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Island Peak Summit

Posted on Sunday 23rd April, 2017

Hi folks, I hope you all had a great Easter and had some fun long weekend adventures! Well Sonia, Nathan and I have been on the go since we arrived in Kathmandu. We were greeted by Babu Sherpa who has helped organise all my expeditions here since 2007 and it was so great to see him again as he is more of a friend than a business associate. We stayed at a beautiful hotel in Thamel called the Dalai La which is centrally located for shopping and has a great courtyard restaurant and a good vibe. We had a day to buy the extra bits and pieces we needed for the expedition and also the high food I needed for Mariano and I on Lhotse. Kathmandu is always hectic but we managed to catch up with some friends for a night before we flew into Lukla with a lot of expedition bags! After sorting out our porters, which took some time as there were not many in Lukla, we started on the busy trail towards Everest. Our first night we stayed at the Yeti Mountain Home in Monjo. The rooms were amazing, very big and great mattresses on an Eva Bed, hot shower, the works. Obviously you need to pay for this luxury so it is one of the most expensive lodges on the trail but we treated ourselves while we could. We were not super impressed with the service at the lodge however so we felt because of that we would not go back there again. When we headed to the Yeti Mountain Home in Namche it was with some nervousness as we thought it might be the same. However it wasn’t, it was awesome! Most lodges are run by Sherpa families and that is one of the reasons they are so homely. You can’t expect the same type of vibe in a chain of lodges but Shiva the manager made our stay really enjoyable. It is a beautiful hotel with views over Namche and an amazing lounge room, the walls lined with photos from the 1953 Everest expedition with Hillary and Tenzing.

The chortens and mani stones on the way to Phakding

Both Sonia and Nathan have trekked the trail before in fact Sonia has done three treks into Everest Base Camp already. It was still interesting for us all to see how much Namche has grown in the past few years. We had an acclimatisation day in Namche and Nathan was feeling sick with the flu. So while he rested I took Sonia up Kunde Ri which is a ridge high above Kunde village. From Namche it is 900m up in elevation so it is a great acclimatisation trek with an awesome view from the top, well when it isn’t clouded over. We have a lot of cloud and haze but we could still see down the other side of the ridge to Thamo, Thame and Mende. Great way to fill in a few hours before heading to one of the local cafes for lunch.

Top of Kunde Ri 4400m

The next day we headed off to my friend Ang Jangmu’s lodge, Rivendell in Deboche. I carried 20kg in my pack during the trekking days to train for Lhotse so it was a tough slog up the hill to Tengoboche from the river. It was awesome to see Ang Jangmu again and the lodge was so busy! She is Dawa’s wife’s sister so when Dawa and I have been climbing together we stayed many nights there. Nathan and I also stayed there on our Winter Khumbu honeymoon. It was good to see she was fully booked and slowly regaining the lost income from the earthquake and the damage to the lodge. It snowed overnight so we woke up to a world of white which was really beautiful. We continued on to Dingboche via old Pengboche to visit the Lama Geshi. It was a small detour off the busy trail but it was so nice to not have many trekkers around as we kept getting stuck behind slow, large groups that were hard to overtake. We went to the Lama’s house with our Kharta scarves wrapped around our donations and asked for blessings for safe climbs. He tied knotted strings around our necks, prayed for us in Tibetan and threw rice at us and we were one our way. Even though I am not Buddhist I would always get the Lama’s blessing before heading onto the mountain, as all the climbing Sherpa do. We continued through the snow to arrive at a relatively new lodge in Dingboche called Hotel Countryside run by Dawa Sherpa. Dawa and her husband built the lodge in 2014 and then had to fix it again after the earthquake and have just been open for business for a year. It is not a huge lodge and super homely, clean and nice rooms with great food. I highly recommend it. Dawa is heavily pregnant and manages to run a tight ship. To help acclimatise before heading from Dingboche to Chukkung, we had a rest day. It was great to not carry a heavy pack for the day. In the afternoon we hiked up the hill behind the village to get some great views towards Makalu.

Blessed by the Lama Geshi in Pengboche

We had met Lobsang in 2014 when Nathan and I came to attempt Island Peak in Winter but didn’t summit due to high wind and a bunch of other reasons. His lodge in Chukkung is called Khangri Resort and it is really nice with an awesome sunny courtyard that has views to Island Peak and also Ama Dablam. It is a short 2 hour hike to Chukkung from Dingboche and we spent the next day at Lobsang’s lodge as well. We planned to head straight to Island Peak high camp which is 5450m and skip the Base Camp so we hiked up Chukkung Ri on our acclimatisation day. Sonia had never been there before and we were lucky to have clear skies and awesome views from 5500m. It is really worth the effort to get to the top of the ridge as many trekkers don’t actually hike up the last rocky part of the ridge and prefer to stop lower down. I would almost go so far as to say it is one of the better view points in the Khumbu. We stopped up there for a chapati lunch before heading back down to get our gear ready for the next day.

Chukkung Ri 5500m

A leisurely start, like everyday except summit day, saw us heading off towards high camp on Island Peak. There is no water or snow or ice to melt up there so we took our water with us thanks to the porters. We left at 9:30am and arrived at 2pm to start setting up the tent and then eating. Soups, noodles, Chai tea for afternoon tea and of our Backcountry Cuisine spaghetti bolognese dinner fuelled us up for the next morning’s early start. As per usual I took way too much stuff as I had everything I needed in the event that there were no fixed ropes. Ice hammer and axe, rope (which we did need for the glacier), snow stakes, ice screws, emergency gear etc. We left the tent at 4:20am and kept leap frogging a group from Norway on the trail and rocky scramble to the glacier. I had a huge pack and was surprised to see that their two Sherpa climbing guides had almost nothing. One had no back pack at all and the other just had a small daypack. Not sure how that would help anyone in the group if they fell in a crevasse??

Early morning, heading up to the glacier on Island Peak

The plateau before the final climb to the summit

We arrived at the glacier at around 7am and got our harnesses on and roped up for glacier travel. I short roped the first section of icy up hill and then continued with the rope in glacier travel mode through the crevasse field. We had to jump a few crevasses, cross snow bridges and climb a ladder before arriving on the plateau before the final head wall to the summit. Some people just walked through all this on their own unroped even though there were no fixed ropes which I thought was interesting. There were other groups already climbing the fixed ropes to the summit and coming down them as well. We ended up being in front of the group from Norway. We had to cross ladders to reach the actual head wall as there is a big crevasse that separates it from the glacier underneath. It was lucky Sonia practised this in our backyard as it wasn’t such a shock, even still she didn’t look down! Nathan unfortunately got stuck behind of the guys in the other group, behind Sonia and I. It was crazy, the guy didn’t even know how to put his ascender on the rope or how to use it, so Nathan had to help him. There were two guides for 7 people and some of them had no idea what they were doing. This was the worst part of the day, just being around these guys because they had no awareness of safety, one of the guides didn’t even have a helmet. There were lots of loose rocks on the route and it was easy enough to avoid them if you know what you are doing but sadly many people there didn’t even try to avoid knocking them down which was super frustrating. Anyhow after avoiding the abseilers coming down and the rocks getting knocked down we finally made it onto the summit ridge which was a relief. Sonia was pretty mentally exhausted by this time and Nathan was having a great time apart from having to help the guy that had no idea how to change over on the fixed lines. We made the summit at 12pm, super happy. Nathan was especially happy as this was the second time he had been there and he had not made it the first time. Sonia was probably more in shock that she did it than anything else!

Just after the first ladder, exiting the crevasse field

Crossing the crevasse to access the face that leads to the summit ridge

Island Peak summit 6189m

We abseiled back down under the large group that kept dropping rocks and ice on us. We went as fast as we could to get away from them and I abseiled next to Sonia, clipped into her to make sure she made it down safely. Someone dislodged a massive chunk of ice which hit me on the shoulder. I was lucky to not have been seriously injured, I just felt like it bruised the bone, more of a shock than anything and I was glad it didn’t hit Sonia. We were super happy to be off the face and away from everyone. The group came down and the guides packed away their rope which they used in the morning through the crevasse field. Apparently it was safe in the afternoon to just let everyone walk through the crevasses on their own. Very interesting guiding techniques were demonstrated that day. One guide was walking down an icy snow slope with a rope to his client. He was downhill from her and pulling her down the hill. She was very tired as he had apparently been doing this all day and she kept falling over. I told her it would be better for him to be behind her so if she fell he could actually do something about it. It was crazy up there and super stressful to see what other people were doing. On two occasions as Nathan was on the fixed ropes the Nepali guide just unclipped his safety so he wasn’t attached to anything. He was just trying to hurry everyone along and Nathan was really angry and told him not to touch his safety leash again. I just couldn’t believe there was no accident and that people were paying these guides to look after them. It was really sad and disappointing. I know for a fact there are awesome guides in Nepal but they weren’t on the mountain that day. So moral of the story people is be careful who you climb with!

Sonia weaving her way through the icefall

Our porters had been waiting for us at the tent for a couple of hours. We were pretty surprised they were still there when we got down at 4pm and would’ve just stayed another night at high camp if they were not waiting. We were so dehydrated as it was really hot on the glacier. We had to pack everything up so the porters could run back to Chukkung before it got dark. In the rush Nathan hardly gave them any of his gear and was stuck with a huge pack. My shoulder was pretty sore so I was keen to not carry 20kg again and made sure I shoved my climbing gear in the bags before they left. We stayed to organise our packs and headed off again downhill to Chukkung. We arrived back at Lobsang’s lodge in the mist at 8pm, I managed to navigate us back on the trail which I was stoked about as it was pitch black and a whiteout. We were super tired, hungry and dehydrated and smashed out dinner before passing out in bed. The next day we all felt a lot better and started to recover from the massive summit day. We re-sorted all our gear and headed back to Dingboche to the Hotel Countryside again. We love this lodge, in fact I am writing from the lodge now. Mariano arrived in Dingboche at the same time, having left his group in Lukla and had walked back up the valley again. We made a plan to meet in Lobuche tomorrow and we will head up Lobuche East Peak with Sonia. The weather now is really cloudy and we have had some snow. It should start to clear up tomorrow and be good for when we move to high camp and then the summit. Nathan left yesterday morning in a helicopter back to Lukla as he has to head back to work. He was lucky enough to share it with another guy in the lodge which made it quite cheap. He had to wait 5 hours in Lukla for the plane but he is now safe back at the Dalai La in Kathmandu enjoying all the delicious food Thamel has to offer….no not jealous!

I have been fighting off the flu the last week or so because Nathan has been sick almost the entire trip. It has been great to have 2 rest days at 4400m to recover and get strong again before moving up. From here, after Lobuche Peak, I continue to Base Camp with Mariano and Sonia heads back down the valley. Mariano and I will set up camp and start climbing so I want to feel healthy before getting there. I am not sure how much internet I am going have from here on to post another blog but I will be updating my Facebook page more regularly. If you are interested to follow along on our journey please also check my Facebook page here. Thanks folks!

Beautiful afternoon view from the glacier

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Posted on Monday 3rd April, 2017

So it has been a long time since I have posted on this website! I have been busy with my adventure business and mostly focussing on that over the last year and a half. I have been guiding lots of expedition training weekends here in the Blue Mountains, Winter mountaineering courses in the Snowy Mountains and two expeditions on Aconcagua in Argentina this last Summer. You can see my pics from the Aconcagua trips on my adventures website as well as all the info on my upcoming Winter courses.

Aconcagua Summit 6962m, February 11th 2017

I returned home from Argentina near the end of February and organised an expedition to Nepal commencing April 8th. This trip involves heading back to attempt to climb Lhotse 8516m for the third time, so I am super excited. For those who have not followed my 8000m mountain journey up until now here is a run down of my story so far.

After years of climbing and guiding in the Andes, I finally felt ready to attempt my first Himalayan expedition to Cho Oyu, 8201m in 2007. During the expedition my climbing partner suffered severe frost nip to eight of his toes and was unable to attempt the summit. I reached the summit alone and without the use of oxygen. From that moment on I was hooked on 8000m climbing. I felt very strong on the mountain and had plans to climb as many 8000ers as I could with no plans to use oxygen on them. I had hoped to climb Shishapangma the year after but the Chinese government closed the mountain that season so I ended up guiding two expeditions in the Khumbu region of Nepal. I once again passed by Everest Base Camp and saw my friends working on the mountain. I had never been interested to climb Everest before but I realised I felt a bit jealous of them. I spent a lot of time over those two months looking at Everest from various sides and that is when I decided I wanted to climb it. At the time I thought if I could summit Everest, the tallest mountain in the world, I wouldn’t need to climb any other 8000m mountains as I would be satisfied with that achievement alone. I believed I would actually save money in the long term that way….. Well that is what I thought at the time anyway.

Selfie on Cho Oyu May 2007

I was working as an outdoor instructor in Australia and it took me 3 years, a personal loan, an Australian Geographic grant and a last minute financial sponsorship for me to be on my way. I wasn’t planning on using oxygen and my dream was to summit without it. I went with just one climbing Sherpa, Dawa Tenzing. I didn’t want to be in a team because I wanted to make all my own decisions on the mountain. Mid expedition I realised I was too slow up high on the mountain from not climbing at altitude since 2008, which meant I was going to get too cold on summit day. In fact I had not even done any mountaineering during those 3 years, only rock climbing, skiing and hiking hills with a pack. I was physically and mentally fit but my altitude fitness was not there. I decided to use oxygen because I had spent so much money, I wanted a chance to at least summit the mountain. I didn’t actually have any bottles though so I had to buy them at Base Camp and borrow a mask and regulator there. The mask didn’t fit me and I couldn’t see properly with it on as it obstructed my view. Despite that and the fact we got the forecast wrong, Dawa and I summited in horrendous weather on May 12, 2011. We had no view, we didn’t eat all day as temps were around -60°C and froze our food inside our down suits.  We had 60km/hr wind on the summit ridge, a climber died in front of us, we ran out of oxygen at high camp, I lost my hearing for a few hours coming down the mountain and we didn’t sleep for four days. It was so tough that I swore I would never climb another 8000m mountain again. If you are interested to read more stories about that expedition, you can on my Everest blog here.

With Dawa on the Western Cwm of Everest 2011

Six months after returning home to Australia, somehow I forgot the bad times and suffering from Everest and started planning my next expedition. I suppose I hungered for something difficult so I decided to attempt to climb two 8000m mountains in a row. I picked Manaslu 8156m and Lhotse 8516m because they were logistically possible to achieve back to back and in fact Andrew Lock had done it before. With Everest under my belt, raising funds for that trip was infinitely easier. Dawa and I headed off to Manaslu in the Nepalese Spring of 2012. You can read more on this blog from that trip but to sum it up we summited Manaslu quite late in the season because the weather was so bad. We had to go from the camp at 6800m all the way to the summit because that was our only day we had a good weather window. I had one bottle of oxygen incase of an emergency and I decided to use it for summit day as it was just too far for me to go up in altitude in a day without it. I still feel dissapointed that I needed to use it to be honest.  Dawa and I then headed to attempt Lhotse which shares the same route as Everest until just above Camp 3 on the Lhotse Face. Conditions weren’t great there that season and the gully to the summit hardly had any ice in it which is not ideal climbing conditions. That meant there was a lot of rock fall in the bottleneck and it was way more dangerous than normal. At 7300m we decided to turn around, so close but so far.

Manaslu Base Camp 2012

I went back to attempt Lhotse again with Dawa in 2014 but there was a horrendous avalanche in the icefall which killed 16 Nepalis, consequently the government closed the mountain for the season. I was unable to go back in 2015, although I wanted to, when the earthquake struck and it was a disaster zone. I had a valid permit for Lhotse since 2014 as the government decided to honour them for 5 years since they closed the season. Last year I decided to have a break from my own climbing ambitions and focus my energy on building my adventure business.

Dawa at our high camp on Kyojo Ri in 2014 acclimatising for Lhotse

Since mid last year I had been planning a trip back to Lhotse after I confirmed two Aconcagua expeditions in the Summer. It is good timing as Aconcagua 6962m, is a great mountain for me to get strong and spend time at altitude during the expeditions to prepare for an 8000m expedition. Unfortunately Dawa was unable to join me as he had booked work on the north side of Everest. I didn’t really want to climb with someone I didn’t know and trust. I contacted other Sherpa friends but they were already working on Everest. So I just gave up on trying to organise the expedition in the end and was unsure if I could go.

While I was guiding on Aconcagua I caught up with my friend Mariano Galvan who was also working on the mountain. I have been meaning to climb an 8000m mountain with him for a few years now but our plans have never come together. Many years ago he worked for me as a porter on Aconcagua and at the time he was carrying 50kg loads to 6000m. When I climbed Everest he went to Lhotse the same season and summited it without oxygen and on his own. He has since climbed seven 8000m mountains without oxygen and mostly solo, including Everest. He told me he was planning on climbing on Nanga Parbat in Pakistan this year. He was able to come to Lhotse with me as he had a month spare in Nepal after guiding an Everest Base Camp trek and before going to Pakistan. He could use the Lhotse expedition as a way to train and acclimatise for his Nanga Parbat expedition in June. So now I had a climbing partner I began to organise the logistics.

My husband Nathan came on the first Aconcagua expedition this season with us and he made the summit. He would climb lots of mountains with me if his business was not so successful and he could have more time away! He prints race bibs and there are so many events that he prints for every week in Australia, it is very hard for him to have time off. However as there are a few days of public holidays over Easter he managed to sort a couple of weeks to join me on the expedition. We attempted Island Peak (which I had climbed before in 2008) in the Winter season on our honeymoon in 2014 but had strong winds up high so did not make the summit. We decided to head back and climb it together which will also help me to acclimatise for Lhotse. Sonia summited Aconcagua with me in February and was interested to climb with me in Nepal as well. So very last minute, as in just a few weeks ago, the whole trip finally came together! Firstly Nathan, Sonia and I fly out next Saturday to Kathmandu. We head into Lukla after a day of expedition preparation in town and hike towards Island Peak Base Camp up the Everest valley. Nathan only has time to attempt Island Peak and will then have to come home and back to work which is sad. Then Sonia and I continue towards Everest Base Camp to Lobuche where we will attempt Lobuche Peak. Once Mariano finishes guiding his trekking group he will head to Lobuche and meet me there and we will continue on to Everest Base Camp to start our acclimatisation on the mountain.

Nathan and I on Island Peak December 2014

I am not taking any oxygen this expedition so I don’t plan on using it. If I don’t feel well I will just turn around as it is my goal to see how high I can go without it. I am super psyched for this trip in so many ways, not just that I am able to go back to Lhotse again. I get to begin my expedition with Nathan and Sonia and we can share an awesome adventure together. I am really looking forward to heading back to Island Peak and also to Lobuche as they both have fantastic views over the Himalayas and offer interesting climbing including ladders across crevasses similar the Khumbu Icefall. I feel strong from guiding Aconcagua twice to the summit this season and I have been training pretty hard since I have been home as well. Andrea Hah from the Move Clinic has given me a training plan with some extra exercises apart from all the trail running and load carrying up hills that I do, to strengthen my arms for ascending the fixed ropes on the Lhotse face. This is what I found really hard with a heavy pack on my Everest expedition.

Sonia and I ladder crossing training in the backyard























I have been very fortunate to have some gear sponsored for my expedition, especially as I have no financial sponsors this time. A big thank you to The North Face as I will be using their summit series tents at Base Camp and also on the mountain. This expedition I am using a North Face Fovero 85lt pack and a Himalayan down suit. Mont Adventure Equipment have generously supported my expeditions over the years and I am very grateful. I will be using the Expedition 8000 sleeping bag and the Main Range sleeping bag (one at Base, one on the mountain) as well as the Icicle down jacket. I would also like to thank other brands and distributors that have supported me with pro deal or have sponsored equipment and clothing recently that I will be using on this expedition. Sea to Summit, Black Diamond, Spelean (Petzl, Thermarest, MSR) and BJR Climbing Equipment (Cousin Trestec ropes). I am super stoked to have this support and I only use gear and clothing that I know works and that I can trust especially when my life depends on it.

So let the adventure begin!

You can follow my journey here on my blog or through my Facebook and Instagram pages.

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