Friday, September 26, 2008

Last Rotation; Resting for Summit Bid

Back at ABC rehydrating, sleeping, and resting up for our eventual summit bid. Based on the need to rest and the weather forecast it does not look like we would start our summit bid before September 30, which would give us an October 3 summit. This last rotation should not have been that difficult, but windy conditions made for extra work and we all returned to ABC yesterday afternoon ready for a big snooze.

On September 23 we moved back to camp 1 and then on the 24th made the long climb to camp 2. We had already climbed the ice cliff at 22,000 so this was pretty straight forward. The ice cliff above 22,000 seemed icier than usual and made for a good workout. During our last rotation to camp 1, high winds and some new snow made for some pretty spectacular avalanches, one of which cleaned off the higher ice cliff, while the second came from high on Cho Oyu and travelled through the camp 2 area. These were normal events, but we were still happy that no equipment of personel were in those areas at the time.

After climbing the second ice cliff we trudged into camp 2 at around 23,000 and spent another very windy night. In situations like this you do not get much sleep and night becomes a long waiting game for morning light. Bob, Olivia, and I shared a tent and we were all happy to get through the night with no altitude issues and our tent in one piece. In the morning we got up very early, had a light breakfast, and pulled down 3 of the 5 tents at camp 2 before descending. The idea behind leaving only 2 tents up was that if we get big winds, we don't lose any more tents. One group on the mountain has lost upwards of 20 tents at camp 1, while we have managed to remain relatively unscathed.

The trip down from camp 2 got windier and windier until we reached camp 1, left our downsuits, heavy boots, and camping gear, and stumbled on down to ABC. We were both pretty beat, most likely from a combination of lack of sleep and low caloric intake. This is all very normal for a high altitude rotation, but it is still always a fresh experience to be walking when you have such low energy.

Now back at ABC we are sleeping, eating, and doing all the chores necessary for our summit bid, which should be our last rotation before going home. There are other climbers here in camp waiting for the winds to die down so that they can get this camp 2 rotation done and get in position for their summit bids. I think I can speak for Bob when I say that we are both looking forward to reading and resting before this last push. Our health, energy, and enthusiasm are intact, so now we just need a good weather window.

We have still not put in camp 3 (24,500) or fixed above the yellow band, so this will need to happen between now and the summit climb. We have had some small news from friends on Manaslu, and it sounds like they are getting a lot (1.5 meters!) of snow and having a difficult go of things. Our winds are a nuisance, and have the potential to create some hazard, but thus far have been manageable. Let's all keep our fingers crossed for a break in the weather.

I will try to get some photos off my camera in the next few days and get those posted. On a minor side note: Olivia and I had a Pika invader our tent looking for food last night at about 3:30 am. After it ran across my face for the second time I woke Olivia up and we spent a good ten minutes trying to capture it and toss it out the door before zipping the tent tighter for the remainder of the night. All good fun.

Our planned scheudle:

September 26-29: Rest

September 30: Move to Camp 1

October 1: Move to Camp 2

October 2: Move to Camp 3

October 3: Summit and drop to Camp 2

October 4: Return to ABC

That's it for now.

JR

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

More ABC...

Bob, myself, and most of the group are going to head up to Camp 1 again this morning. We plan to spend the night at camp 1 tonight (September 23) and then tag Camp 2 (23,000) on the 24th and either spend the night or cycle back to a lower camp. I am eager to take a look at the route conditions between camp 1 and 2 and this rotation will add a bit to acclimitazation while allowing us to make sure that the snow conditions are what we are looking for.

Our tentative plan is to be back to ABC by the 25th and then rest until the 29th. We would then go camp 1 on the 29th, camp 2 on the 30th, camp 3 (24,500) on October 1, and finally make a summit bid on October 2. We are both feeling strong and looking forward to getting our summit bid underway. The decision to make this extra rotation could have gone either way, but we are happy with our choice.

Recent highlights from ABC include:
1. Yesterday we had sushi (veggie rolls) in the afternoon.
2. We have released our stash of beer, Coke, and Sprite and been enjoying that.
3. Yesterday we watched a Chinese group climb to camp 2.
4. Our Sherpas are currently shuttling a load from ABC to camp 2 in anticipation of our trip up there tomorrow.

ABC is a much more comfortable place than it was on my first trip in 1996. We have a small creek, which provides running water to the kitchen and a shower, which is set up each day and powered by propane. It is an on-demand hot water system and it provides a remarakably nice shower. You can actually soap up and feel like you are getting clean. On previous trips I have resorted to a "bucket shower" every couple of weeks and this system provides unexpected luxury. We can also use some of the hot water to handwash clothes, which is nice. Things like washing your clothes, organizing your tent, reading, and such provide a nice diversion in what would otherwise be relatively dull days.

All best-

JR

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Camp One Wind

On September 19 we moved from ABC to Camp 1. The plan was to spend the night at camp 1 and then climb to camp 2 (23,000) and spend one night there. We had a windy climb to camp 1 and spent the afternoon eating and rehydrating. As we moved toward night the winds picked up and proceeded to blow for the next 18 hours.

Nobody slept much as the tents were really getting knocked around and we had to get up often to make sure that no poles were broken or new rips had developed in the tents. We added anchors and moved ropes to give the tents more support. A conservative guess on wind speed would be 60 mph gusts. By morning the group above us had lost a dozen or more tents and we had managed to defend all seven of our tents. One member from another group took shelter in Bob's and my tent after his tent slid 20 meters with him in it. He managed to stop himself, and climb into another tent, which was also subsequently destroyed. Once the sun was up we decided to retreat to ABC after dropping all the tents to keep them in one piece.

We were happy to have great tents that had been well anchored by the Sherpa crew. Bob and I are now at ABC sorting out what to do next. We will either do a extra rotation and sleep at camp 2 or wait a few extra days and mount a summit big starting Friday or Saturday. I am leaning toward the extra rotation, but we will see. We are both happy and healthy.

All best-

JR

Friday, September 19, 2008

Slim Post

September 19 and we are up early on a chilly, windy day. The forecasted snow has not yet materialized. We plan to climb back to camp 1 tonight, then camp 2 tomorrow night (September 20). We will be back down September 21 and then plan to begin resting for summit bids when we feel ready and the get the right weather.

Bob and John Climb to 22,000

After a two day rotation on September 15 and 16 we were happy to spend today resting at ABC. On the 15th we left ABC early in the morning and hiked back up to camp 1. Although we should be getting stronger, the trip to camp 1 was once again a strenuous hike. We made the trip up in five hours, which was the same time as our first trip a few days previous. Both Bob and I felt strong and were happy to get to camp 1 feeling reasonably fit. We arrived early in the afternoon and spent the day rehydrating and preparing for our climb to the top of the ice cliff on the 16th.

Bob had a bit of a headache and we found that a combination of deep breathing, coffee, and plenty of warm drinks brought him around and by the time we had dinner he was feeling good. Danuru and Dawa treated us to a new dish for dinner: buckwheat and white flour pancakes with a sauce of cheese, nak butter, habanero pepper, garlic and salt. It was super spicy and exactly what we needed before turning in for a long night of tossing and turning at almost 21,000.

We woke early in September 16 to a perfect, windless day. We started climbing the steep ridge right out of camp 1 and enjoyed amazing views of the surrounding mountains. It took about 2.5 hours to reach the base of the ice cliff. This is probably the steepest climbing on the route and we all spread out so that we would not have more than 2 people on each section of fixed line at a time. We were all atop the ice cliff about 4 hours after we left camp 1. 4 hours to climb 1200 feet – things sure slow down up high.

We then descended all the way back to ABC in the afternoon, had a big dinner, and then slept for 12 hours.

Today we finally had our Puja ceremony. The Sherpas read from various Buddhist texts, we strung prayer flags, threw rice, threw Tsampa (barley flour), and then finally enjoyed some much deserved beer. The whole ceremony was good fun and the proper way to seek permission to climb Cho Oyu and to ask for good luck.

Our current weather forecast mentions up to 4 inches of water (in the form of snow) in the next 48 hours. As this would translate to 2-4 feet of snow, we are keeping our fingers crossed that the weather forecast is off, but we will make do with whatever we get. Big storms are part of the deal over here, and we have lots of time built in to wait if need be.

We are both feeling healthy, strong, and enthusiastic. Our plan starting September 19 or 20 is to move to camp 1 in a few days and then move to camp 2 to sleep if possible. Our plan for this afternoon is a big nap.

Photos



Hey All-

Here are some photos from the Puja, which took place on September 17 and group 1's climb to the ice cliff (22,000) on September 16.

We are bracing ourselves to see if the forecast of up to 4 inches of water (2-4 feet?) for the next two days pans out.

All best-

Da Team







Monday, September 15, 2008

Friday, September 12, 2008

Bob's Got Game

Today Bob and I were up early (5:30 am Nepal Time) to see Gayle off. She hiked out and should now be enjoying a small snowstorm over at Rongbuk basecamp under the North Face of Mt. Everest. She will almost certainly have a spectacular view late this evening or early tomorrow morning when the afternoon snowstorms typically abate. The goodbye was tough for all, but it was great to have Gayle join us for the first couple of weeks and regardless of what she would admit, Gayle is a stud!

Bob and I left camp at 6:40 am and hiked slowly for the next 5 hours over glacial moraine and the famous scree slope that runs from about 19,600 up to 20,800 and camp 1. This is tough walking and the only place on the climb above ABC where we are not primarily on snow. In the end it took us a bit over 8 hours roundtrip and Bob did very well. We dropped our warm boots, downsuits, and some climbing gear off at camp 1, which is situated on a snow ridge. All this gear gets tossed in a waterproof duffle bag (thanks Patagonia!) and will wait for our return in a few days.

This is not a technically difficult day, but it is a good test early in the trip. From my perspective Bob should be very happy with his performance and this is a good start. Our plan from here is to rest for a day or two and then consider moving up to camp 1 to spend a single night. We can acclimate up to the elevation of camp 1, but do not want to spend too much time there as the time up high wears you down. Were we hauling all of our own gear and fixing ropes, then we would be forced to spend extra nights up high to do routework, but fortunately we typically do not do all this of this on a guided trip, the Sherpas do. With this in mind I plan to limit our nights sleeping above camp 1 to 1 or 2 prior to the summit bid. We will likley spend a few nights at 1 when carrying to camp 2 (23,000), practicing climbing the icecliff at 22,000 and acclimating.

The plan for now is to hydrate, eat, and rest, glorious rest. On our next trip up we will be better acclimated and it will either be easier or our time will be considerably faster, or both. The thought on this next trip is that we will move to camp 1, sleep, and then weather permitting climb to camp 2 at 23,000. Once we touch 2 or get as high as we want to, we will probably then descend all the way back to ABC to rest again. High altitude climbing of this nature is in fact a pretty dull affair. For every day of climbing we will spend at least another day resting. In the word's of Yvon Chouinard, "watching climbing is like watching grass grow."

It is snowing lightly this afternoon and our spirits are high. We are back at ABC.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

ABC

We left basecamp on September 8 and spent two days moving up to ABC here at about 18,600. Basecamp was located at 16,000 and our interim camp was at maybe 17,500. The trip up was a pretty simple affair as Yaks carried most of our loads and the Sherpas do all of the cooking and most of the camp chores.

The views along the way were spectacular and I hope to figure out how to get some photos up soon to show some of what we saw.

Our ABC is the same one that Olivia and I used in 2001 during the trip that I led for IMG and is the one that IMG has been using for a long time. Over the years each group has added platforms and leveled tent sites and the result is a very comfortable site slightly below the traditional ABC site, which is typically a zoo of teahouses and other groups.

Since we entered Tibet another large group led by an American made it in and there is rumored to be a small Spanish team. Thus we will not be alone, but things will still be quieter than in most years. The second IMG group led by Mike Hamil should be in Tingri today and will join us at ABC in less than a week.

Somewhere along the line I picked up my usual Himalayan companion, the cough, but I am feeling very strong and am acclimating very well. Bob is doing really well and enjoying a few more days with his wife, Gayle, before she heads off to finish her trek and eventually go back to the US. On the day Gayle leaves, Bob and I will make our first forray up toward Camp 1 at around 20,700. On the first trip we will go light and use later trips to carry our personal belongings up for trips above camp 1 and eventually the summit attempt.

We are greatly enjoying the company of our group, which is comprised of unusually compatible individuals from a wide variety of backgrounds. In most groups, it seems there is someone who rubs you the wrong way, but not in this one. These folks are a pleasure to be with and everyone seems to have an attitude that will serve them well when up high.

The main thing that has changed since my climbs in 1996 and 2001 is the level of service provided by the Sherpas. In the past they have taken extremely good care of us, and now things have been bumped up to a new level. Olivia and I need to beg to set up our tents, don't cook except up high, and have a camp stocked with seemingly limitless hotwater, a primitive bucket shower, and three solid meals per day plus tea. After working two Denali climbs this summer I can't say that I can complain, but I also can't claim to work half a hard as the Sherpa crew. Ang Pasang is our Sirdar and Ang Jangbu is spearheading most of the logisitics. Incredible people.

There will continue to be more regular updates at mountainguides.com, so check there is you are really interested in the play by play. This is intended to be more about the climb Bob Meyer and I are undertaking.

Good night!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Monday, September 1, 2008

Nylam

Today we woke up in Zhangmu and then drove to Nylam, a small Tibetan town on the road to Lhasa. In the past the drive above Zhangmu has been one of my least favorite parts of any trip into the 8000 meter peaks in Tibet. The road goes up a massive canyon and is scratched impossibly into the steep canyon walls. In the past it is single lane, mud, exposed to avalanches and landslides, and has no guardrails. I was tunned to see how much progress has been made in improving the road.

In most places the road has been widened to 2 lanes and is being filled in and paved. When completed there will even be a guardrail. It is hard to comprehend the amount of work that has taken place. As we drove up the canyon the clouds from Nepal followed, but by the time we reached Nylam things were dry and relatively cloudless. Nylam really feels like Tibet. High, dry, and a rugged.

Nylam itself has changed as well. Most of the old Tibetan homes appear to be gone and are being replaced by sturdier homes made to look Tibetan. We are at over 12,00 and will spend 2 nights here (Septmeber 1 and 2) before driving on to Tingri, where we will spend 2 nights. We plan to reach Cho Oyu basecamp on September 5. We plan to do some short hikes above Nylam tomorrow to continue the acclimatization process. Our chief concern here is avoiding getting bitten by local dogs, or having people develop altitude problems.

It has been nice for us all to travel together as it gives us a chance to hear everyone's story and get to know each each other before the real work begins. We have a huge Sherpa crew and the reality is that they will do most of the work of setting camps, fixing ropes, etc.

We are currently the only Western group (to my knowledge) to be climbing in Tibet and that is a very unusual experience. No groups climbed Cho Oyu this spring, so it would appear we are the first in almost a year. I expect this will allow us a more pristine experience and would seem to make the mountain seem bigger, more remote, and possibly more serious. In a typical year you might have 40 or 50 groups on Cho Oyu, so there would be a trail kicked in daily, etc. We are all looking forward ot the solitude, but will need to be more "heads up" that ever.

That is all for now.

JR