I decided to go back to Nepal to attempt the following with Paul undertaking his first ever trek in Nepal:-
Climb Mera Peak (6,476m) and Island Peak (6,189m) – to go over 20,000 feet for the first time – a life’s ambition.
Trek in the mountain wilderness of the Upper Hongu Valley and cross the challenging (and technical) Amphu Labsta Pass (5,780m)
Trek through the Everest Region seeing five of the world’s 8,000 metre peaks & much more besides.
This is one of Nepal’s finest and most challenging mountain journeys – the scenery proved magic every day
Of the 29 days (21st Oct to 18th Nov 2012) some 21 nights were spent in a tent and having the right kit proved to be essential. Here a massive thank you to Stephen Hayes at Cotswold, Royal Oak Store, Betws-y-Coed for the great help he gave to Paul and me in getting our kit and medical supplies in place. This is ever so important.
With such a demanding challenge ahead of us we took the opportunity to raise much needed funding for CLIC Sargent. The Charity is the UK’s leading cancer charity for children and young people, and their families. Every day, 10 children and young people in the UK hear the shocking news they have cancer. Treatment normally starts immediately, is often given many miles from home and can last for up to three years. Being diagnosed with cancer is a frightening experience and the emotional, practical and financial implications of treatment are intensely challenging for the whole family. The Charity provides clinical, practical, financial and emotional support to help the family cope with cancer and get the most out of life. CLIC Sargent are there from diagnosis onwards and aim to help the whole family deal with the impact of cancer and its treatment, life after treatment and, in some cases, bereavement.
It is so pleasing to note that we have raised sufficient funds to donate two wheelchairs (Mera Peak and Island Peak) for use in the Charity’s Homes from Home, so children who need one can leave hospital and spend time with their family while they’re having treatment in hospital. – see www.justgiving.com/mackfraser & www.justgiving.com/Paul-Hodges1
As we expected the trek was hard following the Route very clearly mapped out in KE’s dossier which was provided to each trekker. I am so glad to report that Paul and I summitted on both peaks and got over the Amphu Labtsa Pass. I will do a full report on the trek in my blog (of what we did on a daily basis) and here I am only summarising.
The trek itself is well thought out and is a massive challenge. I saw nothing wrong with what we did each day and both of us conformed to decisions taken by our KE Leaders and Climbing Surdar – Lakpa Tenji (“AKU”). The only comments we would like to be reviewed are as follows:
The day you do Mera Peak is a long one and it is a long way to the next camp above the Hongu Valley. Perhaps a rest day here the following day would be a good thing as your next demanding test is the Amphu Labtsa.
The way up the Amphu Labtsa was enjoyable and challenging but on reaching the top the drop down into the next valley was much more demanding than was expected by us. You were initially lowered by rope and then you abseiled the next section. However the skills of our KE Leaders and the backup from Lakpa and his climbing Sherpas were just magic. By 1.30pm we were all having lunch looking back at this almighty wall all around.
As Pete said to me "this was the only “chink” in the armour of the ridge'
'he was spot on'
We had a rest day on Friday 9th November before tackling Island Peak and this was welcomed just to settle ones self as you are thinking of Island Peak and the demands ahead of you to try to get to the top. Four of us plus 3 climbing sherpas set off from high camp at 4am on Sunday 11th November. Again it was a nice morning and little or no wind. I could see head torches ahead of me going up vertically above me until they merged with the star lit sky – something I will never forget. This was a steep and demanding route and much longer than I envisaged.
We reached the snowline and the change over into plastic/spantik boots and fixing up ropes to cross this dangerous glacier went smoothly. (You soon gain experience and confidence in your new high surroundings.) We safely crossed the glacier and being on a line with Tams for me there was only the option of going forward – (Tams had kicked me strongly up the arse and pointed that going forward was the only option available that morning.) On reaching the fixed lines the slope did not seem as demanding as it had done from lower on the glacier. I was soon connected with the fixed rope and armed with Juma in my right hand and axe in my left hand – I was away up this steep and icy slope. Tim, guiding Paul, had already made a successful summit. I got to the top as Paul and Tim were commencing their decent and they were so kind as to shout – “well done”, Fraser. I reached the ridge at around 8.20am, 5/10 minutes behind Tams.
"I had done my second mountain – I cannot describe the feeling"
Team work had got me there and I thank all those responsible. I was able to abseil down the full length of the decent which I enjoyed and then roped in once again we all crossed this stunning but dangerous glacier. By 11am we were having a drink of welcomed juice and a couple of bowls of hot soup at high camp. As we made our way down the steep slope to Island Peak base camp the wind began to increase.
Once at base camp we fed Congma which was a delight as the birds did eat out of your hands. It was a long walk to the village of Bibre and our tents for the night. I was last to arrive at around 3.20pm and it was a can of coke for Dendee and I. We had an excellent evening in a small and warm lodge and by 7.30pm we were tucked up in our tents. The cloud had come down in the late afternoon and it proved a very cold night. Tomorrow it was an 8.30am start to our walk and we were to reach a campsite just beyond Tengboche.
Excellent is all we can say. We would follow both of them up any mountain. Provided excellent communication and gave trekkers options well in advance. Their special relationship and friendship with the Surdar, climbing sherpas and
local sherpa was just excellent. Tim (who was super fit and lean!) was ever so strict on all safety aspects, always checking individuals to make sure their equipment was in order. Paul and I learnt a lot.
Climbing Surdar Lakpa Tenji and Team
Sherpas, Chef & team and Porters - 36 in total - just wonderful people who supported us in every way they could. Turning out good and plentiful food on a daily basis was such an accomplishment by Tika and his team of six. Our team of Porters (25) went over Amphu Labtsa in ordinary shoes/flip flops – do I need to say anymore? No plastic boots and crampons for them!
Assessment of our own performance
Paul was much more “up” for this demanding trek than I was and I was responsible for the longer time taken to confirm our final inclusion in the trek. Having cortisone injections in my ankles following my head on road accident made me apprehensive as to my performance on this long and demanding trek. I had nothing to fear as my legs performed well with no problems at all. Regrettably I caught a cold on the flight to Kathmandu and this never left me for the whole duration of the trek. Flem and mucus in the throat was a constant daily problem which had to be contended with. (In getting back 2 Chester I bought a bottle of Ammonia & Ipecacuanha Mixture (£2.17) and this cleared the problem immediately). Four nights into the trek I had a mild panic attack in my sleeping bag but having had a bad attack on the Ultimate Everest Trek I was prepared for it and Lakpa in his wisdom had told me to sit up and drink water should such an event happen. It never occurred again I am so delighted to say.
We both took diamox when we arrived in Lukla and took this all the way through the trek until two days after Island Peak. Paul took half a tablet in the morning and evening whereas I took a 250mg capsule at lunch time each day, so in essence we both were taking only half of the prescription limit but felt it did us the world of good throughout the trek. We suffered a couple of light sore heads on making descents early on in the trek but other than that we performed well. We had no real stomach problems. We ate well on a daily basis which is essential. We also drank coke (a treat) where this could be purchased – our dearest purchase being 600nr for a bottle!!
Paul gave us all a terrible fright early on in the trek, he had been lying back with his eyes closed on a rock simply relaxing during a rest break, then he got up and was taking a drink of water when he feinted and dropped down into the rocks. How he did not hurt his head we do not know but Tim and Lakpa took over in seconds to sort him out. He recovered well and soon we were on our way up the ridge.
Five to six days before the trek concluded I had pains in my left eye but alas I could not get my lense out. On the evening of 13th November I removed the lense which resulted in Tim making a bandage for me to cover the eye which I was grateful for. Thus I had to walk from Namchee to Lukla with only one eye which was very difficult. Lakpa had assigned Pemba to watch me as he was always with me and Paul was also watching carefully as well. They of course never said a word but I was well aware of what was happening and appreciated the actions. I never tripped or fell but found the day hard.
'We both could have done with more experience in high level snow. However having done Mera and Amphu Labtsa we were so much better on Island Peak'
Having done a lot of walking/scrambling together in the UK and worked together in getting prepared for the trek, this gave us both a great advantage on the trek as we did look after each other each day. We were in positive mode for the whole of the trek.
As for Paul he has stated that his biggest concern was the feinting as he felt strong throughout whilst trekking but a little light headed at rest at least once afterwards and feared this might lead to him being stopped from proceeding forward. Despite it being at times very demanding both physically and technically he feels we succeeded because we knew our goals, paid attention to our bodies and had enough bloody mindedness to push ourselves past our normal comfort zones and hang in there together. Also personally he felt an obligation to do the KE Guides and Sherpa’s professionalism justice. Tim’s of the cuff remark on The Island Peak Glacier ‘Paul it’s in the bag now’ when it appeared to him anything but ‘in the bag’ summed up the desire to succeed.
Party time in Lukla
Here Rob and Steve had helped Tim with the evening activities. Presentations to Lakpa and his team went well. The raffle of kit items to the team was just ace and appreciated by all of them and trekkers gave generously. A kitty for drinks was also put in place and the Porters in particular enjoyed themselves and then it was “all” up dancing on the floor. A very special ambiance prevailed where thanks were said and the special relationship built up over the trek was appreciated by all. Tomorrow we would all be going our separate ways.
Paul and I were so impressed by the diligence of the climbing Sherpas for the duration of the trek. Paul gave them token climbing gear presents to show his appreciation while I had bought and handed over warm hats. Lakpa, Kandu, Temba, Dendee, Nima and in particular Pemba, had shadowed us both at times when it was most needed, and has left us with treasured memories of their care, attention and camaraderie at all times.
Back 2 Kathmandu
The Shanker is an excellent hotel and we were looking forward to our return to the hotel and all the luxuries it offered. Once checked into our rooms and our first and welcoming showers it was away into the City to get a wet shave and haircut – what a wonderful experience! Tim organised dinner each night and two excellent restaurants were chosen by him. Lunches by the hotel swimming pool was also most enjoyable.
Flights – International/Local
All excellent and on time.
We gained an excellent window of weather with only two days of falling snow, one late in the day and the other from around 2pm until 7pm. Comments were made that the days/nights were particularly cold for the time of year.
'We found the trek excellent and an experience we will never forget'
Paul Hodges/Fraser Mackay
22nd November 2012