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Ama Dabber Dooo!

It’s that time of year again – Ama Dablam 2013 is a go!
I’m on the way to Kathmandu and there are a few people there already with more to follow. Andrew (UK) and Sean (Canadian) are already trekking in The Khumbu with their respective wives (who will be flying home imminently) and hopefully they will be very well acclimatised by the time we get to meet them in Pangboche.
Jamie and Mitchell (both UK) are jumping on the permit and doing their own thing. First off they are going to trek up to Gokyo and over the Cho La and then climb Lobuche East (just over 6,000m), after which they’ll be using the teahouse below Ama Dablam Base Camp for their operations base.
The main group consists of Alasdair (UK), Carl (Netherlands), Dave (UK), Febbie (S. Africa), Ian and Cat (UK), Jon (UK), Mark and Chris (both UK – he’s climbing, she’s trekking), Richard (Ireland) and Sieto (Netherlands) and they are all due in today or tomorrow.
The next wave follow a week later and consists of Jon (UK – assistant leader, 4 times Ama Dablam summiter and 1 times Everest summiter), Jason, Aeneas, Paul, Rick, Simeon and Jeremy (all UK) and Marcus (Switzerland).
So all in all quite a multi cultural group with a wide range of experiences under their collective belts. I’ve managed to meet over half the group prior to the expedition and it’s fair to say that yet again we have the makings of a great, fun trip.
Both groups will start with a sightseeing tour in Kathmandu followed by a frantic afternoon of unpacking, repacking, making last minute purchases, unpacking again, nearly getting run over, parting with money to a friendly chap who has painted a red ‘tikka’ on their foreheads and generally getting over the jet lag and trying to accustom themselves to the sights and sounds of Kathmandu. We’ll be eating at the likes of Roadhouse Café, Krua Thai, Mike’s Breakfast etc and I’ll no doubt take a bit of a side trip to Himalayan Java to catch up with some friends who live in Kathmandu. We’ll also be found in Sam’s Bar being looked after by Verena and Sam – a great couple who run THE BEST bar in Kathmandu.
But we’re only in the city for a day and then it’s time to fly to Lukla and start trekking.
The flight is an experience in itself and proves to be a very exciting start to the next phase of the trip and gets us to Lukla airport which is the gateway to the Khumbu Trail – the main access trail to the Solo Khumbu region and Everest itself.
Iswari and the guys at Himalayan Guides usually work their magic and get us on to one of the first flights which means that, weather permitting, we may be in Lukla as early as 8 o’clock (I’ve even landed there at 07:15). The process of getting through the domestic terminal can be quite disorientating in itself with a lot of what appears to be chaos but in actual fact is how it works over here.
Invariably not all the bags can make it on to the tiny aircraft so we prioritise and hope to fly with the bags that we will need for the duration of the 5 day trek in. The rest of the bags and the few hundred kilos of freight can follow at a later date and will almost undoubtedly be at Base Camp by the time we arrive there (fingers crossed. There are only 2 bags that have ever gone astray (and that was because they hadn’t arrived in KTM) and still they arrived at BC before we were due to start working the lower slopes of the mountain).
So we’ll have breakfast at Paradise Lodge where Dawa Phutti will be our host and then we’ll sort what bags we have (if they need sorting) and in the meantime our trekking Sherpa will be organising our  porters. Then we’ll trek for a few hours to Ghat and have lunch at The Everest Summiter Lodge which is run and managed by Phendan Sherpa (we stood on the summit of Everest together back in 2005 from The North side) and his lovely wife Sonam. After that we’ll trek to Phak Ding and have a brew before making our way on to Monjo (time permitting) where we’ll stay with my friends at Top Hill Lodge. The great thing about staying in Monjo is that it makes the next day a shorter trek to the National Park entrance which means that we’ll be ahead of the crowds and get through in double quick time. After that we cross the main river (a raging torrent really) a few times on some quite exciting suspension bridges before negotiating the zig zags to Namche Bazaar where we’ll likely arrive around 11.30. After a coffee and chocolate doughnut at The Everest Bakery we’ll have lunch with the friendly chaps at Kala Pattar Lodge and then don our sacks for a further hour of trekking to Kyanjuma and stay with Tashi and Lakpa at Ama Dablam Lodge.
Now Tashi and Lakpa run one of the busiest lodges in The Khumbu despite the fact that it isn’t in one of the main villages along the trail – and the reason is all down to their hospitality and friendship. Trekking and Expedition Leaders like myself will endeavour to stay there because we know that they will look after our group and go the extra mile (as well as ply me with proper coffee and cheese toasties). It’s also a cracking location with a fantastic view of Ama Dablam and Tashi also allows my group to go and see her amazing prayer room (which is reserved for the minority). In fact I’ve even slept in the prayer room.
Interestingly there is a teahouse next door which is almost identical in size, aspect and view but it is rarely busy – a reflection on how hard working, friendly and conscientious Tashi and Lakpa are.
Amazingly HRH Prince Charles has invited Tashi and Lakpa to have an audience with him which will hopefully be coming to fruition in January or February next year.
Since Ama Dablam Lodge is at just over 3,500m we’ll stay there for 2 nights to start getting used to the altitude and will be taking in a side trip to The Everest View Hotel and the amazing village of Khumjung (which hardly anyone visits compared to the 000s who trek along the Khumbu Trail) where there are the most fantastic mani walls (walls made from stones that have been carved with ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’) – it is a truly auspicious place boasting the longest mani walls in The Khumbu (and they are longest by a long chalk).
After staying at Kyanjuma we’ll make our way to Tengboche (huge monastery and great bakery) and on to Pangboche. As with our first trekking day, because we are slightly further along the trail we are ahead of the crowds and will be in Pangboche for afternoon tea at Sonam Lodge which is run by fellow Everest (x4) and Cho Oyu summiter Germin Sherpa.
The next morning we’ll mooch to upper Pangboche (again hardly anyone goes there) and visit the monastery for our first puja (blessing) before having an early lunch and trekking to Ama Dablam Base Camp which will then be our home for the next 17 nights. It’s situated at around 4,400m and certainly we will start to feel the effects of the rarefied atmosphere – so we’ll be staying put for the first 3 nights. There will be a technical training session to go through how to used fixed ropes as well as some time spent chatting about radio procedures, medical issues, logistics etc and some top tips and handy hints to do with admin and tent routine whilst on the mountain. There will be another puja (we need all the luck we can get) as well as an acclimatisation walk up to ABC which is about 900m higher. After dropping some gear there and returning to Base Camp then, and only then, will we consider going higher and sleeping at ABC before eventually progressing to C1 at 5,850m.
But I’m getting ahead of myself – I haven’t even arrived in Nepal. I’m sat in Doha having a coffee and waiting for my onward flight to Kathmandu. WiFi connections permitting I’ll try and post the odd missive along the way as well as Tweeting (@timmosedale) and updating FaceBook (timmosedale and / or everestexpedition).

I hope that you enjoy the show.

Another happy Everest client …

Just a quick update having received another awesome testimonial:

“I have been on two expeditions with Tim, to Ama Dablam in 2009 and Everest in 2013. I would wholeheartedly recommend him as an expedition leader.

The fact that Tim is an incredibly strong mountaineer is self evident (4 Everest summits and counting), and the high summit rates for clients on his expeditions speak for themselves, but it’s the things that go on behind the scenes that might not be so apparent if you haven’t been away with him before – his planning is meticulous, his logistical skills are second to none, he communicates well before the expedition and during it, and he leads with a style that generates respect for his decisions. Even when the weather’s not playing ball, you can rest assured that when it comes to timing for the summit push you will be in the right place at the right time.

As a doctor, I was highly impressed by Tim’s medical acumen – I think it was testament to his planning that during our Everest expedition not a single member suffered with altitude sickness over the entire trip. I was also very impressed that everyone was given potentially life-saving dexamethasone injections to carry, and that Tim taught the Sherpas how to use them too.

Personally, one of the things I value the most about Tim is his sense of humour. You can guarantee that even when things get tough, Tim will be able to lighten the mood, which on long expeditions makes all the difference.

If anyone is thinking of signing up with Tim, I would be more than happy to be contacted for a recommendation.”

Dr Adam Booth, Everest summiteer 13th May 2013.

I think that just about says it all.

Oh, and I’ve just had the most awesome few days out with a chap coming along to Ama Dablam this November as well as picking up another 2 bookings last week. The first trip (3rd Nov – 30th Nov KTM – KTM) is almost full but there are still a few places available on the second trip (10th Nov – 7th Dec KTM – KTM). So if you are interested you need to get in touch sharpish.

I’ve also received another 2 enquiries for Everest 2014 and 2015 as well as having a healthy mailing list for 2016 and a client I am getting trained up for 2017. So it looks like I’ll be there for some time yet.

As ever I’ll endeavour to keep the blog updates / Tweets and FaceBook posts coming whilst we are away. I hope that you enjoy the show.

Cheers – Tim

Everest feedback

I realise that I haven’t managed to get round to giving a post expedition update but it’s been pretty hectic since I returned from Everest. The B&B has been pretty chocker and I’ve been climbing with clients quite a bit – as well as trying to work through my 2 month in tray which is full of Everest and Ama Dablam enquiries.

Anyway I have just received some feedback from one of the guy on my trip, Jon Gupta, that I just wanted to share.

“I have climbed with Tim, guided for Tim, and been led by Tim. We have trekked together, shared a tent together and regularly I bounce ideas of him. As a climber his understanding and patience is invaluable to learning new skills and understanding the most efficient, yet safest way, to perform a task. Whilst guiding for him, he allows me to stretch myself and use my experience to lead and make decisions with his clients. As a leader, he has a profound understand of the needs of his team and leads by example and is inspiring.
His humour is really great, and there is always a smile to be had – his team is always the one having a great time. His card skills are sharp (watch out), and his Connect 4 prowess flawless.

An expedition with Tim is more than just a mountain, it ticks every box – and for most, this also includes summiting.”

The other thing is that I’d like to thank everyone who has chatted with me over the past few weeks who had been following the expedition either through the local news and / or online. It’s great that folk have followed and connected with the story and taken an interest in our progress. It means a lot.
Anyway if you are interested in the next Everest expedition then please get in touch because there are a lot of people interested but there’s only limited availability. There are nearly 30 on the mailing list but the group will undoubtedly be restricted to around 7 or 8. It would be shame to have been following the updates, be interested in the style and approach that I use and find out that you couldn’t come along because the trip was oversubscribed.
Over to you …

Reporting from The South Col

At The South Col with Ilina, Steve & Stuart. Tom has descended to C2 unfortunately due to exhaustion. Setting off in to the night to try & summit early tomorrow. Sorry to be brief but saving batteries. Watch this space. T

Resting and waiting … and waiting …

So now that we are done and dusted with the rotations and acclimatisatioin schedule it is time to wait, and be patient … our time will come.

A few days ago it looked like there may be some favourable weather and a few of us were primed and eagerly waiting the green light. The weather changed significantly enough for us to realise that it would be far too windy to be venturing up the hill and so we all descended to EBC. That was a couple of days ago and we are now waiting and watching and listening and being patient.

For me this is a difficult period because folk often feel that sitting at Base Camp is wasted time. The weather doesn’t look to be bad enough for long enough to warrant dropping down the valley for a rest at lower elevations – it would be a shame to go down to be called straight back up again when the weather was looking to improve. That would amount to quite a lot of effort being expended in the name of having a rest!

So we are confining ourselves to Base Camp for the time being and spending time chilling, reading, playing cards, stuffing ourselves with snacks and generally trying not to think too much about the reality of the forthcoming exertions …. whenever that may be.

For the time being I’ll not even divulge any thoughts about dates and potential weather windows because I would hate for folk to start getting all in tizz and excited about nothing. The other reason is that there are some expeditions watching what we and other teams are doing. Not only are they watching at Base Camp but they are tracking our blog, tweets and updates. If I mentioned potential dates, only to find that I was unable to update a change of plan because of lack of reception on the hill, then this could have far reaching consequences for teams who are not so well equipped with weather updates. The other thing is that we are obviously keen to keep our cards close to our chest to try and make the best use of the information that we have.

We do have some great allies and are happy to be working in cooperation with some of the other well respected teams … but we are VERY wary of the lesser equipped teams who have clients who are clearly out of their depth who have signed up with companies who have a very poor success rate and a very low pedigree.

So for the time being that is it – we are waiting and there is very little to add. Even if the situation  changes I may not necessarily update but please don’t lose patience you’ll find out about our successes in due course.

That’s all for now. Except to add my usual thanks for all the messages of support. It means a LOT.

Cheers – Tim & Co

Some photos from our last rotation.

 
In The Khumbu Icefall
 
A tricksome ladder crossing
 
Spectacular ice sculpture
 
The view up The Western Cwm
 
Camp 2 … luxury!
 
The view from C2 to The Lhotse Face
 
 
That ladder …. mended with string.

The Khumbu Icefall

So we’ve been at Base Camp since the 20th and we are well and truly settled in. The first day involved us getting our hands on our freight from the UK and KTM and generally sorting ourselves out. Needless to say there was plenty of washing water and shower activity as well.

The next day we were supposed to be up at 5 for an early breakfast followed by a foray in to the Khumbu Icefall. However, it snowed most of the night and the visibility was pure white out conditions. I had a quick chat with the Climbing Sherpas and we decided it was prudent for me to stay put with the group.

The Climbing Sherps headed out and I woke people to tell them not to get up!

I was up and in the kitchen at 7 and the Climbing Sherpas came back having made it 2/3rds of the way in The Icefall – apparently in some quite challenging conditions so I was glad we’d stayed put (we later heard about waist deep snow being ploughed through between C2 and C1).

We were up for the usual 8 o’clock to get breakfast and it was still claggy but by now the wind & snow had stopped. Half an hour later and the vis cleared and we were eagerly scrabbling to get ready and go for a recce in The Icefall.

The start of the Icefall is only 5 minutes away from our camp and we were soon donning crampons and harnesses and taking our first steps on the lower slopes of the mountain. The initial 40 minutes or so of the route are relatively straight forward and unroped (glad we weren’t in there in the early morning white out) and then when we hit the ropes I ran a tech session to acquaint everyone with safe travel techniques.

Another hour or so and we were encountering our first ladders. The first few are for climbing up and then a few horizontal ones are in place to aid progress over the increasing number of crevasses we were encountering.

If folk are together then they can assist each other by pulling the ropes tight to create a kind of bannister for the ladder crosser to use for balance. Once across the first person then pulls the ropes for the second person and so on and so forth.

What to do, however, when you get to a ladder and you are on your own? Well you clip in, as usual, pick up the ropes and lean forwards thereby taking up the slack from behind and creating your own tension. This position means that you’re leaning forwards and looking down and into the vast yawning chasm that you are about to cross. It’s all very well saying to yourself ‘don’t look down’ but you have to to see where to put your feet. Needless to say it takes a bit of getting used to.

So in and out took around 4 hours and we were soon back having a late lunch followed by my usual array of snacks and goodies that I provide including pâté, crackers, cashews, liquorice allsorts, fruit pastilles, pistachios, olives and gherkins.

Unfortunately we were then unable to manage much of tea on account of being thoroughly stuffed, so we settled down to a couple of series of Green Wing – thoroughly recommended by the way – and retired to bed.

As generally happens when staying at Base Camp nights become better and sleep easier and it’s great that there isn’t a sign of a headache or any adverse reactions to altitude amongst the group.

That, however, is possibly all about to change as we ready ourselves for our first foray to Camp 1 (and hopefully on to Camp 2) tomorrow. All being well we’ll have 3 or 4 nights on the hill before returning to Base Camp for a few days’ rest.

Hopefully the luck we were all bestowed with at yesterday’s Base Camp puja will see us well and the snow will have settled down. There have been the inevitable avalanches pouring down the usual faces and gullies following on from the snow fall we’ve had but the icefall is, by all accounts, in good condition beyond where we recce’d to the other day. Next time we’re there we’ll be carrying a reasonable load so it will make for fairly slow progress me thinks.

I’ll keep you posted when we get back down.

Cheers – Tim & Co

Down and round

Today we dropped down from Gokyo to Phortse – a rarely visited village on the ‘other’ side of the Gokyo valley. It’s reasonably inaccessible unless you make the effort – and we made the effort and have been dutifully rewarded. We saw only 4 other trekkers all day and this is the start of the high season!

The route drops down towards Machermo passing the 2nd and the 1st lakes which are in a stupendously brilliant setting. Just before the hike up towards the village of Machermo we hung a left and crossed a make shift bridge to be on the eastern side of the valley.

I haven’t been along this trail for about 14 or 15 years and I had forgotten what a brilliant trail it is. It is much narrower than the more oft trodden trails in The Khumbu and Gokyo valleys and has precipitous drop offs for a lot of the way. It is quite an undulating path and follows around ridges and in to valleys quite a bit, so is generally furhter than you think, but generally the vistas that you are rewarded with are spectacular.

So we have dropped around 900m and are spending the night here before following the trail around to Pangboche – again a rarely trodden path by the multitude of trekkers (and thankfully so).

It’s only a couple of hours to Pangboche so we’ll be having a chance to catch up on some washing and laundry before mooching up to Dingboche.

 
A porter sparking up on the top of the Renjo La (around 5,350m)
 
Mani stones and the view across the 3rd lake to the Renjo La from Gokyo
 
Looking back towards Cho Oyu (8,201m) the 6th highest mountain in the world
 
Our team of porters on the trail.
 
The magnificent path to Phortse
 
Great trekking
 
A random Yak
 
Drying yak pattes on the walls in Thare

Up the Thame valley and over the Renjo La

Sorry to have been off line for as few days but we have been up a fairly remote valley and over the first of our high passes. There’s been zilch in the way of signal which, in many ways, has been quite refreshing. We’ve been able to enjoy the trekking and the sense of isolation as well as having little in the way of distractions. And to that end we have started to enjoy each other’s company and the team are getting along really well.
We’ve had the first couple of our chats where we’ll be covering poignant issues before we get to Base Camp or on the hill. Subjects have included Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), HACE and HAPE as well as frostbite prevention, how to avoid getting cold hands and feet and the importance of concurrent activity. We’ve also been chatting through various permutations that we may encounter during our acclimatisation rotations on the hill and the group feel that they are actually a part of the expedition rather than just being treated as a commodity. I’d like to think that they are starting to have a sense of ownership of the expedition – after all it is the trip of a lifetime and it’s nice to know what is potentially going to be happening through the next few weeks. I also hope that they will all be taking away some top tips, handy hints and a sense of awareness of how to organise and run an expedition so that they can build on the skills and knowledge they have already.
 
The last few days, since departing Thame, have seen us trekking in almost complete solitude. We saw a couple of other trekkers on our way to Marylung where we stayed for a couple of nights and hiked up above the settlement to around 4,800m. Then we continued past the turn off for the Renjo La to go to Ayre (around 4,450m) where we had the place to ourselves. After a night here we trekked up the hillside to join the main trail over the Renjo La and are now camping in idyllic surroundings at 4,950m. So we are out of teahouses for the next week or so and under canvas and being tended to by Bhim, one of the best cooks I have come across. We have worked together a few times and he is exceptional and the great news is we have him with us for the next two weeks as well as for the duration of our stay at EBC.
 
This is the first of our high camps and we’ll be gaining height and trekking over the Renjo La tomorrow before dropping down to Gokyo. There seems to be a keen contingent to go up Gokyo Ri for sunset so we may be in for a long day tomorrow but this is then followed by a relatively easy day down to Tagnag the day after.
So apart from the odd tummy rumble (which have been successfully been blasted with a ‘Cipro Bomb’) everyone is in fine fettle, we’re all sleeping well and just enjoying the fantastic environment.
A selection of random photos and out for now.
 
Sorry to have been off line for as few days but we have been up a fairly remote valley and over the first of our high passes. There’s been zilch in the way of signal which, in many ways, has been quite refreshing. We’ve been able to enjoy the trekking and the sense of isolation as well as having little in the way of distractions. And to that end we have started to enjoy each other’s company and the team are getting along really well.
We’ve had the first couple of our chats where we’ll be covering poignant issues before we get to Base Camp or on the hill. Subjects have included Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), HACE and HAPE as well as frostbite prevention, how to avoid getting cold hands and feet and the importance of concurrent activity. We’ve also been chatting through various permutations that we may encounter during our acclimatisation rotations on the hill and the group feel that they are actually a part of the expedition rather than just being treated as a commodity. I’d like to think that they are starting to have a sense of ownership of the expedition – after all it is the trip of a lifetime and it’s nice to know what is potentially going to be happening through the next few weeks. I also hope that they will all be taking away some top tips, handy hints and a sense of awareness of how to organise and run an expedition so that they can build on the skills and knowledge they have already.
 
The last few days, since departing Thame, have seen us trekking in almost complete solitude. We saw a couple of other trekkers on our way to Marylung where we stayed for a couple of nights and hiked up above the settlement to around 4,800m. Then we continued past the turn off for the Renjo La to go to Ayre (around 4,450m) where we had the place to ourselves. After a night here we trekked up the hillside to join the main trail over the Renjo La and are now camping in idyllic surroundings at 4,950m. So we are out of teahouses for the next week or so and under canvas and being tended to by Bhim, one of the best cooks I have come across. We have worked together a few times and he is exceptional and the great news is we have him with us for the next two weeks as well as for the duration of our stay at EBC.
 
This is the first of our high camps and we’ll be gaining height and trekking over the Renjo La tomorrow before dropping down to Gokyo. There seems to be a keen contingent to go up Gokyo Ri for sunset so we may be in for a long day tomorrow but this is then followed by a relatively easy day down to Tagnag the day after.
So apart from the odd tummy rumble (which have been successfully been blasted with a ‘Cipro Bomb’) everyone is in fine fettle, we’re all sleeping well and just enjoying the fantastic environment.
A selection of random photos and out for now.