Lhotse…..again!


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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