Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Ama Dablam: Summit Plan

Fiona & Mary at Camp 1

Summit plan 

29 October 2014

Namaste Everyone,

Well we are still perched here at Camp 1. Today most of the team had a rest day while Tina went along and up towards Camp 2. It was another warm and sunny day so we had some great views.

We now have a summit plan...we will rest again tomorrow, then head to Camp 2 for a night, before heading to our last camp at 2.9 which is dug into a snow ridge below the old Camp 3. We will make our summit bid the next day from there. Please cross your fingers for the good weather to hold.

Bye for now,
Tim and the Ama Dablam Team

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Ama Dablam: On the Ridge

On the Ridge
28th October

Hi Everyone,

Today some our team did some more acclimatising we traversed along and up the spectacular ridge to just below Camp Two.

At around 6000m it is surprising how much effort things take. On the descent I found myself running out of breath while abseiling/rappelling which usually is easy at lower altitudes.

We have been blessed with fantastic weather so far so fingers crossed that it continues.

Bye for now,

Tim and Team Ama Dablam

Ama Dablam: At Camp One

At camp one
27 October 2014

Namaste Everyone,

The weather today turned out better than forecasted which made our trip here to Camp One more pleasant than expected. However, the moraine/talus section was not everyone's favourite.

Today was also our first time on the fixed lines. Every year Sherpas do an impressive job of rigging this mountain which allows relatively safe travel through the technical climbing.

So again, as I write, our team are tucked up in their tents this time a little higher. A spectacular dawn awaits us tomorrow.

Bye for now,
Tim and the Ama Dablam Team

Ama Dablam: On the Mountain

On the mountain
26 October 2014

Hello Everyone,
Andrew, Tina, and Hamish hike up the hill with 
basecamp in the background

Today we left Base Camp and our cosy teahouse. Overnight we had 10cm of snow so it looked the alpine wonderland first thing this morning. We travelled the same route we had been up a few days earlier up to here to Yak Camp or Advanced Base Camp.

Loaded with our climbing equipment the steeper sections were definitely noticeable. So, as I write, everyone is tucked up in their tents for our first proper night on the mountain up here at 5400m.

Bye for now,

Tim and the Ama Dablam Team 

Ama Deblam: Rest is Best

Rest is best
25 October 2014
Our puja yesterday

Hi Everyone,

We enjoyed our first true rest day today; not doing acclimatising hikes or ropes training, but true feet up resting. People showered, shaved and read books or cuddled the pot belly stove in our Tea House.

Well for the team members anyway, the guides and Sherpas have been busy getting all our tents and equipment ready and transported ahead of us up the mountain.

We had a light dusting of snow this afternoon which is inline with the forecast which predicted a little snow in the afternoons this week.

Bye for now,

Tim and the Ama Dablam Team

Ama Dablam: Into the Clouds with a Blessing

Into the clouds with a blessing

24 October, 2014

Hello all,

This morning we woke to another clear blue sky and intense himalayan sun. The paintings in frost on our windows melted quickly as the air warmed. The plan for the morning was to participate in a Puja, a blessing to safeguard our travel on the mountain.

A lama from Pangboche trekked up to perform the Puja for us, which started with chanting of prayers and throwing of rice around a beautiful altar the sherpa had built. Our ice axes and helmets were blessed as the Sherpa team erected a wooden structure to support a pyramid of prayer flags. The hour long ceremony concluded with a small amount of wine and tossing of tempeh flour in the air, as well as spreading of the flour all over my face. Not sure what that was about, but the sherpas laughed and seemed to enjoy it so I will take it as a good sign.

In the afternoon we trekked up to Yak camp, or advanced base camp, for acclimatisation purposes. Much of the trail was covered in a thin layer of snow, packed down by yak and climbers alike. The fresh snow on our sides glittered in the afternoon sun, as the rays of light caught the sharp angles of large feathery facets created by clear cold nights. The clouds rolled in and out, creating dramatic windows into to the stark peaks that surrounded us.
As I sit here writing this in Yak camp, the clouds continue to stroll in while the rest of the team saunters on down the trail. I'm actually above the clouds now, a surreal experience that I sincerely hope everyone gets to enjoy one day. Regardless of the higher altitude and diminished oxygen, I always struggle to convey the majesty of these extraordinary moments.

The team did great today, and certainly deserve the rest day we have planned for tomorrow. We are thankful for the blessing of safe passage, and look forward to being in position to plan our attempt on Ama Dablam.

Andrew Yasso

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Ama Dablam: On the ropes

On the ropes
23 October 2014

Namaste Everyone,

It's starting to feel like we're on a climbing expedition now. Where ever you look the spire like peaks of the Khumbu loom above us, around our basecamp lodge on the shady slopes are patches of snow.

Today after another great breakfast including Wanaka's famous Venus Coffee we did some fixed rope training. Our Sherpa rigged a great "mini" Ama Dablam, composed of a 15m high boulder with a fixed line circuit. At first we were all a little rusty at our rope techniques but soon the old magic was regained and the whole team was ascending, traversing and descending in good style.

Tina would like to wish Avary a very special happy birthday. She misses and loves you.

Bye for now

Tim and the Ama Dablam Team

Ama Dablam: Arrived at Base Camp

Arrived at Base Camp
22 October 2014

Namaste everyone, 
Members of our team gather round the stove while they read

This morning we woke to clear blue skies, the Himalayan air greeting us with a cool confidence. Our crew enjoyed a hearty breakfast at Phutashi's Lodge, in anticipation of our elevation gain to come. We eat quite well in these tea houses, with things like hash browns, fried eggs and cheese on the menu. Of course when it arrives, it has a distinctly Nepali flair to it that does not always resemble our Western expectations, but in ways that has its own charm, which we have grown to enjoy.

We left the lodge around 8am, giving us plenty of time to make our way to Base Camp. Right out of Pangboche, we dropped down to the river before snaking our way up a steep glacial moraine. It can be slightly disheartening going down when our ultimate goal is going up, but in the coming weeks we will be doing a lot of that as it helps with our acclimatisation. We followed a yak train and their handler up the hill, motivated by the bells on their neck singing a joyous song.

The trail to Base Camp took us through another glorious alpine meadow, with new peaks becoming visible as our vantage shifted throughout the day. Pumori's pointed summit off to our left presented itself with classic fluted snow spines streaking down its steep faces. As we trekked higher, patches of snow became more common, remnants of last weeks storm. Overall however, our hike was on dry trail with sunny skies.

We arrived here at our Base Camp lodge just before 11am, a speedy but comfortable ascent. Afternoon tea in the sun was a must, as we waited for the porters to arrive with the rest of our gear. The team has fallen into a usual routine now, with orders of masala, lemon, mint, and ginger tea being placed with specific individuals in mind. The lodge gave us rooms on the south side of the building, a nice treat as it receives the most sun throughout the day.

The rest of the afternoon was spent exploring the hills and boulders scattered around Base Camp, and as the clouds moved in, gathering around the stove in the center of the dining room. The beautiful thing of more rustic living is that the cold brings us together in a communal way, something so undervalued in today's busy and segmented world.

We remain around the stove, reading our respective books as we await another delicious meal. Tomorrow we anticipate good weather, and plan to make use of it by practicing our fixed line techniques.

Until then, we'll stay warm and hope you do as well.

Andrew Yasso

Ama Dablam: Blessing

Edelweiss with Ama Dablam in the background
21 October 2014

Hello Everyone,

This morning we were lucky again with clear skies and fantastic views of the huge peaks around us. We started our day with an acclimatisation hike up towards Tobuche, a 6000m mountain just up behind us here in Upper Pangboche.

On the way I was surprised to see the iconic alpine flower the Edelweiss, a reminder of where I live in the Swiss Alps. No sooner than we saw one, we saw another until finally they were all around the Yak trail we were following up the hill. This seemed ironic as I have rarely seen them in Switzerland.

In the afternoon we had a blessing from the local Lama at his house. Lama Geshe looks about a thousand years old and after some chanting, throwing of rice and drumming we had his blessing for our summit attempt.

I leave you with a prayer he gave us all to take to the summit;

"Give up all intention to harm others from your heart and do your best to benefit them all. If each and everyone feels the universal responsibility to do so, we will all enjoy the feast of peace."

Bye for now,
Tim and the Ama Dablam Team

Ama Dablam: In Pangboche

In Pangboche
20 October 2014

Greetings from the Ama team,
Tina and Fiona with one of the many Chortens along
the path with Ama in the background

I write this dispatch from the inside of Phutashi Sherpa's small tea house in upper Pangboche. A stove in the centre of the room pumps out heat and the pheromones of juniper and yak dung, as a kettle sits on top heating what soon will become our next glass of tea. Trekkers and hikers from around the world share the warmth and trade stories while the afternoon clouds are billowing across the peaks above. Idyllic would be an inappropriate adjective to describe just how pleasant this situation is.

We departed a chilly Namche around 8am, traversing across the slopes under Khumjung. Thamserku remained on our right all morning, with its hanging glacier pouring dramatically off its north face, like a river frozen in time. Ama Dablam and Everest captured our view straight ahead, taunting us as we travelled along the dirt and stone path.

Numerous chortens dotted the trail, memorials for individuals who have played significant roles in the Khumbu, such as Sherpa Tenzing. We passed a man chanting prayers on the trail, asking for donations. His name is Pasang Lama Sherpa, and his whole life's goal for the last 50+ years has been to "build, mend, and maintain the main trail to Everest Base Camp with high spirit and solemn determination." He started on his own, but over the years has enlisted the help of three or four more Sherpa who are the sole caretakers of the trail. As the trail is not a government funded project, his work has been entirely funded by donations.

We stopped for tea along the way in Phunki Tega (or what we like to call funky town), a chance for us to hydrate and prepare for the hills ahead. We are getting to the point where the altitude can really be felt, so we downshifted and paced ourselves up the hill to Tangboche. In Tangboche we stopped to enjoy an excellent bakery item, and allow the acclimatisation process to continue. Even though we could perhaps move along more quickly, it is wise to travel slowly and never work until we are out of breath. Everyone on the team is doing quite well, which means our relaxing pace shall continue!

Descending from Tangboche to the river below Pangboche took us through a wooded dirt path, shaded with rhododendron trees and soft from decomposing leaves. We trekked alongside the river for sometime, with small Sherpa villages popping up from time to time. The smell of wood burning from their kitchens mixed with the cold alpine air and soggy ground created an intoxicating autumnal aroma, one that suggests winter is coming. Along this section of trail we passed Sangay Dorje, one of our climbing sherpa, who had picked up four young yaks to take to his home in Khumjung.

We arrived here in Pangboche just after 4pm, in time for the clouds to roll in and the temperature to drop. Currently our dinner order has been placed and we look forward to quiet rest tonight. Tomorrow our goal is to further acclimatise by going for a hike and remaining up high as long as we can. Hopefully we can find a nice vista to pause at, as they can be challenging to find here in the Himalaya... I do hope sarcasm translates.

Until tomorrow - cheers from the Ama Dablam team.

Andrew Yasso

Ama Dablam: Our first view....

Our first view of Ama Dablam
Mary, Fiona and Tim hiking up the meadows with Kongde Sar 
and Nup in the background.
19 October 2014

Tashi Delak everyone,  

Today we woke up well rested after our hike up the Namche hill. It feels as though we are getting our first taste of alpine air, brought in cold and crisp from the Northwest winds. Often the Northern winds bring cold but clearing weather, and the vibrantly blue skies today, lacking a single cloud, were a beautiful indication of the pattern.

We enjoyed a delicious breakfast here at the Khumbu lodge, run by Pemba Sherpa. The AC team has worked with Pemba for the last 20 years, and he has taken great care of us. As Namche has grown, new entrepreneurs have attempted to lure business away from existing lodges, however we have continued to work with Pemba. Lasting relationships with our team in the Khumbu plays a massive role in the success of our expeditions, and individuals like Pemba are a joy to work with.
The whole Ama team with Everest and Lhotse directly 
behind them, and Ama Dablam on the right. 

After our breakfast we left the relative buzz of Namche and trekked into the quiet alpine meadows above town. The winding path and thinning air created the right conditions for a mellow pace. Thankfully vistas abound, allowing us plenty of opportunities for photographic attempts at capturing the beauty that is the Himalaya. As we climbed in elevation the length of the Khumbu valley and the sharp Kondge peaks fell away, with Thamserku and the hanging glacier on Kang Tega growing in size. These peaks were just previews for what was in store, as quickly we crested the hill and received our first full view of our objective, Ama Dablam, the Jewel of the Khumbu. Included in our view was Everest and Lhotse, dramatic with Western winds blowing snow off their upper flanks. Ama remained far more striking however, with its steep white ridges contrasting heavily with the cobalt blue sky.

These peaks remained in our view for the rest of the day, as we continued our trek into the local village of Khumjung. One of our Sherpa team members, Sangay Dorje, has his home in Khumjung and it was so enjoyable having him point it out to us. The town of Khumjung is where most of the locals who work in Namche actually live, and the lack of shops and increase in land dedicated to farming showed us a more sustainable way of life for these families. We stopped into a small bakery and enjoyed some sweet treats along the way.

As we descended we did not backtrack, instead opting for a less travelled route leading us back to the opposite side of Namche. This alternative took us away from the rest of the trekking groups and past the home and tea house of Dawa Thundu, our cook boy for the expedition. One of his family members offered us complimentary tea, and we sat in the sun enjoying it as the Sherpa kids kicked around a rather sad looking soccer/football. When we returned to Namche, we bought a new ball in anticipation of giving it to them tomorrow.

Tonight we have another great meal at the Khumbu lodge, and look forward to trekking on to Pangboche tomorrow, getting ever closer to the mountains.

Thanks for following the Ama Dablam team,

Andrew Yasso

Ama Dablam: A historic trek....

Hamish and Tina nearing the end of the high cable bridge
A historic trek
18 October 2014 

Greetings from Namche Bazaar! This historic trading post served as a meeting point for Nepali and Tibetan people to trade items back and forth. For us, it served as our goal for the day, and as another spectacular mountain village to acclimatise in.

The hike from Phakding to Namche started off quite flat and mellow, much like the previous day. The path mimics the flanks of the Bhote Koshi Nadi river, which rages vibrant blue and white with glacial silt. Massive waterfalls cascaded on either side, giving yet another reason for us to take pause, photos, and enjoy the thundering sound of falling water. We meandered along the trail for some time before coming to a tea house for brunch.

Enjoying views along the river on the way to Namche Bazaarption

Water in the Khumbu must be purified before drinking, and boiling is one method of accomplishing this. As such, our hydration is coming mostly in the form of fine teas. This has allowed us to sample tea made with fresh mint leaves, real ginger tea, and Nepalese masala tea. It was both relaxing and rejuvenating and gave us respite before the Namche hill.

This steep hill gains roughly 800 meters (2600 feet) in a relatively short distance, and the footing can often be unstable. At sea level, it would serve as an excellent training tool, yet at altitude it is a bit of a litmus test for one's ability to acclimatise. The goal is to travel slow and steady, avoiding the need to sweat or stop and catch your breath. I can report that our team performed quite well! We have some very fit athletes on the team and it can be challenging to hold back from pushing yourself up the hill, however our climbers are wise enough to leave the ego at home and enjoy the journey. 

Matthew stops along the cable bridge

A highlight for me was a cable bridge 200 meters in the air spanning the distance over the river. 100 meters below was another bridge, bringing locals to valuable farming land. The two bridges both had a plethora of prayer flags flying off their side in the afternoon winds, creating colourful contrast to the green forest all around us.

Near the end of the hike into Namche is the first viewpoint you get of Everest, however clouds had rolled in and blocked our view. As we got to our lodge for the evening, those clouds opened up and it rained into the evening, stopping just before the sun had set. As it stopped the clouds gave way, backlit by the sun in perfect pink light, and allowed us to see the fresh dusting of powder snow on the surrounding peaks. The magnificence of these mountains is best observed in these quiet moments.

Tomorrow we go for an acclimatisation hike, returning to our comfortable accommodations here at the Khumbu Lodge for the evening. Until then, we rest.

Cheers from the Ama Dablam team,

Andrew Yasso

Ama Dablam: Into the mountains...

Into the mountains
17 October 2014 

Buddhist monastery

Tashi Delak Everyone,

Hello from the Sunrise Lodge in Phakding, our accommodations for the evening. We are sitting outside in a courtyard surrounded by fragrant marigolds, which is surrounded by prayer wheels and prayer flags, which is surrounded by tall granitic crags, lush junipers and towering mountains. Needless to say, we are enjoying our afternoon tea in an exceptionally beautiful location.

Our flight in to Lukla was clear and calm, which is ideal when you approach one of the smallest airstrips around. In Lukla we met the rest of our Sherpa team, enlisted the help of supremely strong Nepali porters, and began our trek to Phakding. Along the way we visited Pemacholing Goomba, a serene and improbable looking monastery built into the side of the mountain; it was opened to us by a Buddhist monk who has taken a month vow of silence, yet his presence and smile spoke volumes of his character.

After the monastery we continued along down the stony path to the tune of bells ringing off of Yak's necks. The unclimbed South Face of Kusum Khangkaru loomed impressively in the morning sun as we crossed rivers via hanging cable bridges. Small Nepali children freely offered us songs sung and flowers picked as we leisurely strolled along.

So far the weather has been welcoming, and we hope it continues. Tomorrow we leave early in the morning for the famous historical trading post of Namche Bazaar, continuing our acclimatisation and cultural acclimation plan.

Cheers from the Ama Dablam team,

Andrew Yasso

Ama Dablam: We're on.....

We're on...
16 October 2014 

Our first dinner
It's on.

Hello Everyone,

Well everyone is now in Kathmandu. We are all packed and ready for our flight to Lukla, early tomorrow.

In the last few days Nepal has seen exceptional snowfalls especially in the Western regions such as the Annapurna, Manang and Mustang. Tragically many people have been killed by avalanches and many less prepared trekkers by the extreme temperatures and blizzard conditions.

Thus far our journey has been unaffected, but it a real reminder of how powerful the Himalayan Range is.

Tonight we will be having our first meal together at one of the many great restaurants here. Kathmandu is a dynamic place and many changes are visible even since when I was last here in May. It remains a vibrant colourful place full of surprises.

Bye for now,

Tim Robertson and the Ama Dablam Team