It has been two days in ABC (6450 m) now. We are not completely setup due to extreme winds. Lhakpa Ri (7045 m) has no snow, only blue ice. As an alternative, Dawa and I will try to get Ulrich on the top of the North Cole (7090 m) tomorrow and sleep there a night. Ciprian doesn’t feel up to it.
After a couple of days in EBC, we plan to move to ABC tomorrow (Monday 25/4). Last Thursday we performed the Puja ceremony together with the Indians (who are with Arun Trekking and we share quite a few things). The Indians started feasting the night before and went totally wild. After the ceremony (in which Kande, one of our Tibetan kitchen boys acted as lama) the obligatory pictures were taken. In our group picture from left to right: Ulrich, Namgya, Ciprian, Dawa, me, and Pasang. Several Indians wanted to make a selfie with me, according to Ciprian I have a semi-hero status with them as the super-fast-climbing Dutchman. At both sides of EBC there is a mountain of about 5800 m which are perfect to climb for acclimatisation. On Friday many teams climbed the one on the East side. Ciprian had left early and Ulrich wanted to do something easier, so I climbed alone. Soon I lost not only my brand-new sun cap in the gusty wind but also the way…. I roughly knew where to go but ended on a rocky wall. It was only about 40 m high so I decided to climb it (not knowing that Namgya was watching from EBC and totally disapproved as too dangerous). The good news was that once I had cleared the wall, I also had passed the Russian, Swiss and Canadian team and was the first on the summit. One of the Canadians took a picture of me with Everest in the background.
Saturday both Ulrich and Ciprian felt still too exhausted to climb the other mountain on the West side. None of the other teams apparently planned something. Dawa and Pasang, together with Sambe, one of our Tibetan kitchen boys, had left to prepare ABC. Kande, our other kitchen boy, was busy. Namgya told me I could not go alone and that he would arrange a boy from Arun. So I climbed with Ladja, an extremely skinny Tibetan teenager who didn’t speak a word of English. I tried to persuade him that it was not a good idea to cross the glacier river since it was some 50 cm deep at least. So we went a bit down where the river split and Ladja simply walked on his gympies through both 30 cm deep streams. I managed to keep one foot dry in the first but that got soaked in the second. So I started climbing with boots full of icy water. Ladja rushed up the mountain at an incredible speed. We covered the first 400 m up in less than an hour (which is even in the Alps quite respectible) and I tried to convince Ladja to calm down a bit. Big smile and he rushed on. We reached the summit in less than 2 h and then rushed down, waded through the glacier river and were back in 3 h. Namgya had given me the radio so I could warn him before we would go down, so Dorjee could prepare us a late lunch. I didn’t bother to use it as we were back more than an hour before lunch… At least it gives me the confident feeling that I am pretty well acclimatised. As said, we plan to climb to Intermediate Camp tomorrow and then on to ABC the day after Hopefully the weather ameliorates a bit because there is a continuous strong wind with hefty gusts that has prevented Dawa and Pasang, who have reached ABC by now, to put up any tents. Last night they have sheltered with the sherpas of another team. As of tomorrow there won’t be any easy communication anymore and I will be totally relying on the satphone.
As you may remember I was not very pleased with the itinerary imposed upon us by the Chinese which included 3 nights in Lhasa and 2 nights in Tingri. Yesterday during lunch in Xigatse I asked Jampa, the Tibetan guy that accompanied us on behalf of the Chinese Mountaineering Association, whether we could not skip a night in Tingri. To my surprise he said that if we had our final check of the permits in Tingri we could drive straight on to EBC and skip Tingri all together – provided we would get up at 6 AM. I called Namgya whether they were ok if we arrived 2 days earlier and he was OK.
The route from Tingri to EBC was totally different from last year. It seems the Chinese have decided to Disney-fy EBC and have built a fantastic 2-lane highway to a fake EBC at 5000 m a couple of km before the real EBC where you can drink tea and buy souvenirs. Bus loads of tourists are dropped there. At the numerous checkpoints, there are lines for tourists and for other people (farmers, climbers) and giggling Japanese girls come and touch you to feel a ‘real climber’.. it’s unreal….
The good thing about the new highway is that is goes through Pang La with a magnificent view on the 8000+m giants and that it is faster. Hence we are now in EBC. On the picture you can see our camp with Namgya (orange jacket) at the right and Dawa (black) in the middle and in the clouds behind a glimpse of Everest.
After two days in Lhasa we moved to Gyantse today. In Lhasa we did the obligatory sightseeing. Ciprian and I, together with Vincent (a French guy that forms a team with 4 Japanese), also tried to help our acclimatisation a bit by (illegally) climbing about the highest mountain near Lhasa (~3880 m). The taxi driver carefully let us out around the curve of the road so the police did not see us and we climbed 350+ m up. It took a bit longer than we expected but a young farmers couple gave us a ride back to the city on the back of their little electrical truck. This morning (17/4) we drove through the endless Tibetan highlands via the Tibetan mountain highway with passes over 5000 m. We saw the first mountains over 7000 m and arrived safely in Gyantse where Ulrich and I climbed the old, deserted fortress to its highest point (~4200m) which gave s splendid view over the valley. Tomorrow we hope to drive on to Xigatse.
Today is Nepali New Year, hence yesterday evening was New Year’s Eve – a big event: all streets were even more crowded than usual. After our dinner in the Garden of Dreams, we went back to our hotel. Ciprian and myself decided to go out to see some of the celebrations. We found a nice wine bar with roof terrace, but actually there was not so much to see, more to listen: loud music everywhere.
When we came back, I noticed that Dawa was online. We chatted and he told me they had had a rough drive, but were getting c;lose to the Tibetan border. This morning I spoke with Namgya, he confirmed that they are at close to Timure and hope to pass the border tomorrow. The Chinese have opened the border and the Russians (Abramov’s 7 Summits team) and the Swiss (Kari Kobler’s expedition) had already passed.
Prem told me that our visa are ready and he will bring them to us tomorrow at 7 AM, before we take of to the airport to fly to Lhasa.
Yesterday, after a very long layover at Delhi airport since KLM arrived too early, but Jet Airways was delayed several hours due to foggy wheather at Kathmandu, I arrived in Kathmandu around 11 h. Actually, that was not too bad since Ulrich and Ciprian both arrived just half an hour later, both on the same flight from Doha. We got to he Shanker hotel swiftly and unpacked. Namgya did not even take an effort to check my stuff and just told us that he would pick up the luggage for Tibet at 16 h. At 16 h he arrived with his younger brother Pasang who will join us as climbing sherpa. Pasang being still in Kathmandu (instead in Tibet, where he was expected to be) is due to the Chinese authorities keeping the border shut, which, unfortunately, will delay our expedition a couple of days. The good news is that, as a consequence, the entire team is still in Kathmandu so we could have dinner together. Traditionally we have dinner with the team in Kilroy’s, and so we did this time.
I’ve borrowed my daughter’s little video-camera and obviously do not know how to use it properly as yet. Nevertheless, on the short video you can see the faces of all team members: from left to right, in the order of appearance: Ciprian, Prem (who will stay in Kathmandu as communications officer), Ulrich, Namgya (our sirdar), Dorjee (our chef), Dawa (one of our climbing sherpa) and Pasang (the other climbing sherpa).
This morning the good news arrived that the Chinese authorities will open the border in the next few days. Hence, Namgya, Dorjee, Dawa and Pasang took off early this morning.
Ulrich, Ciprian and myself went on the obligatory sight-seeing tour of Kathmandu with Suresh, a local guide. We visited Pashupatinath and Boudanath. I’ve visited both places before and both are obviously quite badly damaged by the earthquake from almost a year ago, but both are being rebuild.
This morning, I’m leaving for New Delhi on KLM 871 for New Delhi from where I will – after a long layover – fly with Jet Airways 264 to Kathmandu.
The whole family dropped me off at Schiphol Airport, where Jetze, my climbing partner on the 2012 expedition, and Hester where already waiting to say goodbye.
Just chatted with Pasang: it seems the Chinese keep the border still shut until the 15th. This means that Namgya, Pasang, Dawa and Mingmar won’t be able to travel to Tingri on time and the expedition may be delayed a little… The good news is that we will be able to meet up with the entire team in Kathmandu.
Namgya informed me that our Nepalese team is now complete. Namgya will be our sirdar and our two climbing sherpas will be Dawa Finjok Sherpa and Pasang Sherpa, Namgya’s youngest brother. Both Dawa and Pasang have climbed Everest three times, and both have also climbed Kanchenjunga (with 8586 m the third highest mountain of the world) and Lhakpa Ri several times. Our chef will be Mingmar Dorjee Tamang, who has worked with Namgya for more than 10 years.