Monday, November 24, 2008

New route on Ama?

Some have been calling it a new route. Some more accurately a variation to the standard SW ridge on Ama Dablam. Personally, after only being up there three years in a row and far from an expert, I believe the route below the Dablam is just inching it's way to the right every year.

The Dablam is no doubt getting smaller and with that, the face below it is becoming more scoured. Far more rock and hard ice are now exposed but the line is essentially the same. I've never seen such a mess of old, older and ancient lines before. The photo hardly does it justice.

In the future I foresee more of the same. It will take a strong collaboration between teams to push a line around the Dablam. Hats off to to boys who did it this year. Very strong climbing indeed.

With all that said. The SW ridge on Ama Dablam is about as classic as a route can be. The variation of climbing. Rock, ice, snow and mixed; combined with the mental exposure on one of the worlds most beautiful peaks makes Ama Dablam a must climb. All of the worlds peaks are are slowly falling apart, that's why they are so beautiful. The question is: How do we get up to their top's and back down safely? Care, teamwork, skill and most of all, a small ego. Maybe walking before one runs?


November team back at base camp...

...and we summited!

(photo: James Bingham rounding the dablam in blistering winds)

Zangbu Sherpa, Damian, Neal, James, Chris & Lahkpa Sherpa summited 6856m Ama Dablam at apx 12 noon on November 23.

Everyone is now back at base camp feeling exhausted but elated at the success of our big climb. The route was tough this year. High winds, bullet proof ice and cold temps made for an exciting push from the new camp 3. (see 'New route on Ama?' post)

After acclimatizing on Island Peak, we rested for a day in BC. We then moved to c1 and slept. Next we carried some gear to c2 and descended back to c2 Then up to c3 and to the summit the next day and back to c3. Yesterday we descended to base and here we are.

I have to mention once again how important and necessary the help of our local Sherpa staff was. Tsering, Pasang, Zangbu & Lahkpa worked so hard and without them, the climb would have been a totally different story. I'd love to hear more praise for these guys and girls. These unsung heroes always seem to get the generic "...and Sherpa" mention. Also, Nima Sherpa, from Su Swagatam trek, our local operator who runs our local logistics and so so much more. Hats off to anyone who climbs without Sherpa support on these big hills. Very proud indeed.

Anyway, Neal, Dale, Damian, Noel & James are headed over to climb Lobuche in a couple of days with Lahkpa & Zangbu in the lead. My seemingly endless drive seems to have ended. And, along with a few frozen digits, I am in desperate need of some rest below 4000m. Nothing serious, just a sign that after 6 months on expedition, it's time for some, pardon the pun, down time.

Chris from Ama Dablam base camp.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Island Peak Summits and on to Ama Dablam

photo: Dale Cottam approaching the summit of Island Peak 6186M (Chris Szymiec)

The November Ama Dablam team summited Island Peak yesterday morning at about 8am. Everyone is feeling great and we are now headed for Ama Dablam base camp. Island Peak was a very busy place yesterday and despite a lot of egos, inexperienced climbers and territorial sherpas, we managed to stay focused and have an amazing day in the hills. Leave the egos at home people, have fun and play safe. And, for future reference, when you decide to take down a fixed line, please be sure no one is rapping on it!!!

We are now acclimitized and hope to make a swift and safe summit push after a day or so of rest. We have camps 1 & 2 established and will be also setting a camp 3 in a safer spot lower on the mushroom ridge. I likely wont be able to write again until we are back at BC so please stay tuned.

Chris from Dingboche.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Team in Ama Base camp, headed for Island Peak

Hello from Ama Dablam Base camp.

The November FTA Ama Dablam team arrived at base camp this afternoon. We plan on spending tomorrow packing for our acclimatization trip to Island Peak and sharing some skills on the fixed rope course I've set up.

Three Polish climbers summited today and according to their Sherpa, the AD route is in great shape. There are only a few small teams here right now and base camp is more beautiful than ever.

Everyone is healthy and happy. Damian, Neil, Noel, Isabel, Dale, James and I are all excited for the fantastic days to come.

Stay tuned...

Chris from Ama base camp 4550M

Saturday, November 8, 2008

November Team Headed for Ama Base Camp

Hello from Namche Bazzar.

The November team is headed for Ama Dablam base camp and everyone is doing well. We will first go to Ama base camp then on to Island Peak once again (my 4th trip there) for an acclimatization climb. We are having some technical difficulties with our COM gear but i hope to iron this out in the days to come.

I will do my very best to keep all interested parties up to date in a timely and accurate manner.

We have a excellent team and we are all getting along great. I have a good feeling about this group. It's just one of those things. A bond between strangers that forms in times of challenge and adversity. Working together to build a team of brothers and sisters who will be there for each other on the hill and beyond. These bonds last forever and for some, the friendships formed in these high and dangerous places are some of the most steadfast and lasting of all.

Chris from Namche.
Climb on!

Friday, October 31, 2008

FTA Ama Dab;am October 2008 - In Ama Dablam BC

The final section of rope from camp 3 to the summit
is being fixed in the next couple days and we are
heading up to c1 tomorrow. we have rested at bc and
Pangboche and are acclimatised and ready. We will be
among the first summits this season and feeling strong.

Today we have practised rope techniques and sorted gear
at bc. We already have tents at c1 and c2. Food is great
and we are getting special attention from ratna the cook.
Ama Dablam BC, 30 October

Monday, October 27, 2008

Island Peak Summits!

Sean, Tsering, Mama, Wei, Antonin, Paul & Chris summited Island Peak Oct 26 in perfect weather.

After an evening at 5650m high camp Josh became ill and decided to stay back (He is feeling fine now). The rest of the team left at 3 and were on top between 6 and 8am. The team is back in base camp and despite being totally nackered, everyone is feeling fine. The team is now en route to Ama Dablam Base camp.

Word from Ama Dablam has been promising but we wont really know for sure until the team gets onto the route.

FTA from Island Peak base camp

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Island Peak Summits!

Sean,Tsering, Mama, Wei, Antonin, Paul & Chris summited Island Peak this morning in perfect weather.

After an evening at 5650m high camp Josh became ill and decided to stay back (he is much better now). The rest of the team left at 3am and were on top between 6am and 8am. Everyone is back at base camp feeling fine and ready to move to Ama Dablam base camp on the 29th.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Is it just Ama now?

As the team approached Island Peak, we noticed something different about Ama Dablam; the hanging glacier known as the Dablam has lost at least 2/3 of its total mass. The Dablam has been slowly peeling off over the past years but this is different, it's a major change to the character of the mountain Not that I'm one to revel in base camp gossip, but according to retreating teams, the route still isn't open above what's left of camp 3. We shall see and keep you all posted.

On another note, the FTA team has reached Island Peak base camp and after sorting gear, doing a skills check and packing, we will move to high camp and if the wonderful weather holds, we will go for the summit on October 26.

Stay tuned...

Chris from Island Peak BC 5126M

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Ama Dablam & Island Peak Expedition reached Namche Bazar

The team reached Namche Bazar last night and everyone is feeling great. We plan to stay here for 2 full days to aid in our acclimitization schedule. Today, we will climb up for some excellent views of Everest, Lhotse and of course the matterhorn of the Himalayas, Ama Dablam.

Josh, Wei, Antonin, Paul, Me (Chris) and Sean are feeling the excellent energy and this amazing place. Everyone is getting very excited.

We are headed up to climb Island Peak 6186M straigh away then Paul will go for a big trek up to everest base Camp. The rest of the team will go directly to Ama Dablam 6856M base camp and commence the main objective of the expedition. The south west ridge of Ama Dablam. The route is quite difficult but with the help of fixed ropes and Sherpa power, the objective becomes much more managable and a truely enjoyable experience.

Climb on!

Chris from Namche Bazar 3200M

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Back in Kathmandu

From stu in Kathmandu

Our team has returned to kathmandu and been quite busy ever since with
meetings, debriefs, meals, cleaning,
repacking, flight changes and long sleeps. Since we left ABC we have been
in constant motion and we all look
forward to some true down time to make some sense of our experiences on Cho

Trying to reconcile the extraordinary beauty, adventure and success of our
trip with Guy's death is nearly impossible
and the patina of sadness which covers the memory landscape is inescapable.
The joyful days spent playing cards,
trekking through the endless morraine, climbing to new heights on a
beautiful mountain, and even standing on top
of the 6th highest peak - all of these seem frozen for the moment with a
slowly eroding crust which once gone will
allow us to once again savor them.

Fortunately we have been a team that has grown together and not been torn
apart by the aftermath of Guy's death.
We are stronger friends and have have found support from each other in
levels we never imagined could have
existed. We have spent many days now crying, laughing and remembering. As
is a climbers way already trips ahead
are being schemed up and we do very much look forward to being together
climbing and trekking in the high
mountains we all love so much.

In the hours and days ahead i will make a concerted effort to put out a
significant trip summary with images and
more as i know that there is a great interest in more details of every
aspect of the trip.

til soon again,


image: Guy Leveille Approaching C2 (7100m) on the 30th September with most
of the world below his feet!

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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A quick call from Stu in Tingri.

Justin and Eric are already in Kathmandu. The others are waiting around Tingri for a landslide in the road to be cleared so their bus can get through. They expect to be in Kathmando late on October 9. Nima is already at the Nepal border waiting for them.


Sunday, October 5, 2008


I have just had a long phone call with Stu from Cho Oyu BC. Thankfully the signal was reasonably strong and we did not lose the connection this time.

It is now confirmed that Guy Leveille has perished on the descent. Guy and Stu Remensnyder, the team leader and head guide, were involved in what sounds to have been an epic descent after Stu summitted and then turned Guy around just 60m from the top at 3:45pm on Saturday. They were up above 7500m for nearly 28 hours. Guy had weakened considerably during the long climb down, and at an as yet unknown point fell and slid away from Stu.
It is also now confirmed that all members have returned safely to BC. One or two will leave early tomorrow for treatment in Kathmandu, however we stress that everybody now is OK and out of danger. There were several dramas unfolding high on the hill during Friday and Saturday nights, involving multiple teams including that of the SummitClimb group. Another climber had to be rescuscitated with CPR after collapsing, and other climbers took long and dangerous falls and have been injured and evacuated.

Stu sounded exhausted, but OK. He said the mood in the group was strong and they were well knit and hanging in there together in light of the loss of Guy. He hopes to have the team out by the 9th back into KTM.

We need to publicly express our sincere thanks to the decent and professional people running the IMG group on the hill. Stu made the comment they were the only people who responded when the initial emergency calls went out on the radios at 2am that included a plee for oxygen to be brought up. They found the manpower and the resources necessary to aid in the rescues and we cannot applaud the actions of the IMG staff and team enough.

As far as I am aware the following Field Touring team members reached the summit:
Lahkpa Sherpa (Nepal)
Stu Remensnyder (USA)
Italo Mazza (Italy)
Rob Baker (Australia)
Ryan Castel (Australia)
Justin Moody (UK)
Guy Higgot (Canada)

Kit Dickson (UK) and Eric Haugen (Norway) came 'very close'

Needless to say our deepest condolences go out to the family and friends of Guy Leveille, who have shown considerable strength in the wake of this tragedy, and his many work associates with whom we have spent some time on the phone with today at the Winnipeg Police Service.

Stu will issue a more detailed report upon his return to Kathmandu, as mentioned, hopefully on the 9th October.

Dave Hancock

cho oyo update October 5

Sunday 5th October, 2008. 1600hrs AWST

It is with great regret that we confirm that the Field Touring Alpine team on Cho Oyu in Tibet has sufferred a fatality. Canadian team member Guy Leveille, whom was being assisted down from a high camp, fell at some point and has died as a result of his injuries. Communication with Cho Oyu BC is very unreliable, but we expect to be able to update the situation in a few hours with further information. Our deepest sympathies are extended to the family and friends and work associates of Guy Leveille. Two further FTA climbers have descended to Camp 2 and are on the way down to BC. Our current information indicates all other team members are accounted for and are safe.

Kind regards,

Dave Hancock

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Tharpui Chulli Summits!

Field Touring Alpine guides Chris Szymiec, Sean James and Josh Kass summited Tharpui Chulli at 10am on September 26th.

Josh and I left high camp at 4am and were later met by Sean and Dorje Sherpa who were intending to fix the snow face for the rest of the FTA members. We soloed up the 50 degree snow face while Sean ran out 200 meters of rope right up behind us. Once on the ridge we managed to convince Sean to tag the top with us (and break trail). The three of us stood on top at 10 am and were back at high camp by 1 pm for a nice lunch.

The rest of the FTA team and Sean, were planning on heading up the following morning. They had great weather but i have no word on their summit push as of today. Josh and I went from the summit all the way to Annapurna Base Camp in a knee banging 16 hour push! This included breaking down high camp moving all of our gear back to Annapurna camp.

It was a tough climb for Josh and I. Despite the relatively low elevation of 5663 meters, we didn't have the luxury of a porters to carry our gear up the mountain for us. It was a great experience being totally self sufficient on the hill.

Chris from Pokarha.

summit push!!!

A very quick call from Stu tonight, reception was terrible, I could barely understand him.

Stu, Ben, Justin, Lingve, Ipalo, Guy, Kit, Lhakpa and Tsering are at camp 2 tonight and will be heading for the summit tomorrow! John may try to join them. Eric, Ian and Antonin are back at base camp. All are ok. More soon.

Nicole (Stu's wife)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Camp 2 established!!!

News sent from Stu.

All are well at various spots on the mountain. Lhakpa, Tsering, Stu, Italo, Lyngve and Justin are at camp 2 for the night of the 24th. Beb and Guy H slept at camp 2 on the 23rd. All will head down to base camp on the 25th for a few days of rest in preparation for the summit push. Antonin, Kit and Erik are still on their acclimatizing schedule. Much more news to come in the next few days.


Saturday, September 20, 2008

Cho Oyu C1 Established

First and most importantly our entire team - staff and members - are safe and sound in one place or another on the hill. We have been having some technical challenges which are now resolved and we hope to have more detailed notes in the weeks ahead.

On the 20th all of our team ws in ABC enjoying an afternoon of cards, wilderness medicine classes, soups and hot drinks, except for Anthony and Sonam two camps below in CBC. Anthony had not been acclimatizing well at ABC and descended to CBC with Sonam for a few days and they are already headed back up and are expected on the 22nd.

We have had a great run on the hill after our arrival on the 15th. To arrive required spending the 12th and 13th acclimatizing at Chinese BC (4700m) with a great day walk to 5400m, an easy 4- 5 hr road walk to Intermediate BC (5200m) on the 14th, and finally a much more demanding 5-6hr morraine climb to our home for the next 23 days.

After a rest day on the 16th Lyngve, Guy H,Justin, John, Guy L, Italo,Tsering, Lhakpa and Ian took a load carry to C1 at 6400m and returned with tales of steep scree slopes and slippery morraines. Ben, Erik, Kit and Stu made their load carries on the 17th and cinfirmed the beauty of the climb and the treacherously icy walk back.

Lyngve, italo and Justin spent a horrible night at C1 on the 18th with winds which destroyed tents for a few teams and left us making repairs of our own. We kindly refer to one of our tents now as frankenstein!
After waiting out the wind for a day we are now returning to the hill with Kit, John, Stu, Ben, Guy H and Guy L headed up today (21st) and most of the rest tomorrow. Antonin will have to see how he feels when he gets back and make a plan then. Erik has a bit of a cold and may delay coming up by a day. We hope to all have 2-3 nights in C1 and one night in C2 (7200m) before returning to ABC for a 2-4 day rest before our first summit bids. With luck we'll be on top around the 30th Sept.

Rob and Ryan are on a similar shedule for tye moment and will be spending 21st-23rd in C1 and C2 getting ready for their push on the south face.

Our ABC camp, which sits high above an enormous bleached white glacier and faces opposite the sweeping and storied Nangpa-la, gives us a perfect view of the entire mass of Cho Oyu to our left - and an all to clear view of the entire route wewill need to follow! Our physical plant consists of 16 yellow VE 25s sleeping tents, two giant bright-blue house-shaped tarp tents (one for our chef Ratna and his staff Siddhi and Sonam and the second for our team to eat and gather in), a well used red outhouse tent and a highly prized burgundy shower tent.

I take the time to mention these colors as they are the only breaks for the pallette of the upward-looking eye save the startling blue sky rejgning over the black, white and grey of the rock, ice, snow, scree, morraines and glaciers which make up our world here at 5700m. At our feet we are treated to an entirely varied world as the geologic story unfolds with every step in a language marvelling but escaping most of us. Metamorphic, igneous, sedimentary rocks abound with fossil, crystals, semiprecious stones everywhere tempting one to collect unreasonable amounts of souvenirs to bring home! Nearly everyone of us wishes we had taken geology classes to open up the stories locked up before us.

Our journey to this time has been quite remarkable and when we return to Kathmandu we hope to be able to enliven our notes with a long report and loads of images.

We spend much of our time talking about home and we send our love to family and friends. We miss you all very much!

Signing off for a few days and look to report in again on 24th or 25th.

Cheers from the sunny beaches of um, that is from the remote and austere himalaya!


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Cho Oyu base camp reached!!!

Stu just sent this message to the US office.

All members and staff safely reached base camp on the 15th. Carries to camp 1 are underway. Camp 1 has been established (3 tents up there now) and they expect members to spend the night there on the 19th. The weather is cooperative with a mix of snow and sun. The rest days are spent admiring the extraordinary views and playing card games! More news in the days to come.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Cho oyu choco pie team expedition report from tingri

Hi all, kit here in tingri.

We arrived here yesterday after a long drive through the tibetan plateau from nylam.

We had our first sight of cho oyu on the way in so have seen our challenge for the first time. the snow capped mountains and dry tibetan plateau make for spectacular scenery , everyone is pleased that our goal is in sight.

The team is well though a couple of cases of gi and cold symptoms mean we will have an extra day here for recuperation and extra acclimatization.

We had a couple of walks in nylam up to 4500m and will do the same today, possibly up to 4900m hopefully getting some good views of cho oyu on the way, though may be too cloudy for that.

On a side note I am currently sat at 4600m overlooking the plains, which are vast and pretty awe inspiring, chatting with stu, ben, guy and antonin. Sun is breaking through and its nice and warm, nearly sunbathing weather. We are watching the rest of the group race up the slope ahead trying to be the first to the top...... I know where I'd rather be....I may just have a nap and wait for them to descend.

We'll be moving on to chinese basecamp tomorrow so this afternoon is a final chance for a warm shower, for a while at least anyway!

From the field touring cho oyu choco pie crew in tingri

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Monday, September 8, 2008


Kit here in nylam.

All members now assembled here with antonin arriving late last night.

We have one more day here with everyone expecting a good acclimatisation hike today and great views of shishapangma.

Stu will give a bigger update later today once we can get in the internet cafe which seems to be full from dawn to dusk.
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Friday, September 5, 2008

FTA Cho Oyu 2008: Visa in hand and off for the border on the 6th!

rom stu in kathmandu
Our members have been asssembling over the last 3 days in Kathmandu this
morning the expeditions got officially under way with a nice meeting with
the legendary Miss Elizabeth Hawley who keeps records on all of the major
climbs occuring in nepal and Tibet. her willingess to share things she has
learned about the climbs and routes always adds to our knowledge and safety
on the hill and we thank her in advance for heer help! After a short welcome
meeting members scattered to allparts of thamel for final shopping before we
reconvened at the hotel to find our visas already approved by the chinese
embassy. having heard of other teams being run through hoops we we held
cautious optimism in Nima T Sherpa of Su-Swagatam Trek that his contacts
could pull off a seemingly impossible task. One again Nima demonstrated why
we call him "the man" and there in black and red ink was our golden Willie
Wonka ticket of which there seem to be very few this year.
After a meeting on nitty gritty items and schedules we talked for a time
about what had brought each of us to this mountain with this group and it
was a great chance to get to knoew each other better and set the tone for a
team experience.
Clearly we will have a different experience this year on Cho Oyu with such a
smaller number of teams and we welcome the chance to enjoy less competition
for space and yet still enjoy meeting up with otyher teams and making the
community to be on th ehill this year a cooperative and successful one.
After months of working on getting our team in the right position to have a
chance to go to Tibet and have a go at Cho Oyu our trip finally became a
reality this morning with the successful granting of visas to all members of
the trip. Our final member arrives on monday and we hope he will be whisked
off to the border after a short time in KTM and make his way to join us in
Nylam that same day. With good luck the entire team will head towards Tingri
together on the 9th and our tentative schedule will look like:
6 to kodari at the border
7 to nylam
8 acclimatizing day in Nylam
9 to Tingri
10 acclimatizing day in Tingri
11 to Chinese BC
12 Acclimatizing day in CBC
13/14 two day trek to ABC
15 rest day in ABC
16 start climbing!
We will pass on word whenever we can and look for an up date in the next ew
days from chris in Kathamndu!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

FTA Team back at base camp

FTA Spantik 2008 recap

Everyone is safe and sound at Spantik base camp. We had an excellent walk down from camp 2 yesterday and despite not reaching the summit, we all feel we had a successful expedition.

Everyone is safe, we have all of our fingers & toes and we are all great friends. The whole team put in an excellent effort and if the weather would have been more stable, I have no doubt everyone would have reached the top.

Tomorrow morning we leave base camp for Skardu then on to Islamabad for our international flights. Ian and I are flying to Kathmandu for the next big adventure. Ian to Cho Oyu with Stu Remensnyder and myself to the Annapurna range with Sean James. Keep checking back for more updates resuming the 1st week of September.

Have fun, climb hard, come home!
Chris from Spantik base camp.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Safe at camp 2, back to base camp in the am

FTA Spantik 2008 Expedition Update:

Just a quick update.

It snowed 35cm last night at camp 3. The wind was blowing a gale and despite our desire to finish off this big climb, there was no way we could possibly go anywhere but down. We were the only ones left on the mountain and the descent today was epic for some.

Everyone is safe and sound at camp 2. We will move down base camp tomorrow morning and sadly, conclude the climbing portion of this expedition. Like I always say, the mountain will always be there.

Chris from Spantik camp 2

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Another day in camp 3 6300m, too much snow!

FTA Spantik 2008 Update

We all arrived in camp 3 yesterday after a grueling climb up from camp 2. The early morning snow conditions were excellent but as the day progressed and the slopes steepend, hot temperatures made the climbing very taxing.

After our arrival at camp 3, Ian, Paul, Lukasz & Myself made the decision to wait a day before attempting the summit. There are about 30 climbers here right now and they all made an attempt for the summit at 3 am this morning. Among them was Michael and Taqui from the FTA team. The whole group turned back at 6600m in thick fog and deep snow.

It's snowing right now with zero visibility. If the sun comes out this afternoon and we get a good freeze this evening... And if the weather forecast is wrong we will make another attempt at 12 midnight.
All of the other expeditions have left camp 3 and are currently returning to base camp. It's just us at 6300m, 2 tents, 6 guys and 1/2 days food.

Stay tuned.
Chris from Spantik camp 3, 6300 m

Monday, August 18, 2008

Waiting in camp 2 5300m

Field Touring Alpine Spantik 2008

We've arrived at camp 2 and all is well. The weather has been very bad as of late and we are doing our best to stay positive and healthy. There is supposed to be a window of clear weather starting today, but alas, it's snowing like mad in the middle of August.

This morning Me, Taqui, Ian, Paul, Michael & Luksaz had a late start from camp 1 and headed up in great weather. The route was covered with about 15cm of fresh snow and I had the privilege of breaking trail up the wonderful ridge, jumping crevasses and kicking steps through amazing terrain. What a day at the office!

Yesterday we had to bid farewell to Dr Usman. His injured knee was just too much of a burden to him and he decided to leave the expedition. It was an emotional time as we all left him in base camp. The determination he showed getting to nearly camp 2 was an inspiration to us all. We already miss him
Tomorrow the team will rest at camp 2 and myself and Johnas from the Spanish group will finish fixing the route up to 6400m, just below camp 3. On the 20th, if the weather permits, we all move up and go for the summit the next day.

Chris from Spantik camp 2, 5300 meters.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

We've moved to camp 1 5000m!

Field Touring Alpine Spantik 2008 Expedition Update

Everyone on the FTA team has moved up to camp one. The climb from base camp up to here is a moderate scramble of about 800 vertical meters through scree, shale, talus and a few steep rock sections. Nothing technical, just good fun in an amazing place.

We are surrounded by glaciers and 6-7000m peaks. I forgot how jaw dropping this place really is. We are all in awe, perched on this classic ridge that drops at least 1000m to the rivers of flowing ice below.

It's great to finally be climbing, and also finally away from the insomniac rooster that has been waking us up for the last 3 days. We figure someone brought him over here from America and his time zones are out or he is suffering from some avian altitude sickness. He crows at the strangest of times Poor guy...
Anyway, tomorrow the 14th we will climb up to camp 2 at about 5500m, drop some supplies, and return to camp 1 before making the move to camp 2 the following morning.

4 am, crampons on, roped up, we crunch off into mist up the snowy ridge. Living the dream.

Chris from Spantik camp 1

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Spantik 2008 Team Reaches Base Camp

Great news! The FTA 2008 Spantik team has all reached base camp at 4230M. Everyone is feeling great and we have already become great friends. We're having some very interesting conversations and heated debates on every imaginable topic.
Luksaz, Usman, Ian, Myself & Paul arrived yesterday, the 8th and Michael rocked up this morning (he trekked in a day behind us due to a little GI trouble). We are all healthy and preparations for the 7027M climb have begun.
Tomorrow we will do the usual gear checks, food sorting, packing and a little crevasse rescue training. The next day we plan to establish camp 1 at about 5150m and come back down to base that same day. After that, no one can say for sure. I promise to keep you posted though.
There are about 6 other expeditions on the mountain so tomorrow afternoon the expedition leaders will meet to discuss how to make the situation work for everyone. It's crowded at BC but it's a big hill.
Photo:7027M Spantik as seen on day 2 of 3 on the trek in.
Peace, love & happiness
Chris at Spantik BC

Friday, August 1, 2008

Gasherbrum 2 2008 Expedition Finished, Spantik 2008 Begins

As one adventure ends another begins. The entire team from Gasherbrum 2 2008 has departed Islamabad and now, the Spantik members are slowly arriving.

This afternoon I have an appointment at the Alpine Club of Pakistan to finalize permit details, drink tea and have yet another briefing for the wonderful Spantik, 7027 meters of Karakorum goodness.

I am really looking forward to climbing Spantik again. This time however, I have a slightly different plan for the mountain. Instead of using the usual lift line of fixed ropes, I am going to lead the team up the peak in true alpine style. This approach is a much better way for the members to get the feeling that they are actually climbing the mountain. Instead of fixing ropes on the steeper sections, we will climb together as a rope team using running belays and our own ice screws, pickets and anchors to scale this excellent route from the ground up.

The plan is to establish camp one and descend to base camp for rest and to load up for our big push up the hill. I suppose some may not consider this alpine style in the truest sense, perhaps maybe more of a capsule style but from camp one we will carry all of our equipment, food and fuel up to camp three where our summit push will begin.

Being the Karakorum, the weather might have a different plan for us but enshallah (if Allah permits) we will climb the peak from top to bottom without the use of any fixed lines or previously stocked camps.

Wish us luck! We depart Islamabad for Skardu on August 3rd and begin the approach to the mountain the day after that.

Photo: Gasherbrum 2 2008 team enjoying a feast at our good friend and High Altitude Porter Taqui Mohammed’s home in hushe before the drive to Skardu.

Cheers from Islamabad


Friday, July 18, 2008

No Evacuations, All well on G2

Great news! No one neees to be evacuated.

We will be clearing the hill tomorrow and heading back to Concordia on the 21st of July.

The mountain will always be there.

BIG SCARE- everyone safe at Camp 2


First thing this morning I awoke to a frantic display of base camp mayhem. People running around. Word of frozen climbers, huge storms and no communication were abuzz. As we prepared med. kits, oxygen bottles & stretchers, A small team of international climbers, including myself were trying to piece together a rescue plan for an unknown number of victims stranded somewhere between 7300m and 8000m.

In the next few moments, some more distilled news started to filter down from the high camps. There were two victims, one with frozen feet and one with frozen hands. Also, news of an Argentinean climber that was in trouble. My god, Naucho. My dear friend and one of the coolest guys I've met.

No word from JR & Francois or our dedicated high altitude porter Asgar either. Everything was set for our big rescue when JR's voice crackled over the radio. "Um, Chris, we had a big surprise last night, a big storm. We are finished, nearly at camp 2."

I immediately asked about the status of Naucho and the rest of the team. "Naucho has very cold feet but they do not seem to be frost bitten, he is ok, everyone is fine and will sleep at camp 2 this evening"

I am so so relieved. Not to be melodramatic but this morning really tore me apart. I know that these things are part of life in the mountains but it is impossible to get used to it. It is the price some of us pay to visit the most amazing places on earth. Some come home, some stay here forever.

Right now, 2 men. One with frozen feet and one with frozen hands are being helped down to a heli-pad that has been prepared at 5900m camp 1. If the weather stays stable, 2 Llama choppers will arrive this afternoon for evacuation to Skardu.

Once again, all FTA members are fine and I will make sure everyone makes it safely back to base camp.


Thursday, July 17, 2008

French Team, Asgar Naucho @ Camp 4!

Well, they're going for it. Francois, JR & Asgar climbed to camp 4 at 7400m today and met up with Naucho. They all plan to head for the summit at 6am tomorrow, July 18th. All is looking well and if the weather holds for another 24 hours they should be standing atop Gasherbrum 2 8035m sometime tomorrow afternoon.

There is a lot of snow up high and the winds are blowing but they are all determined.

Everyone at baseamp in cheering them on and we are anxiously awaiting the next radio contact.


Monday, July 14, 2008

Summit Aborted! 50cm snow, high winds

I had to make the really tough decision to call off pretty much our only summit chance last night at 10:30 pm. 10 cm of snow had fallen and the winds had started to blow. I went around to the team members' tents and broke the news. Surprisingly, everyone supported my decision to see what the morning would bring. Well, 50 cm of snow, a total white out and blow-you-over winds. The north face team turned back at 7400m due to avy danger. Their bid to ski from the summit of Gasherbrum 2 is pretty much off. Its been great climbing with such a great group of people and we look forward to a rockin' dance party back at base camp. I digress...

At about 10am this morning I had to make another tough call. Wait out the a storm at 7000m, that arrived early and is supposed to last 5 days or get off the mountain before the team gets trapped and can't descend the extremely avalanche prone slopes. (3 additional days of sun are needed to help consolidate the snow and make it relatively safe) I must say I'm not the happiest of campers right now but I stand by my decision.

Here we all sit safe and sound at camp 2. Everyone but Jean-Rene and Francois will descend to base camp tomorrow morning. The two French climbers feel differently about the weather and route conditions and along with Asgar, may make another attempt from camp 2. Naucho remained at camp 3 and may also descend tomorrow or head up to camp 4, weather permitting.

It saddens me, and all of the members to be going down after working so hard to to get so close to our goal. In the end however, it is always safety first and my first responsibility it to bring everyone home.

Chris from G2 camp 2.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Leaving at 11pm for the top!

After an amazing climb up to camp 3 at 7000m, the team is all set to push for the summit this evening.

We left camp 2 at 7am and arrived at 3 between 3-4.5 hours later. The climb up the icy face was pretty much 50° the whole way; never letting up for a second. Taqui arrived first, then me, followed closely By Andy. JR & Francis rolled in about an hour later with Suresh & Fred 30 minutes after that. Naucho shortly after with his huge pack.

The going was pretty slow but we are all feeling like we can make a good shot at the summit this evening. This is pretty much our go/no go day. After so much preparation and hard work, our window comes down to just one day. Not much fun waiting at 7000 meters but the views are so amazing we can't help but be exited.

Chris at Gasherbrum 2, camp 3.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Snowstorm stalls summit push

As I write this post, the sun is baking us at camp 2. This morning however, a small blizzard halted all progress. The slopes above camp 2 are prone to avalanche so I made the call to stay put and see what happens.

Luckily, the storm was small with only about 5cm of snow accumulation and the sun was out at 9am helping everything settle down. We witnessed a couple of small avalanches just to the right of the climbing route which helped make the decision feel all the better.

Hopefully this evening we get a good freeze and we set off tomorrow at 5am for camp 3. Our weather forecast shows great weather for the next 3 days. This is a really big mountain and it is proving to be quite the challenge to get up.

Stay tuned

Chris at G2 camp 2

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Summit Push starts July 10

Well, it seems that weather, health and route conditions have all come together in our favor. Tomorrow morning at 4am the summit push for Gasherbrum 2 begins.

July 10 we navigate the ever changing icefall up to camp 1 and sleep there for the night. July 11, up the Banana Ridge to camp 2 with some additional height gain up to camp 3 later in the day. July 12 up to just under 7000 meters and sleep at camp 3. July 13 up to camp 4 at 7400 meters to brew up and try to get a little sleep before leaving for the summit on July 14th at am. The trip to the summit should take us about 12 hours and hopefully less than that to descend back to camp 3. At least an 18 hour day above 7000 meters!

On summit day, Taqui will be in the lead with Asgar sweeping team members from the rear. I will be floating between lead and tail and keeping tabs on everything as we go up and above 8000 meters.

I will do my best to send some images from up high in the days to come.

These next few days are the culmination of months of preparation. We have to do it right and do it smart. Safety, fun then summit; in that order.

Climb on
Chris from g2 base camp.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

All back to Base Camp, 'ready' for summit push

Everyone is back at base camp after our small acclimatization sortie up to 6700 meters. The climb from camp 1 up to camp 2 is really interesting. It starts with a 50° snow slope for about 60M, then a little traverse around a hanging glacier. About 125 vertical meters of rambling ice and snow later, the classic Banana Ridge starts. About 15 pitches of 55° to 75° ice/snow in a wonderful position. For anyone who's been to Ama Dablam, this is just like camp 3 to summit! Unreal!!!

Don't be fooled though, the top of the ridge isn't camp 2. Yet another false summit awaits and another grueling 75 vertical meter slog brings you right into camp 2 at 6500m. A tip for future G2 & G1 climbers: leave early and arrive at all camps before the sun hits, wear white clothing and bring a big hat or umbrella. Trust me.

Sadly, Mark has made the decision not to continue up the mountain. He has made this choice on his own due to a number of factors and I must say that I have a deep respect for his wisdom and lack of ego. After so much preperation and sacrifice, Mark has realized that his priorities don't lie at the top of an 8000m mountain. We all praise him for that.

The rest of the team is currently recharging and gearing up for the big push. Everyone is in excellent health and all that we need now is a 4-5 day window of good weather. Naucho is powering up the hill and has established his camp 2 right next to ours. He is currently resting at base with the rest of us.

We have been getting mixed weather data but in general the trend is leaning towards -20°c and high winds at 7000 meters by Thursday or Friday. This just happens to be the aproximate height of our camp 3 and with conditions like that, no one goes anywhere, very dangerous indeed.

Everyone is mindful of the realities of climbing the highest mountains on earth. Gasherbrum 2 will grant us permission to summit when she is ready. Until then we will wait and enjoy good times and great friends at base camp.

Peace out


Monday, June 30, 2008

FTA Team Rocks Up to Base Camp

After one of the most stunning treks in the world, and nearly 90km as the crow flies, the 2008 Gasherbrum 2 team has arrived at our 5200M base camp.

Everyone is in great health thanks to a good acclimatization schedule on the way in and excellent food prepared by little Karim and the rest of the cook staff. The weather has been a bit unsettled in the afternoons with scattered flurries. The mornings however offer the most stunning of views.

Clare is celebrating her birthday today so we have our cook staff baking her a cake and serving a feast of mammoth proportions. We really have it good up here. Everyone is settled into their own comfy tent and the unpacking for the next 26 days has begun. Its a gear junkies paradise up here.

After arriving today I ran out 250 meters of rope up and over some glacial formations for a skills review and gear testing session tomorrow in the AM We will rest in the afternoon and enshalla, head up to camp 1 at about 5800M the following day. We will then return to base camp for a rest. The base ice fall is very heavily crevased this year but it all looks very manageable, and interesting!

The team is strong and we are all stoked to get on the mountain.

Climb on!


Saturday, June 28, 2008

30 cm of snow at camp 1, 5950m

The majority of the teams at camp 1 have returned to base camp today. The weather forecast calls for snow for at least the next three days. Although the route up the Banana Ridge to camp 2 is fixed, the heavy snow and warm temps are forcing many climbers down. We will wait for safer conditions before establishing our camp 2. That said, the route up to camp 2 looks Sweet, I can't wait to get up there!

We have been receiving custom weather forecast from Michelle Dibona back in France. Each and every one has been absolutely correct. Thank Michelle, you are a greatly valued member of our team.

We made a large load carry up to camp 1 yesterday and spent the night shaking off the tents and hoping for a clear morning. 30 cm of snow and counting greeted us so myself, Andy, Fred, JR, Francois, Surech, Taqui & Asgar left our camp 2 gear stashed and descended to base camp in just over 3 hours. Mark & Naucho stayed at base for some additional rest.

We will all wait out the storm and get ready for our next push up the hill.

Stay tuned...


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Camp 1 set. 45°C in the shade...

...the only problem: there is no shade!

At 4am on June 26, the 2 HAPs Taqui & Asgar.

The yellow rope: Chris, Andy, JR, & Francois.

The red rope, Naucho, Mark, Fred & Surech all set out into the icefall for our first push to camp 1 on Gasherbrum 2.

In the darkness and cold of the early morning, the ice fall proved to be quite straight forward with only a couple of off vertical sections. No fixed ropes were needed and the travel onto the upper plateau at the base of the Gasherbrum amphitheater was excellent. That is until the sun came out. Despite the most amazing of scenery, the temps quickly went from 5°c to 30°c, and this was at 7am! Nothing more than a massive solar oven walled with some of the tallest peaks on earth.

Taqui & Asgar reached Camp 1 about 2 hours before me and the yellow rope team. We dropped our loads and began to descend at about noon. The red rope had decided to stop about 200 vertical meters below and were resting while Naucho was setting an advanced basecamp and depositing his 25kg load! Crazy guy.

Andy, JR & Francois took off back to basecamp and I waited around and descend with the red team. We all stumbled into base at about 5pm. The heat was nuclear and the icefall was much more challenging with the added dimensions of slushy ice and rushing torrents of melt water.

Today we rest and prepare to set out at 2am tomorrow for our first sleep at camp 1. The weather is amazing so we may decide to spend a couple nights up high and try to establish camp 2 before coming all of the way down to base camp to recover.

All is well and the base camp staff have really gone out of their way to make this trip a great experience. The food is amazing and after nearly 2 weeks, we haven't had the same meal twice!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Weather breaks. Lets move!

Everyone on the Field Touring Alpine G2 team is packed and ready to move tomorrow morning at 3:30am. That is if the weather holds. We are all rested and anxious to establish camp 2 at 6400m on the Banana Ridge of Gasherbrum 2

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Welcome to Concordia!

The long trek up the Baltoro Glacier is nearly behind us. The whole team is feelling great and we are now looking forward to a rest day at 4600m at Concordia.

The views are amazing. K2, Broad Peak, Chogolisa, Gasherbrum 4. We are all awe struck by the stunning beauty of this place.

Despite a possible porter revolt, we will stay here to acclimitze for a full day. Then it's a long days walk to our new home for the next month, Gasherbrum 2 base camp. We will be sending our climbing gear up to base camp tomorrow with the porters who have threatened to strike and despite their attempts at bribery, we will stay here to ensure we all aren't wiped out by the time we reach the start of the climb. Just part of the game up here.

I knew things were going too smoothly.

Photo: Suresh, Mark, François & Jene-René looking at the summit of K2.


Sunday, June 15, 2008

...and then there were three.

All well at the toe of the Baltoro Glacier. The team arrived in Piaju 3400m, a large camp, earlier today and tommorow we rest and get ready for the big trek towards Concordia, K2 and the start of the next adventure, climbing Gasherbrum II. 8035 meters of fun for this excellent international group. I am looking at the Trango Towers as we speak. WOW!!!

Everyone is getting along famously and we have already become great friends, a crucial ingredient on these big trips.

All healthy and all happy, except for goat number one, ok, dinner's ready. Bye for now.


Friday, June 13, 2008

Team reaches Askole, almost..

All of the team has reached a spot about one hour from Askole by foot. Due to a number of reasons, including a road blockage, a driver revolt and another 2 washed out roads, we are now capmed in Thogol, a village with man curious children.

In fact, as I write this dispatch, I am surrounded by at least 10 little kids all trying to read these words aloud. Its so cute as well amazing how well they can read english.

Anyways I need to get back to work. All is well. Its always an adventure in the Karakorum.

Everyone sends their love back home.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

G2 2008 update: All is well in Skardu

Just a quick note from the lovely Indus Valley and the town of Skardu.

The majority of the team arrived via air this morning on what we all agreed was the most amazing flight of our lives. We has the most stunning of views of Nanga Parbat, Masherbrum and hundreds of the worlds highest peaks. We navigated through high passes with the summits brushing our wings. We all found it strange when the pilot announced "Ladies and gentelman, welcome to Skardu" before we had even landed. We took this as a sign that the danger had passed and the rest was smooth sailing. Unreal, gotta love Pakistan!!!

Mark arrives in Islamabad this evening and will be joining us on the 12th, inshalla (Urdu for: If God permits). The rest of the team members will be relaxing on my orders and getting ready for the very tough trek ahead.

Tomorrow i sort gear and drink three cups of tea with my old friends Taqui & Ashgar. Life is good and everyone is so glad to be in such a lovely place.

On a personal note: Lindsay-Bea I (Chris) miss' you oh so much. Fred says: "Mary, your would love the farbrics over here" and im sure everyone else is sending their love and best wishes back at the hotel.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Stuff of Legends

What an amazing place Pakistan is. Despite the searing 40C temps out yesterday, i managed to take a small taxi to our local expedition support office to meet with its owner Ashraf Aman. This unassuming man in his mid 70s was asleep on the couch when i arrived. He promptly jumped to his feet and gave me a warm greeting and a strong hug. I had met him last year but I had no idea who he actually was.

In 1977, with a joint Japanese Pakistani expedition he was the first Pakistani ever to stand atop the worlds 2nd highest peak, the mighty K2, still revered as the worlds most dangerous and difficult mountain. In addition to being awarded the Presidential Medal for Performance, he also made the second ascent of this killer mountain since it was first scaled in 1954 by a very skilled Italian team.

I sat awe struck as he told me how easy places like 'houses chimney' is now days, and the rock band before Camp 3. I felt like bowing down in his presence but that would have just been foolish. The bottle neck he said, is the place you DONT want to fall. Everything else is easy now. "We made the route for the rest of the world" said Mr. Aman. Oh and another thing, he didnt bother using supplementary oxygen on his ascent either. A quick look at the clothing he is wearing is a testament to the true scale of their endeavor.

Well enough about K2, for now we climb G2, slightly smaller, much tamer and a classic stepping stone to the legerdary giants like K2. I have met many expeditions here in Islamabad and it seems the flights to Skardu are running. Sadly, i awoke this morning to monsoon rains and a humidity like noting i've experienced. I forsee a 20 hour drive in our near future.

Naucho and i have already arrived and in a few short hours, Clare, Andrew, Fred and Surech will arrive and my work will begin. Tomorrow, the 10th of June, Jean Rene and Francois arrive followed by Mark on the 11th. What ever happens, we will be on the road or flight in the next 48 hours.

I send best wishes and big hugs to all on behalf of myself and all of the Field touring Alpine Gasherbrum 2 2008 expedition.

Wish us luck!


Friday, June 6, 2008

One Last Night in Kathmandu

Everything is all set and ready to go for the Field Touring
Alpine Gasherbrum 2 2008 expedition. I fly to Islamabad
tomorrow morning where i will commence the task of securing
permits, garbage deposits and local transport up the
Karakorum Highway to Skardu.

The rest of the team will be arriving between the 8th and
11th of June. We plan to fly shortly there after to Skardu
(weather permitting) at which time the monumental task of
packing for 50 days in the mountains will begin. Will will
stay in Skardu for a day or so and then load up our 70s era
Toyata Land Cruisers and head into the hills for one of the
worlds most revered treks to Gasherbrum 2 base camp.

I will dispatch as much as possible and keep all fans,
friends & families up to date on what promises to be a
fantastic adventure to the famed Karakorum giant, Gasherbrum



Saturday, May 3, 2008

Gasherbrum 2 just around the corner

Hello Team,

The big day is just around the corner. I am flying to Kathmandu on May 29th then onwards to Islamabad on June 8th 2008. Very exciting. I imagine that some of you have questions about gear items or travel stuff and may be looking for suggestions from Myself, Stu or other team members. Please feel free to access this blog website and post answers questions or suggestions. this is my first time using this blogger software but I feel strongly that it will work very well for us. In fact, I just discovered that we can send emails form Gasherbrum 2 base camp directly to this blog page.

I encourage all team members to post comments via the 'comment' link below. Lets start blogging!

All the best and Climb on


photo: Sebastian, Chris in the down suit and Asgar convalescing at camp 2 on Spantik. Twan.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Gasherbrum II Expedition - The South West Ridge Route

This is a professionally organized and led expedition, that is partly guided. In that respect the leader provides the general support and maintains the logistics and safety support for the team, while it is expected that all team members be self sufficient at least on the low to intermediate slopes, and be able to undertake movement between the camps unsupervised. Those members that wish to undertake their summit bid in the company of the leaders will generally be able to do so, while more experienced climbers retain the flexibility to move independently.

To be an eligible member on this expedition you must be very competent, and posses the necessary stamina and experience to be a contributing player in the ascent. Gasherbrum II is part of the greater Gasherbrum group of 5 peaks, 2 of which soar over 8000m, and is the world's 13th highest peak. She is roundly held as one of the most straightforward and accessible of the fourteen, and climbers on her normal route, if sufficiently resourced and prepared, enjoy good summit rates in clement weather.

The climb is fully supported with the highest quality ground, base-camp, and leadership resources, and all group gear (HA and BC tents, tech gear, ropes, stoves etc) are included in the trip fee. This expedition represents an outstanding opportunity to be a part of an extremely well priced, expertly managed, and comprehensively resourced 8000m ascent.