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Kanchenjunga Expedition update - 24 April 2018

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Mont Bell - Puja Mont Bell - Puja
We arrived at Kanchenjunga base camp three days ago and yesterday had our team puja ceremony. Early this morning, Expedition Base’s Sherpa team left our base camp to advance the route setting on the mountain.
We arrived at Kanchenjunga base camp three days ago and yesterday had our team puja ceremony. Early this morning, Expedition Base’s Sherpa team left our base camp to advance the route setting on the mountain.

Our Expedition Base base camp is awesome and the team members are pretty happy with their digs, the set up, food and planning for our summit push.

Personal gear has been checked and adjusted to suit the mountain, so we are looking forward to moving up in a few days.

We have been able to catch up with climbing friends here from other mountains, so that has been nice too.

Having just come off Mera Peak our team has some great acclimatisation already so we have not been impacted by any initial delays occurring in route setting here at Kanch.

Another team fixed a different route to Camp 2 from Camp 1 due to rockfall, with the new route below the old route. That didn’t make sense to me if that was actually the reasoning, but as at last night it seems that the route has been re-routed back to the old route of 2017. Still, helmets are a must on this section as they were last year. It is not a section to stop for tea on.

We can already see how different the conditions up to Camp 1 are, plus we are noticing different weather patterns… underfoot, reports are that conditions are currently much better than last year.

I mentioned the big crevasse above Camp 4 in a prior blog post but conditions on the mountain have opened up crevasses in many areas that we just walked over last year. The big crevasse after Camp 1 was a bit of a monster last year but it remained navigable until the end of the season. This year, it required a bit of fixing to set a route and the addition of 3 ladders to cross. Plus, there is a new open crevasse just before Camp 1.

Last year, whilst other teams (aside from the Italians who had the highest Camp 2) put in a lower Camp 2, we put in a next level Camp 2 across the snowfield and up another 100m-200m on a snow platform between 2 crevasses, and sleepwalking was not recommended. We have plans for where we want to put our Camp 2 this year and should know in days whether our plans will work or need adjusting.

These kinds of mixed and changing conditions are why many climbers consider Kanch to be harder to climb than K2, and Mt Everest. Kanch is the 3rd highest mountain in the world but the route is long and winding in order to navigate all the crevasses and rock fall that presents itself up to Camp 4, with more challenges above Camp 4 to the summit. As you climb to the summit you have to zig zag the mountain – a lot – and before the true summit you have a very long traverse (along the summit ridge) where you do not gain much height. By comparison, K2 is quite direct on the Abruzzi route and Everest has a pretty consistent route on most of the mountain each year, plus a dedicated team to fix the route – we don’t have that here so co-operation and conciliation between teams is required. Chhiring, from Expedition Base (and Lakpa’s nephew) led about 80% of the route setting on Kanch in 2017. This year, it looks like he gets to share the load with a good deal of others. Many of the more technically challenging sections of the mountain are still ahead of where the ropes are fixed to currently so we still have many unknowns.

Lakpa called in to our base camp not long ago and was stuck waiting at Camp 1 for queues on the ladders to clear. Hopefully he is now on his way. At this very moment, I can see a big queue of people just below the ice wall leading up to Camp 1.

Chris W just arrived back at base camp not long ago after an acclimatisation climb to just above Camp 1 in pretty speedy form. I’m at base camp nursing a cold. Two others had colds in days gone by and now it is my turn. It is almost gone today, hopefully.

Guntis B and Steve H plan to head off on an acclimatisation walk some time today, I think. Moving up the mountain from Expedition Base in coming days, for our pre-summit push rotation will be foreign climbers: Chris W, Steve H, Guntis B and myself.

There is a whole lot of other stuff happening at base camp and on the mountain, but stories for another day.

I’ll keep you posted here and on FB of our progress on Kanch.

Mera Peak

Our Expedition Base team is still talking about the great experience we had on Mera Peak, and trekking up the Hinku valley.

Mera Peak was a great climb and acclimatisation but noticeably cold and windy. I had on every bit of clothing I could fit on! Steve Hart’s son, John, demonstrated he has Sherpa genes, adapting extremely well to altitude, with very few symptoms of altitude. (Steve Hart owns and operates ‘MT Outdoors’ in Wanaka in NZ).

One thing we noticed on our Mera Peak climb was that many climbers were skipping villages and camps here and there on tight, fixed, schedules. Some had not climbed before, and some had not been to altitude before. As a result, a good number of people were not actually reaching the summit, which was really sad.

A few groups we met were strong on the trekking leg but as they gained altitude on shortened schedules, they lost power to keep going to the summit (most likely due to lack of proper acclimatisation – being unwell and impacted by altitude). One group passed me – them going up the trail and me coming down - and asked if I had any tips. They had missed a village and planned to skip a camp, but had a flexible schedule and were keen to reach the summit. I made a few suggestions and fingers crossed they slowed their plans to give them the best chance of success to reach the summit.

Mera Peak is a long endurance test and a test of patience. If you are planning to climb this popular trekking peak, make sure you give yourself the time you need to acclimatise for success and safety.

Best wishes, Chris
Last modified onSaturday, 05 May 2018 17:57

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