Cholatse 2014 Expedition Dispatches

Dispatch #9 – November 8, 2014 – Kathmandu

Kathmandu is treating us well, too well, to be honest.

We reached the summit of Cholatse on the morning of November 4, in what a lot of us believe were the best weather conditions we have ever experienced in the Himalayas.

The summit and expedition in general would not have been possible without our amazing climbing and kitchen Sherpas as well as the expert leadership of Sammy Mansikka. I am once again reminded how Sammy can climb the highest peaks in the world, solo, without oxygen and without Sherpa support. He is a true legend in the Himalayas and the bars of Huaraz.

We fixed ropes on the section of the climb between camp one and camp two for a safe and quick descent. Above camp two we elected to climb roped up belaying each other where necessary. We like to think this was a fair and practical way to climb Cholatse.

The climb itself has to be one of the most exposed climbs I have ever done. We climbed ridges with such exposure I don’t think I can describe the route and do it justice. The team members performed amazing and for all the Sherpas and climbers to reach the top of this peak is a huge achievement.

We are now pondering on what to climb in Nepal for the fall of 2015. Our Huantsan expedition in Peru during the summer will once again give us chance to test our skills on another technical 6,000-meter plus peak.

The above photos show Margaret traversing the "Fairy Ridge” just below camp two and Dorjee “Big Boss” Sherpa watching as Pasang Ongcho belays Phil Crampton on the summit cone.

Phil Crampton

Update – November 6, 2014

We are now all back in Kathmandu. Got to love helicopters. Full summit dispatch tomorrow.

Update – November 5, 2014

All the Junkies and Sherpas are now safely back at base camp deservedly enjoying a champagne, wine and beer celebration. They are all a bunch of drinkers with a bad climbing habit! There will be a full dispatch up tomorrow.

Update – November 4, 2014

All 5 team members, 2 leaders and 4 Sherpas successfully summited Cholatse this morning on what they are saying was one of the best weather days they have ever had in the Himalayas. More details when the team returns to base camp.

Dispatch #8 – October 31, 2014 – Base Camp

After we enjoyed our rest day, it was back to work yesterday. We had mis-calculated the distance we still had to go to camp two and the Sherpas continued to fix ropes on the crux of the climb between camp one and camp two. The job took quite some time and as darkenss fell, they were just below the serac that guards camp two.

Sammy and myself left base camp with the team members for their first rotation on the hill. We departed at 7 am along with the Sherpas and made the steady climb to crampon point in excellent time. Sammy and myself went ahead of the team members to fix ropes over three large crevasses, allowing the team members to travel at their own pace to camp one. The Sherpas climbed ahead of us going straight to their rope fixing high point from their previous climb a few days earlier.

All of the team members performed very well and all reached camp one in great times. The route to camp one consists of traveling over the glacier, weaving through crevasses and seracs and then culminating with a headwall of 140 meters in vertical gain with an angle of 40 to 50 degrees into camp one which lies at an elevation of 5,605 meters.

We have been studying our weather forecast and believe the best day to reach the summit in low winds will be on November 4th early in the morning. With this in mind, the Sherpas will head back to the rope fixing high point tomorrow and finish the job into camp two. If all goes to plan the team members will leave base camp in the afternoon of the 2nd to go to camp one continuing to camp two on the 3rd and hopefully topping out on the 4th.

The above photos show our climbing sirdar Sherpa, Dorjee 'Big Boss' Sherpa reaching the top of the headwall and the view of Tawoche (aka Taboche) from our camp one.

Phil Crampton

Dispatch #7 - October 28, 2014 - Base Camp

We made great progress on the hill today with fixing rope just 100 meters below camp two. Pasang Ongcho Sherpa, Kami Neru Sherpa and Pasang Gumbu Sherpa, along with Sammy and I, made an early 7 am start and returned to base camp at 6 pm.

The crux of the climb, the rock slab section above camp one, took the longest time to fix, but Kami and Pasang did a fantastic job doing it. We had hoped to finish the fixing all the way to camp two, but we decided to head back to base camp as the light started to fade for the day. We arrived back at base camp in the dark and the Sherpas were all happy to relax and enjoy some Tuborg beers.

The team members climbed up to crampon point in excellent time to deposit their gear and even took a little stroll onto the glacier to get some photos.

The plan now is for us all to take a rest day tomorrow and then the team members will tag camp one on the 30th. The Sherpas will complete fixing the rope to camp two and deposit more rope there in anticipation of the rope that needs fixing on summit day.

The above photos show the view of the icefall from crampon point and the Sherpas fixing the crux of the climb just above camp one.

Phil Crampton

Dispatch #6 - October 27, 2014 - Base Camp

Today we held our Puja ceremony, which by Junkies standards was mellow indeed. Pemba, one of our kitchen assistants, who also happens to be a Lama, conducted the ceremony. Only a few beers were had by all and then it was to work for the sherpas, Sammy and myself.

We had a slight change of plans as the Sherpas wanted to take advantage of the great weather we are experiencing and get cracking with establishing the route to camp one. Immedately after the Puja, they geared up and headed up the hill. They reached camp one and fixed rope up the steep headwall that leads to the camp at an elevation of 5,700 meters.

Samuli and myself headed up behind the Sherpas to find a suitable crampon point where the members can deposit their climbing gear in anticipation of starting the climb in a few days. We established a crampon point at the edge of the glacier about 300 meters above base camp.

Tomorrow the Sherpas, Samuli, and I will head to camp two and fix ropes on the exposed steep rock sections. The members, along with Dorjee Sherpa, will head to crampon point and deposit gear.

The above photos show Pemba, also known as 'Lazy Lama' conduct the Puja ceremony and the Puja with Cholatse behind.

Phil Crampton

Dispatch #5 – October 26, 2014 – Base Camp

All the team members, climbing Sherpas and Sherpa cooks are now at base camp. The Sherpas and I arrived and established camp yesterday, and the team members along with Sammy and Dorjee Sherpa arrived this morning.

Tomorrow, we will hold our Puja and then we are all set to climb. The following day the team members, along with Dorjee Sherpa, will walk to the start of the route to get a closer look at the icefall and the steep climb to camp one. If weather and time allows, the remaining Sherpas along with Sammy and myself, will try to fix ropes to camp one before returning to base camp for the evening.

We are the only team at base camp which is a sureal experience indeed for the Himalayas. We hope to have the same success as the two German climbers who reached the summit of Cholatse over a week ago.

The above photos show the view of Cholatse just before entering base camp and the Junkies base camp.

Phil Crampton

Dispatch #4 – October 23, 2014 – Namche Bazar

We made the short 40-minute helicopter flight to Lukla on probably the clearest day I have ever seen in the Khumbu. Even at the helipad in Kathmandu the view of Ganesh Himal was amazing. Once in Lukla the pilot ferried the team members to Namche Bazar which was only a 5-minute flight and allowed for even more amazing views.

Once we descended from the helipad for the short walk to our lodge we were greeted by a magical view of Ama Dablam with a fresh covering of snow on her flanks with a busy Namche Bazar below.

We are now enjoying our second day in Namche Bazar at the Nest Lodge. Many trekkers are on the trails and it seems as if most of the lodges in Namche are full at the moment. There is a very international feel to the lodge we are staying in with many different nationalities of trekkers. We think we are the only climbing group here at present but we know many have passed through town on their way to Ama Dablam in the past few weeks.

Tomorrow we head to Dole where we spend the evening and then the following day head to Machermo which will be our last stop before reaching base camp on the 27th. Our Sherpa are on route to base camp and should arrive tomorrow or the day after depending on the porters.

The weather continues to be fantastic with clear skies and cool mornings and evenings. The forecast shows some light snow at base camp just before we arrive and we hope the stable conditions continue for our climb.

The above photos show the view from the lodge of Thamserku and Kongde towering over the bustling town of Namche Bazar.

Phil Crampton

Dispatch #3: Kathmandu – October 21, 2014

All the team members and their luggage made it to Kathmandu without any problems. Yesterday we enjoyed our group dinner at our favorite Thamel restaurant, Jatra, and then continued the evening with a few libations at Sam’s bar.

Our Cholatse climb sees another international Junkies group with climbers from Australia, Britain, Canada, Finland, USA and the all important Nepalese Sherpas.

Tomorrow all going to plan we will take early morning helicopter flights to Namche Bazar and start the acclimatization process.

Phil Crampton

Dispatch #2: Kathmandu – October 16, 2014

We expected some snow accumulation up at the higher elevations from the recent cyclone ‘Hudhud’ but didn't expect things to end up like they have on the Annapurna circuit and at Dhaulagiri base camp. Our thoughts and prayers are with all those folks affected by this disaster. It's been a tough year for Nepal tourism and I hope it does not effect the locals with their businesses and future livelihoods.

We are hearing that the Khumbu region has not seen as much snow as the Annapurna region so hopefully the fall season will continue safely without any further incidents.

Kathmandu is still hustling and bustling with trekkers and climbers leaving and returning from treks and climbs and hopefully this will continue for many more years to come.

Phil Crampton

Dispatch #1: Kathmandu – October 14, 2014

Welcome to the dispatches from the Junkies 2014 Cholatse expedition. We are very excited to be heading back up the Khumbu this fall season with our first visit to Cholatse, which stands at 6,440 meters high. We passed Cholatse in the spring with our Everest and Lhotse expedition members trekking through Pheriche and we all were taken back by her beauty and some of those climbers are now back to climb on her flanks.

The team members are now gathering in Kathmandu, some relaxing with old friends in town before the climb, whereas others will be making their first visit to Nepal. Several of the climbers are coming from successful expeditions to Cho Oyu and Manaslu this past September.

I am once again honored to be co-leading the expedition with my good friend, Samuli Mansikka from Helsinki, Finland. Sammy has co-lead expeditions for the Junkies to Alpamayo in Peru and Ganesh I here in Nepal with myself and he is still fresh from his recent oxygen free, solo ascent of K2 this summer in Pakistan. Sammy has had two separate Finnish trekking groups here in Nepal keeping him busy in the run up to the Cholatse expedition, so he has not rested much since Pakistan.

The plan is for the team to take private helicopters to Namche Bazar on the morning of the 22nd. After spending two nights at Namche we will trek to Dole and the following day trek to Macharmo where we will spend a further two nights for acclimatization and then head to base camp. Our Sherpa crew, under the directorship of the well-known Dorjee Sherpa, are already in the Khumbu organizing our porter loads and looking forward to the challenge ahead.

Cholatse is considered a technical peak, similar to Ama Dablam but without the crowds that are attracted to the latter peak. Our plan is to place fixed ropes on the sections that are steep and exposed for the safety of the team members and Sherpa. Our Sherpa crew, along with Sherpa from Himalayan Experience, just fixed the entire route on Manaslu this past September for a very successful season indeed. We hope we have the same success on Cholatse as we did on Manaslu.

The past few days have seen a lot of rain in Kathmandu and the valleys at higher elevations are seeing some snow. This is good news for us though, as Cholaste will hopefully be in better condition with fresh snow and colder temperatures making the route possibly easier.

Phil Crampton

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