Thursday, 22 April 2010

Lobouche East Peak climb 6119m

Monday 11th April - Approach to Base Camp.

We dropped down to Pheriche having some farewell beers and goodbyes to the Everest Base Camp Team of Mats, Emma, Steve, Om and Nima. A quick update on the excellent, albeit expensive Internet connection near the HRA (Himalayan Rescue Association) and we set off back up the Hill. Lunch at Thukla and we were heading our way to Lobouche Base Camp, a mere 1 hour after drinking chai. Low pressure with snow clouds really started brewing giving us the hebee jebees but things can change quickly in the Himal, and we were ever hopeful. It calmed slightly but the amazing clouds gave an incredible fiery red sunset viewed from a ridge above Lobouche Base Camp with views of Cholatse, Taweche and toward Ama Dablam were epic!

Check out the video:

Back to camp for a great dinner - broccoli soup with mini pompadoms. Main of rice, dal, mutter paneer (peas and nak's cheese), mini sausages, eggs that had been boiled & fried with a super interesting dessert of Aloe Vera cubes which were delicious! Reading the 'book thief' so off to bed to chill and await tomorrow's sunrise and chill out in Base Camp for a nice laid back rest day!

Sunday April 12th - Rest Day at Base Camp.

Awoke 5.30am - it just gets earlier and earlier - age!? or Environment!? Probably both! A superb super clarity bluebird day which had been the norm, disrupted by the low pressure last night and was great news as the snow flurry that signified an oncoming storm had passed or we had thought had past! We may just get the good weather we're hoping for but we'll have to wait and see. I walked up the ridge taking in views of Ama Dablam. Cholatse and Lobouche Peak as the sun started to dance on the high ridge tops. I was joined by a beautiful black Himalayan dog as I climbed higher on the ridge on the perfect morning perched over Lobouche Base Camp! Gotta love those Himal dogs - proper hardy dogs them. Don't build 'em like the use to in the West!

Monday 13th April - Trek to High Camp.

Another bluebird day after a clear starry night. A crazy little mammal running around which was either the yellow-throated marten or a mongoose!? Anyways provided much camp side entertainment as it circled around doing laps at a million miles an hour - but always staying close to the safety of the rocks.
We trekked up, slow & steady taking in views of the crags and spotted a Golden Eagle circling for prey! We arrived as they Sherpa boys were putting up the tents for us but again swirling clouds started coming in! Check out Pics from the Sunstone Face book Page:!/photo.php?pid=4589136&id=125604380964

I awoke to what sounded like slight drizzle about 11.30pm at night, but peered out of the tent and thick snow had started to gather. Again an hour later it wasn't stopping - I really thought our chance at climbing was over - due to avalanche danger, deep unaccessible snow or just a humdinger of a storm (visibility)! But I awoke at 3am to Mingma opening my tent with porridge (hot milk too) to starry, clear skies - wow - I had really given up - but the excitement and adrenaline was back on -we were going to climb - yee haa! However the snow had warmed and then started to freeze again causing the (normally dry straight forward, dry, smooth) slabs to become icy. I started slipping about a minute in and announced the crampons are going on, the Himalayan boys weren't use to this and I was of the thinking - if ya got 'em smoke'em I mean use 'em! From High Camp we made our way in the dark padding our way up the treacherously icy slabs, using the cracks and features for purchase and light started to slowly break. We made our way to crampon point and, as it snowed a foot of snow in the night the valley and surrounding peaks were beautifully blanketed creating an almost sepia or black & white effect giving beautiful contrast!

Check out picture:!/photo.php?pid=4589096&id=125604380964

We made our way up the 650m of fixed ropes (400m vertical) as the day broke into perfect weather and started to warm the bodies. Some good sustained medium steep climbing, really at about 40-55 degrees and some 60-65 degree cruxes in places. Three quarters of the way up the slope, the route kinks towards the summit ridge, I was behind Saran as he pulled around the corner with views of Everest starting to appear. Saran continued cranking it up the lovely sustained steep 55-60 degrees pitch, looking over the exposure you can see the small town of Lobouche right below you...between ya legs. We pressed on reaching the false summit and curved around to the real summit, one small jump over a crevasse (yeah great)which had the heart flutter and we were there - 6119m with epic panoramic views - just sublime! We had summited at 9am after leaving High Camp at 4am in the morning which was great going considering the added precarious smooth slabs and now it was time to parade the Sunstone Adventures banner before getting the hell out of there!

We returned down stopping at High Camp in great weather, as the wind started up throwing spindrift off the top of the peak making our way to Base Camp. We had a lovely greeting by the Sherpa boys whom had done a great job supporting us on our climb. We had chai and I was even made cheese & tuna sandwiches, chilling on the rocks as the sun bathed down on us. We retired to our tents, wallowing in the summit glory having a great siesta! We rose for a good dinner of spaghetti and fried chips. Pretty knackered and we all slept like a baby, knowing we'd bagged a beauty of a 6000m peak!

I awoke to a beautiful blanket of snow as we again had a couple of hours snow. Again bluebird day and time to pack up BC and cruise to Pheriche for lunch and update the world on the Internet. A surprisingly good connection at 4300m but a little pricey at 20 rupees per can pay 20 rupees per hour in Dolohiti, Kathmandu! A good lunch at the lodge and we pressed on to Pangboche, but before we did we stopped in for 'tea' which quickly turned into 2 jugs of the local 'chang', the millet beer from Mingma Sherpa Tshering, our climbing Sherpa and his wife. We cruised on, rather happily tipsy and pulled into Pangboche for cards, dal bhat and a few more glasses of chang! Nice to have a wee celebration in aid of summiting Lobouche Peak!

A few more updates on the Internet and soaking up the congrats emails was great as we made our way further down the valley. We walked to Phangetenge and had a killer chili tomato soup which not only cleared off the 'chang-over' but blew my head off! As we were dropping altitude some swirling clouds arose, creating an atmospheric walk back up the 3 hilly sections to Namche Bazaar. We reunited with team member Steve who had descended to Namche and done a side trip to Thame. Steve went up to a medieval Sherpa village called Taranga, mostly inhabited by Sherpa farmers producing spuds. He had enjoyed some good photography and relaxing after a top effort making it to EBC and up KP!

Made our way down to Lukla and were delighted to see Man U beat City in the local derby in the English Premiership with Scholesy finishing a tight game in the 93rd minute. A few beers to celebrate especially with spurs doing Chelsea suddenly the Red Devils are looking like winning the premiership! Awoke early and had a smooth transfer returning back to Kathmandu! Happy days and a zeeperb trip. Although how many frickin' motorbikes are in this town!? I swear I'll get my toes run over one of these's only a matter of time!

A big thanks to all the Sherpa support from Saran, Mingma, Nima, Om, Dai and Bhopal!

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Everest Base Camp Trek & Kala Pattar

A good climb up the dusty steep track to Namche we honed in our first acclimatisation goal to stay 2 nights at the busy little trading bazaar. It was great to get there and have a decent espresso coffee and chocolate brownies at the Everest Bakery - yumlicious! The next day (a rest day) we carted ourselves up the relatively steep track to Everest View Hotel to let our bodies feel some altitude and return down to sleep. Lovely hot chocolate on the balcony with sublime views of Everest 8848m, Lhotse 8516m, Lhotse Shar 8386, Peak38 4587 and Ama Dablam 6812 - what a beauty of a day and great 'posi' for a drink or lunch!

The next day it was time to set off to the beautiful Monastery of Tengboche to see the Monks perform their Mantras. Again a steep climb after lunch but well rewarded as we pulled into town greeted by the beautiful chortens and rich coulurs of the temple. Again we found the 'Lavazza' sign and it was another last chance for real coffee. A great little guesthouse and an early rise to capture the first of the sun and the young monks welcoming in the morning blowing Conch Shells. For cool video please see:

We trekked on through Deboche and winding our way up to Shomare and nearing our next acllimatisation spot of Dingboche at 4420m where, as entering we received our first views of the 6119m East Lobouche Peak. Our group was divided into 3 whom were heading to EBC (Everest Base Camp) and a couple of climbers to make their first ascent of this classic 6000m peak.

Another 'Rest Day' although local guide and slave driver Super Subbaman had a half day trek planned up the Nankhanshang ridge fopr us which takes you up to 4800m although you can go to the peak at 5100m which was perfect acllimatisation for the Lobouche climbers. I was very lucky to see a huge Golden Eagle making an awesome flight right over me, searching for prey. A good climb in gorgeous weather and it was down to chill out, do some washing of socks/gruds etc and a spot of reading. For lunch I tried some unusual fermented cheese that was wrapped up in savoury pancakes with garlic & chilli and tasted like blue vein cheese - delicious! We were sharing the lodge with Russell Brice's Himalaya Experience group which was made of both clients looking to climb Mount Everest and trekker heading to EBC in support of them. Was nice to catch up with legendary Mountain Guide 'Woody' from Queenstown,NZ whom I met skiing in Gulmarg, Kashmir just a month previously! It's a small old world!

We cut across the hill, the next morning, overlooking Pheriche and a huge braided river valley which led up to views of Taweche, Cholatse and across to Lobouche Peak. Tea at Lukla and up through the Everest Memorials (in memory of past Everest climbers) and up to Lobouche, where at close to 5000m the air was beginning to thin rapidly. The next day it was all on, the push to Gorak Shep and onto the iconic Everest Base Camp. We toiled through the moraine, again with blazing sun coming down on us, sucking up as much water as possible to counter that thinning air. We were all on good form after some good sleeps and looked to be all on track! A final push and Mats, Steve and Emma and the rest of us looked in good form. We wound our way up through the moonlike landscape, undulating up and down with surreal views of the Khumbu Glacier that curves around past EBC and up into the legendary risky Khumbu Icefall. Views of Everest start (only viewed on approach to EBC nad are obscured when you are actually there) as we finally reached the 5364m cairn and start of Everest Base Camp - we'd made it and took some great celebratory photos/videos and a wee celebration ensued.

The mission wasn't quite complete with the fantastic viewpoint of Kala Pattar (5545m) yet to be tackled the next day. A lot of people get up for sunrise but I’m a fan of a little later, as it's less cold and the photos are a lot better with the sun rising over mighty Mount Everest and the huge Nuptse wall. Steve, my Aussie roomy (yes be careful of your wallet with those Aussies ;-) had a bad sleep but showed good determination to give it a crack. I was to climb Lobouche so decided to head off in front and give the body & lungs a bit of a push which proved great as I beat my 70 minute record getting to the high point in 62 minutes. The rest of the group did a great slow & steady effort reaching an hour later which was a good effort for veterans and rookie trekkers alike. The views were extremely rewarding and I would always recommend going to both EBC & KP as they each have their own unique, amazing features of mind-blowing landscapes.

Well done guys & gals what a great effort and Everest Base Camp and Kala Pattar are certainly no walk in the park - just ask anyone who's completed them. It takes a tough, focused effort with many elements having to slot into place to get the result and achieve the goal. Now we just had to get down!

Thanks to all the team of Saran, Nima, Om and clients: Mats, Emma and Steve - a superb time had by all!


Friday, 2 April 2010

Helicopter ride to Lukla with some pre-flight sightseeing in Kathmandu

After catching up with friends Saran (Nepalese mountain guide) and Steve (ex-pat Aussie and Nepali language scholar) in Kathmandu for lunch it was great to meet the trekking group. A lovely traditional Nepali welcome dinner with great food (royal dahl bhat) and traditional dancing we all got acquainted with Emma (swede), Mats (swede) and Steve (Aussie) over some Raksi (local rice wine). The group were all planned to trek to Everest Base Camp, with Steve heading off to Gokyo Lakes, Emma & Mats returning to Namche and Sarran and I to climb 6119m Lobouche Peak with support from expedition Sherpas. Interestingly Lobouche is a classic 6000m peak used for acclimatising for Mount Everest expeditions and is one of the most technical trekking peaks with 250-300m of steepe, fixed rope ice climbing. I had bumnped into legendary Kiwi mountain guide 'Woody' who was working for Russell Brice's Himalaya Experience and they were planning to summit Lobouche in preparation for an Everest summit attempt. If successful this would be Woody's 14th Everest summit - pretty full on! 

A city tour was planned the next day and we met up 9am setting off in the mini bus to Boudinath Stupa, a short drive from thamel in Kathmandu. It's an amazing stupa with the characteristic 'buddha eyes' and huge white dome-like body surrounded by temples and yes the commerce side of things - tourist shops! We were given an excellent talk and tour by our guide Nabeen and learnt about the wider history of Buddha and how this related to Boudinath. We learnt about the traditional Thanka paintings - mandalas and the wheel of life and how they are painstakingly crafted over months and sometimes years! 

After a good look around it was off to Durbar Square in old Kathmandu. An ice cream and a look at some of the beautiful temples, one of which had some rather intricately carved sexual positions from what they call'lion style' (doggy style to us Westerners) to 'the wheel barrow' and so on - a good laugh had by all. That night we chilled out and made last minute purchases of supplies (snickers and bounty bars for me) and had a nice relax over a few beers.

The airport over the next couple of days was the usual chaos and we found ourselves waiting, being pushed back because of delays (the day before) and losing the 'calm weather window'. So by midday the wind had risen above the 12knots in Lukla(apparently this is the benchmark of wind knots they won't fly over). Frustration was starting to mount after being put on the runway bus several times and returning to the departure lounge. It was obvious it was not our day and better to try and secure a morning flight slot. Off to 'fire and ice' for the best pizza in Thamel and to Kilroy's that evening for more comfort food feasting! 

Take 2 and things went from bad to worse with a plane breaking down and not much action of planes flying to Lukla at all. Classic disinformation and time was ticking for clients on an agenda - we needed to get out of here! Mats (Swede) decided enough was enough and hired a helicopter (knowing the rest of us were not in a position to fork out the $600USD each) he spoke to us saying there was no obligation but there was however, 4 available seats on the chopper if we were keen! Of course we took up this very generous offer and bailed from the dysfunctional mess humming our way to Lukla on the giant mechanical insect. As thanks I bought him 'touching the void' by Joe Sumpson as I had discovered, in previous conversation he hadn't read it and he was delighted by the gift.

We were off buzzing over the dry, mountainous landscape with cut gorges from silky relecting rivers - what a way to start trekking to Everest Base Camp by an adrenaline filled 50 minute chopper ride! We touched down in Lukla and we were finally on the trail tramping our way to Phakding , sucking in the clean mountain air, taking on the dramatic environs of the Everest Highway and soon slurping on tea as we pulled into our teahouse! Thanks again Mats - hero of the day! Rock on!

Vids to follow on Sunstone Facebook page.