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