Saturday, September 23, 2017

Kyajo Ri Expedition - April 2017

     Kyajo Ri is a 6186m mountain in the Solu-Khumbu region of Nepal. It is often climbed by large expedition companies utilizing Sherpa teams and fixed ropes. Teams climb to a high camp at 5700 meters, and then wake up early and jumar up to the summit. Our plan for the Spring 2017 Kyajo Ri expedition was to climb Kyajo Ri in alpine style from a high camp at 5300 meters near the lake.
     Alpine style? Alpine style refers to mountaineering in a self-sufficient manner, thereby carrying all of one's food, shelter, equipment, etc. as one climbs, as opposed to expedition style (or siege style) mountaineering which involves setting up a fixed line of stocked camps on the mountain which can be accessed at one's leisure. Additionally, alpine style means the refusal of fixed ropes, high-altitude porters and the use of supplemental oxygen.
     Martin, Lisa and Lilian arrived and we went around Kathmandu getting last minute items, then with a smooth flight on the 3rd April with no delays (!) we spent the night at Monjo after a couple hours trek. The weather was breezy, cool, early Spring in the eastern Himalayas and I was fresh from a 90 day run of skiing every day in Gulmarg managing snow safety operations and other circus acts. It was a good ski (work) season, and my knees were still sore as I walked up the trail to Monjo with the group.
      Martin and Lisa had prior experience in Chamonix on rock and alpine routes and were looking for their first alpine climbing experience to 6000 meters in the Himalayas. Lilian wanted a two week trek with some climbing as a lead in to a longer expedition in the future. We were joined by Gomba Sherpa as assistant guide, and Karma Gyaltsen Sherpa as cook.  I worked with Karma on Shishapangma in 2012, and on Himlung in 2012 as well. Gomba and I have worked together every season since the Spring of 2013. Images below highlight the experience.
 -Luke Smithwick, guide, Himalaya Alpine Guides
Gomba, Lisa, Martin, Lilian, Luke (left to right) on trek in the Khumbu (Everest) region.

Alpine Skills in the yard in Phortse, these skills practice days with my guests are key for smooth days high in the mountains. - Luke

Alpine rock climbing above Phortse on Lu Ri Peak. This was Lilian's main objective for this trek alongside trekking Gokyo Ri for the best views of Mount Everest. She will be able to use these skills on future climbs. This day was also important for Martin, Lisa, Gomba and I as we cycled through pitched out climbing in 4th and 5th class terrain.

Lilian with the lovely lodge owners in Phakding.

Spring blooms along the Dudh Khosi.

The group trekking in warm sunshine (Martin, Lisa, Lilian)

Lilian on the summit of her objective (Gokyo Ri), with Cho Oyu in the distance.

Summit cake celebration for Lilian

Gomba and I with cool guy (no smiling) photo on the summit of Cho Oyu. We're both nice guys (and not very cool). :)

Spring blooms at the fork in the trail where we climbed to Kyajo Ri base camp

Lisa rappelling from the technical terrain on Kyajo Ri.

Alpine climbing on Kyajo Ri (notice the white rope which is rubbish left behind by a another group)

Dawn as we climbed on summit day for Kyajo Ri

The keyhole that brings you to high camp for Kyajo Ri (surmounting the first headwall)

Feedback from the guests on the trip:

--> "Just keep at it, I appreciate all that you are (Luke) and do. You treat the crew (porters, etc) and people you have to deal with (lodge staff, etc) with respect, and that gets a big tick in my book. And as someone who is from a third world country, and has had to watch westerners struggle to live/work in that part of the world, I can say you are doing really well in keeping your frustration with the inefficiency in check.

"I really appreciate the small group and the skills I get to learn and pick up, not just from HAG but also from the other guests."
"Overall, we had a great time and were very happy with the trip. Luke, who is the main guide and owner, is very knowledgeable, experienced, friendly and fun to hang out with. Because of the small group (three clients during the acclimatization trek and only the two of us during the week of the summit attempt), we got the chance to learn a lot during the whole trip. If you are looking for a trip with a small group of clients, want to get the chance to learn a lot and to go to a region/mountain without a lot of other tourists/people, Himalaya Alpine Guides is the company to go with! We can highly recommend them!