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Monthly Archives: September 2011

Tough Decisions

Today (27th Sept) has been the hardest day of the 1.5 months of this
Cho Oyu expedition. I woke up with this nagging thought at the back of
my mind if i had made the correct decision. I got out of my tent which
had snowed into the vestibule (the barrier at the entrance between the
inner compartment of the tent and the environment). I couldn’t find my
ski poles/ boots and sandals as they were all covered in snow. The
snow outside was abt 70cm high. No wonder the it was so cold last
night. I was being incubated by the ice all around the tent. I shook
the snow out of my boots and got out of my tent at abt 0635H. Everyone
was outside making sure that they had got their packs ready. 2 duffle
bags per person. 18 duffels altogether and there were the porters
haggling about who was to carry which baggage. I had breakfast with
everyone just like any other day. But today it was difficult wondering
as i was eating, what it would be like to have a hot shower, to be in
a warm environment with no snow, to have a choice of what you want to
have for dinner, to sleep on a comfortable bed that night, to give a
phone call to family and loved ones back at home. This was what the 9
clients who were returning back to Kathmandu would be doing this very
day. I had a heavy heart as i bid them farewell. It was difficult to
part with the 9 strangers who had become friends over the 1.5 months
especially when i knew i was choosing to stay on and suffer in the
conditions that they had chosen to be gone with.”

The summit push on the 24th had returned out disastrous. The Germans
who left a day ahead of the main team were stuck in C1 due to strong
winds. They mentioned that they were glad to stay alive for the night
as they were afraid that the winds would blow their tents away. No one
except 1 climber had left C1 to C2 on the 24th. We eventually heard
that he got caught in an avalanche while ascending from C2-C3 and lost
his ice axe and ski poles but somehow managed to survive and return
back to ABC. We were experiencing strong winds all the way up to C1
but only when we reached the ridge on which C1 was sitting on, did we
know what the Germans were talking abt. 100km/h winds which nearly
swept us away from the ridge. We had to literally duck walk to our
tents. We stayed there for the night hoping that the winds would die
out. Then, it started snowing. What luck. The avalanche danger was
growing larger as loose snow was being swept on the slopes of the
mountain. The next day wasn’t much better either. The winds died down
a little in the morning but picked up in the afternoon. The Germans
being afraid of avalanche danger left for ABC in the morning. We
figured that we weren’t going to risk it either and left ard 2pm back
to ABC.

All the commercial groups on the mountain had turned back that day.
Some even called it quits and decided to pack their bags and head back
home after the winds they experienced. We also received news that
someone had died while ascending the 1st ice cliff on the 24th and his
body was dangling on the ropes as it could not be accessed easily in
the storm. What a shock it would have been for ppl descending from C2
to C1 to have been rappelling off the ice cliff and to see a body
dangling there!!! There was a very bad storm on the 26th (the day
after we descended). It kept snowing heavily the whole day and the
winds were the strongest ever in ABC. We received word that there were
a few climbers suck in C2 unable to descend due to deep snow. I can
just imagine how they would have been praying for their lives and for
god to give them a window of opportunity to descend safely. It was a
wise decision made by our guides for us to descend from C1 to ABC on
the 25th. If we had waited in C1 for a possible weather window, we
would be in the same boat as the unlucky climbers stuck in C1/2. So
far only the handful of Koreans have summitted the mountain (as they
fixed their own lines and headed up a week before the rest) and many
speculate that it will remain this way. Furthermore to testify to the
bad weather there was a private plane crash near Kathmandu on the 25th
where 19 ppl died. It was an international group of tourists returning
from a scenic flight along the Himalayas range when the plane got out
of control when the weather suddenly turned bad.

9 out of the 11 climbers (including the Germans who were with us)
decided to pull the plug and head back home after the failed summit
attempt. I have been extremely disappointed and demoralized at this
juncture. Having spent 1.5 months in this expedition only to have
reached C2. I wanted to give the mountain another shot even though i
knew the chances of summiting are close to none. Coming so far,
spending so much time and money, I don’t have it in me to just let it
go like that. Once again, weather has foiled everything. 2 mountains
in a row. Mustagh Ata and now Cho Oyu. I have decided to wait out the
weather and try to summit again while the rest head back to the
comforts of their home. It has been a emotional roller coaster and
this trip has tested my mental strength greatly. This decision has
been extremely difficult to make and I’ve to live with it as i said
farewell to the rest of the group leaving to Kathmandu this morning.
IMG has left me and the other climber (who has chosen the same path as
me) a skeleton Sherpa crew. We shall await the weather reports and
news from the other teams for a suitable weather window to try again.
The odds seem extremely against me that I even get a chance for
another attempt. Every moment, i see huge groups of ppl and yaks
loaded with luggage heading down from ABC. Many teams are pulling out.
All i can do is hope.

None the less i have to thank my lucky stars to have survived an
earthquake at 6400m and to have made it safely to a personal record of
7100m without supplemental oxygen. Time is my limiting factor. I have
to get home within the 1st week of Oct to prepare for my next
expedition on Ama Dablam. So if weather decides to play me out for a
3rd time, I’ll have to head back home like the rest of the climbers.
We shall hope and we shall see how the story turns out.

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Posted by on September 27, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

EARTHQUAKE!!!!

There was an earthquake that measured 6.8 on the ritcher scale, with
an epicentre at Sikkim (India) abt 300km east of kathmandu that
occured on the 18th of Sept at 6.29pm Nepal time that lasted for abt
20 seconds. The scary part of this whole thing was that myself and
part of the IMG team was on Camp 1 (6400m) of Cho Oyu for our 3rd
rotation when the earthquake occured.

Me and my sherpa (Kancha who was the youngest of the sherpas but not
forgetting an Everest summit record of 3 and 2 summits on Cho Oyu)
were getting ready to settle in for the night in out tent in Camp1. At
abt 6.29pm we felt out tent shaking. We thouight it was our neighbours
helping us shake the snow from our tents. This shaking continued and
the ground beneath us started shaking as well. At that point, I
thouight that there was an avalanche occuring. The snow beneath which
we were sleeping on gave way and suddenly sank by an inch or 2 and
both of us who were on either side of the tent started rolling towards
each other, towards the centre of the tent in our sleeping bags. This
was when we knew something more serious was happening. We heard the
shouts of ‘Earthquake’ coming from the sherpas and guides from our
neighbouring tents. I felt as though our tent was beginning to slide
towards the edge of the snow slope. At that time, i could not do any
thing else but pray that we would not slide off the mountain ridge.
The 20 sec the earthquake lasted seemed to be long. Very long indeed.
Both me and my sherpa were scared beyond words. All we could do was
stick our heads outside our tent hoping the worse would not happen.
The shaking stopped but then the avalanches started. The slopes of
snow all around camp 1 started sliding downhill. Huge avalanches we
could see for ourselves. It was scary and we were praying for the
safety of the ppl beneath lake camp and for ourselves as well. If the
slope leading from C1 to C2 gave way, we would have been swept off the
mountain as well. Our guide immediately started communicating with the
other group who had made it to C2 for the night to make sure they were
alright. The slope above C2 had the highest probability of giving way
and wiping out all the ppl in C2 who had settled there for the night.
It was really lucky that the slope held and there was no avalanche
above C2. For the next hour or so, there were abt 8-10 avalanches
occuring all ard C1. We were just hoping that none of the avalanches
would be our death call. Every time I heard something i would wake up
and pray that we’d be safe. Even Kancha had not experienced such a
scary phenomenon up in the mountain and both of us were extremely glad
that we were safe at the end of the whole ordeal.

Our 3rd roation the next day up to C2 was not confirmed due to the
heavy snowing and avalanche hazard. It was mentally challenging for us
to keep playing ard with the idea of going and then not going to C2.
The plan was that Craig (our IMG guide) would comms the ppl up at C2
and BC to check on the weather and snow conditions and would confirm
our departure early next morning. If the weather was bad, we’d stay in
C1 for another night and would have to call it an imperfect but
completed C2 rotation. 4.45am and Craig was waking us up and said we’d
be departing for C2. We had to mentally tune ourselves for the hard
climb ahead. The climb up to C2 from C1 was extremely tiring. So far,
this has been the most difficult climb of all the mountains i have
climbed (other than the summit day of Mt Kilimanjaro. That day is
still considered the most difficult climb for me thus far due to my
inexperience and lack of fitness climbing my 1st mountain). The 2 ice
cliffs took it all out of me and the endless knolls before hitting C2
was a mental torture. Finally after the 7.5h climb, i had reached C2
at 7000m. I had finally crossed the 7k m mental barrier without
supplemental oxygen. I was so exhausted upon reaching C2 that it took
the entire afternoon and evening for recooperation. The night was
spent tossing and turning without sleep. Its diffcult to sleep at 7km
above sea level where the oxygen content is less than half of what is
found at sea level. I was glad the night was over and we hurried down
from C2 the next day to ABC.

We will be resting here at ABC for the next few days. The chinese rope
fixing team is once again giving problems. They are saying that it is
too dangerous to fix ropes above C3 due to avalanche danger and they
have given an arbituary date of completion as 1st of Oct. This has
been unexceptable for all the other teams whom have been patiently
waiting for the chinese. The Koreans (who seem to be the most
impatient of us all) have taken the responsibility from the chinese
and have claimed that they will fix the ropes to the summit by the
23rd. Our team will be waiting in ABC till we hear the good news
before we begin our summit bid on the 24th (if everything goes well).

 
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Posted by on September 22, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Tremors felt

The climbers on Cho Oyu felt the tremors of the earthquake that hit the Himalayan region on Sun. They are safe and are proceeding with the climb.

Updates on IMG blog:

http://www.mountainguides.com/wordpress/climb/cho-oyu/

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Kumaran’s Interview on Vasantham Central

Kumaran will be featured on a talk show program on Vasantham Central, today at 7.30pm- on the Indian beat series. Do tune in….

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Kumaran’s Interview on Vasantham Central

Kumaran will be featured on a talk show program on Vasantham Central, today at 7.30pm- on the Indian beat series. Do tune in….

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Cho Oyu route

 
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Posted by on September 15, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Weather Woes

Just returned from my 2nd rotation up on the mountain. The plan was
to be just behind the chinese rope fixing team and follow them up to
camp 2 and back down to camp 1. While we were at the 1st ice cliff
from C1 to C2 at 6700m, our IMG sherpas went ahead and said that the
ropes and the fixed lines were not secured properly. We were abt to
turn back when our western guide thought that the rotation would not
be complete and decided fix proper ropes by our own efforts up the 1st
ice cliff. We made it up the vertical 1st ice cliff with front
pointing techniques and jumars and were left totally exhausted at abt
6750m (my highest altitude reached). We made it down the moutain there
after.

The reason why the chinese rope fixing team seemed to not have done a
good job was not due to their inexperience but due to the weather. It
has been snowing every afternoon and new powdered snow seems to litter
the paths everyday. The chinese team could not get a good anchor on
the ice pickets while setting the fixed lines on the ice cliff. We
were also warned of avalanche danger above the ice cliff towards C2
due to the torrential snow that has been building up everyday. The sun
has to pack the powdered snow down for abt 3-4 days before it is
considered safe and easy to be travelled on. This is also the time
when the fixed ropes will be considered safe to be used.
Unfortunately, there has not been a single day without snow and clouds
and the weather forcast for the next 7-10 days says that there is
going to be afternoon snow everyday.

Although we have been the 1st team up on the mountian, it has almost
been a month in Tibet and we have not even reached C2. 1st was the
chinese rope fixing team, and now, it is the weather. Sometimes we can
hear avalanches occuring in the far distance as we sleep in our tents,
reminding us of the dangers due to the unstable weather up on the
mountains. I’m starting to feel mentally and physically exhausted
thinking that we’ve another rotation up to C2 (to sleep there, due to
our failed previous rotation) and due to the weather. My last
expedition on mustagh ata was folied due to the weather and its
looking bleak for this expediion was well. All i can do now is to
focus on the task ahead and pray for good weather towards the end of
the month. The expected summit window is from the 25th to the 30th if
the weather holds.

Today, we had practise on our oxygen systems and mask fitting. We’ll
start using oxygen form camp3 (7500m) onwards. I am very grateful that
i have been safe and well thus far but i also pray that we will have a
chance to use the oxygen up in the high camps and give the summit a
shot before we’re told to turn back due to bad weather and avalanche
hazards. We will leave for our 3rd rotation to sleep at C2 on the
18th.

 
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Posted by on September 15, 2011 in Uncategorized