Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Nepal Part Deux - 3 weeks, 3 peaks, and an awful lot of walking ...

20-22nd October - Kathmandu

It's actually disgusting how much food it's possible to eat in Kathmandu! So much to choose from and so little time. Emma is working as a trek leader for this part of the trip, and the rest of the group have now arrived. They seem cool, if a bit quiet - jet lag and first day politeness? I'm sure it won't take long ... Figured a little bit of culture wouldn't hurt, and went on a random tour of Kathmandu's temples - including a visit to the capital's biggest Hindu crematorium. Pretty bizarre to be watching people lugging bodies around and burning them on open pyres, right over the river where there's loads of children swimming. Very over Kathmandu now and cannot wait to get back to the mountains. No more shopping and no more fried food!

23rd October - Kathmandu

Our first taste of Kathmandu flight chaos. Didn't realise there was a 3 day backlog of people trying to fly to Lukla, so spent an entire day sitting on the floor of KTM airport. Managed to take off finally, but just circled round Lukla with no break in the cloud and had to fly back to Kathmandu. Pretty disappointing. Back to the hotel for more reading and troughing food. Fingers crossed for tomorrow ...

24th October - Kathmandu / Lukla to Phakding

Wahey! Still a pretty hairy flight (spent most of it with my face buried in my rucksack - I'm really not into Nepali style flying tin cans), but managed to land through a gap in the clouds. So good to be back in the mountains! Hung around Lukla waiting for lost luggage, before a gentle walk to Phakding (3hrs). Can't get over how busy it is compared to Mera. Really glad we did that first. Went for a run to see how well this acclimatisation thing works. Such an amazing feeling to be running at 2600m not feeling out of breath at all! Really enjoying the trip set up, and everyone has relaxed into it and starting to be themselves. Everyone seems cool, although quite funny to see the banter between Keith, Ken and Nick - all vying for place as alpha male. Met a quy called Tim in Lukla (who knows Guy) - few warnings about what to expect on Lobuje East - 80 degree ice and waist deep snow. They didn't make it up. Hopefully it will be in better nick by the time we get there.

25th October - Phakding to Namche Bazaar (3400m)

Just cannot get over how many people are on this trail. Busloads of Japanese, hundreds of Yaks, and no chance of walking any faster than snail's pace. Not used to this bimbling along after walking at normal rate on Mera. Steep climb into Namche - pretty cool to be here - it's the Sherpa capital and one of those places I've read about so many times. Awesome view from our tents - really liking having my own tent to spread out in, and amazingly still have phone reception.

26th October - Namche Bazaar (3400m)

Acclimatisation day - went for a walk up to 4000m to the Everest View Hotel. Pretty impressive views - funnily enough - of Amadablam and Everest. The monsoon finally seems to be over and so far (touch wood), we've had amazingly clear weather. Sat in the sun for a couple of hours, chilling out, and mooched around the shops and market in town. Very chilled, and have relaxed into the idea of being cooked for and looked after. Life's hard!

27th October - Namche Bazaar (3400m) to Dole (4000m)

To make up for our lost day, combined 2 into one, so quite a long walk from Namche to Dole. Lovely easy path, and gentle ascents. Finally the route has cleared up and the Japanese army seem to have gone into hiding. It's amazing some of the people you see walking this trail - half of them don't look like they've ever walked further than once round the block. Lovely lunch on a terrace overlooking Tamserku and Kantega.

28th October - Dole (4000m) to Machermo (4400m)

A very easy walk, climbing 400m gently along the hillside. Took 3 hours over it, although probably could have done it in half the time, but lovely to enjoy the first truly clear day - so beautiful. Stunning views along the valley to Cho Oyu. Still can't believe we're going there in less than a year. Scary - but exciting too. Went for a talk about acclimatisation at the medical centre. Funnily enough, the only person who really needed to hear it (Keith), was in bed suffering from AMS. An executive decision has been made to stay here 2 nights, to let everyone acclimatise. Quite a few people have headaches, and we need to practise jumarring for the peaks. Think Emma and my acclimatisation advantage is wearing off now - it's been 2 weeks since Mera. Also not feeling super hot - possibly due to excessive haribo eating. Definitely getting colder and my sleeping bag is the warmest place to be, so tucked up by 8pm. Might have to move back in with Emma for warmth!

29th October - Machermo (4400m)

A bad night's sleep - fever and diarrhoea all night, so very glad we're not moving anywhere. Felt like shit (boom boom) all day. Knackered and achy ... went for a little walk up the ridge above Machermo, and practised jumarring and abseiling in the afternoon. But ended up bailing and just crawling back to bed. Feeling very sorry for myself!

30th October - Machermo to Gokyo (4900m)

Managed to drug myself up enough to bring the fever down and get some sleep, but still feel totally rotten. Rattling and empty and feverish. Not much fun. Have started on the cipro so hoping for a miracle cure! Walked (slowly) from Machermo to Gokyo - hard to appreciate the stunning views when you feel like death warmed up, but the lakes were beautiful. Too much information, but have never known diarrhoea like it, and getting worse. Want a cuddle!!! My health aside, Ken managed to put an end to his trip by falling down the stairs in the lodge - and breaking his arm. Looks pretty serious, but fortunately he's a doctor and came armed with horse tranquiliser pain killers. Helicopter on its way first thing in the morning.

31st October - Gokyo Ri (5360m)

Definitely feeling better this morning - so nice to be vaguely human again, and good news that the drugs must be working. Was starting to get worried I'd have to bin the trip. Saw Ken off in the helicopter (nearly got taken out by it while crossing the river - scary moment). Poor guy! Lazy morning in the sun, chilling out, having a shower (yey!), and drinking tea. Hiked up Gokyo Ri this afternoon - Absolutely stunning. Watching the sunset on Everest brought tears to my eyes - feels like such a priviledge to be here. Honestly so beautiful how much the colours change.

01 November - Gokyo towards Cho La

Relatively easy walk from Gokyo towards the Cho La. Camped below the pass in the middle of nowhere at 5050m. Would have been beautiful if the mist hadn't come down. Not sure if I'm looking forward to Lobuje East - feel so much better but still pretty weak and feeble and have lost a lot of weight very quickly. Would be great if it wasn't muscle, and from funny places. I have skinny calves and armpits now. Weird.

02 November - Cho La (5500m) to near Lobuje (5000m)

A long day's walk (8 hours?) over the Cho La Pass to another random campsite, not far from Lobuje. Feeling kind of over it now. Sick of being skinny and cold all the time - even if it is the most beautiful place I've ever been!

03 November - Lobuje (5000m) to Lobuje Base Camp (5200m)

Walk and scramble up from our camp to Lobuje Base camp. The peak is over 6000m so summit day is going to be massive. Pretty cool camp site perched right on a rocky ledge. Wouldn't want to take a wrong step in the middle of the night. Stunning views and sunset.

04 November - Lobuje East Summit (6000m) to Lobuje village

Probably the most physically demanding day of my life! 1.30am rude awakening ... chiapatti and eggs (oh my god, so many eggs), followed by a steep rocky scramble from 5200m to 5600m. Pretty hard work in the dark at that altitude, and some fairly scary moments in big boots on rock in the cold. Some surprisingly difficult bits - especially considering the group aren't climbers. Donned crampons at the snowline for a shortish walk across the glacier, before the jumarring began. Seriously hard work. Would have been easier to climb it without the fixed ropes and my jumar constantly jamming, making it twice as hard work - but need it for safety. Considering I was on good form on Mera, I found the climb amazingly difficult. Very disappointing to feel this rough, but think my body hasn't had time to recover from being ill - just couldn't get into the zone and enjoy myself, plus had a banging headache by the top. Made it to the summit - just - but felt pretty rough and not in the mood to appreciate the views! Desperately wanted to get straight down - knackered, suffering with the altitude, dehydrated and way too much sun. Miserable walk / abseil down in sugary snow and beating rays, before finally making it back to base camp to collapse in the tent. Hauled ourselves up half an hour later (no rest in this boot camp) to pack up our tents, and hike down to Lobuje village. Started at 1.30am and finally limped into town (which is a total dump) at 5.30pm. Long day!

05 November - Lubuche to Gorak Shep (Kala Pattar) (5500m)

A lazy start after 13 hours sleep, and feel so much better after yesterday. Definitely fried a few brain cells I think, so it's good to have a chilled one. Go for a mellow walk with Emma up the valley. Kind of aiming for Everest Base camp, but we know we probably won't make it (it would be a 9 hour round trip and we don't leave camp until 10.30). We both too tired from the day before and stop off in Gorak Shep to hang out, drink coke and eat (more) chocolate. Sit in the sun, chat to other trekkers, before deciding to walk up Kala Pattar to see if you can see Base Camp from the top. Change my mind and end up scrambling along a ridge to find my own little viewing point. Can't see camp (there's a Thai group there at the moment), but enjoy a pretty amazing view - completely on my own, surrounded by the biggest mountains in the world - all making their rumbling noises - throwing rocks and avalanches and groaning glaciers. Missing Guy a lot - it's a long time to be away from each other, and wish he could be here to share some of this! Gentle walk back to Lobuche for dinner. Really looking forward to getting back to Lukla / Kathmandu - my body feels like it's falling apart. Need a rest day and some non trek food! Feel sad that I've had enough ...

06th November - Lobuche to Kongma La (5500m) to Camp

A lovely walk from Lobuche (what a relief to get out of that place!) over the Kongma La. Took it steady, admiring the stunning views of Cholatse. Camp in a gorgeous spot just after the pass, right by a lake, with Pokalde (tomorrow's peak) looking down at us, and Amadablam towering down from across the valley. Share a tent with Emma for warmth. Feeling quite nervous about tomorrow's ascent after my disaster on Lobuche East. Really hope I make it up - even Fergie's been up there! Starting to think Cho Oyu is a ridiculous idea.

07th November - Pokalde (5800m) to Chukung

Take everything back!!! What a cool day. Woke up at 4 and watched the sunrise over Amadablam as we walked the first section of Pokalde (steep rocky path). Absolutely stunning. The top 100m was a rocky scramble / climb - so nice to feel like we're actually climbing something, rather than snow plodding on a fixed line. Good to have to think about where to put your hands and feet, and a couple of actual climbing moves. So much fun and awesome to still feel completely fine at the summit. Amazing views in the early morning, including a massive avalanche on Pumori, that must have come pretty close to Everest Base Camp ... or at least it looked that way. Think everyone in the group really enjoyed themselves - totally lifted spirits and changed the atmosphere. Funny that this climb was the one I was least looking forward to - kind of going through the motions, but yet turned out to be the day I've enjoyed the most. Bimble back down for an early lunch, before walking down to Chukung to sit in the lodge for hours, and trough a disgusting amount of pringles. End up making ourselves feel sick, but nice anyway! Even rewarded myself with a freezing cold bucket wash. Took half an hour in my sleeping bag to get the feeling back in my feet, but good to feel clean.

08th November - Chukung to Island Peak Base Camp

2 down, and 1 to go, it's starting to feel like we're getting near the end of this trek. A gentle walk up the river from Chukung to Island peak base camp. Feeling really nervous about this one - we're camping at 5200m and going straight to the summit at 6200m, missing out high camp because there's no water there. That would be fine in the Alps, but it's a big day over 5000m. Base camp is a dump, and a crazy wind tunnel, making it really cold. Share a tent with Emma again for warmth. Massive pre-climb pizza dinner (how do they make such good pizzas up here??!). Ram so much food in for energy that I'm too full to sleep!

09th November - Island peak summit (6200m) to Chukkung

Get woken up at midnight for 'breakfast' - more eggs!! Feel like I haven't slept a wink. Manage a cup of tea before we get going. Start off in normal boots for a rocky scramble up to 5800m. Really cold (-20?) - thankfully my hand warmers are doing a good job, but my feet are freezing. Make good progress at a really steady plod - no stops. So much better than stop start as you can actually get into a rhythm. Climbing in the dark always seems deceptive - you're half asleep and can't see what you're doing and where you're going, and it's amazing how quickly time goes. Crampon point is a 45 minute faff, waiting for everyone to get their freezing cold boots on with icy hands. Hard to keep warm while we're standing around ... The short glacier crossing is very slow. You have to move at the slowest person's pace and a couple of the group are really suffering in the cold and at altitude. Amazed I feel totally fine. Dawn breaks as we get towards the final climb - 150m of 50 degree snow, before a long ridge to the summit. Takes a while to get going as the fixed ropes are tangled, but once on them, I make pretty steady progress. Nice to just get into a zone and plod on in your own rhythm - ice axe, step, step ... Definitely feeling the altitude, but feel so much better than on Lobuche. Bimble along the ridge to the summit pretty slowly - the little rises are killers when you can see the end in sight! Wait on the summit with Dave for the rest of the group to join us. Everyone makes it up - for photos and congratulations, before we peg it down. The weather's coming in from the next valley - high clouds but lightning is worrying. Last peak done - we're on the way downhill from now on in!!! We're all pretty exhausted by the time we've walked back down to base camp - at around midday, but so much better than Lobuche East. Soup and tea, before packing up and moving back to Chukkung. The walk back (3 hours), seems to take forever - by this stage it's pissing with snow and we've already been on the go for 12 hours solid. But much better to get down the valley for the night, than sleep in the windy base camp with the next groups around us getting up at midnight and waking us up. Absolutely knackered, and crazy to be going to bed in the snow. Have a few shots of Keith's whiskey to celebrate the start of the journey home - more than enough to send me straight to sleep.

10th November - Chukkung to Phunki Tenga

12 chilly hours sleep and wake up to 20cm of snow. Have been so lucky with the weather, I'd almost forgotten about rain / snow. Amazing how quickly we get back on the main trail and 'civilisation'. Strange after so many days in the middle of nowhere to see so many people again. But so much quieter than at the start of the trek. Lunch in Pangboche, followed by a visit to the monastery in Tengboche. A long descent to Funki Tenga - so nice to be back below 4000m. I'm sure it's psychological, but I feel like every breath of air is bringing my strength back. Feel amazingly healthy - and so nice to start being warm again. Being cold all the time is hard work.

11th November - 16th November

A gentle walk out of the valley, back along the river to Lukla. One final night of drinking wine and chang and dancing to Nepali cheesy disco tunes with the porters (you had to be there), followed by a flight to Kathmandu ... and back to civilisation, red wine, steaks, beeping horns, and hot showers.

What an amazing trip. It's had its moments, but overall, it's been such an incredible experience. We've done a lot - 4 c6000m peaks, a skiing first on Mera, and an awful lot of walking - in some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. It will be nice to have a break, but I can't wait to go back next year - Nepal is a very special place, and the people are amazing!

In the mean time, I'm so looking forward to Thailand - the beach, climbing, seeing my boy, green curries, fresh fruit ... hanging out with my mates, and just chilling. Then there's the winter ... apparently it's the best start to a ski season in the Alps for the last 10 years.


Friday, 19 October 2007

Skiing from Mera Peak (6400m)

05/10/07 Kathmandu to Chutanga

So cool to be finally on the move. After an early flight from Kathmandu, walk from Lukla to Chutanga (3500m). First lesson learnt - put waterproofs on the minute it starts pissing it down ... managed to get everything soaking just 10 minutes before getting to Chutanga. We just didn't think it was worth it as we were so close, but it's impossible to dry anything up here with no sun. In spite of having arranged porter / guide support only from Tangnag, we appear to have a full team of people walking in with us. They don't understand why we want to stay in tea houses, and have tried to persuade us to sleep in the tent. Not too sure what's going on but just going with it ...

06/10/07 Chutanga to Tuli Karka

A big day over a 4600m pass (Zatrw La). Pretty much the equivalent of climbing Mont Blanc. Both feel great up to about 4200m, but the last few hundred ms is hard work. Just got into a rhythm and plodded on - much better to try and keep walking, even if it's slow, then stop start all the time. It's been cloudy all day, but the odd glimpse of peaks around are amazing - they just go up and up! Crazy to be nearly at the top of Mont Blanc, but yet we're still in the foothills here. The real mountains haven't even begun. At Tuli Karka, have a headache, and don't feel much like eating, but not too bad.

07/10/07 Tuli Karka to Khote

Hardly any sleep (so smoky in the tea house and partying Nepalis next door) plus a banging headache, so glad to walk down to Khote (3500m). Carry our own skis (lots of weird looks - we're miles from the snow) as the porters struggled so much yesterday and didn't even arrive in camp until 8pm - in the pissing rain. Felt so sorry for them! 6 hours walking steeply downhill is hard work physically, but the headache soon goes. Finding being looked after all the time quite weird - but our sirdhar, Sia, and the cooks are so lovely and smily. Quite embarrassing to have a team of 4 porters, 3 cooks, and Sia just for 2 of us, but guess that's how it goes. Arrived in Khote to find loads of people (3 routes into this valley meet here), but hot showers (bucket of warm water with a tap). Yey!

08/10/07 Khote to Tangnag

Such a difference to have a good night's sleep - don't think I moved for 10 hours. Gentle and beautiful walk following the river from Khote to Tangnag (4200m). From here the acclimatisation is gradual, after the shock of the Zatrwr La pass. Starting to feel like we're properly in the mountains. Really busy on the route now that the 3 paths have merged. Still haven't met anyone coming the other way who's made it to the top ... too much snow. Which is good for us. Hoping we'll arrive just in time. Apparently there are other skiers there (Japanese). Shame - we were hoping for first tracks! Went for a little acclimatisation walk to a lake above Tangnag - so beautiful, and Mera (we think) popped her head out of the clouds to say hello. Amazing - but scary. Still so far to go ...

09/10/07 Tangnag - acclimatisation day

Walked up a ridge behind Tangnag to acclimatise. Made it to 5000m - the highest I've ever been - before the route got too dodgy. Snow and loose boulders overlooking a certain death drop. Decided not to go any further ... Felt good on the walk, but the banging headache kicked in again on the way down. At least it's both of us feeling crap. But how the hell are we going to make it up Cho Oyu if 5000m feels like someones sticking a burning spike through your brain??? Couple of nurofen later and all's good. Such wimps ... not sure we're cut out for this suffering thing!!!  Summit day is starting to feel closer - hoping for good weather. It's been pretty grim so far. Looking forward to it, but sort of dreading it at the same time. Can't actually imagine getting to the top and skiing off right now.

10/10/07 Tangnag to Khare

Arrived in Khare feeling good - no headache at 4900m show's we're acclimatising well. Weird day of suddenly turning into an emotional wreck (tired?) so take myself off by myself for a bit. Such a beautiful place (first time we've seen it in proper sun) and can't help but wish Oggie and Dad were still around to see it. Got all our ski and climbing kit out in the camp to check everything, and put the ipod on. Dancing around to cheesy tunes in the middle of nowhere in Nepal has got to make you smile. Plus love the clunk of climbing gear after 6 days of walking uphill and not seeing any snow. Wish we'd brought our rock shoes - there's a few people bouldering. Looks cool. So practised prussicking up a rope instead - seem to be attracting a crowd of people who are wondering what the hell the 2 crazy English girls are up to.

11/10/07 Khare to Mera La

Hiked up to the snowline with our skis and skinned up a couple of hundred ms in the whiteout. Awesome to be on skis again, although properly hard work at 5200m, and quite scary as we couldn't see what we were doing. Followed some ski tracks for a bit (the Japanese guys?) but decided to ski down after 150m ... crossing avalanche debris that had come from a cliff above, which we didn't like the look of, not being able to see it properly. Awesome to ski again though (Sia keeps calling it ski play - so funny). Decided to hike up the walking path and ski down a 2nd time. Properly hard work (struggling with altitude and tired) but really enjoyed putting some more turns in. Felt good when we got back to Khare.

12/10/07 Khare

We were supposed to go up to Base Camp today but decide to have a rest day in Khare as I woke up with a minging cough / cold - think it's fine, but a bit of blood is enough to worry us into staying put. Don't feel ill - so think it's just a bit of a chest infection from the day in the smoky tea house in Tuli Karka, plus working my lungs quite hard yesterday. Double dose the antibiotics and chill out at camp for the day. Nice to air our kit, sort our stuff out and wash my hair!! The cooks are so sweet and feed us garlic soup and ginger tea - seems to work, as feel really good by the evening. Sia persuades us to go straight up to high camp tomorrow - apparently it's at 5500m (not 5800m as it says on the map).

13/10/07 Khare to High Camp

So much for 5500m! Hiked up to Mera La (fine) and then just up and up and up ... to funnily enough, 5800m. Feels neverending with beating sun, and relentless glare - at one point think I'm going to pass out as the ground starts moving - remember to breathe and it stops! Arrive at high camp feeling like total shit. Both of us just sit in the tent for half an hour unable to do anything useful. Shovel nurofen for the headache and decide to take a diamox each. Feel better instantly and come back to life within a few minutes. Was worried we wouldn't be able to go any further, but loving the drugs! Watch a beautiful sunset overlooking all these peaks I've only read about ... Everest, Cho Oyu, Ama Dablam, Lhotse, Makalu ... wow!

14/10/07 Summit day!

Managed to get a couple of hours sleep, and woke up at 2am to start the summit attempt. Emma feeling really sick, but I feel good. So far! Decide to go for it - it's only 600m to the summit. Make slow and cold progress for what seems like hours, until the dawn breaks and we can start to see where we're headed. Keep clenching cold hands and feet to keep the blood flowing. Manage to keep the plod going, ultraslow, but steady, so even though we were the last group to leave, we were 2nd on top. Thought I felt f*cked until I saw one of the guys from Exodus collapsing all over the place. A final steep (40 degrees?) section to the summit, and we're on top!

The ski down is a mixed bag. The very top section is the only steep bit, with a certain death drop on one side and massive bergshrund on the other. Pretty hairy start - but all good. Managed to link a few turns, realising quickly that what we thought was going to be a cruisy ski down was actually pretty tough. The top half of the ski is hard work, breathing wise (oh my god, you have to stop every 3/4 turns to get your breath back), but the snow was actually ok. Breakable crust, but it's hard enough to ride on top of most of the time. As we get lower down, our legs, lungs and skis are all over the place. Plus the snow just gets harder and the crevasses closer and closer. Decide to stop skiing (snowploughing?) at high camp, and walk down. Would be dumb to have got this far then end it by welting into a crevasse because we're just too tired to control our skis!

First girls? First Brits? Definitely first snowplough ... Who cares? Not exactly a powder run, but just soooo amazing to be skiing down looking over at Everest and Cho Oyu. WOW!

Finally get back to Khare about 12 hours after we started. Can honestly say I've never felt so tired from a day's exercise. We just collapse back at camp - too knackered to even eat. Unheard of!

15/10 to 17/10 - the long walk out.

Now that the summit's been reached, can't wait to get out and get back to 'civilisation'. 3 days seems like a long time to walk when all you want is a shower ... but finally make it back to Lukla, hot water, a proper bed, a glass of red wine, and time to reflect. What an amazing trip - and so lucky. If we'd have tried one day either side we wouldn't have summited because of the weather. Big smiles and hugs from our crew, and jump on a bumpy flight back to KTM.

18/10 - 19/10 - Kathmandu

So nice to be back in Kathmandu. Just chilling, shopping, and EATING!!! All this wandering around at 5000m is definitely good for shrinking. Bring on the chocolate cake in Helenas ... 2 more days then trek 2 starts - 3 weeks in the Everest region, including Pokalda, Gokyo Ri, Lob\uche East and Island peaks. Really looking forward to it, but think it will be a totally different experience as it's so much more 'on the beaten track'.



Thursday, 4 October 2007

Hello from Kathmandu

It's been enough of an adventure getting here, and we haven't even made it to the mountains yet!

BA managed to panic me on the first leg by losing my skis. Thinking it was all over - no skis, no climbing kit, no warm gear ... no adventure, I had to hug the nice man who eventually found them an hour later. Then, my Dhaka to Kathmandu ticket wasn't at the desk it was supposed to be at. That had closed down 2 days previously. Several rants and another hour later, a nice bloke found them for me. Finally - all sorted! What more could go wrong ... Etihad even produced Hagen Daaz chocolate ice cream and red wine for the journey.

Perfectly relaxed and starting to get really excited ... til it turned out that the flight from Dhaka to Kathmandu doesn't actually exist.

I can't recommend anything about Dhaka ... or GMG airlines (yeah, right, who???) ... 24 hours of total boredom, one death defying tuk tuk ride, one $75 dollar bottle of wine (whatever, don't ask, but we needed a drink and it's ramadam) ... but finally we're both in Kathmandu.

I love it!

We fly to Lukla at 6am tomorrow and the plan is to trek to Mera peak (6400m), summit, and ski down. It'll be 19 / 20 days round trip, the first half pretty much on our own, and the summit days with a climbing sherpa and cook / porter team. We've spent a couple of hours over lunch with a guy called Ian, who works for KE with Emma, and who's been up Mera 32 times. Good to get the low-down and plan our route - as much as you can when we haven't even seen the mountain before. Starting to get a bit nervous, but our porters and cook will be walking the same route as us, so at least we can't get too lost ...

Next update when we're back in 2 weeks!


Monday, 1 October 2007

And ... we're off

So, it's midnight, and I've got to be up in 4 hours to get my flight.
Guy and I had a great time for 2 weeks climbing in Corsice and Sardinia. Not sure it did my fitness training (or waistline) much good, but the climbing was fab and the scenery is beautiful.
Emma has just been up Kilimanjaro ... twice ... with her Exodus clients, so she's in full on mountain mode. I've been sleeping up the midi top station (much to the amusement of the lifties), so I'm 3800m ready ... And apart from a climbing scare in Wales, and some seriously last minute packing, we're all set. Bring on Nepal!
I'm struggling to get my head around what I'm supposed to do with skis, and I'm sure there's about a million things I've forgotten, but I'm sure we'll work that one out when we're there ...
See ya,

Thursday, 6 September 2007

Emma in Africa and Steph in New York

Ridiculous jet set life we lead ... This summer has gone so fast it's unbelievable. Emma and I now won't see each other until Kathmandu airport on 3rd October. A little surreal seeing as we have about a million things left to organise. I'm sure it'll all fall into place. In the mean time, she's off to lead a trek for Exodus to climb Meru peak and Killimanjaro. So she'll be nicely acclimatised for Nepal. I on the other hand won't be as I'm going shopping in New York and climbing in Corsica - both of which are at sea level. Ah well.

August 2007 - From Tour de Mont Blanc to Surfing in Portugal

The training has already started for next year's Cho Oyu expedition. I'd like to say that means healthy eating, no drinking, no smoking, and early to bed with a good book. However, that's possibly not the Lightfoot-Jackers style, which is more along the lines of last minute decision, late nights, and random adventures. Far more fun!

Coming soon - adventures in Nepal and Thailand ...

We have actually been working pretty hard to get our plans sorted out for this autumn's trip, and are starting to get really excited about the coming year. From trekking peaks in Nepal and climbing on Thai beaches this autumn. Heliskiing and ski touring in Alaska ... through to driving to Russia to climb and ski Elbrus.

Tour de Mont Blanc ...

Inspired by the Ultratrail, Emma and I decided to do the Tour de Mont Blanc ... in 3 days, instead of the usual 'punter rate' of 10. A pretty full on endurance adventure, covering 155km in a circuit around Mont Blanc, and popping into 3 different countries en route.

Day 1 - nearly 14 hours walking from Les Houches, into Contamines and over into Italy and the Elizabetta Hut.
Day 2 - 15 hours walking via Courmayeur (yummy coffees and blister plasters) and over the Col de Seine into Switlerland.
Day 3 - 12 hours via Champex, the Col de Forclaz and the Col de Balme, back into the Chamonix Valley.

We managed to combine 3 days' worth of walking each day, with 4am starts, power walking, and not a lot of rests. An absolutely awesome experience ... although by day 3, my legs had had it, and my feet were (still are) pretty much completely f*cked. Thank god for walking poles! Was a pretty impressive achievement (we think anyway), and cool to chat to people along the way, most of whom didn't believe what we were up to.

We're very pleased that our walking time (37 hours) was actually within the limits of the Ultratail race - although actual Ultrail competitors don't sleep, or eat so we cheated. And the fastest bloke this year - who is 59!!! - still managed to make it round in just 21 hours. Not next year (we'll be heading to Cho Oyu) ... but maybe August 2009 ... I'll have to give it a go. If my feet have recovered by then!

Look out for the video of our comedy adventures.

Monaco ...

Guy and I have been back to Monaco to climb at La Thurbie. It's only 4 hours drive from Chamonix, and great to have a change of scene when the weather's crap in the mountains. The climbing is fab, and nice to catch up with Oli and Sophie again. Also good to get back to the classy Beausoleil hotel - le Diana - as well as stuff our faces in nice restaurants, and indulge in yummy breakfasts at Guy 'creature of habit' Willet's favourite bakery.

Portugal ...

A last minute decision to celebrate Guy's birthday, and get away from the persistent minging weather in Chamonix. Thank God for Eastjet, and last minute cheap deals. Headed to Peniche, just north of Lisbon for a bit of surfing action.

Soooo nice to be at the beach, and attempt to catch some waves. Managed to get properly 'washing machined', a few spectacular bruises, as well as riding one or two decent waves - think I managed to surf some actual green water when the swell had dropped down to girlie size (ie practically flat). Guy can actually surf, in spite of not having been for about 5 years.

Cool to chill out, do some serious sleeping, and drink yummy fresh oj on the beach. Nice to be somewhere where everything is soooo cheap (1euro glasses of wine, I like!). Shame it was so dead at night. But can't have it all.

Cambridge and Chamonix ...

August 4th was Oggie's birthday, so we 'celebrated' as he would have done, by having a boozy picnic on the banks of the river Cam, punting upriver, and scattering his ashes in the meadows.
On the one hand a very sad occasion, but also a lovely day, and good for mum and I to catch up with his friends 6 months on, when the shock of his death has started to wear off for all of us. Mum and Archie have been out to visit in Chamonix at the end of this month - lovely to see them again, just a shame about the sodding RAIN! This is the most miserable August ... looking forward to an Indian summer?

Extreme Chicken Asian Adventure

The Challenge: To climb the 6th highest mountain in the world - and be the first British girls to ski from the summit. Cho Oyu is on the Nepal / Tibet border, and is one of just 14 peaks in the world over 8000m. Only a small handful of people (less than 10) have ever skied from its summit, so our project will be an enormous personal achievement, as well as a British first. It will take us a year to train and prepare for the expedition.

About our Cho Oyu Expedition: The all girl 'Extreme Chicken' expedition will take place in August 2008. It will take up to 10 weeks to reach the summit of Cho Oyu (8200m).

High mountains are dangerous places, and the summit of Cho Oyu is well into 'the death zone', where serious medical conditions can occur if you're not properly acclimatised or your body can't cope. Along with our guides and Sherpas, we will be contending with difficult glacier crossings, rock and ice climbing, possible avalanches, rapidly changing conditions and temperatures, as well as the sheer effort of living at high altitudes for weeks on end. There is nothing easy about climbing Cho Oyu and we will need to be prepared for all manner of difficulties.

Climbing at high altitudes is not just about being fit and strong. Just getting there will take an enormous effort - both mentally and physically. When everything in you is screaming to go down to where the air is thicker and your body can work normally, you have to keep putting one foot in front of the other, and going up. At least 70% of the challenge is mental.

Skiing from the summit will be a massive buzz. To be the first British girls, and one of only a handful of people ever to achieve this, we’ll be returning to base camp in style! We’re not imagining powder or an easy ride, but just putting a turn or two above 8000m will be something very few people in the world have ever done. Overcoming the odds - the mountain, the weather, and our fear will be the greatest achievement of our lives.

About us: We are Steph Lightfoot and Emma Jack. We met 3 summers ago in the French Alps, sharing our passion for skiing and climbing. Steph lives in Chamonix all year round, where she skis, climbs, runs, hikes, bikes, and is generally up for any kind of adventure. Emma is based in Meribel in the winters, and Chamonix in the summer. An experienced skier and mountaineer, Emma is always the first to say yes to the next hair-brained scheme …

Our training starts now (summer 2007). From climbingMont Blanc, to running the Tour in 3 days (instead of the usual 10) we’re on a mission to be in the best physical shape possible for our adventure. In preparation for Cho Oyu, we will be visiting Nepal in October 07 to set up the trip for next year, as well as trekking to Everest Base Camp, and climbing Mera peak (6400m). Over the winter, we’ll be skiing the steepest, most challenging slopes we can find. And in spring 2008 we’ll be traveling to Alaska to spend 2 weeks camping and ski touring, as well as to ski tour Elbrus, Europe’s highest mountain.

You can keep in touch with us, follow our progress as we train for our adventure, and see our photos & video diary at our blog, or check out http://www.extremechicken.co.uk/

How you can help us achieve our goal: Please make a donation at www.justgiving.com/extremechicken to help us achieve our goal and help raise as much money as possible for the Samaritans! Without your help, our fundraising challenge won't be possible. Donating through Just Giving is simple, fast and totally secure. It is also the most efficient way to sponsor us: Samaritans will receive your money faster and, if you are a UK taxpayer, an extra 28% in tax will be added to your gift at no cost to you. So please sponsor us now!

Big thanks to: Big Thanks to our sponsors for helping to make this dream become real: Salomon, Extreme Sports, Dream Guides, Natives and the Samaritans, who have pledged to help support our expedition*.

Biggest thanks to all the individual people supporting us, and who have sponsored us. It's massively appreciated by both us and The Samaritans.

Many thanks for your help.
Steph & Emma

* The Samaritans have kindly agreed to help make our trip to Cho Oyu a reality. They have pledged to refund some of the training and travel costs we incur in achieving our dream. We guarantee that our project is 100% not for profit.