Expedition leaders: Chris Harling
Assistant Leader: Sean James
Good luck to our 3 teams heading out to Nepal on the 28th where they will arrive in Kathmando then driving North for an acclimatisation Trek and ascent of Naya Kanga 5844m in the Langtang Valley.
Sean, our Assistant leader is covering the expedition on his Instagram feed, some highlights below.
Today we left the Kathmandu valley we drive northwards to Trisuli Bazaar at 9.30 and then joined the military road which winds above the river valleys. We arrived at our lodge at 7.30! Crossed a few old landslides on a high pass – very spectacular views through the rain and clouds. All well and excited to begin the walk in tomorrow.
Leader Chris Harling sent a text message in yesterday to say that 6 of the team climbed Yala Peak (5500m)on 3rd April while the others rested and acclimatised at basecamp. There was a snowstorm the night before but on the ascent they had brilliant weather and excellent views all round
Back in Kathmandu now having trekked down the Langtang Valley over three days from our BC at 4900m. We reached the very beautiful and ever changing Langtang Valley after 3 days to get to the highest village of Kyanjin 3830m. We had made good time and that afternoon we had the chance to practice fixed techniques on a rocky slope above the village with some of the porters coming to watch with interest. The next day we chose Cherko Ri 4984m as an acclimbatisation peak, following a lovely ridge up to a snowy bowl. As we climbed its steep headwall the wind picked up suddenly and provided testing conditions up to the summit. All clients got to the summit before heading down in very cold, wintry conditions.
Because there was too much snow and significant avalanche risk on the south side of the valley, Naya Kanga was ruled out as our main peak. Yala Peak to the north was much more attainable, with shorter summit day and only one camp needed. The BC was situated on a very snowy plateaux where the snow seemed to be over 4 – 5 metres deep! The first night was gusty with heavy snow falls during the night. Those who chose to wake for a 4.30 breakfast in the cook tent, then set out just after 5 as the sky lightened. The clouds had disappeared and we were treated to a stunning sunrise and breathtaking views in all directions – the perfect himalayan day! We witnessed a huge serac colapse and airborn avalanche off a nearby 7000m peak which caused us all to grab our cameras! One of our two sherpas, Lakpa broke trail as we headed up increasingly steeper slopes, roped together towards the summit ridge of Yala Peak 5500m. We grouped just below the small summit and climbed to the top 2 at a time on a fixed rope secured by the sherpas. It was 10.00am and the sense of achievement in the team was wonderful – it had been a long hard climb, but so worth it.
The team are now back in Kathmandu enjoying the lovely hotel and wonderful choice of restaurants and shopping, ahead of the journey to Tibet in 2 days time.
This is our last night in Kathmandu before a 6 am departure to the Tibetan Border at The Friendship bridge where will be in the hands of the Chinese Tibetan Mountaineering Association for our transport and accommodation. We hope to be in Base Camp in the next 2/3 days.
The team having an early lunch of Dahl Bhat before crossing into Tibet.
We are now in Tingri having driven from Zangmu across the Tibetan plateaux today. Crossing the border via the Friendship Bridge was the usual drawn out over beaurocratic affair with bags being checked, permits verified and re checked. The hotel in Zangmu was a very pleasant place to stay and the current hotel in Tingri is not bad either considering we are in a tiny village sat, lost on a barren dusty plain. Wifi is fast too!!
We crossed a 5000m pass en route from which we had views towards Shishapangma 8,027m which towered into the clouds distant.
Most of the expedition equipment was still held up at the border – we are hoping it catches up with us tomorrow so we can head up to EBC the day after.
Despite the conditions we set our on an acclimbatisation walk up some nameless nearby hills and spent 6 hours completing a great horse shoe in brightening conditions. Despite the breakup in the overhead sky, distant clouds to the south kept Everest well hidden and our first views were thwarted.
Tingri sits at 4300m and we climbed to 4825 today – about the height of our previous high camp below Yala Peak.All being well, a convoy of Land Cruisers followed by 2 former Chinese Army trucks should transport 9 clients, 2 leaders, 6 Sherpas and 2 cooks, plus so much equipment and barrels if food, to Everest Base Camp at the snout of the Rongbuk Glacier at 5100m tomorrow, 14 April.
We arrived in Everest Base Camp today and have finally got our first view of our mountain!
Tents erected and tied down to large rocks – no use for pegs here! From a large pile of bags and kit we now have a resemblance of home for the next 6 weeks.
The team is very excited at being here at last and keen to get climbing!
Today the team have enjoyed an acclimatisation walk up the ‘frozen river’, reaching an altitude of 5400m, followed by a relaxing afternoon at camp. The plan for tomorrow is to climb up to 6000m on a peak to the west of base camp, followed by a couple of days taking it easy before heading up towards ABC on 19th April
Photo of Sherpas: L-R Phurba Wanchhu Sherpa, Ngima Dorjee Tamang, Phurba Ongel Sherpa, Nigma Tashi Sherpa, Pemba Tamang, Lakpa Dendi Sherpa and cook Angmu Sherpa.
Today the team climbed up the western side of BC up a series of morrains and open gullies of rocks and snow. It was a lovely route not often climbed (in fact we checked with our Chinese Liason Officer to make sure we were allowed on this side of the valley) and we were rewarded by the discovery of a spectacular hanging valley with its own glacier above. The views from 5800m back down to BC were amazing, with the multitude of coloured tents appearing as little dots on the expanse of the glacial outwash plane on which BC sits. Chris and Andy C climbed a little higher to make the crest of a ridge with huge pinnacles, which possibly has never been visited before!
The more technical rocky sections of the ascent were avoided on the way down by means of soft snow gullies which several members chose to glissade down in varying styles!
The sherpa team had been busy in our absence… in addition to our awesome dining Space Station Dome tent complete with heaters, flowers and 32″ flat screen TV (with DVD), kitchen, shower and toilet tents, our Communication tent had sprung up as well as a clever lighting system for all our individual tents! We just need someone to PAT test it all now!
A rest yesterday, during which we held our radio briefing and oxygen system training and familiarisation. We also have 5 barrels of food and luxuries to sort through before being sent up on the first train of yaks today along with all the tents etc for ABC.
Angus set off for intermediate camp today with the sherpas and will arrive in ABC tomorrow to allow him time to rest ahead of his North Col climb. The rest of the team will head up on the 19th and will arrive at ABC (6400m) on the 20th.
All Now at ABC and doing well. Angus, Phurba, Ongel and myself going for the North Col tomorrow with others resting. Beautiful weather and views!
The team trekked up the breath-taking East Rongbuk Glacier to our ABC. Everest disappears behind Changse for most of the way but dramatically re-appears towering overhead just before we round the corner of the glacier which comes down from Everest’s North Col. Our new campsite was bathed in sunshine during the afternoon and as team members arrived, they soon disappeared into tents to enjoy a well earned rest at our new altitude of 6400m.
Angus, Phurba Ongel, and myself set out to climb the North Col. Angus had enjoyed a rest day, the day before, but sadly I hadn’t! We climbed up to Crampon Corner under a crystal clear sky, where we stepped onto the glacier which leads up to the foot of the fixed ropes. Angus decided this was far enough for the day, so Phurba and I began climbing the steep slopes between the sparkling seracs. Despite my best efforts he soon disappeared from sight on the 400m climb up the route which had seen very little traffic and consisted of lots of loose fresh snow interspersed with hard glacial ice and the occasional dark crevasse. From the top of the col we had great views of Everest and its famous 3 steps – but it was too cold to stay long.
Having had a rest day at ABC the rest of the team were set the ‘task’ of climbing to the North Col. Conditions were very blustery and a huge plume of snow was blowing from Everest’s summit and swirling along the spectacular NE Ridge. It was very cold crossing the glacier to the foot of the fixed ropes and wind blown snow was driving hard across the bowl. Everyone put in a huge amount of effort in quite testing conditions and most of the team got to, or very close to the top of the col. New personal altitude records were smashed in abundance and the tired but happy faces returning to ABC at the end of the day told of many new exciting experiences of high altitude climbing. Well done to everyone!
We have descended the long and winding trail back to BC and anticipate the promise of several rest days, showers, DVDs and of course wonderful food prepared by Angmu our resident cook!
Chris has just emailed to let everyone know that all of the team are fine and unaffected by the Earthquake in central Nepal.
Update on second day of Everest’s worst loss. We spent the morning gathering news, opinions and feelings from the other teams at North Everest Base Camp. The situation is complex, some Sherpas (and some climbers) are still up at ABC yet to contact families in Nepal – to find out their well being. They must be given time and space, to push aside their role on Everest.
The scientists predicted a second big quake around 24 hours after yesterday’s. It came 25 hours later. From within the comfort of our mess tent, subtle tremors were noticed, rapidly followed by the now familiar wave like motion of the ground and the equally rapid exit of the tent by our clients. Through the cloud and snows, once again we witnessed the cliffs above BC begin to disintegrate and spew huge boulders towards our island of safety. Again, they never gained the energy or direction to reach us – we are thankful for a well chosen site and that no one is hurt.
Stood still, the effect is strange – the sensation of wavelike motion, in the absence of sound or other visual cues. Team members feel dizzy even a little nauseous.
Back inside we finish lunch and digest our thoughts of the power of nature, how small we feel. As after-shocks continue to punctuate our conversations and fool our senses.
We think of the tragedy of our mountaineering colleagues – the relative few who died on the slopes of their prized mountain and of the many who died in their homes and cities going about their everyday lives.
We have just heard from Chris at Base Camp that the Chinese Mountaineering Association have now closed Everest for the season.
Plans are underway for the team’s return from Base Camp, they will drive from Base Camp to Lhasa and arrangements will be made to fly from Lhasa. Due to the severe damage to infrastructure in Kathmandu and extreme shortage of flights and accommodation this may take several days or more.
Finally on the road home. We’re now in the hands of Chinese Mountaineering Association being driven and catered for as we travel across the Tibetan Plateau towards Lhasa. We said our emotional farewells to our wonderful Sherpa team lead by Phurba Wangchhu Sherpa at BC this morning under a dazzlingly bright sky with our unfinished objective gleaming above,12 miles away. We hope they follow on as soon as possible. The Chinese authorities are kindly going to store all teams’ expedition equipment and fly all Nepalese staff back to Kathmandu in the absence of their road home being passable. This is wonderful news which again brought tears in the mountains.
We safely arrived in Lhasa today – lovely hotel. Group spent the afternoon sightseeing in glorious warm sunshine – it really is a lovely city. The Potala Palace is simply spectacular! We have a free day tomorrow and are all very much looking forward to flying home on the 6th.
Chris Harling has over 21 years experience teaching a wide range of outdoor activities. He is a qualified teacher and member of several National Governing Bodies including the Association of Mountaineering Instructors. He is a trainer and assessor for the Mountain Leader and the Single Pitch Awards and is qualified to teach Summer and Winter mountaineering. His vast climbing and mountaineering experience has taken him to six continents, including Himalayan expeditions. Chris has climbed Mt. Everest via the North Ridge twice with Adventure Peaks.