Base camp!

Posted on Sunday 22nd April, 2012

The weather has been really bad in Sama Goan and on the mountain and is only just starting to get better now. Groups that had arrived before us in Sama Goan had been waiting for a week in the rain and unable to move up the mountain to base camp. So I guess it was actually a good plan to acclimatise in the Khumbu anyway! We ended up spending 3 days in Sama Goan while they portaged some loads up to base and started to make tent platforms in the snow. Marc and I used the opportunity to practise our GPS skills and Dawa and I practised crevasse rescue techniques. We hiked up to base on Friday and it was a beautiful day with perfect weather.

Porters and monks at our Hotel in Sama Goan

There is a committee in the town that organises the porters for all the expeditions to base camp. There are 150 houses and each time a group needs porters the committee contacts each house in turn and a family member comes to porter a load. This way money is spread fairly in the community which is great. It also means that everyone comes to porter the loads, kids, parents, grandparents! Most of our porters were women and they were all very strong. Marc was camping in his tent the morning we had all the porters arrive and he awoke to another surprise! When he got out of his tent there were 50 monks outside it all chanting. As the owner of the lodge has a lot of Tibetan prayer books in his possession, once a year all the monks come and sit in the front yard and pray with the books and today was the day! So he quickly packed his things and moved his tent out of the middle of the action. Then all the porters started to arrive so it was a very busy place! Francis had spent the previous night in the next town up with his family before they went across the pass and he had to say goodbye to them. So he had trekked back in the morning and now had to head up to base camp.

Manaslu summit (on the left)

Francis, Marc and I left together and I hiked out front setting the pace all day which was really slow so we didn’t use too much energy. Base is at 4800m and Sama Goan is 3400m so there is a lot of altitude gain. I stopped many times to take photos and video because the view was absolutely amazing. I was so happy and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world. It was probably the best day so far and I felt very good, not tired at all.  As we got closer to base the porters were coming down and having lots of fun sliding down the snow on plastic bags! It was really funny to watch them as they were all laughing a lot and making a fun day of it.

Looking down towards Sama Goan from the trail to Base Camp. This lake is fed from the glacier that comes down off Manaslu.

Porters sliding down the snow on garbage bags.

Heading up the last part of the ridge before Base Camp

We took 6 and a half hours to arrive at base and had to follow a snow ridge for a long time which was partly mud and partly snow. As it was so sunny there were lots of avalanches coming off the Manaslu glacier and down the surrounding mountains. When we got to base Tendi and Dawa were shovelling the platforms for our tents so we helped them and put our tents up. We started to sort our things, had some dinner in the kitchen tent then went to bed. Yesterday the weather was great in the morning so we got the dining tent up, the toilet tent and Dawa and Tendi put their tent up. I organised all my gear in my tent and put some things in our dining tent. After we ate lunch the weather started to change and it started to snow. Then it got heavier and didn’t stop until in the night. We started watching a movie on Marc’s Ipad but 20 minutes from the end the battery ran out!! I will finish it off today. Then we went to our tents and read books. I am reading Pat Deavoll’s book at the moment and have nearly finished it which is a bit depressing as its really inspiring and honest.

Today its perfect weather again and we had our Puja ceremony.  The Lama came up from Sama Goan and we made a Puja place for him to do the prayers. We had lots of offerings in the way of beer and food. All the climbers put their ice axes and crampons next to the Puja to get blessed. Below is a photo of our camp behind me and I am up the hill at the top of one of the prayer flag. On the left behind me is the Asian Trekking camp who arrived yesterday. So now the Puja is done we can start climbing on the mountain.

Our puja ceremony

Looking down on our Base Camp

We are just eating lunch now then I will sort out a load for tomorrow, probably some high food. Tendi and Dawa are leaving at 1am to go with the Adventure Consultants Sherpa’s to carry rope up for the fixed lines. Marc, Francis and I are leaving at the more reasonable hour of 7am to go to Camp 1 and drop a load then come back again. Then once the ropes are fixed to Camp 2 we will start to head up higher and stay up there a few nights to acclimatise. We are quite behind in our schedule now but I just got the best news ever today so I am not too worried anymore about this. Northcote Pottery has very kindly offered to help with a helicopter flight from Sama Goan to Kathmandu when we finish. This will save us 5 days walking out and travelling by bus. This is the best news ever and I am very grateful because it means we will definitely get to Lhotse before the end of the season and I won’t be as exhausted from the massive walk out.

So all good here and I am very happy! Looking forward to getting up higher on the mountain and slowly working my way to the top. Lots of good vibes here at Base and Francis and Marc are keeping me entertained with their bad jokes….mostly about me. Will write again when I have some new news. Missing everyone but having a great time here!

Manaslu | 2 Comments

The long hike to Sama Goan….then waiting…

Posted on Sunday 22nd April, 2012

I am sitting in my tent spending time reading this post from on must have camping gear in Sama Goan and its sprinkling rain outside. Just managed to wash and dry all my clothes in time as everything was dirty after the long hike to get here. I met the Canadians, who turned out to be from Quebec, when Dawa and I arrived to get on our bus to Arughat. Francis and Marc are climbing Manaslu and Francis’s wife and son are trekking around the Manaslu circuit. I was slightly disappointed that they don’t speak much English and most of the time are talking in French to each other so I have no idea what they are talking about! However they are a lovely bunch and we have started to get to know each other over the last 5 days of hiking.

We drove all day to get to Arughat and from Gorkha the road was a dirt 4WD track. Luckily our 4WD bus had good clearance and we had a good driver because at times we came very close to the cliff edge. It was always hard when a truck turned up coming in the other direction as we had to reverse and try get off the side of the road. I slept most of the way however and avoided all the action! It was really hot when we got to our camp site in Arughat as it is pretty low in altitude, about 600m. We set up tents and played with the local kids while the staff sorted the loads for the mules.

Chantelle playing with the kids at Arughat.

The next morning we got up and packed everything as the mule drivers loaded a bunch of our stuff. The rest we put on another bus and hopped in to drive through the river and up to the village. From the police check post we began walking and we began sweating. I didn’t bring any shorts on the trip as I thought I wouldn’t need them so hiked the whole 5 days in the same pair of trekking pants. Grose! I only had 2 lightweight t-shirts with no chance to wash and dry them. The first few days we were at low altitudes and only slowly starting to go up. It was hot, dirty and the locals didn’t seem very friendly. All the kids asked us for pens, chocolate or balloons. Chantelle (Francis’s wife) had lots of pencils to give away but didn’t give them to the beggars just the nice kids that didn’t ask for anything. It was sad to see that the parents of a lot of the kids didn’t seem to look after them or wash them. Some were so dirty there faces were black and I cant understand why they don’t want to keep them clean as they all had access to lots of water and washed their clothes in soap. There was lots of crops around and plenty of food but hygiene seemed a huge issue. One very dirty man asked me for medicine as he was vomiting and had the shits. What can you say?! How will he ever get better living with animals, not boiling water or washing hands…

The hike started down in the lowlands and was very hot.

Waiting for the mules to cross the bridge before Philim.

We followed the Buddi Gundagi river and had to cross it many times over suspension bridges. The longest one was before our third stop, the town Philim. It must have been around  150m long and all the mules had to cross it too. I waited until most of them got to the other side before I walked across!

We had 16 mules, 3 porters, 3 cooking staff and one head cook. Marc and Francis also have one climbing Sherpa Tendi. Last night we said goodbye to 2 porters. Chantelle and Hugo are heading off to finish the circuit in a couple of days time with one trekking guide and one porter. Then it will just be Galu the cook, Dawa the cooks assistant, Tendi, Dawa, Francis, Marc and I left to go to base camp.

An old bridge crossing the river in the rainforest.

Not all the bridges have been upgraded to metal ones yet and the old wooden ones are pretty scary. Once we started to get over 2000m the landscape changed and became more rain forest. We hiked most of one day in the rain and couldn’t see any mountains. The next daythe weather cleared and we slowly got up higher and began to get views of snowy summits. Didn’t see much wildlife apart from a few monkeys. There are goats, sheep and cattle everywhere. Its hard to think how anything else would survive to be honest. People have also cut down so many trees its crazy. We did hike through some amazing forest though with huge pine and cedar trees but who knows how much longer they will be there. I know this sounds pretty negative but environmental conservation is not really part of the culture here. People are just trying to survive I guess and their living is based around building from local timber, planting crops and owning cattle. Its very different from the Khumbu where people have made money from the business brought to the region from trekkers. There aren’t as many lodges here at all and not as many foreign people hiking around. Which is nice of course but until we got to the Buddhist towns people didn’t seem to happy to see western hikers and weren’t very friendly!

The Buddhist monastery overlooks the town of Lho. Manaslu can just be seen in the background on the left.

The last two days of our hike have been spectacular and the view has just got better and better. The towns also seem cleaner and there is less rubbish around on the trail. There are lots of mules carrying loads up to Sama Goan but not as many as there are yaks going to Everest base camp. They walk pretty fast too so you never really get stuck behind them. As we left the river and hiked towards Lho the trail got much steeper as we gained altitude. There were forests of rhododendrons then small Buddhist villages among them.  Chortens mark the start and end of each village and you have to walk through them like a gateway.

Chortens mark the start and end of villages.

I arrived at 5:30pm last night after hiking since 7:30am to Sama Goan which is at 3400m. The mules dropped our loads then headed back to Arughat. It was very cloudy when we arrived so we had no idea of the view around us. The town is pretty big with around 600 people in it and there are lots of yaks here. Most people are originally from Tibet so the women wear Tibetan clothes. We set up camp outside of a lodge called Sama Goan Hotel run by Lakpa and Galsen Lama who are very friendly and their son Karma helps them run the place. The lodge was full of trekkers when we arrived so that’s why we put up tents. Its actually quieter in the tent anyway so I get a better sleep there. We were all pretty exhausted and sore so had an early night. All the other climbing expeditions had been waiting for a week in Sama Goan due to bad weather so we hadn’t actually missed much. Today most of the groups went up as it was a clear morning. When I got out of the tent I was very happy to see we were surrounded by snow capped mountains and we could just see the summit of Manaslu but it quickly got lost in cloud. We have to wait until the day after tomorrow until the porters can take our things as there is a group in front of us to go up tomorrow. So today was a well earned rest. Tomorrow we are going to the monastery in the morning to do a puja then Dawa and Tendi are heading up to base camp with the Quebec guys as Chantelle and Hugo are leaving the next day and Marc and Francis need to acclimatise to move up there. As I don’t need to acclimatise and have certainly done enough hiking to be fit I will probably just hang out here. Dawa and Tendi are going to make some places for our tents there.

The lodge at Sama Goan with Manaslu in the background.

So I imagine this is going to take about an hour to upload using the sat phone so I won’t be writing again until I have some news from on the mountain. There is a lot of snow up there now so not sure how fast we can establish camps so I guess I will write again in about a week.

Thanks everyone for your support and please if you haven’t already, it would be great if you could support my charity too.

Trekking to Manaslu | No Comments

Wonderful warm up!

Posted on Sunday 8th April, 2012

Here I am back in Kathmandu at the beautiful Hotel Courtyard and Michelle has surprised me once again with an even more amazing room than the last one! I am sitting at a desk looking out to the rooftops in a stylish white and black furnished ‘apartment room’ that looks like it would fit right in if it were in New York and going through my usual top10best pro review guides. Don’t even get me started on how comfortable the bed was last night when my whole body was aching from the big warm up trek Dawa and I did!

So rather than prattle on for hours I will just show you how our acclimatisation trek in the Khumbu region went with photos. I am certainly feeling strong and acclimatised now and after a few days of good food, a massage and some rest, will certainly be ready to tackle the next part of my adventure, Manaslu.

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Dawa and I packed our bags and flew into Lukla then hiked to Monjo on the first day and Namche on the second. Here I am crossing the last suspension bridge before heading up the big hill to Namche. I felt much better going up this hill than I did last year and I had a heavier pack as I didn’t have a porter this time…

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My friend Tsedam Sherpa owns a gear store in Namche and also a Guesthouse called the Zamling which I always stay at. The family are all so friendly and it always feels so homely there and they have delicious food too! His daughter Kami Doma works at the local school as a teacher and they also run a Hostel for children to stay at while school is on so they don’t have to walk for hours each day to get there. The family sponsors some poor children to stay there so they can go to school and they also adopted Regina into the family, so they have huge hearts. Tsedam told me the kids need some down jackets so I am getting 10 made to bring to the kids when I climb Lhotse, its only costing around $200…. I would buy more but I can’t afford to so if anyone feels like contributing than let me know. I am personally delivering them.

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Kami and Regina in the Zamling in front of Tsedams little mountaineering museum.

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The next day we hiked up Khunde Ri which is 4100mt to help acclimatise. Its up above Khunde village which is behind Namche…DSCN1393 (800x600)

After we had lunch in Kunde we came back to Namche and had a looks at the local markets. Loads of organic veges for sale as people can’t afford to buy fertilizers most of the fruit and vege in Nepal is organic. So awesome!! I bought some delicious mandarins.

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After 2 nights in Namche we left the Zamling and headed to Dawa’s wifes sisters (Ang Dzungmu) lodge! If that makes sense?? Its a really nice Lodge in Deboche and its called Rivendell, yes from Lord of the Rings….some foreigner helped name it! Annoyingly as it is so nice, big and clean heaps of big groups stay there. This time we arrived to have 45 Chileans there, massive group, can you imagine hiking to base camp with 45 people in your group?! So we only stayed one night. This is the view of Everest and Lhotse from the front of Rivendell.

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The next day we continued up the Everest valley to Pengboche to see the Lama Geshi and get his blessing for our Manaslu climb. Once again he tied string around my neck, blessed my summit necklace, tied it on and gave me a card to take to the summit… also he blessed our khata scarves then we tied them on our backpacks.

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On the way to Pengboche looking towards Ama Dablam.

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Chorten at the edge of Pengboche.

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The Lama tying on my lucky string…

We continued on to Phortse to spend the night at the start of the Gokyo valley. The next day we hiked to Machermo which is around 4500m before hiking to Gokyo to spend 2 nights. It is at 4800m so great to stay and acclimatise. Once again we hiked up Gokyo Ri 5360m and I got a PB of 1 hour and 27min to the top! Last year it took 1 hour and 50 min so I was pretty chuffed.DSCN1461 (800x600)

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Dawa put some prayer flags up on the highest part of the ridge for good luck for Ang Dzungmu. The next day we headed off to cross Renjo Pass and go all the way to Thame. It was a massive hike with packs! It took us 3 hours to get up to the top of the pass which is 5400m and then we didn’t arrive in Thame until 6pm that night, exhausted. However I was very pleased to see they had steak on the menu!!

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Looking at Cho Oyu from Gokyo village… reminiscing the hard time I had going solo to the summit without oxygen in 2007. I must have been very strong back then!!!

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Hiking towards the pass from Gokyo. The lake is pretty much all frozen this time of year.

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Everest and Lhotse from close to the pass.

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Dawa put another prayer flag up over the pass. We met a nice Irish couple there who took our photo for us.

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Just trotting along behind Dawa on our way to Thame.

So it was another massive day the next day because I wanted to go all the way from Thame to Lukla. We woke up to a big surprise, it had dumped down snow overnight so we got off to a slow start. It was really pretty though.

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Dawas home town Thamo is not too far from Thame so we stopped to have lots of cups of tea with his Mum and younger sister.

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Thamo covered in snow.

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Dawas sister is a nun and this is his Mum in their lounge room/prayer room. She gave me another scarf for good luck on the mountain.

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Even Namche which is much lower got lots of snow. We stopped at the Zamling for lunch and then continued on down the valley. Caught up with my friends Willie and Damien Benegas at Phakding who are guiding on Everest again. At this point I was exhausted. Dawas friend was hiking with us and he had left Everest base camp at 6:30am and was headed to Lukla too! He decided he wanted to carry my pack to speed me up and I didn’t say no!! We still arrived at Lukla in the dark after 7pm, very sore and very hungry. What an epic last two days hike!! It had been a fantastic trip thats for sure and certainly helped me to feel strong at altitude and renew my enthusiasm for pack carrying before the real hard work begins.

It was so wonderful to arrive back to the Courtyard to see Michelle and Pujan again. Also Margaret Watroba, Australias oldest female Everest summiteer is here! If people read my Everest blog they will remember that we discovered we were on the summit at the same time last year when we got back to the Hotel at the end of our expeditions!! We were so excited to found this out after looking at my summit photo. Anyhow she is here to climb Everest again! By the way she is 62 and she is heading off to do it from the north side this time with Altitude Junkies… which is fitting as that is definitely what she is. She is so inspiring to me and I can only hope to be as fit, positive and motivated as she is when I am of that age. We are both raising money for the Australian Himalayan Foudation. Today Bhim from their NGO here in Nepal came to see us and show us a presentation of all the amazing work they are doing with the schools. It nearly made me cry to see the difference they are making. I am almost at a loss for words actually. Before they started working with the schools they never had books, libraries or anything. The teachers were so strict and even used canes to discipline the kids. There was no such things as grades even! However now there is a huge difference in teaching, the communities, the parents and the resources. It makes my heart melt to think how big a difference this work makes to the community as a whole. More kids are coming school and they have books to read. There is no more cane and school is a happy place where the teachers are now creative and even have paints and coloured textas to decorate classrooms. I know this sounds so normal to us westerners but it is a huge change for them here.

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With Margaret after Bhim gave us special scarves for helping raise money for the kids. Please people if you can just click on the donate link on the side of my page even if its a few dollars you can spare. This is a real charity, a registered organisation that makes a definite difference to peoples lives here.  Nothing would make Margaret and I happier.

So thats it for now. Off to get a massage and eat a massive dinner. Tomorrow Dawa and I go food shopping for Manaslu then I am off to see his wife Lakpa and his family in Kathmandu. We head in with the two Canadians, who I still have to meet, on the 11th. I will be blogging using the satellite phone as a modem from now on. This means a dial up connection so not as photos sorry folks! Thanks so much for all your support.

Trekking in the Khumbu | 3 Comments


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