October 15, 2008

FREDICK ON KANCHEJUNGA - 2008 (Kangchenjunga Ski Expedition)

Kangchenjunga Ski Expedition Update 6
No summit on Kangchenjunga
The first day of our summit push on Kangchenjunga gave a big surprise. The weather was nice, the snow was solid to climb on and we were moving easily up to ?¢‚Ǩ?ìThe Hump?¢‚Ǩ?ì at 6200 meters where the site for our first camp was. Only one problem, there was no tent where we left it a week ago. The wind had taken it for a little flight about a hundred meters away and dumped it into a crevasse. Luckily we found it and it wasn?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t too damaged. A bit of duct tape could fix it.
The second day was a windy day. We made it up to 6800 meters before we got sick of the wind and found a nice crevasse to put our tent in to hide from the wind.
On the third day came the second surprise. Snowfall and whiteout. Totally opposite from the bluebird that the weather forecast promised. Without visibility we became spectators, sitting in our crevasse all day watching the snow piling up outside. The next morning the sun was shining again but it was also 50 cm of fresh snow on the ground. Bearing in mind the previous week of storm winds blasting the snow cover. The fresh snow on top made it ideal for avalanches. The decision to not continue towards the summit was easy to make but it wasn?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t fun. We had to give up our hopes for the summit of Kangchenjunga.
Standing at 6800 meters we had 1300 vertical meters of powder skiing ahead of us. But to make it down without getting avalanched we had to use all our experience and all the tricks in the book. There were some scary sections but mostly we could enjoy nice powder turns on one of the world highest mountains in the world. I am disappointed that we didn?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t reach the summit but at the same time relieved that we made it down safely. We had a great experience in a beautiful environment and I will definitely return one day to make a new attempt on Kangchenjunga.
We are now packing our gear and getting ready for the week long hike back to civilization Looking forward to a Pizza in Kathmandu.

Kangchenjunga Ski Expedition Update 5

Base Camp Life

At the moment we are stuck in base camp and all we can do is to wait for the weather to change. I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢m getting a bit of d?ɬ©j?ɬ† vu from last year on Dhaulagiri. Acclimatization climbs passed by without any problems but as soon as I?¢‚ǨÀúm ready for the summit the weather changes totally. Last year it was a week of snowfall that stopped me, this year the jet stream has taken over the mountain. For about a week now it?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s been around 90 km/h wind up on 8000 meters and that is no place for us to be in those conditions.
Instead we get to hang out in base camp. So how is life in the camp? My home is a big four man tent that I got all to myself. My down sleeping mattress is possible to convert into a nice and comfy chair. That?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s where I spend most of my time. Either listening to music, reading a good book or just enjoying the amazing view from my tent. Our tent site is not very exciting. It?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s made up of ice, sand and rocks and it?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s very uneven. But the mountains surrounding our camp are very impressive. It?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s an amphi-theatre of beautiful peaks, from ?¢‚Ǩ?ìThe Fake Jannu?¢‚Ǩ¬ù in the north via Kangbacken, Yalung Kang, Kangchenjunga to Talung and Kabru in the south. They are all rising 2000 meters higher than we are. That view is hard to beat.
When I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢m not in my tent I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢m eating food. J?ɬ?rgen and I have our own kitchen crew here in base camp. Buddhi, Kansha and Mon are making sure we are stuffed after breakfast, lunch and dinner. They are a good crew. Not only are they cooking good food but they are also laughing at our jokes (we paid extra for that).
Anyway after a week in base camp I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢m getting restless and I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢m hoping that the wind will calm down soon so that we can pack our gear and head up on the mountain again. This time we will try for the summit of Kangchenjunga (8586m).
GPS position
Base Camp:
Lat N 27?Ǭ? 40?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ 24?¢‚Ǩ¬ù
Lon E 88?Ǭ? 05?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ 43?¢‚Ǩ¬ù
Altitude: 5163 meters
Favorite Norwegian story:
?¢‚Ǩ?ìWhy do the Norwegians leave the door open when they go to the toilet?¢‚Ǩ¬ù?
?¢‚Ǩ?ìSo that no one will look through the keyhole?¢‚Ǩ¬ù ;)
Book that I’m reading:
Tissot: The story of a watch company by Estelle Fallet
Music on my MP3 player:
Dio – Holy Diver

Kangchenjunga Ski Expedition – Update 4

Skiing at last

Back in base camp again after a second acclimatization climb on Kangchenjunga. This time it took us only eight hours, instead of four days, to climb the 1000 vertical meters up to Camp 1 at 6250 meters. Being better acclimatized and having a trail to follow makes a big difference.
The weather has been identical to last week. We’ve had sunshine in the morning and clouds and snowfall in the afternoon. We are happy that we have marked the route with willow wands (bamboo sticks), that way we could easily find the way to C1 even if it was bad visibility almost half the way up there.
The route from “The Hump” (C1) up to “The Great Shelf” (C2) goes down for about a hundred meters then up what we call “The Second Glacier”, a steep snow slope with lots of Seracs and Crevasses. Very similar to “The First Glacier” that goes up to C1.
Being a bit lazy and too comfortable in our sleeping bags we were not very quick out of the tent in the mornings. That way we didn’t get far before clouds and snowfall stopped us at lunchtime. To our defense: we can feel the winter coming and the nights are getting colder ;) . With this pace it took us three days from C1 to 6950 meters (almost “The Great Shelf”) where we found a nice ridge to set camp on.
At this moment the weather changed and it got very windy. According to Meteotest, that are doing our weather forecasts, the wind was 90 km/h at 8000 meters. Maybe a bit less where we were, but still enough. After a stormy night and when the wind didn’t decline the next day we decided to return to BC.
After four days of uphill it was then time for skiing. It felt good to step into the bindings after a long summer and a lot of uphill on this trip. “The Second Glacier” is a nice slope for skiing. It has everything from low angle traverses to 50 degrees sections. Unfortunately the snow wasn’t great this time but the scenery made up for that. Anyway, skiing on the slopes of Kangchenjunga was a special feeling.
Both J?ɬ?rgen and I are in good mood and are acclimatizing well. We are now ready for the summit push and as soon as we get a weather forecast giving us four days of nice weather we will go for it.
Stay tuned for more news from Kangchenjunga.
GPS position
Camp 1
N 27?Ǭ? 40.909′
E 88?Ǭ? 06.958′
Altitude: 6278 meters
Camp 2?
N 27?Ǭ? 41.215′
E 88?Ǭ? 07.912′
Altitude: 6959 meters
Book that I’m reading:
Everest: The West Ridge by Tom Hornbein
Music on the MP3 player:
Eddie Vedder – Into the wild (Soundtrack)
Beard competition:
J?ɬ?rgen = Impressive
Fredrik = Not so Impressive

Update 3 – Route to Camp 1!

Climbing an 8000-meter peak is a time consuming project. Not only can it be a long and demanding approach to the foot of the mountain but you also need to spend weeks to get used to the altitude (acclimatize) to be able to climb the mountain. In total J?ɬ?rgen and I are spending two month to be able to climb and ski on Kangchenjunga.
This Autumn J?ɬ?rgen and I are the only climbers on the south side of Kangchenjunga. Normally the base camps on the 8000ers are crowded with climbers and on the mountain there are fixed ropes all along the routes. Being alone is great, it gives a more adventurous touch to it. We get to go up on the mountain all by ourselves to search and find a nice and safe route to climb (and ski). I can almost imagine what it was like for the British climbers that first climbed Kangchenjunga in 1955.
From our base camp at 5100 meters we have about 3500 meters up to the summit of the mountain and we will use three camps on the way. During the last four days J?ɬ?rgen and I have been working our way up to our first camp. It is located at about 6200 meters on a ridge that was named ?¢‚Ǩ?ìThe Hump?¢‚Ǩ¬ù by the first ascensionists. The route goes on a fairly steep glacier that is cracked up by crevasses (cracks) and seracs (ice walls) that we have to navigate around. The routefinding was a bit tricky and the weather didn?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t cooperate with us either. Each day it was clear and sunny in the morning but after a only few hours clouds pulled in and it started snowing. Needing good visibility to move higher up we could only manage to ascend a few hundred meters a day. We spent one night at camp one before we returned to base camp. Four days up, three hours down.
Having a good route up to C1 and the fact that J?ɬ?rgen and I seem to acclimatize well we are getting good confidence for the future. At the moment we are resting in base camp before we are heading up the mountain to continue our acclimatization and trying to figure out the route to Camp 2 at 7000 meters. More news when we are back from C2.
GPS position
Base Camp: Lat N 27?Ǭ? 40?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ 24?¢‚Ǩ¬ù
Lon E 88?Ǭ? 05?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ 43?¢‚Ǩ¬ù
Altitude: 5100 meters
Warmest temp: +36?Ǭ?C
Coldest temp: -11?Ǭ?C

Base Camp at Last!

Finally we have reached the Kangchenjunga Base Camp and it was not a walk in the park to get there. We were hoping for eight days of nice walking in the hills and mountains of eastern Nepal. Now 14 days later I know that the Kangchenjunga base camp trek is a bit more complicated than that.
First we were strolling in the sun along rice fields and banana plantations. Then came the Jungle with the leeches. The days got longer and the rainfalls got more frequent. As we moved up to higher altitude the weather and the terrain got nicer. Once in a while I even got a glimpse of a snow capped mountain. Our mood got better but that didn?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t stop J?ɬ?rgen from catching a cold. He got a sore throat and a bad cough that kept him a wake most of the night. To get rid of the cough J?ɬ?rgen decided to stay a few days in the camp in Tseram (3700m) while the rest of the crew continued. During the trek we had about 20 porters that helped us carry our gear and food. When we came up to the Yalung Glacier that leads up to Kangchenjunga, about half of them didn?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t want to continue. With only half the men it took us two days to travel the distance of a normal day. If that wasn?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t enough, then came the snow. In one day we got 20 cm snow and that made the rest of the porters give up on us as well. Even though it gave us some problems I totally understand them. Walking on this glacier is no fun at all and 20 cm of snow doesn?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t make it more exciting. It?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s a mix of sand, rocks and ice and always up or down. Not a single flat spot. The gear the porters show up in is better suited for a sunny day on the beach than on a snowy glacier. I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢m impressed that they made it as far as they did. Fortunate for us we were not far from base camp. J?ɬ?rgen got well and caught up with us and together with our cooking crew: Buddhi, Kansha and Mon we could move up to Kangchenjunga Base Camp.
It feels great to be here at the foot of Kangchenjunga and the view of the beautiful mountains makes the long trek all worthwhile. After 14 days in the jungle and on the moraine J?ɬ?rgen and I are getting very excited to take out the skis and head up to the snow.

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