Since Namche, the team has been going strong as we trekked through the quiet Sherpa villages of Phortse and Pangbouche. We even got a few hours of rock climbing in at a crag by Phortse. From Phortse the weather has also turned a bit with daily afternoon light snowfall. It makes for pleasant walking though as the valleys are now covered with a touch of snow every morning.
I am told that grass will bloom here, and that the Sherpas will take their animals up the hills for summer pasture. But in early April, above 4500m, the landscape of the Khumbu is as barren as the surface of the moon. The snow-capped mountains are no longer around you but right beside you. No photograph or IMAX movie can simulate the experience of standing at the foot of Tawache or Pumo Ri.
After hiking up for six days from Lukla, I met up with the team in Lobuche to prep for our ascent to high camp the next day. Pasang and I had been walking together since Pangboche, and after a relaxed day of acclimatizing, picnicking, and hiking in Dingboche, we were excited to finally spot the rest of the team up on the hillside above our hotel in Lobuche getting in a little jumarring and abseiling practice. We also caught our first glimpse of our objective: Lobuche East
The next morning, the whole team (minus Will, who was still in Gorak Shep climbing Kala Pattar) headed out together down the ridge towards our approach to High Camp. Pu Mori and Nuptse towered behind us, and we could look down the entire length of the Khumbu glacier before we dropped down into a valley at the foot of Lobuche and started climbing up the steep scree slope which falls away to the southwest of the peak. A quick traverse through the cliff bands with the help of a handline set by our guides and we were ready to hunker down in our tents and rest up for our peak attempt.
The group left Lobuche on a summit high under lovely blue skies and dropped to Pangbouche. Summit offered us the option to walk up to Ama Dablam base camp as a long day walk the next day, and not surprisingly everyone was feeling too exhausted for another big day. Even Will opted out, possibly due to an overindulgent afternoon in the Pangbouche bakery. So the decision was made to take a leisurely descent to Lukla via 2 nights in Namche instead.
The next morning was filled with goodbyes and well wishes. Sadly the group was split between those returning to Kathmandu (Pete, Lexi, Mario, Erika, Will) and those off to more Khumbu adventures in Ama Dablam, Island peak and Everest (Lakpa, Pasang, Dendi, Anna, Chris).
Day 1 - At the lunch stop between Lukla to Monjo.Someone locks Erika in the teahouse toilet (doors in the Khumbu can be locked from the outside to stop them slamming in the wind).Will comments: 'There's something fundamentally wrong about the way that people have the power to lock you in the toilet!In the U.S. this just wouldn't be possible.' On day 5, Will awakes in the night to find that the door to his lodge room has been locked from the outside and he cannot get out to use the bathroom.Will reminisces on the experience the following morning: 'I thought it might be some sort of unusual hotel policy to lock people in their rooms during the night'.
Day 5 - Sumit warns the group not to bother with the Pangboche bakery & tells us not to visit the Pangboche monastery as the group will be visiting the monastery the next morning.Will, Chris & Pete then head straight for the bakery & then after some food, they go & check out the monastery.On Day 13, the group visit the bakery in Pangboche again.Will develops stomach pains from a piece of layer cake of questionable vintage.
Ama Dablam is generally popular to climb in the October season, but this year Himalayan Ascent has a team on the mountain in spring. One of advantages of spring is less traffic, and that’s certainly the case now with only us, a Russian party and an independent British pair.
The team consists of Chris Possa (Switzerland, previous member of Lobuche team), Scott Macintosh (USA) and Niels (USA). Leading is Lakpa Sherpa with support from Niels who is a Yosemites’ guide. It’s a seriously technical mountain and despite its dwarf 6812m height compared to local giants, Everest and Lhotse, it’s not a mountain to be sniggered at. However, the group is in good hands with Lakpa. If successful, it will be Lakpa’s 19th summit in 8 years! He knows the mountain like the back of his hand.
Well the team is at this moment snuggled in their sleeping bags at Camp 2, but I doubt they are sleeping much. In less than 1 hr, Lakpa, Niels, Scott and Chris will be making a 12am (25th April) start to their summit ambitions on Ama Dablam. Lakpa will lead ahead with Sherpas from other teams to fix the lines between Camp 3 and the summit. He was busy on the mountain yesterday setting the lines up between Camp 2 and 3 –this is the most dangerous section of the climb.
The team should make it to Camp 3 by early morning, where they will take a good rest. Then they will push through straight to the summit. Due to more snow than usual on the mountain, the team decided not to sleep at Camp 3 and to have a longer summit day instead.
Lakpa just called to update us from Camp 2…after an epic day yesterday, they were unable to make it to the summit. They got as far as the serac above Camp 3 (~6400m) around 2pm, but “safety first” prevented them from going further given the late hour in the day. Everyone safely retreated back to Camp 2 to rest.
Fantastic news!! Summit success! Scott Macintosh and Niels Tietz made the epic climb from Camp 2 to the top on the afternoon of April 26th. Chris Possa made the wise decision to turn around after Camp 3 after feeling the fatigue of consecutive Camp 2 to Camp 3 climbs. You’ll remember that this is the most dangerous section of the route. Chris has already had a massive 4 weeks of solid trekking and climbing in the Khumbu beginning with the Lobuche expedition. Everyone is back in base camp and they’ve stripped all gear off the mountain. They are now enjoying a rest day, and then packing up to head back towards Lukla tomorrow.
The Himalayan Ascent Spring season is fast drawing to a close. The fundraising team of “Everest One” for Sharon Cohrs made a successful round trip to EBC and back. Thirteen Australian trekkers joined Sharon and Allan for Sharon’s “Climbing For a Cause” charity for a 16 day trip into the Khumbu valley.