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  Altitude Junkies Kang Guru Expedition 2008: Reports 10, 11 and 12


DISPATCH #10 - NOVEMBER 3, 2008 - CAMP 3

Today was a little harder than the previous day's climbing and we are all tired and now resting and drinking plenty of fluids at Camp 3 at 6,000 meters. The climb started with a 60-degree gully of loose rock, which made for a frustrating ascent but purposely our Sherpas had placed fixed rope on this section. Soon after we arrived at the snowline we had to put on our crampons and use our ice axes. We traveled on firm snow until we reached the site of Camp 3, which is located on mixed rock and snow terrain. Just below Camp 3 is essentially an ice and snow gully, which makes for an interesting climb at the end of a long day.

From high camp we can see the summit ridge and the somewhat steep climb to reach the final ridge. We will avoid climbing through the seracs and crevasses and traverse to the far left of the long summit ridge making a longer but much safer summit day. We will be leaving Camp 3 for the summit around midnight. We are a total of 12 climbers - 6 members, 5 Sherpas and myself. Hopefully, I will be able to send an email from the summit of Kang Guru notifying everyone of our success using the General Dynamics Go Book MR 1 connected to our Thuraya satellite phone as we did from the summit of Everest this spring. Phil Crampton

DISPATCH #11 - NOVEMBER 3, 2008 - CAMP 3 Since posting our last dispatch at 4 PM Nepal time, there have been lots of developments with our summit plans. We are experiencing extreme high winds at Camp 3 for our second successive night which don't subside until mid-morning. We had hoped that last night's gale force winds was just a one off occasion but it looks as if the weather forecast we received regarding the strong jet stream that Nepal was going to be experiencing just at the start of our expedition has stayed true. We have been noticing the large plumes that have been coming off the other 7,000-meter peaks in the vicinity of Kang Guru the last few days. Our Camp 3 is somewhat sheltered but already 3 of our 4 tents have suffered damage and we are not sure if they will survive another night at these extreme conditions. We have obviously aborted our midnight departure for our summit attempt, as the risk of frostbite and other injuries is too high for both the members and the Sherpas. The plan is to sit tight and see what our options are tomorrow. The Sherpas still need to fix another 400 meters of rope to the summit in addition to the 1,400 meters they have already fixed. The weather conditions today on the summit ridge made it impossible for them to continue fixing rope safely. On the opposite end of the present weather conditions is the fact that we have had no snowfall on the mountain since our expedition started. At the time of this dispatch, the tent that I am occupying has the walls pushed into my face while I am inside my sleeping bag inside my down suit. These are very cold conditions we are experiencing at this elevation. I would like to say that all the team members are safe and in agreement that we should sit tight and let the weather decide for us what is our next move. Phil Crampton

DISPATCH # 12 - NOVEMBER 4, 2008 - KANG GURU BASE CAMP Kang Guru seems not to want any climbers on her summit at this present moment going by the gale force winds we received last night all night long and this morning. 2 of our 3 tents are damaged beyond use and we broke the others down this morning to save them from being destroyed and cached them under rocks at Camp 3. We descended this morning in such strong winds that it took all one's concentration and balance not to be blown over at Camp 3. All members and Sherpas are now safely back at base camp waiting out the weather and we are hoping to launch a summit attempt in several days if the weather cooperates. We have had memorable glorious weather until last night and we descended in light snowfall, the first of our expedition . The route from Camp 2 to Camp 3 was interesting starting with a rock gully, ice and snow slopes to 60 degrees and finally an excellent snow and ice culoir at 70 degrees. The alpine environment we encountered up higher towards Camp 3 was truly a remarkable sight and from high camp reveals the summit, which reminds us we still have a long way to go to reach the top. The team members are disappointed that we had to descend from high camp and not make a summit attempt because of the weather but we still have time to summit if Kang Guru changes her mood and the winds subside. We incorrectly stated on an earlier dispatch that Camp 3 is on the west ridge when in fact Camps 1, 2 and 3 are all on the southwest ridge face. Phil Crampton

DISPATCH #9 - NOVEMBER 2, 2008 - CAMP 2

Today was a long day as we skipped Camp 1 enroute to Camp 2 and tomorrow we expect an even longer day as Camp 3 is some distance away. The team is all in good health and high spirits and looking forward to reaching our final high camp on the mountain. 3 or our Sherpas, Namgyl, Pasang Gombu, and Sonam Tsering will complete fixing the ropes to and along the final summit ridge tomorrow and will join our team members at Camp 3 and then we all leave for the summit together in the early hours of the morning.

Phil Crampton

DISPATCH #8 - NOVEMBER 1, 2008 - KANG GURU BASE CAMP

Beth and Anne-Mari went to Camp 1 today with Pasang Sherpa and will join the rest of the group tomorrow at Camp 2. The other team members plan to climb directly to Camp 2 skipping Camp 1 and thus avoiding an extra night sleeping on the mountain.

We celebrated Halloween yesterday with carved pumpkins and ghost stories. This was complimented just before we retired for bed with Pasang Gombu Sherpa telling us he spotted an animal above Camp 3 when fixing ropes that he did not recognize. Naar Phu Valley is well known for having a snow leopard population and we expect Pasang Gombu Sherpa saw one of these seldom seen animals, but slightly exaggerated to its size to fit in with the theme of our Halloween evening. Needless to say, he freaked out most of the expedition members before they went to bed in their own individual sleeping tents at base camp.

We are enjoying our second full rest day at base camp and our group are busy sorting gear, reading, drinking coffee and generally relaxing before our summit push begins.

On a more somber note, today there were 4 trekkers who came to visit the site of the 2005 French disaster. Through our scope, we watched them climb to the old traditional base camp with a local guide and place some flowers on the puja chorta, which still remains at the site. We were told by the locals of Meta that they were friends of some of the French climbers who perished this month 3 years ago.

Phil Crampton

DISPATCH #7 - OCTOBER 30, 2008 - KANG GURU BASE CAMP

All the team members and Sherpas are now safely back at base camp after their final acclimatization climb. They will rest for a couple for days at base camp before making their last climb on the mountain for the summit push.

The team members will climb directly to Camp 2 for the evening from base camp skipping Camp 1, and the climb to Camp 3 is going to be a long day as we have a long linear distance to cover as well as 900 vertical meters to ascend to reach the campsite. Summit day will also be a 900 vertical meter day, so we have 3 big days of climbing ahead and one long day descending from high camp back to base camp.

The technical description of the route we are climbing on Kang Guru is the southwest face to the west ridge. Camp 1 to Camp 2 are located on the southwest face whereas Camp 3 is located on the west ridge. According to our friend, Miss Elizabeth Hawley who compiles data on all the Nepal mountaineering expeditions, if our expedition is successful in reaching the summit, we will have the first climbers from the following nations to summit Kang Guru: Britain, Canada, Finland, Sweden, United States, and Venezuela.

Our Sherpa crew under the leadership of our Sirdar, Namgyl Sherpa, has done a fantastic job of establishing the campsites and has already fixed 900 meters of rope above Camp 2. They estimate that we still have another 200 - 400 meters of rope to fix to the summit which they will complete the day before the team members summit.

Namgyl Sherpa is used to summiting when fixing ropes, as he was part of the group of Sherpas who fixed rope to the summit of Everest this spring from the Nepal side, and continued to the summit, becoming the first person to summit on May 20th.

Life is good at our 3,600 meters base camp and showering here is a much more pleasant experience than taking one at Everest base camp on the Tibet side with the constant strong wind. The weather continues to be great on Kang Guru although the afternoon winds have now increased in their intensity at base camp. Hopefully, they stay at low elevations.

Phil Crampton

DISPATCH #6 OCTOBER 29, 2008 CAMP 2

We are all doing well at Camp 2 at 5,200 meters, which allows for fantastic views of Annapurna massif. We keep focusing on the 7,000-meter peak Lamjung that lets us know we still have a lot more elevation gain to reach Camp 3 and the summit.

The route to Camp 2 was interesting with some more rock scrabbling and the scree slope, which makes the climb to Camp 1 on Cho Oyu look simple. The team members wore their Millet Everest boots for the first time on Kang Guru today. For some it was their first time wearing these high altitude climbing boots and they took some time getting used to.

The Sherpas have established Camp 3 at 6,100 meters and worked all day fixing rope below and above high camp at 6,500 meters. After a few days rest, the Sherpas will return and fix more ropes to the summit as well as fixing a 60 degree rock quarry which is located just above Camp 2.

Kang Guru is truly living up to its translation as "teaching mountain" as we have encountered rock scrambling, scree, ice, and snow this season on this peak, but that is what the team members signed up for.

Phil Crampton

DISPATCH #5 - OCTOBER 28, 2008 - CAMP 1

We finally get to sleep higher today at Camp 1 at 4,500 meters. It's great having such a low base camp, but it only lies at 3,570 meters. Tomorrow, we will climb to Camp 2 at 5,2000 meters and spend the night there also. We will return to base camp on the 30th for a few days rest while the Sherpas establish Camp 3, which will be our high camp, that will be around 6,000 - 6,200 meters depending on the campsite conditions.

Today the Sherpas fixed rope on the exposed sections above Camp 2 and tomorrow they will continue to fix ropes where necessary above Camp 3.

The weather is still cooperating with us, although we continue to get high winds and low clouds in the afternoon. We plan to keep making the early morning starts to maximize our chances on Kang Guru. Each day we can feel the temperature at base camp getting progressively colder.

Phil Crampton

DISPATCH #4 - OCTOBER 26, 2008 - KANG GURU BASE CAMP
 

The acclimatization hike to the old base camp yesterday went well with all members reaching the old 4,200-meter campsite in 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Two of the members decided to continue to our Camp 1, which lies at an elevation of 4,500 meters. Our Sherpas did an excellent job of building a tent platform and our site sits on a nice protected area.

The route to Camp 1 is pretty straightforward except for some rock scrabble just before the campsite. The site of the old base camp was quite a surreal sight. Our Sherpas pointed out the direction of the 2005 avalanche and we could see the top of destruction as it left the slope void of vegetation that once grew there. The tent platforms and puja chorta still remain in place and the prayer flags are somewhat weathered but we believe we are the first expedition in 3 years to visit the mountain.

Upon returning to base camp after lunch we practiced fixed rope travel and rappelling on fixed lines. This exercise was to familiarize everyone with the techniques that we will be using and practicing higher on the mountain in about a week's time. For many climbers the ropes we set up at base camp are just making them keener to get higher and practice in a true alpine environment.

Today we carried heavy loads to deposit at Camp 1 before returning to base camp for lunch. The Sherpas carried loads again to Camp 1 before continuing to Camp 2 and establishing the camp at 5,200 meters. The Sherpas decided that Camp 2 be placed lower than originally planned and the campsite they chose is in a good safe location on rock.

The snow line is at a higher elevation than we expected to see due to the absence of heavy snowfall on Kang Guru during the monsoon and we expect another one-hour trek on rock and scree above Camp 2 before reaching the snowline. Hopefully, we will establish our Camp 3 at the 6,200-meter mark making an 800-meter ascent on summit day.

We plan to take a rest day tomorrow and the members will go over such topics as high altitude food and stoves, using the portable climbing chamber, supplementary climbing oxygen and cold weather camping skills.

Phil Crampton

 

DISPATCH #3 - OCTOBER 24, 2008 - KANG GURU BASE CAMP

Yesterday, we arrived at the village of Meta, which lies at an elevation of 3,570 meters, which allows for great views of the ropes to the old traditional base camp. We have decided not to use the old base camp for obvious reasons and due to the steepness of the route and the single flat-faced area; we have established our base camp at the edge of the Meta village. We had hoped to have a 3,000 meter climb but now we have a 3,500 meter climb to base camp.

We held our Puja ceremony today as the local Lama informed our Sherpa Sirdar this morning that there is not going to be an auspicious day to hold a Puja for several more days. Our staff quickly built a chorta and the kitchen prepared all the necessary food before starting the ceremony just before noon. For many of our climbers, this was their first Puja ceremony and they seemed quite surprised when I informed them that a 2-hour service is considered a short one.

Tomorrow the Sherpas will go and place Camp 1 in a protected area about half an hour's climb above the old base camp. The campsite is too small for a kitchen and dining tent but large enough for about 4 Mountain Hardware Trango 3.1 tents. While the Sherpas are busy, the climbers will take an acclimatization hike to around 4,000 - 4,500 meter mark before heading back to base camp.

We make a first load carry to Camp 1 in a few days and we are all in agreement that we prefer having such a nice low base camp with fantastic views of the Annapurna Himal. The trail to Camp 1 although somewhat steep is not under snow and reminds me of the trail to Pumori Camp 1 (now called ABC) but this seems much steeper.

The weather has been glorious in the morning but we have noticed a pattern developing in the afternoon with clouds and winds, so we will be making some early morning starts over the next couple of weeks.

Phil Crampton

DISPATCH #4 - OCTOBER 26, 2008 - KANG GURU BASE CAMP

The acclimatization hike to the old base camp yesterday went well with all members reaching the old 4,200-meter campsite in 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Two of the members decided to continue to our Camp 1, which lies at an elevation of 4,500 meters. Our Sherpas did an excellent job of building a tent platform and our site sits on a nice protected area.

The route to Camp 1 is pretty straightforward except for some rock scrabble just before the campsite. The site of the old base camp was quite a surreal sight. Our Sherpas pointed out the direction of the 2005 avalanche and we could see the top of destruction as it left the slope void of vegetation that once grew there. The tent platforms and puja chorta still remain in place and the prayer flags are somewhat weathered but we believe we are the first expedition in 3 years to visit the mountain.

Upon returning to base camp after lunch we practiced fixed rope travel and rappelling on fixed lines. This exercise was to familiarize everyone with the techniques that we will be using and practicing higher on the mountain in about a week's time. For many climbers the ropes we set up at base camp are just making them keener to get higher and practice in a true alpine environment.

Today we carried heavy loads to deposit at Camp 1 before returning to base camp for lunch. The Sherpas carried loads again to Camp 1 before continuing to Camp 2 and establishing the camp at 5,200 meters. The Sherpas decided that Camp 2 be placed lower than originally planned and the campsite they chose is in a good safe location on rock.

The snow line is at a higher elevation than we expected to see due to the absence of heavy snowfall on Kang Guru during the monsoon and we expect another one-hour trek on rock and scree above Camp 2 before reaching the snowline. Hopefully, we will establish our Camp 3 at the 6,200-meter mark making an 800-meter ascent on summit day.

We plan to take a rest day tomorrow and the members will go over such topics as high altitude food and stoves, using the portable climbing chamber, supplementary climbing oxygen and cold weather camping skills.

Phil Crampton 

DISPATCH #2 - OCTOBER 22, 2008 - KOTO QUPAR

Our third day trekking on the Annapurna circuit has been glorious  beautiful weather every day and not so busy trails, which has been complimented by our great team of climbers with some very interesting humor. Our early bus ride from Kathmandu was longer than anticipated due to the not so good road conditions but we reached our intended destination late afternoon. Each evening before dinner we have group discussions about various high altitude topics including acclimatization, Nepal and Tibet health issues, and  the contents and use of the medical chest. All the climbers are doing well health wise but we had a couple of stomach bugs to treat on day one of the trek due to the climbers visiting a certain local momo restaurant in Kathmandu whose name shall remain anonymous. Everyone else has stayed healthy as they ate in the tourist restaurants in the Thamel area of Kathmandu. I always recommend to first time visitors to Kathmandu to eat where they see large numbers of other tourists eating. Tomorrow, we break off the Annapurna circuit trail and will trek to Meta, which lies at an elevation of 3,570 meters where we plan to spend two nights for cautious acclimatization before arriving at base camp. From Koto onwards, we are camping instead of using the local teahouses and our  head cook Sarki is looking forward to making his own menu rather than just supervising the cleanliness of the kitchen staff in the teahouses. Base camp will be located at a much lower elevation than the  traditional base camp that suffered an infamous avalanche in 2005, which killed 7  French climbers, a Sherpa and 10 local porters. When the climbers are resting  on their acclimatization day at Meta, the Sherpas and I will head up and  decide on a suitable safe location to establish our permanent base camp. Above this, we plan to establish 3 camps on the mountain with the distances between camps hopefully simulating those found on some of the  8000-meter peaks such as Cho Oyu, Shishapangma and Gasherbrum 2. Phil Crampton

DISPATCH #1 - OCTOBER 17, 2008 - KATHMANDU

Welcome to the expedition dispatches from the Himalaya-Altitude Junkies Kang Guru Expedition 2008. Our team members are now starting to assemble in bustling Kathmandu for our first visit to to the 7,010-meter Kang Guru. This height conclusion is according to some of our Sherpa friends who have climbed this peak before. This expedition serves two purposes as it is also our 8,000-meter preparation course for those climbers wishing to learn the skills needed for climbing the world's highest peaks.

The Kang Guru expedition team is quite an international affair and consists of;

Phil Crampton (UK/USA)
Peter Adolfsson (Sweden)
Paula Castillo (Venezuela)
Damien Francois (Belgium)
Anne-Mari Hyrylainen (Finland)
Rusty Schlessman (USA)
Robert Shaver (USA)
Beth Whelean (Canada)

Our staff will consist of climbing Sherpas Namgyl Sherpa, Tarkey Sherpa and Pasang Gombu Sherpa and we will have Phurbu Sarki Sherpa as our head cook with two of his finest kitchen assistants.

Tarkey Sherpa, Pasang Gombu Sherpa, Phurbu Sarki Sherpa and myself have just returned to Kathmandu from a successful Manaslu expedition and we are hoping that the fine weather we are experiencing in Nepal's capital at the moment continues for the duration of our expedition. Manaslu received quite a large amount of snow and we are looking forward to plenty of glorious sunshine.

We are scheduled to leave Kathmandu on October 19 and drive to Bhulebule for the start of the six day trek to Kang Guru base camp and we hope you will follow our progress on this site.

Phil Crampton

 

 

 

 

 

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