Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Chang Himal Piolet d'Or slide show

I've being meaning to post this for a bit now and with a bit of time on my hands I've eventually got round to it.

Last year Nick and I were nominated for the Piolet d'Or 2010 for our first ascent of the north face of Chang Himal in Nepal. This is the film/slide show that the organisers put together for the event.

Looking semi hopeful for flying to Lukla tomorrow, now we just need a couple of weeks of weather like we had last year, fingers crossed!

Monday, 18 October 2010

The waiting game....

This afternoon we should have being wandering into the village of Tangnag, sitting under the south face of Kyashar, our base camp for the expedition. Instead we find ourselves wandering down to Himalayan Java for our ritual coffee session and brief escape from the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu, the constant beeping of car and bike horns, the sound track of the city, reminding us where we are.

The first attempt at flying to Lukla, only 75kg of excess, let the bartering commence!

Lukla, the small mountain airport we fly to for the start our trek, is quite literally perched on the side of a mountain, 40 minutes of beautiful Himalayan panorama ending with a very ‘exciting’ landing on the short runway with a 12% gradient. With no radar they need very good weather to operate and the heavy rain and snow over the last few days means only a small handful of flights have left. Leaving a massive backlog of trekkers and climbers at both ends, frustration showing on everyone’s face.

We’ve packed and un-packed all our kit three times now for different scenarios trying to beat the system and jump the queue. The only option other than flying is a 9 hour bus ride to Jiri, the start of all expeditions before the airport was built and then an eight day trek to Tangnag. We chose Kyashar because of its ease of access from Kathmandu, three days should have seen us at base camp, the long approach trek isn’t too appealing and already three days behind schedule we’d arrive at Tangnag nearly two weeks later than planned but with all flights fully booked for the week options were running out.

Last night over a beer with Loben (www.lobenexpeditions.com) we came up with a plan, a bit of a gamble but hopefully it pays off. This morning Phalden our ‘guide’ got the early bus to Jiri with most of our kit and will start the trek to Tangnag tomorrow. We’ve kept one bag with us, just about enough kit to try and acclimatize on Mera Peak. The idea being we can get a flight in the next couple of days which will be much easier with just the two of us and only one bag, grab a porter in Lukla and arrive in base camp quite a bit in front of Phalden and start acclimatizing. It’s never a good idea going separating from your bags but knowing Phalden he’ll look after them like his own and won’t let them out of his sight, they’re in safe hands!

Friday, 15 October 2010


Landing in Kathmandu on Wednesday after a brief stop in Dakar things seemed to be going unusually smooth until after an hour staring at the baggage conveyor there was still no sign of our 4 bags and 90kg of kit. Leaving Tony at the airport for a nervous wait to see if our bags would turn up on the next flight from Dakar I headed straight to the Ministry of Tourism with our agent, Loben, to meet our Liaison Officer and get the permit for Kyashar.

Tony with our 90Kg of kit at Heathrow

Amazingly, thanks to Lobens efficiency I had the permit in my hand within 2 hours of landing in the country! Things got even better when we drove back to the airport to find Tony with all four of our bags and a big grin as his bottle of 15 year old Glenlivet had arrived intact inside his boots (I’m not too sure which he was more worried about, the climbing kit turning up or the whiskey bottle!).

Sorting the paper work for the permit at the Ministry

Weather permitting we fly to Lukla tomorrow (Saturday) morning then we’ve got a four day trek to our base camp at the village of Tangnag. Since landing we’ve spent a couple of days just chilling out, catching up with friends and last minute shopping in Kathmandu. Our flight back to the UK is booked for the 19th November so all being well we’ll be back in Kathmandu a couple of days before that...

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Kyashar Expedition

Due to one reason and another a month ago I was pretty sure this years trip out to Nepal was going to have to be cancelled after a few months of its on, its off, its back on again, then it was off again. I was actually quite looking forward to a quick Autumn hit to the alps instead but after randomly bumping into a mate, the young and talented Tony Stone, down in North Wales, suddenly it was all happening again! We got the flights confirmed for the 12th October last week and with some extra support from the Alpine Club on top of the BMC grant we already had the psyche was back again.

Tony Stone (Moonflower Buttress, Alaska)

Kyashar stands proud at 6769m guarding over the village of Tangnag in the Hinku valley, Nepal and caught both Nick and my eye when we were in the area two years ago. First climbed back in 2003 via the West ridge and West face (probably our decent route IF we get up the thing) we hope to have an attempt on the 2000m+ South Pillar (centre of the face in the photo below) which a Czech team tried last year. Unfortunately they had to retreat at around half height but reported climbing up to WI6 and M7 to where they got, ummm...

The 2000+m face of Kyashar

Kyashar emerging from the morning clouds above the Hinku Valley

Many thanks for their support on this expedition to the BMC, The Alpine Club, Mountain Equipment, Scarpa, Black Diamond, Tendon Ropes, Lorpen Socks, Adidas Eyewear

Monday, 4 October 2010

British mountain Guides summer test

Back in June the end of September and the first assessment on my guides training seemed ages away, loads of time I thought... As expected it all came around a bit too fast but in the end I got a good chunk of time out in the hills, not as much as I’d have liked but come the start of the assessment I felt I’d put as much effort into getting ready for it as I could have. Even though it rained for 90% of the time and we didn’t get any proper cragging in we had some really good days out just covering lots of easy ground and climbing lots of the classic routes in the mountains.

A rare respite from the rain on the top of Glyder Fach

The six days of assessment was hard, both physically and mentally. The last time I was properly assessed on anything was for my HGV driving tests and that was bad enough having someone watching your every move for 50 minutes, this was going to be six days of someone constantly look over your shoulder! The first two days of personal climbing and the problem/improvised rescue went really well with a couple of days in the sun at Gogarth and Tremadog.

Paul enjoying the sun at Gogarth on the personal climbing day

Unfortunately the Welsh monsoon returned for Wednesday and the start of the two day expedition part of the assessment. Over these two days you cover lots of mountaineering ground using all the different guiding techniques, show you can climb up to VS in big boots with all your bivi kit on your back and lots of night navigation thrown into the mix. The first day eventually ended coming down the Parsons Nose at about 2.00am (after a failed attempt to find the start of Reade’s Route on Crib Goch... opps!) and a final few night navigation legs brought us back down to the Climbers Club hut soaked to the skin at 4.00am. Finding ourselves locked out of the hut with all our sleeping bags inside (the decision not to bivi due to the weather had been made at the start of the day) we got the best result and drove back home for a few hours sleep. We finished off the final day of the expedition on and around the Idwal slabs and Sub Cneifon Rib in, surprise surprise, the rain again.

For the final two days we each had a proper client and an assessor to look after with the first day being a pure guiding day getting as much climbing done as possible and the second a teaching day. My client, Sky, was a super psyched Australian and luckily having lived in the UK for a few years had got used to the rain. We headed over to the Moelwyn’s and up to Clogwyn yr Oen for the first day where the really rough rock gives good positive and enjoyable climbing in the rain. We got ten pitches of climbing in, had the whole place to ourselves and even managed to take the waterproofs off by the end of the day. Chatting about the teaching day on the way back Sky was pretty keen to start looking at gear placements and belay building so with the sun forecast we made a plan to head to Tremadog the next day.

I’ve never done any teaching in my life so to say I was a bit apprehensive going into the final day of the assessment was an understatement. Although I didn’t feel confident by how the day went, I could tell my teaching skills were lacking that little bit of something, by the end of the day Sky had gone from never having seconded VS to cleanly following me up three routes of that grade and building her own bomber belays, but more importantly for me she enjoyed the two days (I think!).

So to the results... well I was really pleased to get a provisional pass, just being asked to observe a couple of days teaching to help give me a better idea on that side of things before I got an official pass. I was fortunate enough to be able to join Chris Ensoll (www.chris-ensoll.com) in the Lakes this weekend to get the required days done and my summer assessment signed off.