Nepal Expedition

 

The Chief Instructor of Wu-Wei Dao, Kancho Nenad and his partner Tania, recently returned from a 5 week mountaineering expedition in Nepal. Their aim had been to climb a 6419m (21,061ft) peak known as Chulu West. The expedition started with a long trek designed to acclimatise the group members to high altitude (and to get to base camp!). After waiting a few days for a break in the weather the climbers took advantage of a brief window of opportunity to set up two high camps on the mountain. From the higher of these a single summit attempt was made on 5 December 2001. Although technically straightforward, the climb required the use of ropes, ice axes and crampons and involved crossing crevassed ice - all at an altitude where the air is ½ as thin as at sea level at at temperatures that reached as low as -30ºC. Unfortunately, as with many high altitude climbs things did not go entirely to plan. Here Kancho Nenad takes up the story in his own words:

"What an ordeal it was. Sadly the expedition ended in tragedy with two of
our members needing to be rescued on summit day one of whom died the
following morning in high camp. A few of us also suffered frostnip of the toes
and the leader got frostbite of the toes and heel (as he was involved in the
rescue and was out for longer). I experienced some mild frostnip on the tips of my toes but Tania and I are otherwise fine - we took no chances and stayed out of trouble. We never made it to the summit only getting as far as 6000m before turning back because I became unwell, suffering from a combination of altitude sickness and a respiratory infection. To give an idea of the difficulties high altitude presents a rescue helicopter was not able to fly high enough to reach our basecamp at 4700m - let alone the high camps. When the rescue helicopter did arrive to pick up our friend's body it had to land some 500m below basecamp (in the process setting a 'personal best' altitude record for the pilots who wore oxygen masks).

After walking to a freezing, dusty 'town' some 1400m below basecamp we found ourselves stranded, waiting for a break in the weather so a plane could arrive to pick us up. Four days later we were still waiting with increasing concern when to our relief the trekking company sent in 3 small helicopers to rescue us. We made it back to Kathmandu just in time to catch our plane home.

We wanted an adventure and I guess we got it. It sure is great to be back in the warmth of Perth though!"

 

Chulu West Photo Gallery - place curser over image for description (and 'click' to enlarge)

Kathmandu by night Tania tries on the porter's load for size. Childrens swing - Nepal style Nepalese kids
Our porter lifting his load On the road Acclimatisation climb on a 'rest' day Frozen waterfall
Another acclimatisation climb Near the Tibet border High altitude habitation practising ropework
A porter practising to carry our loads to High Camps 1 & 2 Chulu West basecamp (4700m) Prayer ceremony at basecamp Our home for 5 weeks
The way up from Basecamp to High Col camp Chulu West (6419m) from basecamp Powerful jetstreams blow plumes of snow off the mountains High col (5000m)
Acclimatisation climb to a 5500m high ridge In 'High Col Camp (5000m) Donning climbing gear to move up to High Camp on the glacier The Sirdar and a Sherpa on the glacier
High camp on the glacier (5500m) Nenad at the highest point reached before turning back (5950m) At the turn-around point: 'so near yet so far' Post-summit attempt exhaustion (note how ice has formed on the sleeping bag)
Climbing down off the glacier Climbing down (now below the snowline) Tania, Pasang-Lama (our porter) and Nenad
Waiting for the helicopters The helicopters did arrive! Back in Kathmandu enjoying a meal at an Indian restaurant - Ah, the luxury!