Arriving back from Kyrgyzstan on Thursday evening I was feeling weary from the traveling and slightly frustrated from the lack of climbing in the last month. Lots of snow made it difficult to access most of the objectives from our base camp and I cursed my choice of boots on numerous occasions finding the temperatures more akin to winter than summer alpine (full expedition report coming soon). I needed to do something and I wanted to do something big. My long time friend a climbing partner Gav Pike asked if I wanted to drive through to Zermatt on Friday to attempt the Schmidt route over the weekend.
Tommorow I will be departing for my most epic adventure to date. Myself, Gavin Pike and James Clapham will be boarding a plane to Kathmandu in Nepal from where we will take another plane ride east to Taplejung. From here a 1.5 day jeep ride to the end of the road at Gopetar. Then begins the 10 day trek to Ramche which will be our basecamp for the proceeding month and is some 15km from the base of the north face of Talung, our proposed objective for this November.
I have never been on expedition before. I have never been to a third world country before. I have never tried to climb a new route and I have never been higher the 4810m (I.e the top of Mont Blanc!). The whole trip should really push my comfort zone and open my eyes to a new world of possibilities regardless of success or failure. I’m not without my worries about how I will cope with the stresses and strains and extra altitude but I feel I am approaching everything with an open mind and a willingness to learn. James and Gav have both been to Alaska twice before and they know part of what is involved in the process but for myself my ventures into the mountains have only lasted a few days at most.
This expedition has been a long time in the pipeline and I remember when we first came to the decision we were going to do the trip. I remember it vividly in fact as I was in a pit of despair in early December last year after fracturing my Tibial Plateau in a ski crash which put me on my biggest layoff from the mountains in 3 years. Towards the end of my week long hospital stay Gav asked me whether I wanted to join them for this expedition. I immediately agreed. This trip and the thought of getting back on the ski’s again were the driving forces behind my thankfully speedy recovery.
This autumn has been a total washout so fair with only a handful of good weather days so far and lots of fresh snow to contend with. Getting out to do anything “big” has been next to impossible. Its been a haze of sport climbing, drytooling and “Col du Midi Alpine Cragging”. My hunger for a big route is bigger than ever right and is giving me enthusiasm beyond that that I have felt for any trip into the alps I’ve had so far.
I’ve also never had to pack like this for. You have to think about every thing you’ll need for a big new route and also what you’ll want in basecamp to live in the mountains for 7 weeks. It’s been a long process of preparing, packing, repacking, pairing down and adding more and it’s still not over. I’m also moving out of my current apartment in Chamonix when I leave so there is a lot to sort out over the next few hours!
I’ve also been slightly worried about my current body weight which is perfect for sport climbing but doesn’t give me a huge amount of fat reserves to work with out in Nepal. So its been melted ice cream, eclairs, cheese and chips to try and pile a bit of much needed bivi fat on in the past few days.
We won’t be in contact with the outside world when we are in basecamp unless there is a problem (we have a satellite phone but we are planning not to use it). I’ll be doing a trip report on here when I’m back in mid December.
Still it is with great trepidation that I say goodbye to Chamtown and all its residents and mountains. With the recent snowfall and the Season pass bought I’m already looking forward to the adventures that will happen this winter.
I’ve put together a new blog for our up and coming trip to the Himalaya’s this autumn. Its not much right now but has a bit of information about my team mates James Clapham and Gavin Pike and the objective. It will have more stories from the other guys on training climbs and past routes together and developments in the run up to trip. Check it out here.
Despite working full time at the moment (well four days a week but still, ugh), I’ve still managed to get out and about climbing some of chamonix’s premier slitter and pocket pulling in the Verdon gorge. The summer is in full swing now and its hot hot hot! Good for climbing granite in the mountains but not so conducive for southern french limestone adventure sport which is where this tale begins….. Continue reading