Having just spent 5 amazing weeks in Nepal, I’m now back in UK for a few days, sorting through photos and enjoying the process of putting weight back on.
My trip started with a long journey from Geneva, through Manchester, Doha and Kathmandu, and then on to Pokhara in the foothills of the Annapurna region, where my group and I were going to attempt to climb Tharpa Chuli/Tent Peak (5663m), in the heart of the Annapurna sanctuary. A few things made me pretty positive about our chances – firstly we had a very strong team, and secondly we were being accompanied by my friend Pasang Sherpa, a fully qualified IFMGA Mountain Guide, and surely the only man ever who says (without even a hint of irony) that the toughest bit about spending 3 hours on top of Everest waiting for his clients is that, “it is very difficult to light my cigarettes”. He’s given up the fags now, but his fondness for Royal Stag whiskey remains undiminished….
The walk into the Annapurna Sanctuary begins with 5 hot and sweaty days in the jungle, but the views are still pretty good -
Once in the Annapurna Sanctuary, things get REALLY impressive – Machapuchare is as stunning a mountain as I have seen, but for sheer scale it is dwarfed by the S face of Annapurna, which at nearly 2000 metres high, makes most of the Alpine north faces look like molehills.
After a couple of days preparation at Annapurna Base Camp we moved up through Tent Peak base camp and on to high camp, at around 5000m. Unfortunately we had a lot of snow at both camps, but we decided to have a go at the climb anyway, and thanks to a huge effort from Pasang and Dawa Sherpa, we made it onto Tent Peak’s summit ridge. Although this left us only 200m to the summit, the waist deep snow we had been climbing/swimming up, and the dangerously unstable ridge above us convinced us that we’d got high enough. Everyone was slightly disappointed not to top out, but the views more than made up for our lack of a summit.
The walk out was another sweaty affair, but only took 3 days in reverse, and we were soon enjoying the sights and sounds of Pokhara and Kathmandu. Thanks to Ian, Karen, Tina, Scott, Pasang, Dawa and Pemba for the excellent company and for destroying me at cards every night! Reunion in Cham anyone?
Next up was a trip into the Langtang region, an area that has long been on my list of places to go. A day long drive saw us back in the jungle, but this time we were up and into the big hills within a couple of days. The Langtang is pretty quiet, which I’m guessing is because it doesn’t have any famous summits, but it is absolutely stunning despite it’s highest peak being a “mere” 7200m.
Our goal was an ascent of Naya Kanga (5846m), a peak which seems to have a low summit success rate, but which is a pretty appealing objective as it is right in the heart of the Langtang massif and is pretty tough looking from any angle – something which always stokes the ego!
The peak itself did indeed prove pretty tough, but after a huge 9 hour effort, Alan, Chris, Pasang and I found ourselves on top and looking out across to the Everest region into Tibet and across to the huge bulk of Shishapangma (8013m). The descent went on a bit, to say the least, but 14 hours after leaving high camp everyone was safely back and enjoying soup and biscuits.
The following day we had to raise ourselves again in order to cross the Ganja La pass (5200m), and it was a tired team who made it into camp after the second hard day in a row. The rest of the trip passed in a blur of farming villages and ever increasing temperatures, and we were soon at the roadhead, over indulging on beer and whiskey and dancing by the camp fire.
Once again Pasang, Dawa and Pemba were fantastic, so thanks to them, and big thanks too to Chris, Elen, Richard, Gil, Rod, Cherry, Alan, Phil and Richard 2 for a really fun trip, and for staying chirpy even when things were tough.
So that’s my Himalayan season done for this year and as ever I’m both happy and sad to be back in Europe. I’ll be back next year though, so stay posted here for my plans, which could be pretty interesting….!
For now, Scotland beckons, and then the ski season will be underway in Cham. Can’t wait!