Thursday, December 8, 2011

FTA Autumn trip report

From Ben Kane
Brisbane, Australia

Note: Ben is only home for  a few weeks before he heads of to Aconcagua for the Polish Glacier (Jan 10) and False Polish (Feb 2). We still have a few spots left on each trip as well as the Feb 2 Polish Glacier with Stu Remensnyder. See the FTA site for all the details!

Well what an amazing season! I have finally made it back home to Australia. Its been an epic Autumn season in the Himalaya, and we've had so much fun with such a great crew.

Ama Dablam Nov 2011
Ama Dablam was a great success and we topped out on the 24th of Nov in very clear weather. It was great to be back on the mountain that was my introduction to the high Himalaya back in 2007. The upper part of the route seems to have changed dramatically since then, with more hard ice and exposed rock. Having said that, we managed to summit from Camp 2, which involved some incredible night climbing of the Grey Tower and a stellar dawn on the exposed Mushroom Ridge! For lovers of exposure, this is a must do climb.
Ama Dablam 2012 Info

Khumbu Peaks and Passes  Oct 2011
Our Khumbu Peaks and Passes expedition in October was a blast. For those that wish to get to know the Khumbu & Gokyo region and do a bit of climbing along the way, this is a full itinerary jam-packed with four peaks and three high pass crossings. A superb introduction to Himalayan climbing.
Khumbu Peaks and Passes info

Satopanth September 2011
Satopanth is a semi-technical peak in the Garwhal range of Northern India. In September we ran our second expedition to this peak and had great success, summiting from Camp 2. The peak involves an approach from the holy village of Gangotri, past the headwaters of the Ganges river at Gamukh,
establishing base camp at a lake under the awesome west face of Visuki Peak. Climbing on the mountain entails a glacier approach, some amazing mixed climbing to gain Camp 2 and a very exposed ridge to gain the upper face and summit. The exposure and surrounding scenery make for one
incredible climb. Incredible India they say, and it is true.
Satopanth Info

Big Thanks
A big thanks goes out to our local staff, Siddhi, Pemba, Uttara, Ratna, Arun and of course Nima T. Sherpa. Thank you so much. I'd also like to thank our Ama Dablam guide staff Brad Jackson (assistant guide) and Meagan McGrath (guide-in-training) for their great contributions.

Finally, I'd like to thank all of our members that joined our expeditions, Gavin, Scott & Nicole, Veronika, Richard, Seng, Mattias, Colin and Bryson. Thanks for a wonderful Autumn and for all the great memories. All the best for the future and I hope to see you out in the hills one day soon.

Next up - Aconcagua Polish and False Polish
Aconcagua's Polish Glacier
As for me, straight back into training! We've got our Jan 10 Polish Glacier and Feb 2 False Polish and Polish Glacier climbs coming up shortly, and with spaces filling quickly, make sure you jump on as soon as possible!

These trips are about the most fun you can have in the mountains, a great introductory to high altitude with minimal objective danger and the rich cultural experience that Mendoza, Argentina has to offer (and the best Malbec & steak in the world).
Polish Glacier Climb | False Polish Climb

All the best and enjoy the festive season,


Thursday, November 24, 2011

FTA Ama Dablam 2011 - Summits!!

from stu in the usa office
24 Nov, 2011

Ben called in a few minutes ago from camp 2 with Ama Dablam summit news - here goes!

The entire team left at about 2:30am on a clear and calm morning and then made their way up the Grey tower fully in the dark. Ben said that it was a wonderful climb and that he enjoyed it even more than when he has climbed it during the daytime. 
There is something about climbing in the dark that is hard to describe but the small pool of light that illuminates your small section of the route give you complete focus on the next step but little more. The sense of scale and danger that can give you vertigo in the daylight are absence and the experience is much more intimate. Mostly just the sound of your crampons scraping on the rock or crunching in the ice and the distant din of other climbers the only hint that anyone else in the world exists.

The grey tower with the snow ramp visible just above the Brad's red helmet in 2005

The Grey Tower (really a couloir of sorts) is a wonderful mixed section of rock, snow and ice and always requires creative climbing from hooking ice axes on rock to grabbing icy pockets with gloves...anything goes in this couloir! The tower joins a steeply slanting ridge which is climbed to gain an airy traverse which then gives way to the purest climb on the route...2-3 pitches of 50-70° snow and ice. This section is always enjoyable and quite sustained leaving one breathless upon reaching the Mushroom Ridge
As the sun broke and they crested onto the Mushroom Ridge the wind picked up and it was very cold for a few hours but they were already well warmed up from the earlier effort. Ben estimates that they had winds of perhaps 15-20 km/h which was about as good as we had hoped for but this wind still sapped them a bit and it stayed with them for much of the rest of the morning. Ben said that they all climbed with down jackets on when it can be quite usual to only have on a down jacket at rest points.

They encountered very hard blue ice along the side of the "dablam" above the old camp 3 and Ben said it was very difficult climbing and they all enjoyed it thoroughly. As they neared the top the winds died down and Ben said that it was "stinking hot" climbing the last 20 mins or so and that he was really surprised how quickly the temperature moderated. As such they enjoyed a calm and beautiful summit celebration with view to Cho Oyu, Everest, Makalu and of course looking down on Island Peak where they had been just a week ago.

Between 11:30am and noon the following members of our team summited:

Benjamin Kane
Siddhi Bahadur Tamang
Meeagan McGrath
Bryson McLellan
Colin Carnahan

Brad made a prudent decision to abort the push about an hour or so from the top and begin to work back towards C2 and to be ready to support and challenges the summit group might have on the way down. Always good to have level headed climbers who climb within themselves and Brad is a great example. Taking several efforts to summit Everest and with climbs on Ama Dablam, Denali and more in his background Brad follows in the Ed Viesturs model of knowing the hill will be there next time and following gut instincts... good stuff Brad!

Ben noted that the summit area had changed considerably in the last few years and that it is no longer a long flattish top but rather marked by crevasses and a series of minor peaks. It will be interesting to compare images from Ben's last summit and this years. We'll have a great image gallery for the main site put together when the team is back in Kathmandu and post a bunch here.

The team will clear the hill and had back to BC tomorrow for a well earned summit supper! They have already moved up the flights from Lukla and now hope to be back in Kathmandu on the 29th if all goes well.

Next Up - Aconcagua
Ben will then get a well deserved break until the heads off to Argentina in January to lead our Jan 10 Polish Glacier climb and our Feb 5 False Polish Glacier climbs.  We have spaces still on both climbs as well as our Feb 5 Polish Glacier climb (with Stu) so let us know if you want to join Ben and FTA for a trip to the top of the Americas!

Further Ahead - Ama Dablam 2012
We are already taking bookings for Ama Dablam in May 2012 as well as Oct and Nov 2012 and are looking for motivated climbers to join us!

We'll have more updates as the team makes their way out to the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu so stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

FTA Ama Dablam 2011 - in C1 on summit push!

from stu in the usa office
Nov 22, 2011

Ben called in a few minutes ago to let us know that everyone was feeling great in C1 and they are planning to move up to C2 tomorrow. They had a great weather all day long but for a few clouds in the afternoon. When Ben called they were brewing up tea and and enjoying a beautiful and clear sunset. 

Setting sun along the ridge between C1 and C2 © stu remensnyder

If the winds remain calm they'll aim for the top on the 24th or 25th.The last few days have seen very calm winds but they are unfortunately looking to pick up a bit for the next 4-5 days so our team will have some wind for sure and we hope not too much. The predictions are for winds between 15 and 30kmph at the 7000m level and depending on how much shelter they get from the wind they may not even feel much of it till the summit plateau. 

Ama Dablam from just above base camp © stu remensnyder
I recall in 2005 having nearly no wind all the way to the top but just after cresting the ridge with winds were so strong you could not hear another person talk and spending more than 5 mins on the top made no sense. After dropping down just 50 meters it was once again quite calm and nice. We'll hope our team sees such a pattern enabling them to climb with little or no wind for most of the day.

climbing above C2 © stu remensnyder
The teams coming down have mentioned that the mushroom ridge is quite soft and it has been difficult to manage with big packs so our team is looking to summit from C2 to avoid the need for heavy packs to C3. As such they will have to depart at 2am and manage the cold of the early morning before catching and warming rays if sun. Our team in 2010 did this as well so it is something Siddhi is ready for and has good experience doing! 

the awesome traverse just below the mushroom ridge © stu remensnyder
The team has spare days yet so they will be cautious about pushing through cold and wind and if this bid does not go they will rest up a few days and try again.

Ben plans to call in from C2 with the latest on the plan for  a summit bid and we'll have that tomorrow!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

FTA Ama Dablam 2011 - Island Peak Summits!

from stu in the USA office
17th Nov, 2011

Ben just called in from Dingboche with the great news that all 6 members of the team summited Island Peak today and are all safely back down!

 Island Peak Summits

They left Island Peak BC on a crisp and clear morning at 2am and topped out at 9:30am with perfect views of Lhotse, Nuptse, Ama Dablam, Baruntse, Makalu and more. After many days with clouds and snow they were treated to a great day for a summit push. Ben said they climbed well as a team and were all really happy to make the first of hopefully two summits!

Island Peak summiteers are:
Benjamin Kane
Siddhi Bahadur Tamang
Brad Jackson
Meeagan McGrath
Bryson McLellan
Colin Carnahan

After enjoying a celebratory rest on the top they made their way back to base camp by noon and decided to make a good push towards Ama Dablam BC. The happy team had a well-earned lunch, packed up and tromped for another 5 hours and arrived at Dingboche at 7pm by headtorch! They all really wanted to get back down lower for a good sleep and to make the trek back into Ama Dablam BC tomorrow an easy one.

Looking back to Island Peak from near Dingboche. Everest is lurking somewhere behind the massive Lhotse wall on the left!

Ama Dablam Next Up

Friday, November 11, 2011

Ama Dablam FTA Autumn 2011 - Lukla, Namche and Khunde Ri

From Stu in the USA office
Nov 10, 2011

Ben called in a short while ago from Namche with the latest on the team and it sounds like everyone is doing very well! They had just come down from a good day on Khunde Ri and pizza in Khumjung and are headed off to the rhododendron forests of Tengboche and Deboche tomorrow.

Getting to Lukla 

On Oct 6th, after a day of prep in Kathmandu, our team departed early in the morning for the airport without much optimism in catching a flight to Lukla. The delays due to weather had stranded a large number of trekkers in Lukla and created a huge backlog in Kathmandu  - with estimates of some 1200 or more at each end of the short flight. When it became clear our team would be unable to board one of the regularly scheduled flights, our amazing ground agent Nima pulled a few strings and secured a helicopter. 

Faced with the depressing prospect of returning day after day to the airport, our teams was suddenly in the air and shortly after in Lukla! Due to the limited carrying capacity of the helicopter only half of the bags went up the team and the plan was for Nima to accompany the remaining cargo on a later flight. Nima left shortly after as planned but unfortunately his flight was turned about just before Lukla due to continued bad weather and he returned to Kathmandu.

Thank you to Nima
On the 7th Nima was able to make the full flight to Lukla and arranged the bags to be sent by yak and porter to catch up with our team in Namche. So all in all Nima spent nearly 2 full days just making sure our team and bags made it up to Lukla. Attending to the myriad of small details to ensure a smooth trip is sufficient work in and of itself and it is clear year ofter year that not many teams have such a dedicated and connected person to work with in Nepal. We at FTA are grateful to Nima's personal attention and caring nature and know we have been fortunate to have made his acquaintance more than eight years ago. Thanks again Nima Dai!

On To Namche
After arriving in Lukla and working there way down the valley the team spent the night near Phakding and began going over key topics for the trip which include everything from health and sanitation to altitude medicine and climbing techniques.

Ben, Brad and Meagan will be covering a large list of topics and will share with the members everything they have learned from their collective climbs, expeditions and adventures. Given where these three have been this is a not inconsequential list. Between them the have been to the seven summits and both poles and the list of expeditions is rather daunting: Aconcagua (Polish, Falso and Normal), Ama DablamBroad Peak, Cho Oyu, Denali, Everest, Island Peak, Kilimanjaro,  K2,  Lobuche, Lhotse, North Pole, Tharpu Chuli, Satopanth, South Pole, Vinson, and on and on!

You can see mini bios for all the members on the FTA Ama Dablam 2011 team page

Namche Days
Since arriving in Namche on the 8th the members have been working on good acclimatization with an easy day on the 9th (including a dry run on fixed rope technique) and a more full day on the 10th which included summiting Khunde Ri (4500m) and the all important traditional pizza and in the Everest Bakery in Khumjung.

Brad Jackson is the designated photographer and he has sent the following images to give a sense of the journey so far...enjoy!

Waiting it out in the airport in Kathmandu! © brad jackson
Sorting gear in Lukla © brad jackson

Megan, Bryson, Ben and Colin in Phakding © brad jackson
Acclimatizing in Namche © brad jackson
High on Khunde Ri with Ama Dablam behind © brad jackson
View from Khunde Ri during our crucial second acclimatization day in Namche.
Everest, Lhotse and Ama Dablam in the background and the two towns below
are Khunde (3850) and Khumjung

Ben heading into the world's highest bakery in Khumjung © brad jackson

We'll  have more from the team in the days ahead!

Friday, November 4, 2011

FTA Khumbu Peaks & Passes 2011 - Recap

from Ben in Kathmandu
4th Nov, 2011

With everyone departed from Kathmandu this brings an end to our 2011 Khumbu Peaks &
Passes expedition. We are already looking forward to coming back again in 2012 so book your spots soon!

Ama Dablam soars above Pangboche © Ben Kane

Despite Seng having to leave the trip early and an impassable Cho La due to snow conditions, the trip was quite successful. Seng set a new personal height record on Chukung Ri at 5400m and the rest all managed to get a 6000m summit. It was a jam-packed itinerary with everyday bringing a new experience and wonderful vista.

Gokyo Lake camp site © Ben Kane

Our Nepali staff worked had to provide us with a great mobile 'base camp', the quality of the food outstanding and they were always there to give insight and perspective on the local culture.

Parsu "Tsering" Ram Rai on Ama Dablam in 2005 © stu remensnyder

A big thank you goes out to Tsering Rai, our much loved Sherpa, along with our cook Pemba, both of who worked long hours whilst we took in the amazing landscapes!

FTA Team dropping in on Khumjung © Ben Kane

I'd like to wish Veronika, Mattias, Richard and Seng all the best for the future and thank them for being great members on such an amazing and fun expedition.

Ama Dablam is underway in the next few days, keep checking in for updates!
All the best,


Camping in downtown Namche © Ben Kane

Friday, October 28, 2011

FTA Khumbu Peaks & Passes - En Route to Kathmandu

Ben called in to let us know that the team had a great trip over the Renjo La and enjoyed a great time in Gokyo as well as a wonderful trek over the Renjo la to Thame a cruise back to Namche.

The entire team made it up Gokyo Ri a few days ago with some going in the morning and others for sunset. Ben and Richard decided to brave the cold of sunset and were rewarded with a few minutes of perfect sunset light on Everest as it poked up out of the layer of clouds which had kept it hidden during most of the their hike to the top. The morning crew had clearer weather the entire time so both groups were happy for their efforts!

On the pass they had more good views of Everest and the surrounding mountains and especially enjoyed the ease with which they could hike being so well acclimatized. In Thame they had some light snow but mostly clear weather and the trek back to Namche was very beautiful as well. Today they made the long trek back to Lukla and will catch the morning flight back to Kathmandu to enable them to enjoy a few days of sightseeing in Kathmandu!

Ben will come back into town and after seeing this crew off to the airport will get onto the preparations for our Ama Dablam Nov 4 expedition. He'll be joined during the course of the week by Brad, Meagan, Bryson and Colin during the course of the week and they will fly up to Lukla on the 6th. In the meantime we'll hope to hve a bunch of great pics from the team over the week ahead!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

FTA Khumbu Peaks and Passes - in Gokyo

Ben called in from Gokyo to let us know that everyone was feeling great and that they had reached Gokyo with excellent weather and were looking forward to a full day in Gokyo. They took the high route across the eastern side of the glacier and then crossed over after joining up with the same path they would have had from the Cho La.

During the day in Gokyo they plan to hike up Gokyo Ri and take in the panoramic views once if not twice to capture sunrise and sunset views of Everest and the valley. The best for photos is really the sunset so they hope to have good weather and will bring sleeping bags and flashlights so they can stay late!

They will be heading out shortly to go over the 5300m Renjo La and around to Thame and this will be there most remote section of the trek with the high pass and proximity to Cho Oyu and Tibet.  They will pass most if not all of the Gokyo Lakes which have tremendous religious and are reported to be the highest fresh water system of lakes in the world. These lake help make life possible in the towns below and they have been studies as representative of climactic changes and concerns over potential flooding downstream.
Here are a few links to get you started:

In Thame they will have the pleasure of visiting a wonderful monastery perched high on a hill overlooking the valley filled with fields, homes and tea houses.

From Thame they can also take hike up towards the pass to the Trashi Labsta pass which leads to the Rowaling Valley and a near encounter with Tibet. This is a pass we are looking forward to visiting next year as we expand our "tough treks" options which now include the Khumbu Peaks and Passes, K2 BC, Stok Kangri, Noshaq and more!

We will have news shortly from the team about their day in Gokyo and progress on the trek!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

FTA Khumbu Peaks and Passes - Snowy Days en route to Gokyo

From Stu in the USA office

Ben called in on his cell phone from Pangbiche to let us know that the team had to reroute to get to Gokyo as a large snowfall all day made it impossible to go over Cho La safely. With low visibility and avalanche risk too high they instead  dropped back down to Pangbiche and will go to Gokyo by way of Upper Pangboche and Phorste.

The monastery in Pangboche is some 600 years old and the oldest in the Khumbu. The Lama is often called upon to perform the Puja for expeditions as they prepare to climb and is a busy person at this time of year with so many groups coming through!

Friday, October 21, 2011

FTA Khumbu Peaks and Passes - Lobuche East Summits!

from stu in the USA office
Oct 20, 2011

Lobuche East update
Ben called in from base camp to let us know that everyone was doing well and that they had just returned from the summit of Lobuche East's "Far East" summit!

Mattias, Richards, Tsering and Ben all made it to the top while Veronika stopped about 100m shy of the top when she felt her energy wane and wanted to be sure to have good reserves for the descent. Ben said they began the day with great views and great conditions but as the summit neared they lost much of their visibility so unfortunately did not have much of a view on the top. Nonetheless they had a great day and were down getting ready for a good supper. Congrats to all of them for a job well and prudently done!

FTA guide Sean James high on Lobuche © chris szymiec

Next up - Cho la & Gokyo Ri
With the main climbing portion of the trip done they will send back their tech gear and now enjoy crossing two of the great passes in the Khumbu region: The Cho La and the Renjo la. The Cho La pass (at 5330m) will bring them over to the Gokyo valley and while they are there they will climb up the non-technical Gokyo Ri and be treated to one of the best views to be had of Everest.
From the top of Gokyo Ri (5367m) which is just a 2 hour scamper from Gokyo village, Everest sits up in a grand fashion as a rocky and icy pyramid. One has great views of some of the most demanding and difficult lines of Everest. One can aslso take in a single sweeping view 5 of the highest peaks on the planet with Everest, Cho Oyu, Makalu, Lhotse and Nuptse. in the foreground of these giants lie the jagged peaks of Cholatse and Tawoche and the turqoise lakes of the Gokyo valley.

Our team will move up to a small cluster of lodges at Dzhonglha (4860m) just before the Cho La pass today and have nice views back to much of the climb they just completed. Tomorrow they will head over the pass and stop at Dragnak (5025m) which is a tiny village tucked in against the lowest flanks of the pass. From there they will cross the undulating and intricate maze of the Ngozumpa glacier to reach the trekking trail and an easy finish into the small village of Gokyo (4780m). The Ngozumpa  Glacier is the longest in Nepal and stretches from Cho Oyu to Cholatse and our team will follow its western edge after Gokyo to make their final pass crossing over the Renjo La.

Crossing the Cho La © chris szymiec
Join Us Next Time
This is a wonderful and demanding trek and we are looking forward to putting it on again in each spring and autumn so have a look on our site and let us know when you can make it!

We have a few spots open for Ama Dablam with Ben Kane starting Nov 4 and would love to fill them. Check out the trip page and let us know if you are interested!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

FTA Khumbu Peaks & Passes - Lobuche summit bid tonight!

From Stu in the USA office

nearing the summit ridge on lobuche
Ben called in the from high camp at 5200m on Lobuche to let us know that the team is set for a 3am departure for the top of Lobuche East! They had just finished a good supper and were all settled in their tents after having enjoyed a pleasant afternoon making their way from base camp to high camp. Ben said that Tsering had fixed about 200m of rope on the steeper access section and that they were camped out just below the snow line with great views to Ama Dablam, the Everest/Nuptse massif and with extraordinary views to Cholatse and Tawoche.

They'll be up at 2:30am for breakfast and off at 3am and we'll look forward to hearing their news when they are back down to base camp if not sooner!

Monday, October 17, 2011

FTA Khumbu Peaks & Passes - Pokalde summit bid

From Stu in the USA office
Oct 17, 2011

Lobuche Ridge
Pokalde Summit bid
Ben called in from a high camp on the far side of the Kongma La to let us know that a large part of our team had made a good effort on Pokalde only to be turned back near the top by suspect conditions. Ben, Tsering, Veronika, Richard, Mattias and Pemba all climbed quite high on Pokalde and reached the final summit ridge only to meet with a 6in/15cm covering of new loose snow on top of the loose rocks of the ridge. Had they had several feet of snow or none at all the route would have been quite good tot he true top but the loose and unsonsolidated nature of the ridge made it prudent to celebrate on the false summit and save the energies for the main prize to come - Lobuche E.

After descending from the climb back to the pass they pushed further on down the slope and tomorrow will head to Lobuche Base Camp for a summit bid expected to be on the 19th if all goes well. Ben plans to check in again when they reach base camp so we'll have an update then on the main group.

Evac from Deboche
At the same time as Pokalde was being tackled the decision was made for Seng to come on out from the trek as he was simply not recovering despite having moved all the way down to Deboche. We had hoped that descending (along with one of our Sherpa guides Geylu) to the last place that Seng felt great might have allowed him to recuperate but he awoke after his second night there feeling fatigued and with signs of potentially serious altitude illness. Rather than take any risks we arranged a helicopter ride for Seng and he caught a chopper from Tengboche straight back to Kathmandu where he is feeling better and already resting for the night. As always our Nepal agent Nima was amazing  and got the helicopter to lift off from Lukla within minutes of the decision - Thanks Nima Dai!

Prayer Flags on the Everest trek near Deboche

We'll have more news from Lobuche and Kathmandu in the days ahead but below I am adding a few thoughts about altitude illness and HAPE in particular as this was the concern we had in Seng's case.

Brief HAPE (High Altitude Pulmonary Edema) primer
For a good overview on altitude illness we recommend checking out the CIWEC clinic and the SOLO Wilderness Medicine blog


The most crucial thing about treatment of any suspected HAPE is that descent is the definitive cure. No matter what medications or equipment you have, it is getting much lower down that will allow one to recover. Sometimes this can be as little as a few thousand feet and other times it may mean 10000ft /3000m or more.  HAPE can sometimes be slow to progress and other times quite fast and it is highly and rapidly debilitating and exacerbated by exertion at altitude.

All of this is therefore problematic for someone in Deboche (at approx 3700m) with signs and symptoms of HAPE is that they are unable to descend a nice smoothly downward sloping trail - like one might find going from high on Aconcagua to one the the two main base camps. Instead they must surmount a small rise to Tengboche (approx3850m) drop steeply down to the Dudh Kosi river at Phunki Tanga (3250m) and then then ascend again a few hundred meters before finally reaching a somewhat flat but undulating trail to Namche (at approx 3500-3600m).  This trek takes perhaps 4-6 hours for an acclimatized person feeling well and is not an insignificant trek.

If someone with altitude sickness was to make the effort to go over the hill and down to the river and then find themselves without the ability to climb back up to the trail it could be very serious indeed. In the end it simply makes no sense to attempt such a walk out if there is a good alternative. The most rapid and valuable is a helicopter ride all the way back to Kathmandu. In a matter of hours one can be back to the oxygen rich environment with minimal exertion.

Serious symptoms late in the progression of HAPE are easy to spot as they include awful things like patients coughing up pink frothy sputum, ashen having altered mental status (from confusion to unconsciousness) and patients needing assistance to move or being unable to move on their own.

The crucial thing is to see the early signs and react with caution. Headaches that do not resolve after some rest and drinking (or even some aspirin, ibuprofen etc), lack of recovery of energy after resting, personality changes (more reserved, more anxious, more cranky) and so on. It is very common for trekkers and climbers to feel the effect of altitude and that often means feeling winded while working hard, having a mild headache or being a bit off your game. But these things should all go away when resting or after a good night sleep. If they do not then then best thing is to stay at the same altitude or descend until they resolve.

The vast majority of people who have mild acute mountain sickness (AMS) recover just fine with going back to the last place they felt great or taking an extra night where they are. Sometimes even with these precautions the altitude illness progresses and people need to get down and out of the hills and come back another day.

Have any questions about altitude illness? Be sure to send them to us at "" or drop the question on our Facebook wall.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

FTA Khumbu Peaks and Passes - Island Peak Summits!

from Stu in the USA office
Oct 15, 2011

Ben just called in with the update on the sussmit push with the good news that Veronika and Tsering topped out this morning and that they are already back in Chukung! They left the high camp at 3 am and topped out at 7:45am so were moving very quickly. Congrats to them both!

Mattias and Richard were feeling the effects of altitude and decided wisely to hold off on a summit bid and keep on a good track for Pokalde, Lobuche, Gokyo and the trip ahead. Mattias did take a good walk up towards the high camp and both he and Richard are ready to go for Pokalde high camp and the Kongma la tomorrow.

Seng has had the hardest time with the altitude and came back down to Dingboche from the Island Peak BC and Ben has been keeping a watchful eye on him. Today Ben and Seng decided it would be best for him to descend back to Deboche which is the last place he felt great and give him a few days of rest and acclimatization there. While the main group goes over the Kongma La, Seng will take it easy there along with our asst chef Geylu. If Seng is feeling well after a few nights there they will come back up to Pheriche and then on to Lobuche and meet up with the main team for the corssing of the Cho La. One of the good things about Deboche and the Rivendale Lodge is that Seng will have access to email so we'll hope for a nice note from him shortly.

As I mentioned in my last dispatch acclimatization is an individual matter and each member needs to listen to their body and move wisely. Sometimes it is simply a matter of slowing down during a day and breathing more, other times it means extra nights and ever now and then it even means descending. It is easy to forget as one treks by villages with children laughing and playing that these are still very high altitudes and need to be respected.

Ben and the main group will travel light with a few porters over the Kongma La and the cook staff and porters will meet them on the other side to join up for Lobuche BC.With good luck the entire team will head over the Cho La into the Gokyo valley in less than a weeks time carrying summits of Island Peak, Pokalde and Lobuche with them!

We'll have more news in the days ahead!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

FTA Khumbu Peaks and Passes - Island Peak summit bid ahead!

from stu in the USA office
October 13, 2011

Ben called in today with great news from the Khumbu - our team is all ensconced in a moonlit base camp and planning on a summit on the 15th of October!

They had just finished a fine pizza supper and were headed to get some sleep after a full day at the base camp. Ben said that our cook Pemba has been knocking out one great meal after another and they are looking forward to the weight loss plan of the high altitude climbs! During the hikes and meals they have had a good time getting to know each other and have been enjoying each others company very much.

FTA guide Brad Boehringer chowing down a big meal en route to Ama Dablam in 2005

Much of their day today was spent on a full skills review of fixed line movement, crampon and ice axe use and more. Some of our members have extensive experience including attempts on 8000m peaks and were able to enjoy the review and share their experience. Others have limited exposure to technical climbing and the day presented a wonderful opportunity to get ready for the climb ahead on their first 6000m peak. As everyone had been away form the mountains for some time they all benefited from the practice and review and everyone is feeling good about the climbs ahead.

The climbing will be coordinated by our lead guide Ben and lead sherpa Tsering along with a sherpa-in-training Pemba. We hope that all 4 members will feel strong enough to make a summit push but the morning will be important for an assessment of acclimatization for everyone. As they have a full trip ahead with 3 more climbs there is now need to push and anyone feeling any altitude effects tomorrow will likely take an extra rest day at BC and make a walk up to the high camp while the main team goes for the summit. After this attempt on Island Peak they will move on to Pokalde which will give everyone another peak to acclimatize on before the climb on Lobuche.
Learning the basics of roped climbing with ice axe and crampons is fun and rewarding!

As is always the case people have acclimatized at different rates with some members feeling the altitude earlier in the trip and others more recently. Acclimatization is an "experiment of one" and each person must find their own schedule over time. For members who have extensive high altitude backgrounds the program can be looked at ahead of time and know it will be fine. For others making their first foray into high altitude it is in many respects a big unkown and they are being asked to follow an accepted schedule that may in fact not work for them. We are always mindful that we may need to adjust the program for individuals who don't conform to the traditional altitude jumps. As such Ben has been checking in regularly with the members, taking pulse oxymeter readings and keeping a watchful eye on everyone. So far everyone has been going well despite the occasional mild headache and Ben is hopeful they will all be ready to go tomorrow to high camp.

Ben will call with more news in the days ahead so stay tuned!

Monday, October 10, 2011

FTA Khumbu Peaks and Passes - In Tenboche

Ben sent in a couple of updates over the weekend and here they are for you to enjoy! They have already arrived in Tenboche and we'll have more news shortly!

FTA camp site in the heart of Namche © Ben Kane

Oct 8, 2011
From Ben in Namche

Greetings from Namche Bazaar!

After waking up at 4:30am and a few expected delays in the airport, we finally took off for Lukla airstrip. This truly is one of the most amazing plane flights in the world and for some the highlight of the trip into the Solo Khumbu valley.

We had a quick repack of gear in Lukla and then it was straight onto the trail, stopping for a lazy lunch and getting into Phakding mid-afternoon, arriving to our tents already set up and more hot drinks awaiting us. Everyone had a lovely nights sleep with the sound of the river cascading close by, and up bright and early with 'bed-tea' (chai served to us in our sleeping bags!), a hearty breakfast and off on the trail early. It's great to get going early as it is cool and the air is crisp and clear.

We finally made it into Namche early afternoon, which involves a steep hill climb, but the views from the top are worth it! Unfortunately we couldn't see Everest due to some clouds but many of the awesome peaks surrounding Namche were peering out through the cloud.

Tomorrow we plan a hike up to Khunde Ri, and a circuit over to Khumjung (a visit to the bakery) and some sightseeing around town.

All the best and more to come!

Trekking above Namche © Ben Kane
Oct 9, 20011
From Ben in Namche

Today we went for a hike up to Khumjung by way of Syangboche (and the amazing high altitude airstrip) and had a very quick view of Everest, Lhotse and Ama Dablam before the clouds set in. We made it back down to Namche for lunch and hot drinks. We all did some laundry and lazed about in
the warm afternoon sun after our big day out.

Tomorrow we are up early for our hike up to Tengboche, and hopefully we'll get a peek inside the famous monastery. Everyone is feeling really good and acclimatising well which bodes well for the coming days of ascent.

Stay tuned, more from the trail,

FTA Khumbu Peaks & Passes 2011 team in Kathmandu.
From L to R :Seng, Matttias, Veronika, Richard and Ben

[Below are some additional pics from our files to help you enjoy the scenery!]

Namche Airstrip © Stu Remensnyder

Model Trekker sign at the Sagarmartha Park entrance © stu remensnyder
Waking up to a hot tea on the trail! © stu remensnyder
Crossing a bridge below Namche © stu remensnyder
Porter loads taking a break on the trail :-)  © stu remensnyder

Noshaq 2012 Pilot Program

Noshaq base-camp with the west ridge in the background © Louis Munier
Noshaq 2012 Pilot Program

Send us your name and email address to get on the updates list for this trip next year in the Hindu Kush.

Team size max of 12 and as a new program in 'recce mode' costs will be kept as low as possible. While the hill is only 62kms from Chitral, we'll be going in via Dushanbe and Ishkashim ensuring we dont stand on any Afghan territory while holding only Pakistani visas - the summit is in Afghanistan, while much of the rest of the mountain is in Pakistan!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

FTA Khumbu Peaks and Passes - In Namche!

Ben dropped us a note a few minutes ago to let us know that they have reached Namche and eveyone is feeling well. They will have an acclimatization day tomorrow which usually includes run to the famous Khumjung Bakery for a pizza lunch at the "world's highest bakery"!

Ben will drop us an update before they head off in a few days towards Island Peak.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

FTA Khumbu Peaks and Passes - under way!

All of our members are assembled in Kathamndu and they will fly to Lukla in the morning to get the trip truly under way! Ben will post a pic of the team shortly and we'll have a full opening dispatch shortly!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

FTA Satopanth 2011 - Back in BC with Champagne!

Spantik update - Safe in BC and headed out tomorrow!
Ben called in from BC to let us know that Gavin pulled out a stash of champagne and they had a great toast to the success of the trip last night! They will enjoy a final day today at BC getting packed up and ready to go when porters will arrive on the 25th. They will be out to Gangotri on the 26th and back in Delhi on the 29th if all goes well.

We will look forward to seeing all the photos from the climb and post a bunch here in a weeks time!

Next Trips for FTA
Already we are getting prepared in Nepal as we head to the Khumbu with Island Peak, Lobuche, Ama Dablam and more in the months ahead! We have some space still on out Oct & Nov trips so let us know if you fancy a challenging climb on a high peak or if you want to undertake one of the great treks to Everrest Base Camp!

We are already filling up our February Aconconcagua False Polish trip and have comfirmed Polish Glacier climbs in January and February as well. We are nearing confirmation of Ecuador trips and have spaces in January and February.

Farther Ahead
We have had a lot of interest in our  new Noshaq trip for next summer as well as a confirmed trip to Stok Kangri next September. Along with our usual Cho Oyu in April/May, Broad Peak & G2 in June/July and Spanik in August we are hopeful to add Nanga Parbat and a host of new "prep" trips to our lineup.

Prep trips
Heading to a high peak and want  a specific prep trip without the delays and challenges of high altitude? Join FTA guides for 8000m & 7000m prep trips in the Cascades (USA). Add a little more altitude and join us in Ecuador , Alaska & Argentina for prep trips as well. Watch our site for more info in the weeks ahead or drop us a note and we'll add you to our mailing list!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

FTA Satopanth 2011 - Summits!!!!

from Stu in the USA office
Sept 22, 2011

Ben has just called in with the good word from C2 - he and Nicole and Scott all topped out at 1:45pm!!!

They left C2 at about 5am and after nine hours of fantastic climbing and great view they reached the top and enjoyed great views of Shivling, Bhagirathi, Nanda Devi and more! The descent back to C2 took them about 4 hours of careful climbing on the sharp ridges and they were "a bit shagged" by the time they plunked down in their tents.

They were welcomed back by the HAP's Suresh and Sawan who had waited in reserve at C2 in case of any troubles on the summit bid. Ben said that aside from a few clouds and bit of wind they had a perfect day for the summit and Scott has already proclaimed it to be one of the best trips he's ever been on!

Ben has been on quite a few peaks (including Ama Dablam, Cho Oyu & Broad Peak) and sadi the route was as spectacular as anything he's been on. There is no doubt that this is one of the best remote and exciting climbs we have in the FTA lineup and we look forward to coming back in 2012 for a third successful trip!

When Ben gets back into Delhi in a weeks time we'll put up  a bunch of pics from this years exped and in the meantime you can enjoy  a few from our 2009 trip!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

FTA Satopanth 2011 - Summit Bid Ahead!

From Stu in the USA office
Sept 21, 2011

Satopanth Update
Ben called in just a few hours ago from C2 at 6000m to let us know that they are in position to make a summit bid tomorrow!

The route has been fixed out across the ridge (which leads to a sometimes used C3 at 6400m) and they plan to make a push from C2 to the top along with a Dutch team that is on the hill. At this time we have Ben, Suresh, Sawan, Nicole and Scott ready to leave at 4:30am for the top! Gavin is down at BC and doing well and ready to cheer them on as they make the push.

As they plan to leave from the base camp on the 25th or 26th at this time they have some room for a second attempt but this will be likely their best moment. The weather is perfect and it has not snowed in some days so the conditions are quite stable. They have the steep part of the ridge prepared and have a strong number of climbers to push the route where needed!

C2 vs C3 for a summit bid?
Making a push from C2 on Satopanth is akin to making a push from C2 on Ama Dablam. The benefits include being able to move lighter on steep sections without tents, sleeping bags, food, fuel and sleeping a bit lower means a better night of rest before the push.  It does make a for a longer day and without a higher camp they may feel the altitude a bit more. So their acclimatization and fitness will be tested for sure but they feel that the effort to push all the gear up to a C3 is not worth it for them as they feel they have the speed and strength for a summit from C2. The Dutch team is feeling the same way so that is good!

Ben plans to call in at the end of the day and let us know how the effort and we'll post the news as soon as we have it.

Earthquake not felt at Satopanth
I asked about the earthquake and Ben said they never felt anything at all and had not seen any unusual avalanche activity. I shared the news of the event and the damage to life and property in India, Tibet and Nepal and he was sad to hear the update. He and the entire team share their condolences to everyone affected by the quake.

Next for FTA
Ben will come out from this trip and head right back to Nepal to lead our Oct 5 Khumbu Peaks & Passes trip and then our Nov 4 Ama Dablam. We have spaces on both trips still with last minute discounts available so let us know!

Monday, September 19, 2011

FTA Satopanth 2011 - Update from C1

from stu in the usa office
Sept 19, 2011

Satopanth Update
Everyone at Satopanth is doing well and the route has now been pushed through to C2! Ben is at C1 and headed up to join the HAPs Suresh and Sawan in C2 tomorrow. Suresha nd Sawan are working on the route above C2 and Ben will join them and hopefully establish a high camp for a summit assault.

Nicole and Scott and Gavin are all at BC after the round of acclimitzation runs. Gavin has decided to give up his summit attempt as his ankle simply is not healing up quick enough to manage the demands of uneven surfaces constantly torquing an old injury. He does however plan on  enjoyig some day walks near BC in the meantime and joining the team for the walk back out to Gangotri. Scott and Nicole have already had nights at C2 and are ready to go for a summit bid on the 22nd if all goes well. They have  a great stretch of weather right now and they have an excellent window for  a summit bid ahead!

Earthquake in Sikim
There has been a very serious earthquake with an epicenter in Sikkim which has shaken Kathmandu and Delhi and caused damage and fatalities in India, Nepal and Tibet. We have many friends in the region and we are very concerned for their safety and still getting word from around the region. We know that the quake was felt very severely in Kathmandu and it caused a lot of damage including a large wall on the British Emnassy that collapsed.

 In 2009 our team was on the summit ridge when they felt the mountain waver under them due to an earthquake that was quite close to them.

Ben plans to call in later on and we'll have the latest from C2 shortly. At that time we'll also find out of they felt the effects of the earthquake. Ben's latest dispatch was after the earthquake so we know they are all fine.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

FTA Satopanth - C1 Established!

from stu in the UA office

Satopanth Update
Ben has left an audio dispatch (see below) which unfortunately is a little garbled in spots due to the bad connection with the Thuraya satellites and we'll have him put up another tomorrow and hope it connects better!

Fortunately Ben also called into the office and over two phone calls we were able to catch up on all the news from Satopanth!

At this time Nicole and Scott are up for the night at C1 and enjoying some pretty good views from up there! All of the FTA ropes and tents and stove and gear has been taken up to C1 and tomorrow Ben, Gavin and the HAP's hope to get their first night in C1 as well. Yesterday the entire crew took a good walk up to C1 and made the main load carry. Ben says it is just  a 3 hour cruise and gains about 200 vertical meters. Above C1 the real climbing starts and at this time there are a few other teams above that have been pushing the route through to near C2 so hopefully when our turn comes we'll have some of the route set and we can finish off any pieces needing more attention. Tomorrow when Ben is up in C1 he'll have a good check in with the other teams on the hill and we'll begin to formulate a good plan.

As long as the weather holds there is a good chance our team will not return to base camp until they are done with the attempt! Nicole and Scott are a very experienced pair and will be moving as strongly as they can on the hill and likely ahead of Ben, Gavin and even the HAP's!  Gavin is nursing a flare up in an old ankle injury so there may be an extra rest day or two built into the schedule and we'll hope it does not slow him down too much!

We'll have more news in the days ahead of the progress so check in often!

Birthday Gift - Satopanth Expedition
Birthday's on expedition are quite special and I am sure Nicole will not forget this particular one in Gangotri with Satopanth awaiting her just around the bend! I have been lucky enough to celebrate a few in Nepal and can see each one quite clearly (including three on FTA Ama Dablam expeditions with cakes made by our famous disco-chef Ratna Man Gurung!) Ben has now had a few in Pakistan under the flanks of Broad Peak and K2 - not a bad spot either! We would all recommend that you look for a great expedition during a birthday and enjoy impromptu cake in a remote environment! Let us know if one of our trips fit and what kind of cake you like!

Satopanth History

Satopanth had an early attempt by a German group in 1938 during the period of when German and Austrian expeditions were in full swing and included the first ascent of the Eiger's Nordwand by a group including Heinrich Harrer (Seven Years in Tibet ). The German team reached 20,000ft but were barred by the rocky ridge and the fact that they had only 2 climbers. The exploration and climbs that they dod accomplish on their trip make a great read!

In 1966 there was another attempt by a team consisted largely of a group of "Calcutta" climbers as they called themselves and had a supporting cast of Sherpas (including Everest summiteer Karma). They began too late in the season and ran into winter conditions and the climb was abandoned in mid Octoberr.  The team moved on from Satopanth to climb nearby Bhagirathi II with four members reaching the top on Oct 20. During the descent there was a tragic fall and in the end three of the summiteers succumbed to injuries on the mountain.  The full report can bea read below and is quite heartbreaking.

The peak was finally climbed by a Swiss team in 1947 and then it was another 33 years til it ewas climbed again! A report from a team in 1998 has quite a good history of many of the climbs and is a worthwhile read for anyone wanting to know more about the history of the area.—-the-mountain-of-good-faith/

Shivling next?
As this is our second expedition to Satopanth we are interested in expending our offerings in the region and Shivling and Kamet loom large. If you are interested in joining us in 2012 or 2013 let us know!

FTA Satopanth 2011 tean in Gangotri © arun chowdhury

Birthday for Nicole in Gangotri © arun chowdhury

Satopanth from near C1 © veronika bartova