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  2005 International Kangchenjunga Expedition - Norbert Joos: All the Updates

The climbing Legend Norbert Joos summited Makalu in 2002 for his 11th 8000 meter peak. In 2004, he summited Lhotse for number 12. Norbert Joos and Erhard Loretan were the first to summit Annapurna via the east ridge. This year he takes on Kangchenjunga!

Update: All the Updates are below. They have reached camp 3

2005 International Kangchenjunga Expedition - 50 years after the first ascent.


Report from Norbert Joos


Norbert and Wendi, both from Switzerland share a climbing permit with an international team. Two other team members are Araceli Segarra and Héctor Ponce de León.



3. and 4. April: Today we start our journey to the big mountain. Renate brings me and Wendi to Zurich airport for the Qatar Airways flight via Doha to the capital of Nepal, Kathmandu. After an unplanned stop at Dehli we arrive in Kathmandu with four hours delay. We are welcomed by Jangbu who brings us to the beautiful Yak & Yeti hotel. The flight was long so we relax the rest of the day. 


5. April: We meet Miss Hawley at 9 AM sharp. As always she wants to know all the details of the team, but she also informs us about other expeditions in Nepal. All our porters and Sherpa staff are already on their way to Taplejung in east Nepal. Today I have only to collect my own personal gear. In the afternoon we visit the Ministry of Tourism where we have the official Expedition briefing.


6. April: We get up late because all preparations are already done. This last day in Kathmandu is to relax and to see some cultural highlights.


7. April: An early rise to catch the flight from Kathmandu to Suketar. Jangbu picks us up with the bus at 6 AM and we drive to the airport. All the baggage items are weighted and put in the aircraft. After three hours of waiting we get the announcement that the flight is cancelled because the weather is too bad. With our luggage we go back to the hotel. Hopefully we have better weather tomorrow.


 2003 Climbing to Camp 1 copyright©Frits Vrijlandt    More


8. April: Today we have good weather. After only 40 minutes we land in Suketar (2200 meter) on a beautiful but rather short grass-strip. Our Sherpa's and porters are welcoming us and carry our luggage to the nearby lodge. From here we can see the summit of Kangchenjunga, miles away. It looks like the mountain wants to greet us, a good sign. Jetta and our cook have already prepared the first lunch before we move on to the camp site at Lhali Kharka. It takes us two hours to reach Lhali Kharka where we spend the first night in a very simple lodge.


9. to 11. April: The next three days we hike trough a typical Nepali hillside landscape, with many up and downhill tracks. Our goal is the last "real” village before the Yalung valley, Sherpa Gaon at 2200 meters.


12. April: Today we go to the campsite at Tortung (3000 meters) in the Yalung valley. Therefore we have to cross the 3310 meter high col Banite Banijang. It is a hard job for our 90 porters and the last porter arrives late at night.


13. April: Today we hike through beautiful forest in the Yalung valley to Tsheram at 3800 meters.


14. April: After a short hike we arrive in Ramche at 4500 m. Here we exchange some of our "lowland" porters for porters from Ghunsa which are more adapted to high altitude.


15. April: We leave from Ramche after 9AM because the next campsite will be on the Yalung glacier. One hour later, at Oktang, we have stunning views on the entire Kangchenjunga massif. This mountain is really huge! From Oktang it goes down to the glacier which is covered with rocks. The next two days we hike over the glacier until we reach the basecamp hill. The night on the glacier is very hard for our porters. Luckily the weather is good.


16. April: The Yalung glacier seems endless, but after climbing the steep hill we reach basecamp (5500 meter) in the afternoon. The long hike to this basecamp should not be underestimated and we are lucky it only took us 9 days. The following days we will use for acclimatization and relaxing.


17. April: The first day in basecamp. We are still a little tired and have the normal small problems with high altitude.


18. April: We try to make a nice and comfortable place of basecamp as far as it goes.


19. April: In the middle of the night our Sherpa's wake us up. Pasan is seriously ill and has fainted twice already. I ask Hector and Araceli for help. They give him an injection with dexamethason which will help him to survive the night. At dawn I call Jangbu with my sat phone and ask him to send a helicopter as soon as possible. At about 10 AM the big MI 17 helicopter lands near basecamp, picks up Passang and returns to Kathmandu. We are all relieved that he is safe now and we hope that he will recover soon. After this serious incident we have the prayer ceremony. We put the prayer flags in the wind and we hope they will bring good luck for the ascent of Kangchenjunga. The rest of the day we sort out the gear for tomorrow, when we will climb to camp 1 (6200

meter) for the first time.


20. April: At 7 AM the sun rises, time to wake up. About one hour later I, Wendi and our three Sherpa’s depart from BC to make the route to camp 1. We put fixed ropes on places were we consider them necessary. In the afternoon the weather turns, bad but almost all of us reach the shoulder where camp 1 will be located. We descent in a snowstorm to BC. We are happy we have opened the route to camp 1, and therefore we have a rest day tomorrow.


21. April: Rest day in BC. We sort out the gear for the next days when we go to Camp 2.


22. April: Our three Sherpa’s, Wendi, Galosch and Tomi climb to Camp I today. I am not in my best shape and turn back after just one hour. Also Hector does not feel well enough to go to camp 1. So we and Araceli stay another day in BC.


23. April: Hector still does not feel good enough today. I have a small infection and want to recover first before going higher. Wendi, Galosch and Tomi descent from camp 1 in the afternoon while the three Sherpa’s went up to fix the route to camp 2. They also come down to BC at 5 PM. They could make it to the last crevasse under the steep ice section to camp 2. They report a lot of snow and serious crevasses in between the

plateau and the steep section to camp 2.


24. April: Today Araceli, Hector and me climb to Camp I.  Galosch goes with us and carries rope for fixing. We spend a nice afternoon in camp 1 and shoot some film. Galosh descends to BC. We hear via the radio that Alan Hinkes has arrived in BC


25. April: We get up at 5 AM. The weather is not very good, but we prepare us for the climb to camp 2. We want to continue the rope fixing work of the Sherpa’s. At 7 AM the sun hits the camp and I go to the traverse which leads to the plateau. I lead the way. It becomes very hot in the sun. Hector takes over half way. Above the plateau the route turns right via a small but dangerous ice hang where we see the depot of our Sherpa’s. Above us it is hard to find a route trough the steep area with big crevasses. Hector and I try to go up but the way is blocked by a huge crevasse. While am sorting the ropes I suddenly see that Hector tries to cross the crevasse on his own and falls in it, with his belay.  Araceli shouts loud and I try to calm her. I go to the rim of the crevasse and try to find out if Hector is still alive.  I am very happy when I discover that he is, and even not hurt! A normal person would have been dead. I fix a rope and lower it to him so he can use his Jumar to descend, followed by his backpack. I am very happy that he is still alive! He survived a 20 meter fall in a crevasse. From now one we only go belayed with rope over the glacier. Today I want to find a safe way up, avoiding this deadly labyrinth, so the Sherpa’s don’t have to go trough this again next time. I send Araceli back to a safe place while I try to get out of the labyrinth with Hector. After making a traverse to the right we find a safe way up, avoiding the crevasses. Now we have cleared the way to camp 2. At 6600 meter we make a depot for the next time to finish the route to camp 2. At 1 PM we descend to camp 1. I grab my things and descend to BC while Araceli and Hector stay in camp 1. Maybe they want to think over the accident. After about one hour I am back in BC where I tell what happened. I am so happy that nobody died. I ask Alan to join our team for dinner.


26. April: Today it is the birthday of Wendi and Alan. We have bad weather in BC. AT 7 AM I contact Araceli and Hector in Camp I via the radio. They come down in the afternoon.  Wendi and Galosch prepare themselves for carrying a load to Camp 1. They leave from BC at 10 AM. Wendi turns back after two hours because he has a serious pain in his knee.  It is better to turn around than to risk permanent damage. The two from camp 1 arrive in BC in the afternoon. Hector feels his knee hurts from the fall in the crevasse. I spend the afternoon reading in a book written by Jamling Tenzing. At night we celebrate the two birthdays with a real Swiss cheese fondue, just like at home.


27. April: Bad weather in BC. We stay here today and Galosch will also descend from camp 1. Everything is good except for the weather. Tonight we have the second great Swiss cheese fondue party.


28. April: Finally a day with sunshine to wake us. We hope the weather is going to be nice again. Alan’s team invites us to participate in their Puja in the morning. Our Sherpa’s plan to install Camp 2 at 7200 meter tomorrow. In the afternoon the bad weather from the valley reaches BC again, with light snowfall.


29. April: A day for crying, because of the bad weather: it started snowing already in the morning. There is nothing else to report. I read a book about the Tibetan refugees. I am very much touched by their hart- breaking stories. I have ordered the movie already and I hope to raise money for them at a mountaineering event.


30. April: The weather has improved, but not for long. Our three Sherpa’s, Wendi, Galosch and Tomi want to go to Camp I. To my surprise Wendi returns after two hours. I ask him why. He has a strong pain between his lungs and his ribs. Hector, who is a medical doctor, recognizes chest infection. It is serious because it can easily get worse. He has to rest now. If he does not improve the coming days he has to be evacuated by helicopter. Hopefully not!


1. May: The weather starts good, but only for a short time. I call with the radio to our climbers in camp 1 to come down. In the afternoon we are all in a snowy BC.


2. May: I am in BC seven days now and it is very hard to sit tight here. I decide to go up to camp 1 with my Sherpa friend Nima Tendi. Araceli and Hector follow a little later. After 3, 5 hours of trail breaking we are in camp 1 and enjoy the panoramic views for a short while.  I make a call to an old friend of a Swiss local radio station.  We leave our carry in camp 1 and descend to BC, and it snows again. In the evening the sky clears and we can see all the stars.  Wendi is getting worse and I don’t want to take extra risks. We decide to have him evacuated by helicopter from Ramche. I call Jangbu Sherpa in Kathmandu to arrange the helicopter and to buy some extra supplies and fresh food, like chicken-meat, fruit and also some Khukrirum.  A small helicopter will bring the supplies to us and Wendi safe to Kathmandu.


3. May: I am a month from home now. Today Wendi has to leave us and it is very good weather. At 8.30 AM we say goodbye to him when he goes with Temba and Kischan. They carry his gear and will bring up the new supplies. Because of the good weather our three Sherpa’s, Tomi und Galosch go up to camp 1 and hopefully the next day to establish camp 2. At 2 PM Wendi calls to tell he arrived in Ramche. Hopefully the weather will be good tomorrow for the helicopter. I am sad he can not be my climbing partner to the summit anymore. I was hoping that I would summit this huge mountain together with a young Swiss climber again.


4. May: I am awake at 5 AM and look nervous at the weather. I see that the weather is good enough for flying, though clouds are build up and vanish again all the time. At 6 AM I call camp 1. They are almost ready to go to camp 2. At 7 AM it is clear in Ramche, but as usual the pilots waited to long in Kathmandu to use the weather window! Than Jangbu calls me from Biratnagar. There is a helicopter waiting for a weather window. Wendi calls me and I tell him he has to wait a day. Than Jangbu calls again that they are in Suketar now. In the afternoon the clouds come in and it is over for today. At 3 PM I contact the Sherpa’s who are at 7000 meter now, and short of rope for fixing. Bad luck. That means we have to wait for the helicopter with the extra rope. At 10 PM the Sherpa’s arrive at BC.


5. May: I wake up at 3.50 AM and turn around for 10 more minutes of sleep. Jetta wakes us at 4 AM for a small breakfast. Araceli is adjusting her crampons in the mess-tent. It irritates me because she could have done it yesterday. But whatever, I leave at 5 AM to climb the long way to Camp 2, where Thomas and Galosch spent the night. After breaking trail in deep snow again I arrive in Camp 1 at 8 AM. Alan looks at me from his little tent. He does not feel very great and plans to go down to BC. Hector arrives after 20 minutes. He wants to stay here for the night with Araceli, instead of going further to Camp 2. I don’t mind, though we had agreed to go to Camp 2! I continue my ascent via the traverse to the plateau. It is burning hot on the plateau and I regret it when I only wear a T shirt. The result is painful sunburn of my arms and neck. I see Tomi und Galosch ascend from Camp 2. Luckily they see me too and call me via the radio. I ask them to descend and to collect the fixed ropes under Camp 2 and bring them up. In the afternoon we meet and together we ascend to the tent at 6850 meters. Tomi and Galosch want to ascend to their cache, 50 meters higher. So I stay alone in the tent, very comfortable. At 4 PM I have installed myself very nicely, and luckily the snowfall stops also. Tomi asked me to call Renate at home to buy flowers for the birthday of his girlfriend Simi. I see the sun setting for the night.


6. May: I had a good night without headaches. Just before I ascend to Tomi und Galosch I make a call to the local Swiss radio station to send my greetings from 7000 meters. Even before sunrise I stand outside the tent where my two Czech friends are still in their sleeping bags. It will become extreme hot here. I change my down suit for just windproof pants. We prepare to find a way over the huge crevasse just behind the Campsite. Making progress in deep snow is very hard. Together with Timi I find a way at the right side of the crevasse and climb a few steps on an ice pinnacle. Then I have no energy left! At least we found a way through the most dangerous part of this section to Camp 3. Our friends can continue from here. We leave a cache with rope and decide to descend al the way to BC today. We leave our gear in the tent and start descending in the afternoon. Far beneath us are Araceli and Hector going up. The clouds come in and it is hard to see the way. Luckily we can follow the fixed ropes. Than we meet our two friends. At 4 PM we are back in BC, tired. Cook Jetta surprises us with chicken for dinner, flown in by the rescue helicopter for Wendi. We are very tired and go to sleep.


7. May: Rest day in BC. Unfortunately it is to cold to take a shower. Araceli and Hector stay another night in Camp 2. More snow has fallen, which threatens our summit plans!


8. May: Finally we have sunshine again when we wake up. It is going to be a wonderful warm day. It is really great to take a shower after two weeks. Araceli und Hector arrive from Camp 2 in the afternoon. They report a lot of fresh snow. Because of the great weather we are optimistic about the chance on a summit-bid.


9. May: Our Sherpa’s left from BC for Camp 2 today. They have the assignment to find a trail to Camp 3 and to put a tent at 7800 meters. We hope they can achieve to establish this last step before the summit-bid. Today the weather is very good; we had no better yet since we arrived here almost 4 weeks ago. I descend to the Yalung glacier for some walking together with Lhakpa, Tomi and Galosch. I propose my friends to do this daily for training from now on. Let us see if we can keep on doing that. We have cheese fondue from my Swiss hometown for dinner.


10. May: At 6 AM I radio our Sherpa’s in Camp 2. The weather is great and they want to leave for Camp 3 at 7 AM. I am the only one who wants, after breakfast, to do the trainings-run from the glacier to BC. The 330 meter takes me 32,5 minutes, an average of 10 meter per minute. At home I would laugh about it but here we are at 5500 meters with 50% less oxygen in the air. The afternoon I do nothing. At 6 PM I radio the Sherpa’s. It can’t be that they are already descending to BC where they arrive at 6.30 PM. I am surprised and angry at the same time that they are again down here without telling if they have been in Camp 3 or not. After dinner I make them very clear that I am not happy with their performance and that this is not holiday but work for them. I think they got my message.



11. May: Today is the birthday of my girlfriend  Renata. Congratulations from BC. It seems to be our destiny that she is born in May when I am always on expedition. Or maybe I am the selfish person who always leaves his partner for chasing the 8000 meter peaks.  I want to thank you Renate, for your forgiving and understanding every year when I am away. And I am very happy you will be with me on Everest next year. But now I am here to climb Kangchenjunga. Hector, Passang, Gyalzen and I decide to go to Camp 2 tomorrow and than higher to establish Camp 3. Therefore I don’t do the walk to the glacier for exercising today, but instead I pack my things for the three days climb. 


12. May: I climb together with Hector, Nima, Passang and Gyalzen to Camp 2, where we arrive at 2 PM. We are very disappointed to see that strong wind has destroyed our tent. But luckily all our gear is still there. Alan’s tent has been hit really badly. The poor guy must have lost all the gear that his Sherpa carried up here. We try to re-establish our Camp site by digging a big hole in the snow. We hope this time the tents are better protected against the wind. We call our friends in BC to tell what happened with Camp 2. And we are still motivated to go up to establish Camp 3 tomorrow.


13. May: Last year on Lhotse I left for the summit on this day. I know I need more patience here. At 7 AM the four of us leave Camp 2. It is very cold and there is a strong wind. It is a scary ascent through a very dangerous icefall. It looks so different here compared to 5 years ago. We are happy to find some old fixed ropes from the 2004 Indian team. Half way up we reach the big plateau which lies under the summit wall of Kangchenjunga. Via the plateau at 7200 meter we go to the bottom of the so called Gangway, where we want to find a good place for Camp 3. On 7600 meter we establish Camp 3. We leave a tent and some gear, well anchored, and descend at 2 PM.  In a straight line we cross the big plateau before we descend via the fixed ropes to Camp 2. It is 4 PM and. Gyalzen und Passang want to descend all the way to BC. I decide to stay for the night with Nima. Araceli and Galosch arrive in Camp 2 also, with Pemba Sherpa who carried up a new tent. We will put it up tomorrow. It is already late, but Pemba also descends to BC.


14 May: The wind is blowing hard. Nima and I wait for the sun to warm the tent. Araceli and Galosch try to go up to Camp 3 today. At 8.30 AM the sun shines in Camp 3. We leave the things for the next summit attempt and put up the VE25 tent which Pemba carried up yesterday. Hector wants to stay here to wait for Araceli und Galosch. I descend together with Nima at 10 AM. On the way we meet the group of Alan who tries to find a new traverse for the route to Camp 1. At 13 PM I arrive tired in BC. We have again chicken for lunch, a treat! I sleep the whole afternoon until Keschan

wakes me for dinner. I slept so deep that I didn’t hear Galosch, Araceli and Hector coming back. It is good to know that everybody is safe in BC.


15 May: I stood on the summit of Lhotse a year ago today. At 5 AM I am awake, waiting for the morning tea of Jetta. I feel tired and exhausted. But we have at least three days for resting now, which will do us good.


Kind regards, Norbert Joos


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