Wednesday, December 7, 2011

2011 Island Peak and Mera Expedition

In late Autumn, we trekked into the high Khumbu Himal and found excellent weather and new
air to breathe.  We explored the upper Gokyo and Machermo valleys, did some cairn building on the summit ridge of  Gokyo Ri, and traversed over the Tsho La to the Khumbu glacier.  Feeling stronger  at altitude now, we descended to the Imja valley in a day and staged ourselves for an ascent of Imjatse (Island Peak).  The weather allowing, we all successfully climbed to the summit on one of the most wind-free days I've seen for the region.  A forecast from base came in upon descent, it was time for us to descend into the forest and reflect on the high mountain experience we'd had for the past two weeks.  This would not be the year for a crossing over into the remote Hinku and an ascent of Mera Peak.  The weather dictating, we hurried down below and reached Lukla as the clouds swirled in.  Images below illustrate the experience.

Expedition Members

 Chris , Ruth Chilton

Guido Ziljma

Romany Topsfield

 Stephen Kahofer

left to right : Guido Ziljma, Ruth Chilton, Kiersten Epps, Brett Classen, Romany Topsfield, Sarah Parker, Stephen Kahofer, Chris Bonington, Nyima Tenzi

Local Guides - These men are the backbone of operations with me in Nepal.  All three of them have climbed Mount Everest at least once.   Patient, hard working, and fun.  In addition, 7 porters joined us for the core of the trip.  They asked me not to display their photographs, but were simply astounding people. Tough and honest. Our kitchen staff, led by Da Pasang, was excellent as well.

Tawa - trekking and climbing guide

Gyaltsen - sirdar

Nima Tenzi - trekking and climbing guide

Images below highlight moments of our trip. We had phenomenal weather for the majority of the experience.  A system that moved in four days after our Island Peak climb sent us down into the Solu Khumbu (the region below Lukla).  It was excellent to finally see where the guys I work with hail from.  So, as you scroll through the images below, you'll see mountain views on our trek through the Khumbu and Gokyo valleys, our climb of Island Peak, and finally a cultural trek through the Solu Khumbu.  In the end, the trip evolved to quite a diverse adventure with some amazing people.  

 Impromptu bouldering session near Phortse Tenga (tenga means bridge in Sherpa)

Changri Nup Glacier , the Lobuche peaks, and the Changri peaks

Mount Everest (black pyramid) and the Khumbu Icefall (basecamp on the left elbow of the white ice)

Dawn on Lhotse

Dawn strikes the east face of Ama Dablam

Taboche peak at dawn, with Numbur peak showing through a hole in the clouds


Ascending the summit ridge of Island Peak, with the Lhotse / Nuptse face on the right and Cho Oyu way in the back

Ascending the glacier on Imjatse (Island) peak

The Lhotse face mid-morning

The summit ridge of Island Peak

The Tsho (Cho)  La (south)

Descending from the Tsho (Cho) La with Ama Dablam in the background

We visited Thupten Choling Gonpa in the Solu Khumbu 
(images below highlight the experience)

Karma  focuses on her daily chores in the wooden washbasin

 Nuns give their daily prayers in the Lakhang (prayer hall)


Nuns gather around for the morning tea and meal in the central courtyard

Nuns working the brass pots over a wooden fire in the medieval kitchen 

A monk exiting the gonpa to return to his quarters after morning puja

Nuns enter the gonpa, while a monk overlooks the domain; there are over 400 monks and nuns at Thupten Choling.  Most of the nuns are refugees from Tibet.  When the Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1959, this is the first place where he took refuge.

The view of the Khumbu Himal from Solu Khumbu (Kanchenjunga in the far distance). An excellent place to reflect after a big time in the mountains (!).  Note the ice-rimed tree in the panorama above, evidence of the cloudy weather that had persisted for days before we finally were blessed with this particular one.  From this particular viewpoint, you could see 400 kilometers of the Himalaya, from Kanchenjunga to Manaslu.  Amazing.

Stay tuned!  We head into the Chadar for snow leopard spotting and ice climbing in northern India in 4 weeks.  Happy Holidays! - Luke