Blog Update: Another Cold White Christmas

Pumori (photo via Wikipedia)

This season winter came to Kathmandu and the mountains early. The capital of Nepal is now already as cold as it usually gets in January, and our October/early November Ganesh expedition was about as cold as my winter ascent of Ganchenpo. A winter ascent would be a serious trial in such unusually low temperatures, which only makes it more interesting for me to try. And what could be more exciting for a true altitude junkie than to attempt a winter ascent of one of the most beautiful and recognizable peaks in the world – the stunning Pumori in the upper Khumbu region just 8 km away from Everest? This is not a rhetorical question. The answer to it is, to try to scale the same mountain – a dangerous climb even on the normal route – via the notoriously difficult and steep Southwest Ridge. A scene of several accidents, the route has taken more climbers to failure than success. In terms of technical difficulty, it will be by far the most challenging climb I have ever attempted: it features overhanging terrain, long vertical walls of rock and ice and exposed traverses. My greatest enemy in the mountains – the cold – will be another serious obstacle on the way to Pumori’s summit at 7161 meters. It will take all my luck and courage to succeed – in summiting or deciding to turn around before I get myself or any of my friends in trouble. The reason my team and I chose the more difficult route over the normal one is that the latter, although technically easier, is well-known for its high avalanche risk. Those of you, who have read about my recent Manaslu expedition, will understand why I particularly want to avoid at least this danger.

Pumori, photo from EBC trek 2009

Why Pumori? Why such a ridiculously technical climb in such a cold season? Aren’t there other mountains to climb: lower in elevation and, thus, warmer, with easier routes? And, speaking of warmth, how long has it been since I’ve been to the beach or gone for a long dive in the sea? Well, it is Pumori because, in addition to being a most alluring peak its own right, it is close to the unforgettable Chomolungma. In fact, it was George Mallory, who died tragically on Everest during the 1924 expedition, who gave Pumori her name, and mountaineers often refer to the mountain as ‘Everest’s daughter’. As such, it is part of Everest, which, although I have climbed it, is still a dream, that somehow feels unfulfilled. Thus, I climb on. It makes sense to me to try a more challenging climbing route now than I would have dared do before: it’s not that I am a better mountaineer now, but I am calmer, and I can enjoy the challenge a little more – even if I loose it. As for the beach… there’s a glacial lake at the foot of Pumori, so I’m bringing my swimsuit :).

Leading the expedition will be my regular climbing partners and friends: Dorje Sherpa and Pasang Wongchu Sherpa. Sangye Sherpa and a ‘newbie’ on our team, but not on the Southwest Ridge, Dawa Sherpa, will also climb with us. Our cooks, Pasang Nima Sherpa and Pemba Sherpa, will make sure we are eating well while off the mountain. On our way to Pumori base camp, which follows the same trail as the famous Everest Base Camp trekking route, we will stop by the Pema Choling Monastery above Phakding, where I hope to see the kids in good health and deliver my friends’ donations. Many thanks to all of you, who have shown interest in the project! The donations page for the monastery is not yet up and running, but, if you would like to support the cause, please, check back once in a while, as we’re only a few days away from getting things working:

Millions of thanks in advance!

We leave for Lukla on the 4th of December, and expect to reach base camp within 7-8 days. To keep my friends and readers updated on our progress, I will tweet occasionally throughout the expedition. You can follow the climb here:

Given that we expect the expedition to last about a month, I will most likely be on the mountain for Christmas and New Year, as well as the season’s other big event, the end of the world on the 21st of December. For all three of them I wish you love, warmth, courage and happy new beginnings! Thank you for following my expeditions in 2012! I hope to be back in 2013 with better poetry and more exciting adventure stories for my readers. Drop by if you’re curious ;)!



Ganesh I 2012

Ganesh I, view from Manaslu base camp

Dear Friends & Readers,

In the last post of the Manaslu expedition series I mentioned I was to return to the mountains again soon. The name of the peak I will be climbing next is Ganesh I/Yangra. It looks utterly stunning from Manaslu, and has been an object of my curiosity ever since I first saw the near-perfect pyramid last year. As I did before on Everest and both times on Manaslu, I will be joining Phil Crampton’s Altitude Junkies on this exploratory expedition: Ganesh has only been climbed once before, about 60 years ago, from the side of Tibet, not Nepal, following a technically easier route than we expect ours to be. You can have a look at our potential route and follow the expedition here, on AJ’s website: I will also try to update this blog occasionally, but if I fail to do so while on the mountain, I will, I hope, come back with a detailed account of the climb.

In the same last Manaslu post I also hinted that I will do more than climb on Ganesh. My regular readers know that I’m an ice/winter-swimming enthusiast, and Ganesh, I am told, has a large glacier, where there’s bound to be a big and cold enough lake for me to do a charity swim in to support my Pema Choling Project. The Ganesh lake could be anything from non-existent or frozen solid to enormous and open for me to try to swim across it. The page on this blog, which I started several months earlier, will have information about and photos of the monastery in just a few days (thank you, Rebecca Gaal!). It will also feature photos and videos from the swim. If there’s not a lake on Ganesh, I’ll make sure there’s one on the next mountain I climb – so the charity swim will happen. Please, follow this link if you would like to read about the project or make a donation: Myself and the kids will greatly appreciate your support in this!

I am excited to be involved with so many new, unexplored things at the same time, as you may be able to tell by the rather erratic writing :). The climb the Junkies are embarking on could – and hopefully will – result in a first ascent from Nepal of a stunning Himalayan peak. The team anticipate the ascent to be technically difficult, with many different challenges to keep us on our toes along the way. The swim, should there be a suitable glacial lake for me to do it in, could result in a world record for ice/winter-swimming at high altitude, or death from hypothermia, given that I will not use any thermal protection. Regardless of the outcome, I hope it draws some much-needed attention to the cause that I support with all my heart. It is also new for me to be doing ‘a charity project’ – trying to involve both friends and strangers in what has become very important to me personally: making a few little people a little bit happier or, at least, warmer.

All for now. The expedition leaves Kathmandu tomorrow, on the 22nd of October. We will drive to and, then, trek from Arughat through Tsum Valley to Ganesh base camp. Somewhere along the way I’ll be celebrating my 26th birthday on the 25th of October. The Junkies’ team should return to civilization after about 40 days of trekking and climbing. Drop by then if you’re curious to read about the ascent of Ganesh I and, possibly, the very ‘refreshing’ swim!