as we tuck up into our cosy down sleeping bags.

Monday 3rd November Island Peak Base Camp (5,087m) to Advanced Base Camp (5,700m)

I awake after a great sleep right through the night. Tea, a wash and brekkie then we have another practice with the Jumar up the loose scree on the side of the valley. There’s a feeling of good anticipation and an air of excitement as we make a plan to leave for ABC at 2pm. Christina is still not feeling well (fever, stomach pains, vomiting). The decision hangs in the balance whether Christina will go. We have another carb stacking lunch of soup, spaghetti (with mini sausages). Still debate is going on as Christina has two more groups to guide with Saran in the coming weeks so really needs to get better soon. I give encouragement to Christina that she should head up to ABC and then she will at least have the option to go for the summit or head down to base camp, depending on how she feels. The team is ready to go and Christina decides she will come up which is good news. Saran leads off at 2.45pm at a slow and steady pace; again the great views unfold of Imja Glacier and Lhotse Shar. Some cloud starts coming up as the sun is setting creating an inversion and making a special atmosphere as we get one step closer to our ultimate goal. We arrive at ABC and there is an amazing shadow that we pose in capturing our silhouettes on camera. I pull out the classic Karate Kid “Crane” pose…classic! Tea is served and we organize the tent and gear for an easy ‘get up and go’ start. We meet in the kitchen for a basic dinner of Tuna Sandwiches, spaghetti and hot chocolate. I teach the Swedes Charades which makes for lots of giggles and then it’s off to bed for a short sleep in readiness for the summit day start at 2am! We jump into our bags, it’s cold but not desperately so, probably because I’m in my full Gore-Tex with down jacket over the top and boots on in the sleeping bag (using a silk liner). It’s hard to sleep while the adrenaline starts to kick in, and the slightly uneven ground isn’t helping the comfort levels either. I’m not a big pharmaceutical drug taker and don’t usually rely on any but I was given a valium by a girl at base camp and as I’m feeling restless I decide to use it to knock myself out for a few hours. It’s not a strong dose and she reckoned it would only knock me out for 3-4 hours, so I pop the pill and get off to sleep. I would only recommend this if you are confident you are fully acclimatised which I was.

Everest Base Camp Trek & Island Peak Climb Memoirs Part VIII

Thursday 30th October Gorak Shep (5,180m) to Everest Base Camp (5,380m) to Dingboche (4,420m)

An early start with Ian and we put on a good pace as we race up to EBC. The sun is shining and the sky is blue, what a surprise, this autumn weather is truly the best time to visit the Himalayas for clarity of view. As we approach, views of huge towering Seracs on the Khumbu Glacier, as we dodge around holes in the glacier, creaking ice and generally pretty rough morraine terrain. It’s great having a look around, only one expedition here with a small grouping of tents. I stumble across a 1960’s Oxygen Canister amongst the tents of the Korean expedition. This is certainly not the optimum time for climbing Everest as the excellent weather window, high on the mountain occurs in May. As we’re gazing up the Khumbu icefall small ice falls and avalanches pour down giving an air of seriousness. It’s great to be here a the place it all happens, at the heart of some many adventure stories I’ve read and a good feeling of achievement washes over me! We head down crisscrossing the undulating moraine for lunch at Gorak Shep. We part company as Ian is heading down to Pheriche and I will meet the expedition team in Dingboche. I head off reaching Lobouche 2.45pm and onto Thukla 4pm branching across to Dingboche arriving 5.15pm just before dark. I jump in the excellent outdoor shower and then officially meet up and join the expedition team – Team Sweden plus the Kiwi! It’s great to have some good yarns with Ola, father of Freddy (19 years old) and Per who is now my roommate. Ola had climbed Island Peak a couple of years ago and wanted to share the experience with Freddy, so brought him back to have a crack at it, which was just great!

Friday 31st October Dingboche (4,420m) to Chukkung (4,720m)

I woke after a great sleep to our Sirdar Nima bringing me morning tea and a bowl of warm water to wash with, just great. I head up the road and quickly log-in on email (20 rupees per minute would you believe compared to 20 rupees per hour back in Kathmandu!) but hey it’s over 4000m in the Himalayas! I write a quick email to Ma & Pa and Kitty (my girlfriend at the time) and am delighted to also receive some news from my last recruitment company that a candidate I was working closely with has secured a role that I had previously arranged an interview for, isn’t technology amazing! We start Trekking leisurely up to Chukkung, the beautiful valley unfolds and there’s a feeling of excitement to be part of a team that will share the experience of the Island Peak mission. I did some final washing of clothes and chat with Ola, Freddy, Per and Christina as we all look forward to heading up to Island Peak Base Camp tomorrow. I have a little siesta; listening to my Ipod and some reading getting some good chill time in before the hard work starts again! A nice cosy warm hut and a great feed of Dahl Bhat with the team geeling and excited – Island Peak Base Camp tomorrow – bring it on!


Everest Base Camp & Island Peak Memoirs Part VII

Tuesday 28th October Lobouche (4,930m) to Gorak Shep (5.180m)

We get on the trail and meet up with “Team America” ie Maile, Caitlin and Brandon (all siblings) and Jessie. We cruised at a slow steady pace with glorious weather again. The gang is in good spirits, despite not acclimatising properly (coming up too quick and being rather ill with banging headaches at Thukla a part from Jessie). I head up past Gorak Shep, leaving my gear in our room and visit Rob Hall’s memorial. I am really touched and shed a tear for my great countryman and Himalayan legend. The late afternoon storm clouds swirl about, with views of Nuptse creating quite an atmosphere and a feeling of big mountain respect – this was the stuff I’d come to see! Rob Hall was only 35 years old when he passed – what a young life to be taken by this extremely powerful mountain, the intense feelings really hit home as I am 33 years old and still feel very young at heart (most of the time anyway)!

Wednesday 29th October Gorak Shep (5,180m) Acclimatisation Day – Kala Pattar (5,545m)

This morning we’re going to head up to the classic viewpoint that takes in Mt.Everest, unlike EBC which actually doesn’t but has views of the Khumbu icefall and surrounds. I pack up the daypack and we cruise up the 5545m vantage point. After 70 minutes of a slow persistent slog in the thinning air we are treated to absolute mind blowing views of Mt. Everest in all its glory. The eye takes in great views of the khumbu ice fall leading up from EBC and the whole surrounding bowl. Pumori is close behind Kala Pattar and is a striking triangular peak highlighted by a deep deep blue sky. After taking in the views I Trot back down to the sandy flat plateau area of Gorak Shep and lay in the sun by a beautiful ice lake – great to have the feet out of the boots and in the sun! A few momos in the arvo with some chilled out reading. Ian the New Yorker is still feeling quite sick with little appetite (he had been in the Indian Himal for over 40 days so it would be unusual for it to be an acclimatising issue) and is suffering from bad guts. Night arrives and Christina and Saran turn up with the team of Swedes (Per, Freddy and Ola) whom I will join in a few days to Climb Island Peak. It’s great to have a chat and some chai and get to know them all a little better – what a great bunch of people they are!


Monday, 28 December 2009

Skiing in Gulmarg with a local girl

Gulmarg has earned the distinction of being the best ski resort in Asia, not to mention home to the highest ski slopes in the world

I plug in my ipod, check the tension on my skis and look around. We're skiing in Gulmarg and I see John Falkner standing by the gondola at 15,000 feet in masterful yoga stretch. To me John is God of the slopes, a veteran and regular on the soaring Apharwat peaks of Kashmir. Like me, he visits annually with his group of ski-crazy friends and advanced European skiers. A quick nod of approval from him, a short prayer, and I'm ripping down 13,000 feet of powder off the world's highest slope for the first time. Everything in front of me is white and I see kilometers of snow, glistening like diamonds, waiting to be kicked up like dust as my skis fly over.
Skiing in powder is the ultimate ski experience. The feeling of lightness, ease, and grace is incomparable. But the first time you venture into powder you may feel more like a fly in a spider's web than a bird on the wing.

Luckily learning how to ski on Gulmarg's well groomed slopes is easy.
Skiing was first introduced in these parts by two British Army officers who established the first ski club here in 1927. But it wasn’t until five or six years ago when Gulmarg's name first started to appear on the ski cognoscenti's hotlist.
Gulmarg is a small hill village situated in the northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir at the western extremity of the Himalayas in a mountain range called the Pir Panjals. Its name when translated means "meadow of flowers." It's 35 miles from Srinagar, the state capital and would, on a good day, take you about an hour and a half to drive up.

Skiing in powder, I think, is the ultimate ski experience.
— Zainab Nedou

I learnt how to ski in Gulmarg and then skied in different parts of the world but there's a special connect that forms between you and the mountains of Gulmarg that makes me want to run back every year. Probably because I'm Kashmiri. Or maybe it's because the slopes here are so perfect. In Gulmarg, with the use of snow-grooming equipment, a skier can learn to ski, and become quite proficient. There are well groomed slopes for beginners and intermediates. After you have mastered those you can easily move to what is locally known as the first phase of "The Gondola" -- a medium-to-intermediate run of approximately 2.5 kilometres of groomed piste.

Ski snobs love it because Gulmarg gets some of the heaviest snowfalls in the Himalayas. The high altitude snow remains cold, crisp and light for days on end. The snow cycle is unusually regular, often snowing every seven days for two to three days delivering over a meter of fresh powder at a time. The steep powder bowls stretch across the range, offering 1,000 meter vertical runs, not to mention skiing off the highest gondola in the world at nearly 4,000 meters altitude. There are even some 'super steeps' here, up to 65 degrees, to really get the endorphins flowing.

The diversity of skiing in Gulmarg means that you can experience what you want, when you want. Extreme backcountry, off-piste, on-piste, the highest gondola in the world or even resort skiing; take your pick. If company is a concern know that you’ll be skiing and boarding with professionals who know their playground (read: internationally qualified ski guides and mountaineers) and even trained Kashmiri locals. If first aid is what you're worried about, doctors and ski patrol personnel are always around. The medical staff even have snow mobiles for medical emergencies.
You'd be crazy not to be inspired by the raw beauty of Kashmir, the relentless pursuit of adventure, the thrill of slashing through untracked snow and the exhilaration of dropping into effortless runs, followed by a hot meaty meal, a warm brandy and a feather pillow.

The added advantage with skiing in Gulmarg is that it offers reasonably priced boarding and lodging and brand new equipment to hire for a ski holiday that won’t break the bank.

The Nedou’s Hotel, for example, is run like an old British lodge. The Lounge there, with the biggest wood stove in the valley, is lively till the wee hours of the morning with people nursing their drinks and discussing their day. Skiing in Gulmarg is definitely a place to make friends that last.



Friday, 25 December 2009

Island Peak and Everest Base Camp Memoirs VI

Friday 24th October Deboche to Dingboche (4,420m)

I get off to early start (to avoid congestion) after brekkie getting on the track by 6.50am! Another clear blue, fresh morning and nice to have the track to myself. I wind my way up the Imja Khola River passing stupas and stopping at a couple of villages for tea on the way. In Shomane the kids are very interested in my guide book so I show the local pictures to all 3 of the small boys who are making havoc around me - just playing. I head towards Orsho, the track flattening with beautiful boulders surrounding as I head towards the river crossing to take me up to Dingboche. The upper mountain valley really starts to beckon here and a feeling of seriousness starts to take hold. There are no more trees just scree slopes leading to Moraine and towering peaks. I’m definitely getting closer to the action! I pull into the “Himalaya Lodge” which has epic views of Ama Dablam from the gloriously sunny courtyard – this is a bit surreal I thought to myself. It’s one of the hugest fangs of rocks I’ve ever seen with huge hanging ice valleys that tower above me as I slurp on my Masala Chai. I’m served great Momos (Tibetan dumplings) to boot and a chance to do some washing with the afternoon sun to dry it out. I’m reading Sir Edmund Hillary’s autobiography (one of NZ’s greatest legends and of course the first ascentionist of Mt. Everest with Tenzing Norgay) – a present from my beloved Nan all the way back in Christchurch, NZ. I think of her and my family, feeling very lucky to experience such grandeur and peaceful harmony, what a great spot!

Saturday 25th October Dingboche (4,420m) Acclimatisation Day

I awake to yet another glorious day and Climb up Nankartshang peak (5,040m), the ridge behind Dingboche – with superb views of the surrounding peak and valleys from up there! I can see Island Peak, so named because it was likened to an Island in a glacial sea of ice. There is also awesome view of the two lakes below Ama Dablam. Glorious Sunshine bakes me and I even have my shorts and T-shirt on, to some American’s disgust…of course I had full Gore-Tex gear in my pack but make hay while the sun shines I think to myself! It’s a fair old steep grunt and it feels good to get the lungs working at a bit of altitude in preparation. The views are just sublime and it’s great to get over the magic 5000 meter mark! I return back to the suntrap that is the courtyard in my teahouse; some clouds come in late which adds to the atmosphere as I enjoy my book and chai.

Sunday 26th October Dingboche (4,420m) to Thukla (4,500m)

I Tramp across to Thukla in the awakening dawn after a nice early brekkie hanging out with the Sherpas by the fire in the kitchen. A lovely morning overlooking Pheriche (where the Himalayan Rescue Association is based) and I Cross the roaring milky glacier river over a small wooden bridge arriving at Thukla. While having a chai break I meet a nice guy - Ian from New York and decide to share a room with him up in my next destination, Lobouche. I book into a room in Thukla, dump my gear and hike up to Lobouche (to acclimatise) and book anther room (The “Eco Lodge”) for the next night as the trek starts to bottleneck towards EBC. We return to Thukla and meet “team America”. After 5 beers with Jessie and Ian, having a great laugh (a few people looking on thinking we’re completely mad drinking at this altitude) we hit the hay falling into a drunken stupa!

Monday 27th October Thukla (4,500m) to Lobouche (4,930m)

A steep start after tea and porridge we pace up to Lobouche, drop our gear at the “Eco Lodge” and continue hiking up to Gorak Shep, the last gathering of teahouses before EBC. After lunch at Gorak Shep we take in the beautiful bluebird views of the surrounding majestic peaks – Pumori, the Nupste Wall and Lhotse. We Drop back down the valley to Loboche and relax with some reading. I have traded my book with Ian’s “3 Cups of Tea” about an American ER nurse called Greg Mortenson who builds 55 schools in Pakistan – an admirable read. There’s anticipation at the dinner table as we’re nearing EBC, a good feed of Tuna spaghetti and it’s off off to bed with excitement building.


Thursday, 24 December 2009

Merry Christmas Sunstoners

Have a very merry Christmas and great new year 2010!
See you in the Himalayas!

Island Peak Memoirs V

Friday 24th October Deboche to Dingboche (4,420m)

I get off to early start (to avoid congestion) after brekkie getting on the track by 6.50am! Another clear blue, fresh morning and nice to have the track to myself. I wind my way up the Imja Khola River passing stupas and stopping at a couple of villages for tea on the way. In Shomane the kids are very interested in my guide book so I show the local pictures to all 3 of the small boys who are making havoc around me - just playing. I head towards Orsho, the track flattening with beautiful boulders surrounding as I head towards the river crossing to take me up to Dingboche. The upper mountain valley really starts to beckon here and a feeling of seriousness starts to take hold. There are no more trees just scree slopes leading to Moraine and towering peaks. I’m definitely getting closer to the action! I pull into the “Himalaya Lodge” which has epic views of Ama Dablam from the gloriously sunny courtyard – this is a bit surreal I thought to myself. It’s one of the hugest fangs of rocks I’ve ever seen with huge hanging ice valleys that tower above me as I slurp on my Masala Chai. I’m served great Momos (Tibetan dumplings) to boot and a chance to do some washing with the afternoon sun to dry it out. I’m reading Sir Edmund Hillary’s autobiography (one of NZ’s greatest legends and of course the first ascentionist of Mt. Everest with Tenzing Norgay) – a present from my beloved Nan all the way back in Christchurch, NZ. I think of her and my family, feeling very lucky to experience such grandeur and peaceful harmony, what a great spot!

Monday, 21 December 2009

Island Peak Memoirs IV

Thursday 23rd October – Namche (3,440m) to Deboche

I awake to another beautiful day – feeling better and pretty soon have wonderful views of Everest as I get myself on the track and start to move my way up again. I have lunch at Phagding after crossing a beautiful river (Dudh Kosi) on a swing bridge as laden yaks pass me by. After a steep, hard slog I take in dramatic views of Thamserku and the majestic Ama Dablam eventually reaching the magical monastery village of Tengboche. Unfortunately it’s fully booked up by trekkers in this busy period so I head my way down to the idyllic little spot of Deboche. A place where legendary Russian Climber Anatoli Boukreev apparently frequented in his rest days acclimatising for many Everest expeditions over the years. Apparently he would come right down this low to give his body a real chance to recover at lower altitude rather than EBC (Everest Base Camp) where most climbers drop down to rest. The Ama Dablam lodge is baked in bright sunshine, so I take a nice seat, reading and soaking up the Vitamin D and sublime mountain vista all around me. It is fairly short-lived however as some late afternoon clouds arrive. I Chat with a British father and son who are a little clueless to where they’ve actually visited (obviously guided and not paying too much attention) and discover they will also be climbing Island Peak. They had envisaged the summit day to be 6-7 hours I advise them that 12-15 hours was a more realistic target! A pleasant chat though and its better they hear it from me now than discover that later, on the mountain! I have a nice little walk to the nearby nunnery and just before dusk spot one of the funny large ground birds – the Tibetan Snow cock and get a glimpse of a shy Musk Deer. Dinner is more Dahl Bhatt with lots of Chai (milky sweet tea) to wash it down by the cosy fire – ‘Chai-dration’ to the max!!!!


Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Island Peak Memoirs III

Wednesday 22nd October – Namche Bazaar (3,440m) Acclimatisation Day

An early start as I’m feeling better, tea and I wander up around the gompa above my guesthouse. Porridge and off to a great viewpoint and finally the stunning views of the big bopper – Mount Everest - wow! The big black mass of Everest Pokes out in its full glory backed by a deep blue sky with its classic white plume, jet streaming off into the distance! I’m really here! Superb views also of Lhotse, Nuptse, Ama Dablam & Thamserku (also a first ascent for Sir Edmund Hillary of NZ). I don’t bother with the hike to Everest Hotel (apparently tea on the balcony is very convivial) but head back to the bakery instead for Cappuccino (not bad but not Italy), garlic soup & bread and postcard writing in the beautiful sunshine. The weather really is sublime in this settled spring period – just the best! I treat myself to a full head shave from the barber which is precise and luxurious;up to the normal high standard. Although you do pay a premium at this altitude but it’s all worth it! A few emails, banking and some business to attend to (URL renewal on one of my websites) and I’m feeling organised and looking like a rock star! Lunchtime is calling – Pizza?


Monday, 14 December 2009

Island Peak Mountaineering Expedition Memoirs II

Monday 20th October – Phakding (2,650m) to Monjo (2,815m)

I’m still feeling crap and it has now spread to the chest – blerg! After a huge sleep and lazy start I walk up the valley following the thunderous Dudh Kosi River with incredible views of the towering Thamserku. I arrive at “Doma Lodge” in Monjo around midday and kick back reading in the blazing sun before an afternoon siesta to replenish the energy levels. A nice comfortable room and hot shower then time for Dahl Bhaat and good Apple Pie – mmmnnnnn the pleasures of comfort food!

Tuesday 21st October – Monjo (2,815m) to Namche Bazaar (3,440m)

A big day a head – the steep climb up to Namche Bazaar! I get an early start with big brekkie of 2 X boiled eggs, Tibetan bread and honey porridge. I slowly slog to Namche Bazaar, taking 2.5 hours arriving earlier than predicted and I’m feeling ok, I’ve gained this key acclimatization point and can now chill out for the next couple of days. It’s nice to be up here with the hustle and bustle of the market bazaar. I score a cheap place and from the surrounding evidence of Yak Dung it seems to be some kind of Yak drivers stop! It’s very homely which is rare for the busy Bazaar and will do the trick for some well needed recovery before I head up further. It’s perched on the eastern side and has great views over the sunny Namche Bowl. Nice family but a small pesky dog starts yapping at me, oh well can’t have it all! I seem to be the only “gora” (foreigner) staying here with the yak herders and yaks - well it’s about the experience we’re all searching for I think to myself! I head down to the legendary Everest Bakery and score a great seat in the sun, chomping on my Yak Sizzler with yummy mushroom sauce. It’s quite rich and gamey, and can be a little tough sometimes, not this bad boy, it’s juicy and tender. I head back for a siesta and a nice dinner (tuna, vege and rice) before settling in for an early night to break this cold. Some scratchy sounds in the walls, only rats I think to myself as long as they leave me alone to sleep, which they do!


Sunday, 13 December 2009

Island Peak Memoirs

Memoirs of Island Peak Expedition and Everest Base Camp Trek

Sunday 19th October – Lukla (2,830m) to Phakding (2,650m)

Clear skies and great views from my friend Steve’s place in outer Kathmandu. It’s the first day he’s been able to see the Himalayas, he remarks, as we look out his kitchen window towards the mighty range. Looks like I got lucky as the Lukla flight can be plagued with bad weather thus causing delays and postponements – all part of the adventure I guess! It would be great to get this flight done and dusted as its reputation precedes itself i.e. landing on a tiny uphill runway that only stretches a short 100m up the hillside. My luck continues; after checking in I am somehow get on a flight leaving 7.20am rather than the scheduled 7.45am flight…different airline, which is a bit odd but hey I’m definitely not complaining and we’re all going the same place! I am shoved towards the plane having to take my whole hiking pack on as hand luggage but I bundle it in and we’re off! Surrounded by Japanese with their cameras clicking away, the views are surreal – finally I was winging my way up to the start of my journey and would get on the infamous Everest Highway! We approach the landing and although it’s a little daunting, we touchdown and ease up the slope turning in towards the main (and only) airport building in Lukla. I was on my way hiking on the famous Everest Trek to Phakding where I stayed at the “Namaste Lodge”. I was feeling under the weather with a cold so decided to cruise these next few days and try and get better before getting to higher altitude! I hammered the garlic/chili soup and lemon & ginger teas – hopefully I’ll be better in a few days!