Tuesday, July 5, 2011

2011 Kang La Expedition

trekkers and mountain porter staff approaching the Kang La.

The 2011 Kang La Expedition was a resounding success. Joining us on this particular experience were expedition members Christine and Katherine Sullivan of Ohio, USA; Fred Mauren of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; and Nakul and Marisa Patel of Bombay, India. For some members, it was their first mountain experience; a real eye opener. Their perspective was so refreshing. Veteran mountaineer Fred Mauren brought his knowledge to the experience and some quality humor.

Expedition Members
Christine (Chris) Sullivan

Kathryn Sullivan, Fred Mauren

Marisa Paolillo, Nakul Patel

Overall, we trekked over 100 miles (160 km) in mountainous terrain and traversed the Great Himalaya range twice. A photo essay continues below, beginning in the Miyar Valley of Lahaul, and completing in the Zanskar valley of Ladakh. This is the first section of a double traverse of the Himalaya, we moved through upper Zanskar before escaping the mountains via the Shingo La. We'll highlight that portion of the experience in the next post. 

Leaving Manali early, we jumped in a jeep and crossed the Rohtang La, spending the night in Keylong to acclimatize and hike to a local gonpa (monastery). We moved on the following day to the Miyar valley. Shown here are Chris and Kathryn in Lahaul, enroute to the Miyar valley.

Our first night in the Miyar Valley, we camped in Tingrit. Women of the village came over to visit and invite us to a festival at the local monastery. Debauchery ensued, as the night grew on and the full moon rose, the drumming became louder and more began to dance as the arak (distilled barley drink) flowed freely. Locals had come from surrounding valleys to circumambulate the monastery 108 times (!) and celebrate the coming of growing season. In this image, Marisa hams it up with locals.
After a big night, Chris stretches out with local children. We took advantage of  this day to go for an acclimatization hike, and get ready for our first push up the Miyar valley; while the porters travelled to camp from Manali.

With everyone in Tingrit, we were ready to travel up the Miyar. All 29 of us.
The following morning, we began our climb up the valley, a trip that would span 5 days to reach the glacier, allowing time for acclimatization. The photographs that follow highlight the valley.

Gaining the toe of the Miyar Glacier, we camped for the night. The following morning, we rose early for our first big day, ten hours of scrambling through boulders, crossing glacial streams, and weaving through moraine and snowfields on the ice. We spent our first night on the ice.

We were blessed with splitter weather for the entire time on the glacier, the images that follow show travel on the upper portion of the glacier. We encountered no crevasses in this section, and the surface of the glacier was exposed.

The cooling of the evening brought out the stars and we had a power meal of pasta, bread, a variety of sauces to energize for our climb to come, the Kang La! We rose at 3 am, had breakfast, and began our ascent. Dawn came with beautiful light and spectacular mountain views.

Day breaks on the upper Miyar glacier as we stop for water and to put on suncreen. Absolutely silent save for the crunch of the ice underfoot and the occasional passerine winging across on the wind to a warm valley below.

On the summit of Kang La! At 10:30 am, we summited the pass, and began our descent into Zanskar with a glacial traverse of the Himalaya under our belts. Contented and tired smiles all around. On to the next experience.

The Expedition Team

Porters - These men are from the Dailekh District of southwestern Nepal. An agricultural economic district, they spend the majority of the year in Himachal Pradesh working labor jobs to support their families back home. They all are solid and skilled at their trade. Each man can can climb and move through glaciated mountains with a 35 kg load.

Roster (in order of appearance): Suresh Shahi, Prem Thapa, Thrak Thapa, Jay Bahadur Thapa, Mahandra Shahi, Suresh Bista, Ramesh Bahadur Thapa, Arjun Bahadur Shahi, Gopal Shahi, Dan Bahadur Bista, Harka Bista, Mahesh Rijal, Binod Shahi, Bakhata Shahi, Prem Shahi, Khagendra Shahi, Lokendra Shahi, Ehmraj Shahi, Birenda Shahi, Rajendra Shahi.


These men are the backbone of operations with me. Cooking, maintaining equipment, looking after members on occasion, and essentially making the expedition flow.

Roster (left to right): Tashi , Vivek, and Yeshi.

Expedition Local Leader

Working with Project Himalaya for 12 years, Tenpa Tsering is an high altitude master chef of Asian trekking cuisine. In addition, he guides on the trail, orchestrates resupply and in town logistics, and bakes a rocking chocolate cake. He and his wife, Nyima Lhamo, reside in Manali. Nyima also helps coordinate in town logistics for Project Himalaya, while teaching English and Tibetan at their children's boarding school.