December 25, 2008

Fredrik Ericsson : Kangchenjunga Ski Expedition

Swede on summit push, to ski the third highest mountain in the world. The Swedish extreme skier Fredrik Ericsson is trying to become the first person to ski the three highest mountains in the world. This Saturday he started the summit push on the third highest mountain, Kangchenjunga (8586m). The climb up to the summit and the ski descent is expected to take four days. Fredriks partner on the expedition is Norwegian extreme skier Jörgen Aamot.

Fredrik Ericsson is one of the worlds leading high altitude skiers with ski descents on some of the highest mountains on earth, including; Peak Somoni, Shisha Pangma, Gasherbrum 2, Laila Peak and Dhaulagiri.  I have already skied on three of the 14 8000-metre peaks, but now the aim is towards the absolute highest. The project spans over three years and I will try to ski the three highest mountains in the world, Kangchenjunga (8586m) this autumn, K2 (8612m) next summer and Mount Everest in the autumn of 2010 says Fredrik.

The first challenge begins now when Fredrik together with his Norwegian companion are starting their summit push on Kangchenjunga that lies on the border between Nepal and Indian state Sikkim. Kangchenjunga was first climbed in 1955 by a British team that included Joe Brown and George Band. Since then, around 200 climbers have reached the summit. But so far no Swede or Norwegian has climbed to the summit and no one has skied off the summit of Kangchenjunga.  This means that we can become the first Swede and Norwegian to climb to the summit and also the first in the world the ski the mountain says Fredrik

Fredrik and Jörgen has spent three weeks in their base camp on the Yalung glacier at an altitude of  5100 meters. Over this period they have prepared for the big challenge and acclimated to altitude through reconnaissance climbs and skiing on Kangchenjunga.  

”We have just returned to base camp after one of our acclimating climbs. So far we have been up to about 7000 meters, just below where we will set our camp 2. It is very time consuming to find a good route since we are the only climbers on the mountain. First of all we need to negotiate a safe way through a labyrinth of Seracs and Crevasses and then there’s only two of us to break the trail in the deep snow ” Says Fredrik
Since Fredrik and Jörgen are carrying skis on their back, have randonneboots on their feet and will not use supplemental oxygen its harder for them to climb the mountain than for most other climbers. 
The Mountain looks very good at moment. There is a lot of snow so if we can make it to the summit the chances are good that we will be able to ski all the way down to the snow level at 5500 metres. We are acclimating well and are now ready to make our summit push Says Fredrik 
The summit push starts from base camp and they will use three camps at 6200 metres, 7200 metres and  7800 metres. From the last camp the climbing towards the summit at 8586 metres starts at midnight and it will take around ten hours. 
The ski descent, which is the highlight of the two month expedition, is expected to take five hours. The descent has a vertical of almost 3100 metres and has very steep sections of up to 50 degrees inclination. 
To ski at 8000 meters is not easy. Its extremely hard work and in the beginning we have to stop to rest after only a few turns. After four to five turns Im as exhausted as after skiing 1000 vertical meters in the Alps says Fredrik
For Fredrik the challenge is to take skiing one step further and to ski where no one has skied before. After ten years of preparations he’s now ready for his greatest challenge
2008-10-24: 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’m getting a bit of déjà vu from last year on Dhaulagiri. Acclimatization climbs passed by without any problems but as soon as I'm 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’s been around 90 km/h wind up on 8000 meters and that is no place for us to be in those conditions.
Jörgen relaxing by this tent with Kangchenjunga in the background
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’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's made up of ice, sand and rocks and it’s very uneven. But the mountains surrounding our camp are very impressive. It's an amphi-theatre of beautiful peaks, from "The Fake Jannu" 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'm not in my tent I'm eating food. Jörgen 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).
Our kitchen crew Mon, Kansha and Buddhi with today's lunch and "The Fake Jannu" in the background
Anyway after a week in base camp I’m getting restless and I’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° 40’ 24”
Lon E 88° 05’ 43”
Altitude: 5163 meters

Favorite Norwegian story:
"Why do the Norwegians leave the door open when they go to the toilet"? "So that no one will look through the keyhole"

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
English version:
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 Jörgen 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° 40.909'
E 88° 06.958'
Altitude: 6278 meters

Camp 2?
N 27° 41.215'
E 88° 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)

Fredrik’s sponsors: Dynastar, Osprey, Tierra, Hestra, Adidas Eyewear and Grivel

Supporters: Tissot, Giro, DHL, Exped, Dynafit, Loben Expeditions and Jamtport
2008-10-12: 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 Jörgen and I are spending two month to be able to climb and ski on Kangchenjunga.
Fredrik near camp 1
This Autumn Jörgen 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.
Kangchenjunga Route 2008.jpg
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 Jörgen 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 “The Hump” 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’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.
Jörgen on the way up in the glacier labyrinth
Having a good route up to C1 and the fact that Jörgen 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.

Jörgen in camp 1


GPS position
Base Camp: 
Lat N 27° 40’ 24”
Lon E 88° 05’ 43”

Altitude: 5100 meters
Warmest temp: +36°C
Coldest temp:    -11°C
Jörgen crossing a river

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’t stop Jörgen 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 Jörgen 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’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’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’t make it more exciting. It’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’m impressed that they made it as far as they did. Fortunate for us we were not far from base camp. Jörgen 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 Jörgen and I are getting very excited to take out the skis and head up to the snow.
Earlier: The Adventure has begun. Jörgen and I are now on the trek towards Kangchenjunga base camp. Four days have passed and four days to go to reach camp. It’s just over a week since we arrived in Nepal. We spent three days in Kathmandu sorting out climbing permit at the ministry of tourism, meetings with journalists and a chat with Elisabeth Hawley, the master of Himalayan climbing statistics. We also bought some gear and food that we will need on the expedition.
Kathmandu is a big and lively city with millions of people. There is a massive amount of cars and motorcycles and the traffic is the most chaotic I’ve ever experienced. It’s interesting to visit Kathmandu but it’s a bit too stressful for a guy like me that is used to the peace and quiet life of northern Sweden.
We continued with a one hour flight to Bhadrapur and a jeep ride via Ilam to Gopetar. After getting delayed one day due to a missing bag on the flight to Bhadrapurwe left Gopetar last Friday and started the trek towards Kanghenjunga, We are now halfway on the eight days trek and it’s not the regular trek that we are used to. We’ve been walking up and down the   hills, going through rise- and cornfields, crossing rives on wooden suspension bridges and through the jungle. Jörgen and I have agreed that we are not made for the jungle. It’s warm and moisty, the rocks are slippery and leeches are attacking us from all directions.
During the trek we have met a lot of nice people that have been telling us stories about life in Nepal and we have been trying to describe to them what life is like in Europe. We are now looking forward to leave the jungle and move up to higher altitude and hopefully we will reach base camp in a few days. More news when we arrive.
Beginning of the trekk

Fredrik’s sponsors: Dynastar, Osprey, Tierra, Hestra, Adidas Eyewear and Grivel

Supporters: Tissot, Giro, DHL, Exped, Dynafit, Loben Expeditions and Jamtport