Friday, November 13, 2015

2015 Nun Expedition

The team on the summit of 7153m Mount Nun.
Nun notes

22 Aug | 1659 | 4895m | Stok Kangri BC

A light snow is falling, graupel actually. We've just returned from an acclimatization round on a nearby glacier, with practice in rock to snow transitions, fixed rope travel, rappelling on a fixed rope. The glacier itself, a remnant of a former glacier, is a stationary ice body with black ice underneath a thin veneer of snow. Black ice is dense, and challenging to place ice screws in.
One team member, Peter, woke up with a headache. He stayed here in camp to rest, while we slowly ascended to the ice and our practice day. This morning over breakfast, we spotted a flock of bharal (blue sheep) grazing on an adjacent hillside. There are 5 or 6 other teams here in base camp, all with plans to climb Stok Kangri in the coming days.
Peter is feeling better now, and plans to climb Golep Kangri with us tomorrow. This being our 7th day of the trip after 3 nights of acclimatizing in Leh at 3600m, we are doing quite well to be acclimatizing and the group all feeling strong.

26 Aug 2015 | Stok Kangri BC | 4895m | 1123

The weather changed yesterday, and the skies have been clear for the past 30 hours. We made successful ascents of 5965m Golep Kangri and 6135m Stok Kangri over the past three days, with a rest day between the two. We are now resting in base camp, and will walk down to Leh early tomorrow morning. There is a mild respirtatory illness moving through the team, and I along with two others are taking an antibiotic to clear it up. Descending down to 3600m tomorrow will help.
We had an experience on Golep Kangri, with the team having a tough day on their first altitude climb of the trip, and an electrified storm cloud passing as we descended. As I set the anchor for the rappel down the steepest portion of the climb, I heard a trekking pole from another climbers pack starting to buzz, we were within the electric field. I instructed everyone to drop their metal axes and poles, and to squat low while each person rappelled the route. A nervous few moments, and the first near lightning experience I'd had in the Himalaya. I was glad the cloud passed after a few moments, but not before one lightning strike followed by thunder on an adjacent peak.
One climber mentioned he felt "recharged" after the experience, partially joking.. Not something we ever want to repeat, but certainly part of climbing in the mountains.
The team nearing the summit of 6153m Stok Kangri.

Yesterday's ascent of Stok Kangri went smoothly, without near lightning strikes or cloudy skies. We could see Nun & Kun on our descent, and the team is primed and ready for our climb higher.

6/9/2015 | Nun ABC | 4800m | 0812

We climbed to the summit of Nun via the west buttress two days ago, but not before weathering whiteout conditions on approach to camp 3, some cold toes, and nausea with some members of the group. The idea of candy coating climbing above 7000m is a farce. It is cold, hard, and tough.
We are all safely back in base camp, resting and planning to walk down to the village of Tangol, a catch a jeep to Kargil by tomorrow night. Since the last dispatch, we've walked down to Leh, spent the night there, driven to Kargil for a night, driven on to Tangol village and spent the night. The expedition supply truck went too far ahead, and we waited for them to come back in Tangol, after they'd gone on to Parkachik. An honest mistake, it gave several members time to recover from the cough they'd developed in the Stok range.
Dawn in the Stok range.

The following morning, the 30th August, we walked up to Nun advanced base camp. With 1000 kilos of expedition equipment (!). This was not an alpine style attempt on Nun.
Reaching ABC, we prepared the following day, and following the forecast for the next five days, we launched on our summit bid the next morning, the 1st of September. The ascent flowed like clockwork, climbing to camp 1, then camp 2, then camp 3, and then the summit, descending to ABC yesterday, the 5th of September.
It is worth mentioning the whiteout we endured while climbing to camp 3 from camp 2. We were truly lost, and only by luck did we find the next willow wand, and then the next, and then the next, before finally hearing the call of Gomba Sherpa in camp 3. We crawled into the tents, exhausted and five hours overdue.
Looking across the Himalayas from the flanks of Mount Nun.

Our ascent was only possible because Gomba Sherpa, Tsewang Namgyal, Mingma Sherpa, and Thukpa Tsering Sherpa fixed ropes to the summit, and also carried the expedition tents to camp 1, camp 2, and camp 3. If anyone deserves credit for our ascent, it is solely them. This was a classic Himalayan fixed rope style mountaineering expedition, and was not alpinism in the least, but still a true mountain adventure. We held a good puja (prayer ceremony) in base camp, and I am thankful to the gods for allowing our safe ascent. I am not a religious person, but I do believe in reverence. Many of the greats have been lost due to a loss of reverence for the mountains. My seniors have taught me to always take this seriously.
The view looking east towards Zanskar.

One last note, at 6000m yesterday, as a snow squall rolled across the west ridge and we lowered our head and stumbled on downwards, a mountain weasel jumped out and ran across the ridge.
A friend of mine, Tom Choate, whom has climbed Denali every decade for the past 6, called the wolverine the true mountaineer. After hearing this, I would see their tracks in the wildest, most off-the-beaten track areas of the Alaska wild. Along the same lines, the mountain weasel is the true mountaineer of the Himalaya, with tracks in very much the same places. In places where we are barely surviving and require the best mountain equipment available, they are simply thriving.