Monday, October 24, 2011

My Next Climbing Project: November 20, 2011 - South Face of Mount Aconcagua

Mount Aconcagua (6,962 meters)

Latitude: 32º 39` South
Longitude: 69º 59' West

Route to be Climbed: Argentine Route

Aconcagua is located in the High Andean region, on the border of Chile and Argentine. With its height of 6,962 meters, Mount Aconcagua is the highest peak in the Southern Hemisphere and the world's highest peak outside of Asia. The name comes from the Quechua language "Akon - Kahuac" which translates to "Sentinel Stone".

With its three thousand meters of rock, snow, and ice climbing, the routes on the South face are undoubtedly the most challenging ones on Mount Aconcagua. This wall is known among international top climbers as one of the most difficult and dangerous walls in the world. Also, its slopes are well known for frequent mega avalanches that have claimed the lives of many.

In February of 1978, the Argentinians G. Vieiro, E. Porcellana, and J. Jasson opened a new route of considerable technical difficulty and named it Via Argentina.

On November 20, 2011, I plan on approaching Via Argentine on the South wall through the "Valle de las Vacas" (Valley of the Cows) and Relinchos. This expedition will be fully documented by a well known Argentinian photographer/videographer to share with all in a short documentary.
1-Sun Line 2-Eslovenian 82 3-Polish variant 4-French variant 5-French 6-7 Upper and lower Argentines variant 8-Messner variant 9-Japanese variant 10-Russian roulette 11-Fonrouge/Schonberger 12-French direct 13-Eslovenian 86 14- Argentine route

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Report of My Expedition to Mount Kangchenjunga and My Accident

My sincere apologies to the followers of my climbs around the world for the long silence after my violent fall high on Mount Kangchenjunga and the subsequent medical evacuation from Camp 2. Many had a lot to say, mostly based on assumptions. I had to remain calm while people were shouting untruths and half-truths across the internet via their blogs. It has been a difficult and painful recovery, but nothing is impossible. I have been focused on my treatments and rehabilitation process. Thanks to all of you for the loving and caring support in the last two months. Here's a brief account of what happened on Mt. Kangchenjunga. (I sent a copy of this report prior to printing to Mingma Sherpa for his viewing and verification of accuracy).

Em Português
En Español

The Climb

On April 8th, 2011 I left Kathmandu with a team of climbers to attempt Mount Kangchenjunga (alt. 8,586m), on the border of India and Nepal. I had planned this trip with Mingma Sherpa of SevenSummittrek since Summer 2010 when we met while climbing Nanga Parbat on a solo expedition. I firmed my agreement on an expedition to Kangchenjunga in October 2010 with Mingma Sherpa, and began a long research on this mountain, after talking to Mingma about the logistics, it was decided that we take three Sherpas to help us on the mountain. At the time of our planning we didn't have a large team. For those of you unfamiliar with the topography of Mount Kangchenjunga, this is a complex, immense, and dangerous high mountain with similar weather patterns as that of Nanga Parbat. Mingma hired the three Sherpas we needed. One of them was highly experienced on Kangch. Later, as it turned out, these Sherpas were instrumental in ensuring that everyone who was fit to climb to the top would do so safely. My Sherpas and the three Sherpas hired by the Chinese team were the Sherpas with the most technical training and helped not only our team but many individual climbers from other expeditions on the mountain. They deserve the credit for marking the route and opening the trail that allowed for the success of everyone who reached the summit of Kangchenjunga by May 20th, 2011. They were responsible for setting every camp, all the way from Ramche to Camp 4. My principal Sherpa, Pema, told me that twice the Russian expedition got lost on the upper slopes, which is quite a maze, and he had to redirect them to the main route again. All climbers from other expeditions at Basecamp were depending on the success of our Sherpas so they could move up on the mountain. Snow was very deep and the route difficult.

Mingma Sherpa and his brother Chhang Dawa were the Sirdars and climbing leaders, Dr. Draggan Celinkovic was the expedition doctor, and I was the expedition leader.

Shortly after our arrival at Kangch's Basecamp, I called Mingma (Sirdar) who was at Everest with another group to let him know some of the problems we were facing. The climbers had hired Summittrek for services up to Basecamp only. That meant that all gear, food, and other logistics were the climbers' responsibility. The main issue I saw was the fact that some of the climbers weren't prepared at all for the magnitude of this climb. They had no expedition rated radios, weather service, or sufficient high altitude tents, etc. Many of the climbers demanded the additional support, but they were not willing to pay for it. There was only one member who paid for the services up to the summit, Ted Atkins. Chhang Dawa, who was sitting in for Mingma, and I decided that we would stall the expedition until Mingma arrived at Kangch's BC before we proceeded any higher. Mingma arrived about a month after our arrival at BC. Our team was large, 13 members and 13 Sherpas plus all the kitchen staff. It took an enormous effort to ensure that this would be a successful and casualty free expedition. It was difficult to control the ascents of those who couldn't wait to reach the high camps, and surely, that control created some frustration amongst the group, but it was necessary since the route and the camps were buried in deep snow above C2 elevating the danger of avalanches and hidden crevasses. When Mingma (Sirdar) arrived at BC, he decided to offer all the members full service all the way to the summit without charging anyone for this extraordinary effort. My support team and the Chinese's team of Sherpas began working on the massive task of carrying all the gear necessary to secure the most dangerous sections of the mountain, subsequently, opened the trail, as I was a witness, by pushing the snow with their elbows and knees. I climbed alone most of the time, since my Sherpas were working above C2 whenever there's a window in the weather, sometimes I climbed with Little Mingma (a cousin to our Sirdar). I had no western climbing partner. The first time I climbed with my support team was on the night of the summit push, May 19th 2011.

One of my responsibilities as expedition leader was to come up with a summit window for the team. Something that Mingma knew I had experience with in my previous climbs. This was my eighth expedition to an 8000er. I was the only member in our team to have a detailed weather forecast service. After consulting via satellite phone with Jurg Kurmann from Meteotest for several days, I decided on May 9th that, based on the data from Meteotest and the local weather pattern, that our team summit window should be on the 19th of May. We had to position ourselves at camp 3 on the 18th and bear the brunt of the tail of a storm that had been going on for three days above 7,400 meters. Also, for safety reasons, Mingma and I had talked about moving up the mountain into two groups a few hours from each other for the summit push. However, from the 10th of May summit fever hit a number of our members and they decided they'd go up the morning of the 14th and attempt their summit on the 17th. Mingma decided to move up with this group of climbers who were anxious that they might lose their chance to summit. I was perplexed at this decision because I had shown the weather report data to our Sirdars and to other leaders at BC and it was clear that the 17th of May was the worst day to be on the summit! A strong storm was coming towards the 15th and it would reach down to 7,000meters but it would weaken late night on the 18th. After more than half of our group left with our Sirdar Mingma, I reasoned with the other members who stayed at BC that since our window wasn't until the 19th, we didn't need to begin our climb until the 17th as we planned to go directly from BC to Camp 2. So our small team was formed, known as group II. The members were: Guntis Brandts, Tunc Findik, Anselm Murphy, Ted Atkins, and myself. My Sherpas Pema and Kami went the day before we left, as our Sirdar had asked for their assistance at C3. Some other climbers from other expeditions followed. We began our climb from Basecamp to C2 on the morning of the 17th of May, 2011. The next morning we moved to C3 and spent the night there and barely slept as we experienced an intense wind storm that some climbers described as if someone was hitting their tents hard with a baseball bat. On the 18th, at C3, we met most of the climbers from group I as they had encountered bad weather and were waiting for our arrival. According to the Sherpas accompanying group I, some members began using supplemental oxygen from C2. To Ted Atkins' astonishment, he found Rosa Fernandez (Spain) taking an afternoon siesta in his tent breathing his precious Os in the afternoon he arrived at C3.

We woke up on the 19th of May to a clear, beautiful morning with a light breeze. I called Meteotest to confirm that a summit push was still a go and they confirmed it. I called C4 on my radio and told Mingma (Sirdar) that we were moving to C4 for the summit push. I was the only climber in our team who brought expedition rated radios, so I had distributed them among the key people within the group: Pema, Mingma, Chhang Dawa, our cook at BC, and one with me. I talked on the radio with Pema and he informed me that we only had 4 oxygen bottles and that he had moved them to C4. Apparently, the Sherpas had used six bottles of O2 I had bought for them during their work on the upper slopes. We were 4 people climbing together on summit night and so each one of us had one bottle for the summit push. I was the only climber in group I and group II to arrive on the 19th at C4 without the use of supplemental oxygen. I left alone from C3 to C4 and caught up with Pawel Michawlski (Poland) from another expedition just above C3, Pawel was climbing alone and without the use of supplemental oxygen, we climbed close to each other until C4.

At C4, Mingma (Sirdar) had decided that we should split our group into three summit teams. The first team would leave C4 at 6pm, the second team at 7pm, and I and my support team would depart at 8pm. Not long after my start from C4, I encountered two of our members, one of them with symptoms of hypothermia and the other told me he had decided to abort his summit attempt. The two climbers returned to C4 together. Soon I passed the members of the second team and later some members of the first team. All other expeditions were following Mingma and his Sherpas on the summit push that night and the danger of overload on the ropes was a major concern. Every member of our expedition had a personal Sherpa, twenty-one persons scattered on the upper slopes plus the members of the other expeditions and their Sherpas, all that brought the total number of climbers on the upper slopes of Kangch to about 38. On the higher slopes, below the summit buttress, there was only old ropes from earlier expeditions and on the "ramp" (a long traverse between C4 and the gully) there was only a few meters of fixed rope. Pema had to fix more ropes on his way down for the climbers' safety.

My Accident

On our way up, Pema and I noticed that there needed some rope fixing in some sections below the summit buttress and on the gully. Climbers would come down tired and the maze of rock and ice in this area is very steep, a fall here could be fatal. I only had my emergency rope (about 30 meters) but Pema had deposited some extra rope he had brought from BC earlier (200m from me, and 150m from the Chinese team) and placed the rope coils below the summit earlier on when he was exploring the route. Not too far from the summit, we spotted the ropes nestled between some rocks higher up towards the rock wall below the summit, it was a few meters above us off the main route. Pema would bring the rope down and it would be kept next to the main trail and on our way down it would be easier to get the rope and fix the sections needed for the climbers behind us. This is a tricky section of sharp angle ice and rock with its slope leading down thousand of meters onto the Kangchenjunga Glacier. As Pema climbed towards the coil of ropes, I moved behind him. Suddenly, something moved under my right crampon and my foot skidded to the right towards the Kangch Glacier, as a reflex during my fall, my right arm swung over to the left to grab the crest of a rock, my knee landed on a wedge between a chunk of ice and a rock. My glacier glasses fell down the slopes and I felt a pull in my right knee like a rubber band "snap/pop," followed by a sharp, stabbing pain. I was in shock of the very close call, but did not feel much pain afterwards. I waited for a while trying to decide whether I should continue up and decided to press on as my leg seemed to be moving normally and no considerable pain. I met Mingma (Sirdar) , Chhang Dawa and their client from Iran who had just summitted and now were descending, we exchanged a few words and I continued on up. My Sherpas and I were the second to summit from our group behind Mingma. At the summit, I tried to sit down as we had climbed all night without a break. My knee would not flex and I told Pema I had to descend immediately. On our way down we met Ted Atkins and another climber who were on their way to the summit. They congratulated me and I proceeded down. A few meters lower we met Jeng Feng Rao (China) who was alone and holding onto a rock, unresponsive to my questions. I asked him what happened, why was he there alone, Chhang Dawa responded from nearby that Mr. Rao's Sherpa had to go down looking for oxygen because Mr. Rao had ran out of O2. My pain was increasing radiating up and down my leg. I asked Pema, the most experienced Sherpa with me, to stay with Mr. Rao and I'd continue down with Kami. As we started to descend the gully towards the "ramp" I had slowed down a lot as I was in extreme pain and my eyes started to feel irritated. Snowblindness was a major fear since my glacier glasses had been lost during my fall. I reached a snowy top where a few climbers were resting on and sat there waiting for Kami to descend and reach me. He had been checking the ropes on the gully. I continued down alone on the ramp very slowly, by now I was unable to use my right leg as my knee would give away and lock, and feeling a lot of pressure in my eyes, it felt as though someone had punched them. Everyone passed me on their way to C4. Chhang Dawa and Sanghee Sherpa (with the Chinese) stopped and stayed with me for a few minutes helping me on the traverse above the Yanlung Kang Glacier. They also left to C4 and I stayed behind.

I arrived C4 later in the afternoon, alone and on my own power. It was snowing and my eyes were really irritated making it difficult to see. But I was glad that I could get to my medical emergency kit and an extra pair of glacier goggles. In my tent there were three Sherpas and I asked for some hot water. But I was told that they had ran out of matches, so I just got into my sleeping bag and agreed with Pema to leave first thing in the morning. I was hoping that after a few hours of rest I would feel a little better in the morning. I knew that, sometimes, snow blindness goes away after twenty four hours or so. But, to my great demise, I woke up in the middle of the night with excruciating pain both in my knees and in my eyes. I opened my eyes to look for a pain pill but all I could see was a white out. My eyes were very watery and we bandaged them. I cut the tube of my spare sock and place it around my knee. My knee was swelling now. I reached into my backpack for my satellite phone and made a call to Global Rescue in Boston. I described my accident and requested assistance. The medical responder was incredibly helpful and began putting an evacuation plan in place. The Global Rescue emergency technician asked for me to find an area no higher than 7,000 meters where a helicopter could land. Pema told me that the plateau above C3 was a good spot and it is at 7,000 meters. I called Global Rescue back and we agreed to let them know when we got to the plateau. I placed another call to my family. By the time we got ready to descend in the morning I was completely blind. A couple of Sherpas helped me outside of my tent. However, to my surprise, instead of going down to the plateau with me, Pema began helping the Sirdar with the packing of camp. Because I was blind, at one point, someone had to place a sleeping bag behind me so I could sit down and avoid falling onto the glacier below C4. Mingma (Sirdar), Chhang Dawa (Sirdar), Kami, Pema, and I began the painful epic descent. A few minutes later Ted Atkins caught up with us and insisted on me having a shot of Dexa. Unaware of what had happened to me, Ted assumed I had cerebral edema as I complained about a terrible pressure in my eyes. I, eventually, accepted the injection as I thought it would help me focus better on my descent. As I was blind, I asked Mingma, our Sirdar, to dial a few numbers for me on my satellite phone as we would stop from time to time between C4 and the plateau above C3. I called family members and explained my situation. Then I called my good friend Mr. Ang Tshering, CEO of Asian Trekking, on his cell phone. Followed by a call to Dawa Sherpa in Kathmandu.

On the morning of May 21st, I could not see and Mingma and his brother were holding me from each arm so I could make it over the crevasse field as we descended to C3. All other members continued on their descent. Mingma tried to put me in his back while we crossed over the short ice fall but at that altitude it was difficult. I made it to the plateau above C3 and sat next to the route as Pema set my tent up, and heard the climbers descending past me. Pema and Kami set out to establish a camp site for us for the night and wait for the helicopter in the morning of the 22nd. While I waited for my tent to be ready, a member of the Indian team stopped by to wish me well and thank me for the perfect weather window I was able to fix. He told me how he would never forget the incredible beauty of Yalung Kang in the moonlight. That touched me, because that had been the most beautiful experience of this trip for me as well, I remembered seeing two nights earlier the pure esthetic simplicity of nature bathed in the moonlight. Yalung Kang stood out with its most dramatic silhouet in the night. Mr. Israfil A. (Uzberkistan) stopped by me also, and thanked me for the good job on the summit plan and wished me well. I had shared the weather forecast with all who came to ask about it at BC. Many were amazed by the incredible accuracy of Meteotest's forecast throughout the expedition. It was agreed then, that Mingma was going down with the climbers and would be coordinating for a group of Sherpas to come to assist me if the helicopter wouldn't make it the next day. Everyone descended to C3 and some went lower. Pema, Kami and Little Mingma stayed with me at the plateau. The helicopter team Global Rescue had hired for my evacuation, called me on my satellite phone later that afternoon and asked me for the coordinates of my camp, unfortunately, I couldn't see and look for the information they wanted but, I told them that I had reached the plateau and we agreed to use the tent as a reference point and they gave me detailed information on how the long rope evacuation works (known as sling rescue). Global Rescue had requested for Air Zermatt pilots, highly trained in rescue in desolate areas, to perform the medical mission. In preparation for the next morning attempt, I sent Kami down to C3 which was about 20 minutes away to get a pair of climbing pants I had left in my tent at C3. I reasoned it would be easier to maneuver in a lighter garment than in my high altitude suit. He later told me in Kathmandu, trough a translator, that Ted and Anselm had offered him at C3 a bottle of oxygen to take back to me, but we had made it through the last two nights without supplemental O2 while much higher and he reasoned there was no need for it now at 7,000 meters, so he didn't bring it up. In the morning of May 22nd, I called the helicopter company to confirm they were coming, and I was told that they would be at the plateau within an hour and a half. My sat phone battery went dead. Earlier, Kami went to Basecamp to take the radios to recharge and let Mingma know that if the helicopter could not reach me, we would continue the descent because now I could see somewhat with my right eye, even if very blurred. The right knee was hurting a lot and the swelling was making it difficult for me to flex it and down climb. A few minutes later, I heard a voice outside my tent. It was that of Mr. Anselm Murphy, member of our expedition. He wanted to know how I was doing, then came Ted Atkins. Murphy had a camera with him. They knew the helicopter was scheduled to arrive soon. I told them that we were waiting for the heli. They noticed Little Mingma nervous. The Sherpas did not believe that the heli would come and wanted to continue to descend. Suddenly, we heard the rotor sound of the heli approaching and we all got very excited with its arrival. As seen from one of Anselm Murphy's picture, Mingma and Pema are standing next to me while the heli is hovering over our heads for a short time. The heli left, then it came back one more time before it disappeared towards Cheram. It was disappointing, but I was filled with optimism and believed they would come back the next day. Later, one of the Swiss pilots told me that it was 8 degrees too warm on the plateau for the heli to perform the evacuation safely. So they decided to overnight in the village of Tapplejung and return early the next morning. At that point, because the batteries on the radios and phone were dead, I had no more means of communication. We packed everything and I was thrilled that at least I could see a bit with my right eye, although extremely photophobic. I had high hopes I was going to survive this extraordinary experience. I told Pema to go down to C3 to take camp down while I would go slowly behind with Little Mingma. Atkins and Murphy went down to C3 with Pema, Little Mingma packed our tent. I stopped at C3 while Pema was clearing camp and had a drink for the first time in 2 days. I had not eaten anything either for 2 days.

I left C3 with Pema and Little Mingma while Atkins and Murphy were still there. Before we reached the traverse between C3 and C2, I told Pema to go down at his own pace since he was carrying the heavy stuff and Little Mingma and I would manage our way down to C2. Little Mingma was several minutes ahead of me. I was descending with the help of my trekking pole and when possible sliding, at the pace my injured knee allowed, and I had remembered Little Mingma telling me that right before the traverse there was a crevasse, I saw the gray shade of what seemed to be the crevasse and I jumped over it. My knee gave away violently as it had been giving away most of my descent from C4 and forced me to fall without any warning. On this fall I heard another "pop/snap", possibly, my Medial Lateral Ligament. I later learned from my doctors that the fall near the summit was most likely where my meniscus tear and ACL tear took place. I had no control of my right leg at this point and I landed face down on the side of the trail to my left, facing downhill towards an abyss. The snow was about knee deep and the crust over the sugar snow cracked around me as I fell. My pain had reached a horrendous level and here during this fall I felt the rupture of my Medial ligament like a rubber band extending and snapping. From my training, I knew that with the snow conditions I had, if I moved, a slide was highly possible. I knew I could try to place my ice tool firmly on the slope and force the sudden swing around to an upright position, but I also knew the slabs could slide and take me down with them. My right leg was useless and I could not make a self arrest confidently. Shortly after my fall, I heard a voice next to me and it was of Mr. Murphy who was holding a camera in his hand. Ted Atkins came right behind him. Mr. Murphy held my right arm by my elbow while I got on my good leg and with the help of my trekking pole I moved onto the trail again. I told them that they should continue down without me, but they insisted on staying with me and kept asking me to take supplemental oxygen so I could go on faster. We were approaching C2 by now. I reluctantly accepted the O2, Atkins noticed that my O2 mask had been switched as he had earlier serviced my small mask, but now I had a medium sized one, broken. Shortly after that, Ted Atkins posed for a photo standing next to me as I sat on the route to C2. Mr. Murphy has posted that photo. They accompanied me to C2 with Mr. Murphy taking several pictures and short videos of my descent. Murphy was a few meters in front of me and Atkins a few meters behind me. All the lines that had to be fixed were already put in place by my Sherpas and so on my own power I made my rappels and continued my down climb to C2 with my knee giving away here and there. We arrived at C2 by 4:30pm where we met Little Mingma and his younger brother. Our Sirdar had sent up to help with taking Camp 2 down. They sat on their packs waiting for us unaware of what had happened to be just above them. The Sherpas had already cleared C2 and were sitting on their packs ready to continue the descent with me. However, there was the usual afternoon snow fall taking place and soon it would be dark, making it difficult and more dangerous for me. Between C2 and C1, there's a crevasse field one crosses before climbing a small ice fall and traversing between a heavily crevassed glacier below and a rock wall above. At the end of the traverse, one ascends a small section of rock and ice onto a ridge that leads to C1. To the disappointment of the Sherpas I decided it was best for me to try this part of the down climb the next day morning. The Sherpas wanted to spend the night with us at C2, but they could still make it safely to BC that evening and let our Sirdar know that I was Ok and I was working towards reaching BC the next day. Little Mingma got scared on this mountain a few times, and he wasn't very excited to be on it much longer. They set Camp 2 for me, Anselm and Ted to overnight, then they left. The two Sherpas arrived BC that evening and they gave our Sirdar my message that we would wait for the heli until 10am, and in the absence of the heli we would continue down. Mingma (Sirdar) told me later (in Kathmandu) that the heli company made contact with him through his office, and was told that the evacuation team was arriving at C2 early the next morning, and that there would be three pilots specialized in high altitude evacuation, including one pilot/rescue technician.

On the night of May 22nd, Ted, Anselm and I shared a chocolate bar and a handful of nuts, my first meal in three nights but no drinks since we didn't have the means to melt snow. We woke up around 6am the next day and slowly got ourselves ready for whatever the day would bring us. On May 23rd, by 6:30am, I heard the voice of Kami, who could only speak a few words in English, almost out of breath he let me know: heli coming, heli coming... Our Sirdar had sent us cheese sandwiches and hot beverages from BC. The sandwiches were frozen as Kami and Dorjee (Chinese team) made their way from Basecamp to C2 in the early hours and in record time. As I was rejoicing on a few bites of my sandwiche, we heard the heli coming and Kami poked his head into my tent and pulled me out quickly, my knee was locked and I was hopping downhill to the snow field below C2 with Kami and Dorjee holding each of my arms towards the heli, it came very close to us then it circled above us and it disappeared above the serac behind lower C2. Atkins and Murphy stayed behind at lower C2 and Kami swung me over his back and ran up hill to the plateau above us, one of the Swiss pilot/rescue technician jumped out of the heli as it hovered about three feet off the ground and helped Kami place me inside the heli, then the pilot on the ground jumped in and we flew away towards the Kangchenjunga Glacier. Kami's eyes were filled with tears as I waved good bye to him from the heli's window. After a brief flight over the mountain, we flew low following the Kangchenjunga Glacier to Tseram for refuel. The lower the altitude we got the greater the pain I felt. I still couldn't see with my left eye and both eyes remained very watery and photo phobic. After refueling in Tseram, we flew to Lukla and Air Zermatt pilot, Capt. De Beer flew me to Kathmandu where an ambulance was waiting for me on the tarmac. I shared the ambulance with another climber from Spain who had been rescued from Mount Lhotse. We also shared the triage room at Norvic International Hospital.

At Norvic I was attended by a team of highly attentive doctors headed by Dr. P. Nepal, an orthopedic surgeon and Dr. Indira, an Ophthalmologist who headed the team caring for my eyes for two days, with four different eye drops every fifteen and twenty minutes in a dark room. Global Rescue continued their support by relating to their consulting physicians at Johns Hopkins my diagnosis and MRIs results from Norvic Hospital and the recommendation from the Johns Hopkins doctors was for me to wait for the swelling of my knee to go down and fly home so I could have the complex procedure done near my family. My orthopedic surgeon who specializes in trauma of the knee (Harvard/Stanford medical school) was impressed with the completeness of the tests and medical report done at Norvic. The diagnosis from Stanford Medical Center and Norvic International Hospital were exactly the same: Medial Collateral Ligament tear, Anterior Cruciate Ligament Tear (ACL), Bucket handle tear of Medial Meniscus, joint displacement. On my shoulder: rotator Cuff Tear. Eyes: Severe UV Corneal Burn. My knee re-construction surgery with the PRP procedure took place in June and two weeks later I started a rapid recovery program with a great team of physiotherapists.

I can't thank enough the Global Rescue team and especially John Burkley who was on the phone with me constantly during the most critical hours of my descent from C4, encouraging me to keep going down and giving me hope that help was on its way. He also relayed to me all the relevant information he got from the pilots at the heli company regarding the details of the mission. Global Rescue was unwavering in their commitment to get me off the mountain and to the nearest hospital as fast as possible and using the best service they could in Nepal. They gave me their support during my extraordinary, painful descent from C4 to C3, transport to the hospital and follow-ups at home. Their professionalism and genuine care for their clients is just incredible. A BIG thank you to those guys! Also, as a demonstration of my gratitude to Anselm Murphy and Ted Atkins for accompanying me from about 6,850 meters (below C3) to C2 (6,450), as soon as I arrived in Kathmandu, from my hospital bed, I arranged for a Mountain Helicopter flight for them from Kangch to Kathmandu, so they avoided the 5 day trek through one of the most hostile terrains in the world, well known for the leech infested tropical forest of the lower valley.

Fishtail Air's CEO apologized to me for the misrepresentations made by Mr. Simone Moro (Italy) to a magazine about my medical evacuation. Mr. Moro mislead the readers by posing as one of the pilots on the Kangchenjunga mission. Mr. Moro was not a part of this specialized medical mission and had no first hand knowledge of what took place on Mount Kangchenjunga during my descent or evacuation. According to Fishtail, Mr. Moro wasn't even qualified/not enough experience to perform such delicate medical mission in a desolate area. Below, you can learn more about the pilots who actually performed this mission and never ran to the media to tell the world of their experiences. The pilots who evacuated me never spoke to an online magazine about their experience on Kangchenjunga.

I was shocked at the many threads that picked up a story based on assumptions and speculations of my accident and the circumstances sorrounding it. With each thread the story got more vivid and wilder as it spread all over the net. It's very sad how in this age of cybernauts and real time news, many don't hesitate in breaking another person's reputation as long as they get their fifteen minutes of fame.

Mr. Anselm Murphy wrote a story on his blog about what he assumed took place on Kangchenjunga between the summit and C4 and C4 to C3. I read it after some friends pointed the story out to me. A picture tells a thousand words, and quite a few people emailed me to point out that if you watch the video and looked at some of the pictures posted by Murphy on his blog and on U-tube, you can see that my Sherpas were with me each time the helicopter came and that I was rappelling and descending on my own power while Mr. Murphy was busy with his camera. My Sherpas never abandoned me. Sherpas are no life assurance on the high ranges and I never relied on them to get me down. I asked them as I asked ted Atkins and Anselm Murphy to continue down without me. Although I'm grateful for their company, it was Mr. Atkins and Murphy's personal decision to stay. I just had no idea that they would seek to exploit this event. A journalist with Rock and Ice magazine wrote me to request an interview for an article he is working on propelled by my accident/rescue on Kangch. I'm not interested in the media so I declined the interview. I climb for the love and challenge of it not to sell lectures or seek sponsorships. Happy climbs to all.

To read Global Rescue's news release:

To learn more about ACL/MCL knee injuries check this site:

Interesting facts about the helicopter used on my medical evacuation:

My heartfelt thank you to the pilots of my rescue mission for their superb professionalism and compassionate care, they were:

Capt. Gregor de Beer

Ratings on helicopter types:
Augusta Westland 139, AS332 Superpuma, Augusta 109, AS350 B series, B206-Jet Ranger, Alouette II , Enstrom 480, Enstrom 280, Hughes 300, Robinson 22
Work experience: Pilot for the UN-Mission in Sudan, as a flight Instructor and Pilot in Switzerland, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan and Tajikistan, Chief Pilot and Flight instructor at Heli-Link, Switzerland. He has a profound experience of flights for passenger transport, aerial photography, reconnoiter flights and search & rescue flights in desolate areas


He is a Swiss national and holds a Helicopter ATPL as well as an Aeroplane ATPL.
Current Class/Type Ratings: A109, AS350, Bell 206, EC120, R22, R44, SA316/319/315, A320 (Aeroplane), TMG, IR (H), NIT (H), IR (A), NIT (A), FII (H), FI (H), FI (A). He has flown more than 15000 hours on the Aeroplanes with about 2000 hours on the A320. He has about 2700 hours on Helicopters

Capt. Deepak JB Rana

Ratings on helicopters: AS 350B series, BK-117 and MI-17. He started his flying career in 1995. After more than a decade of flying he has more than 5,000 helicopter flight hours. He is also an instructor Pilot.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Cleo's Equipment list for Kangchenjunga

Equipment is highly important to the success of your climb. I keep my equipment list as simple as possible, but never skimp on quality. Weight is a serious consideration on the higher slopes, so look for the lightest material available, such as titanium and carbon fiber composites. High mountain equipment should be practical and functional. Don't buy anything with unnecessary zippers and buckles. It just adds weight. Protect your head with a good wool cap when sleeping at night as most of your body heat is lost in the head region. For your hands, it depends whether you're a warm type or cold one. I'm very warm so I use light weight capilene liners on the lower slopes and heavier ones on the upper. Windstopper is a must on any 8000ers since the wind can be your worst enemy. Of course, it's important to keep your feet happy so buy good cushioned socks, and always save a fresh new pair for the summit. I wear either Thorlo's or Smartwool mountaineers' socks and Patagonia's liners. Remember, when buying your high altitude boots to try them on with your liner and mountaineering socks, then add half size. Your feet will be swollen at high altitude (above 7300m) and you need that bit of room to keep moving your toes to maintain the circulation going (keep moving them from time to time during your climb, even if they feel fine). Remember to remove the inner boot and place them in your sleeping bag at night when at high camps so they're warm before you go out of your tent in the morning. In the past I have used Millet and Scarpa one system type of boots, but have settled for La Sportiva lately. For me La Sportiva Olympus Mons Evo fits better,  is more stable,  and has a better ergonomic design. Scarpa's TiZip is very annoying to manage and it can get stuck easily. As to your clothing, the quality of your high altitude suit is extremely important,  it needs to be comfortable, roomy, and efficient with heat. My pick is Feathered Friends. I have tried different suits but Feathered Friends is second to none. I had people on Gasherbrum I turn around because they were too cold in their high altitude suits/jackets. I felt bad for them, my FF suit kept me warm and comfy all the time. It's like taking your warm duvet from your bed with you, it just felt really good in all extreme weather situations of seven 8000ers I've climbed. I even bought the Ice Fall jacket and pants for those really cold nights at BC and lower camps.  Here's a list of some of  the equipment I'm taking to Kangch:

Expedition Boots -  La Sportiva's Olympus Mons Evo

Socks - Tholo's and Smartwool Mountaineering socks

Sock liners - Patagonia

Crampons - Petzl's Sarken, this is the 4X4 of the crampons, with "T" shaped front points.

Harness - Black Diamond Xenos, lasts longer than the Arc'Teryx X350a

Helmet - Grivel Salamander, total protection, have tested most of the brands out there

Headlamp - Petzl's Tikka XP, amazing technology if you have your laptop at BC

Balaclava - Sonic OR, Windstopper Technical fleece, Polartec wind Pro ear panels allows easy hearing

Face mask - Outdoor Research, good ventilation is important

Neck Gaiter - The North Face Denali Thermal scarf (it's a gaiter, not a scarf)

High altitude mittens - Black Diamond "Absolute" mittens, Black Diamond Guide gloves for rappel

Glove liners - Windstopper light/medium, lower slopes and upper

Underwear - Patagonia's II/III Capilene

Patagonia Sports Bra

Climbing Pants - The North Face Apex Summit Series

Soft Shell (pants/jacket) - The North Face DriFit  Summit Series

Hard Shell (top/bottom) - The North Face

Basecamp Jacket - The North Face DriFit Summit Series

Basecamp Sleeping bag - Feathere Friends -60

Higher camps Sleeping bag - The North Face "Nova"

Sleeping mat - Thermarest Luxury Mat

Trekking Poles -  Komperdell C3 Carbon, duolock, super light and easy to lock/unlock

Ice Tools - Grivel's Quantum, Carbon composite (super light and ergonomic, the best for any type of ice)

Ice screws - Black Diamond Express

Carabiners - Black Diamond vapor lock

Ropes - Petzl and PMI

Radios - RCA,  BR250

Tents - The North Face Mountain35 Summit Series, best tent in the market for high altitude winds. When all other tents were destroyed at Nanga Parbat during a mega avalanche last July, TNF M35 were the only ones that stood intact, even though it took a direct hit. I was in one of them for the incredible ride... 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Aconcagua Training

Just completed my training at Aconcagua. This climbing season in the Andes has been quite erratic. Too much snow and wind was the main complaint from climbers trying to acclimatize before the Himalaya season. Romanians, Russians, Slovenians, and myself were the last to arrive for a late season training. AMS also had their ice climbing clinic going on. The harsh weather was perfect for training for the  high mountains. The viento blanco is an Andean phenomenon that many have blamed for the huge loss of lives at Aconcagua this last season. I was coming down from the summit last week when it start to snow and the wind started to pick up slowly. By the time I reached Colera, to clear camp, the storm had reached full force and the visibility as I continued to Nidos was zero. It was all guess work and familiarity with rocks that kept me going on the right direction as I used these rocks as reference point to reach the lower camps and later in the afternoon Plaza de Mulas. In all my summits of Acon, I had never seen the Canaleta covered in snow and the Passaje del Viento traverse with knee deep snow. There were three of us going for the summit and we took turns breaking trail. Most of my training took place near Piedras  and Nidos.  Had a lot of time to acclimatize and the 11 min. on Acon's summit was clear as crystal but we had to run down the Canaleta, literally.  Many thanks to  Grajales Expediciones for the best logistics service available in the Andes! Where else can someone train on a mountain just shy of 7000m and enjoy fillet Mignon and malbec at the end of a hard days work mountaineering? Also, thanks to the Grajales staff for the great barbecue celebration.
I have just gotten home and will focus now on preparing for Kangch. Our M17 will depart to Ramche on the 6th and our porters will leave Kathmandu on the 26th of March. We are very excited about this climb and can't wait to reach Kangchenjunga's BC and face our challenges in this incredible opportunity. Many thanks to my favorite VP at The North Face for going above and beyond the call of duty for me (you know who you are!).

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Training For Climbing

Within the next three weeks I'll be covering the top 3 components that are essential to a successful climb in the high ranges: Skills, fitness and equipment. The first will be fitness prep. A while ago a good friend of mine initiated me into the following program:

Mountain Climbing Fitness Program for the Gym

This fitness program is a three-part fitness program that takes place over six months and it must be tailored to accommodate the fitness level of every unique individual. The three components of the program are:

interval training
strength training
distance training

Both the interval and distance components involve training at specific heart rate zones. Both the strength and interval components require a short but effective warm up and cool down exercise to accompany the workout.

After the athlete assesses her fitness level, she must begin by ensuring that she has an appropriate base to begin building upon. This may take up to 8 weeks to establish before individuals can realistically begin to ramp up their intensity levels with the interval and distance training.

Throughout the six months of training, athletes should be aware of their energy levels and modify the workouts, accordingly, by increasing or decreasing the workload. Additionally, incorporating yoga  and pilates classes can be very beneficial if the athlete has the  time.

Interval and distance workouts is more fun when conducted outside the fitness club.

Athletes should calculate Maximum Heart Rate by the formula

MHR = 217 - (age x .85)

One should have a personal monitor watch.

Interval Training: 4 minutes on at 80-90% of MHR, then 3 minutes off at 60% of MHR. Do
four sets continuously. Running or fast walking on an incline is usually best.
Strength Training: Involves approx. 45 minutes of core and weighted exercises.
Distance Training: 60-90 minutes at 70-80% of MHR.
Activities include hiking or walking on an incline, cycling, x-country skiing, swimming, etc.

After a few weeks of building a good base, an appropriate training plan is as follows:

Monday: Interval training
Tuesday: Strength training
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: Distance training
Friday: Interval training
Saturday: Strength training
Sunday: Easy and long Distance training

Of course, the above training schedule is an example only, and should be modified to the appropriate time schedule and energy level of each individual. Ideally, each component of the training program can be conducted once per week.

Strength Training follows:

Warm up for 15-20 minutes or eventually continue on after an easy distance workout.
Always begin with “core” strength first, this usually takes about 15 minutes.
-Do 5-30 reps per exercise and only one set of each exercise.
-Always be controlled, and always protect the back.
-Be slow on the eccentric, and be faster on the concentric.
-Mix some balance exercise in. After the core exercises move on the “weighted” exercises.
-Start with lighter weights and always use good technique.
-Be slow on the eccentric, and be faster on the concentric.
-Work in pairs of two exercises (different muscle groups) Example: 1 set of squats, 1 set of pull ups, 1 set squats, 1 set pull ups, etc…Then move on to the next pair of exercises.
-Always do a warm up set of 10-15 reps with very light weight first before increasing the amount of weight.
-Do three to four sets of 10-15 reps until joint strength is good and technique is solid. This should take at least three months to accomplish.
-Work toward doing four to five reps and four sets at max weight near the end of the six months of training if you are ready.

Core Strength

Basic Crunch 15 reps
-Hands on shoulders
-Keep elbows pointed up
-Come up about half way
-Keep heels on the floor

Single leg/arm back extension (prone position) 15 reps on each side
-Opposite arm/leg
-Face down (don’t look up)
-Thumbs up

Twisting sit up 15 reps on each side
-Position like a normal sit up
-Get in static position
-Hands on wrists
-Touch left elbow to left side, right elbow to right side
-Rotate head and shoulders together

Balance exercise on ball (on knees or standing on ball) One to Two minutes
-Fire core muscles to stay balanced

Straight up and down 10 reps
-Lay on back
-Start with legs off the ground
-Use hands as a “cradle” under buttocks
-Swing legs up, then push towards ceiling, then down slow

Prone back extension (superman) 10 reps
-Raise both arms and legs up at the same time
-Keep face pointed towards the floor
-Keep Thumbs up

Reach Across 15 reps each side
-Do one side at a time
-Position body in normal crunch position
-Place one arm alongside the body on the floor, the other along the sternum
-As you sit up the hand on floor goes across body and reaches beyond knees

Balance exercise 20 reps
-Squats on the BOSU ball, or any wobble board

Ball crunch 15 reps
-Grip ball with legs
-Use weight (or not) held above head, otherwise hands behind head
-Squeeze ball in and up off floor
-Touch elbows to knees (don’t rotate shoulders)

Weighted Exercises
(In pairs)
Squats 10-15 reps 3 sets
-Be sure to establish a level for the safety bar and rack.
-Position center on bar
-Elbows back
-Feet shoulder width apart, toes splayed
-Arch back
-Fire core
-Down to 90 degrees
-Don’t let knees come forward past the “toe line”
-Stick buttocks out

Pull-ups 10+ reps 3 sets
-Establish an appropriate counter weight
-Wide grip
-Raise head above bar

Seated row 10-15 reps 3 sets
-Establish a good resistance level
-Good stretch forward
-Stop back at perpendicular to ground
-Bring hands all the way to stomach

-Stick chest out

Single leg jump on box 5 reps 3 sets
-Try to land on one leg on box and also on floor

In addition, you must find a hill for at least thrice a week jog. Of course, the best climbing exercise is to go out to the nearest hills and climb on.  Indoor climbing is great for fitness but it is not the same as climbing on the range.  Next week I'll post a gear review of what I have used on the high mountains. The right equipment can help you tremendously in achieving your goal. Therefore, in addition to fitness, EQUIPMENT makes the  top three components list of a successful climb.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Training in the Alps

I have just returned from Chamonix, a cushy basecamp on the border of France, Italy and Switzerland.  I was training in this beautiful part of the world for this year's exciting climbs. This was the best winter since 2005 for ice climbing in the Chamonix/Trient/Cogne area. For the last  two weeks there was nothing but sunny days. Last week felt more like Summer than Winter.  Just last Saturday, Paul and I went rock climbing and people were wearing t-shirts at the local crag. Unbelievable! My training consisted mostly of snow, ice and mixed climbs. All the mixed climbs took place at the Mont Blanc massif. Some of the Ice climbing clinics took place in the Parco Nazionale Gran Paradiso, Italy. It was great to be trained once again by my mountaineering Grand Master, Paul Farmer.

I started by climbing the Cosmiques on the Aiguille Du Midi. This route is, mostly, rated III AD, 4a, 4b. (at 3,731 meters) -- Most of this training was designed to focus on chimneys, vertical slab climbing, ice and  mixed terrain at altitude. The crux of this climb is the 5m vertical slab rated 4c. The climb is not so technically difficult as it is awkward, there are many exposed sections looking down the NW face and the cosmiques couloir.

Our other significant training was on the Aiguille  Verte (4,122 meters).  Henri Isselin describes this mountain as "perfectly proportioned... majestic bearing... the most beautiful of the beautiful... queen of the mountains... fascinating beauty... " -- OK! You get the point. The approach is done from the Grands Montets, after traversing the upper Glacier des Rognons we started our ascent of the steep-sided NE ridge. From the summit, where we ate our lunch,  we had the most awesome view of the Glacier de Argientere on our right and of the Drus right behind us.  The training here was also about mixed terrain climbing at altitude, ice and slabs. Some more awkward moves, as I traversed from one arrete to another and rappelled down some Plus Dificile rock. Again, lots of slab climbing on exposed faces.

Our snow training was done on the Glacier des Rognons overlooking the Glacier de Argentiere. Breathtaking... both the view and the work out!

Ice Climbing Training
Most of our ice climbing training took place in Italy, at the National Park Gran Paradiso and at the upper Argentiere in France.

Valmiana is listed on the topo as 110m, we actually stopped a little short of 5 pitches using a 60 meter rope! So the topo is not very reliable. L1 is mostly 80 degrees, L2 between 35 and 55 degrees, L3 is a consistent 70 degrees, L4 60/70 degrees. This climb is a perfect practice for anyone trying to attempt Lhotse. It reminded me of the gully below the upper coloir above C4 on Lhotse and the ice and rock conditions there last year, even the occasional rock fall. Valmiana is highly prone to avalanches, so Paul let me lead the higher pitches...

At Mur du Bar, Trient, I had worked on the A Boire! This was the most beautiful frozen waterfall on the Glacier de Trient last year, 100m -- L1 40m, 80 degrees and L2 60m of mostly 70 degrees, rappelled on abalakovs.

Over at Col des Montets, I cleared Initiatique, 50m of 50 to 75 degrees, and La colonne (the column), 50m. La colonne is one of the most popular climbs both for its striking beauty and calf challenge. Yeah, it burns!

Cascade de Lillaz (alt. 1,650m) the technical grade and type of ice depends on whether you take the right or left side, 250m long, a four to five pitches climb. 50 to 85 degrees. This climb was a good practice for a climb where you need to be committed since it's long and lots of fragile ice.  

Chandelle de Lillaz, 10m -- great practice for vertical climb. On the left side of Cascade de Lillaz. We did this just for fun (according to Paul), it was a lot of work for me.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Scheduled Expedition for Spring 2011: KANGCHENJUNGA

Objective:        Mount Kangchenjunga
Altitude:           8,586 meters,     28,169 ft
Location:          Nepal/India border
Latitude:           27.73820   N 
Longitude:        88.13440   E
Year First Climbed:  May 25 1955
First Climbers:          George Band and Joe Brown, British Expedition

After a very long climbing season in the Himalaya and Karakorum in 2010, I took three months off to rest, enjoy family and friends, as well as my other hobbies.  But now I  have resumed my training for the upcoming climbing season 2011 in the Himalayas and Karakorum and am very excited about my upcoming expeditions since they will take me to some very special places in this world.

I'll start with the extremely remote Kangchenjunga this Spring 2011. My climbing partner will be Pema Chrring Sherpa and our  expedition will be following the route taken by the pioneering British expedition of 1955. Since the first ascension of this peak, there's a tradition among mountaineers not to stand on the actual summit. It's been said that the expedition leader of the British team who first got the permission to climb this peak promised the Maharajah of Sikkim that in deference to the local people's belief and reverence of the mountain, he and his team would stop a bit short of the summit.  I will consult with  Ms. Hawley, The Himalaya Database administrator, as to the acceptable distance from the summit and let her know that  I intend to honor this tradition as well, that is,  if the mountain Gods allow me to  make it that far up.  Most Expeditions since 1955 have stopped somewhere ranging from 2 feet to  about 6 feet short of the summit.

Kangchenjunga is one of the least accessible mountains of the Himalaya Range. I find this particularly interesting. This remoteness safeguards the unique experience I'll have  in a rather exotic part of the world, rich in local culture, fauna, flora, and fantastic panoramic views. Sounds like a mountaineer's paradise to me... This is a whole different climb than the Mount Everest one. Unlike the circus played at Everest every year, climbers should not expect to find BC to Summit fixed ropes, well trodden trails, or ice fall doctors making a "safe" passage for the occasional adventure backpacker through the Khumbu ice fall. The thought of descending steep faces, narrow  and corniced icy ridges in complete white out has stopped many from going higher on Kangch's hill. Kangchenjunga's complex topography is visible from satellite pictures as are the odd shape of the lines on its south face where I'll be. I'm sure this will be a challenging climb. It's said by many that Nanga Parbat (also known as the killer mountain) is the most difficult of the 8000ers in Pakistan due to its sudden change in the weather conditions and death defying descent. But Kangchenjunga is the most difficult 8000er in Nepal courtesy of its hurricane wind forces in the upper parts of the mountain, giving this mountain a reputation for the most dangerous descent because of the sudden change from calm to violent weather in mixed, dangerous terrain.  Nanga taught me a lot about high altitude mountaineering. For example, no matter how hard you have trained for a mountain and how badly you love that mountain, you still need to feel that connection with it, you must feel in sync with it.

The 8000ers inspire me, they electrify me as I feel so alive the higher I go. I would be lying if I said that the summit is not important to me when I climb an 8000er. Why would I invest so much time and sweat equity on a peak I'm not super motivated to summit? However, my climbing partners' lives are more important than any given summit and so is my own life.  No doubt, from every account, this is a mountaineers mountain in Nepal, and I hope that I'm ready to meet the challenges this mountain will throw at me.  My experience on Nanga was very valuable in learning how to deal with extremely high winds day in day out and with long lonely days that turned into weeks of double digits negative temperature and deep snow. In addition, I think that Nanga and Gasherbrum I (aka K5, Hidden Peak) were  great training grounds for facing Kangchenjunga's topography, especially, when you try to defend yourself from the objective dangers while hanging by your eyelashes. One slip and it's bye, bye! Ropes will only be fixed on the absolutely necessary areas for safety. The people I know who have climbed this mountain before, describe it as so remote, so inaccessible, and extremely inhospitable that the thought "what have I got myself into"  came to their minds a few times while they attempted  it.  I have been preparing myself physically and mentally for this awesome yet demanding climb.

Kangchenjunga has 5 main peaks: Main summit (8,586m), Yalung Kang (8,505m), Kangchenjunga West (8,420), and the Twin Peaks (both 8,476m). For the Sikkimese people who worship this mountain, each peak represent a treasure: salt, holy books, silver, gold, grains and jewels. It will be interesting for me to climb this mountain also since it's the eastern most 8000er in the Himalaya range. Last year I climbed the western most 8000er of the Himalayas: Nanga Parbat in Pakistan.

It is widely known that this mountain is infamous for mega avalanches, extreme wind, extreme low temps, and deep crevasses. all objective dangers seem to be gargantuan there, from snow fields to ice falls to deep crevassed glaciers. Yeah, all the fond memories of Nanga Parbat and K5 come back to me... :-)
Commercial logistics will be up to Basecamp, above it we'll have to take care of all the logistics on the mountain ourselves. Very cool... but a lot of work!

Kangchenjunga lies on the border of Nepal and Sikkim. This mountain was thought to be the highest mountain in the world until the  British Great Trigonometric Survey of 1849 established Everest as the highest and Kangchenjunga (8,586m) as the third, after K2 (8,611m). It can be climbed either from the Nepal side or the India side. However, the Sikkimese people regard Kangchenjunga as a sacred peak and so the Sikkim government has banned expeditions climbing from the Indian side. Of course, I'll be climbing it from the Nepal side. The trek to advanced base camp (ABC) will start from idyllic Ramche and follow the moraine that, eventually, will lead to ABC. Ramche is often described as  a village surrounded by dwarf rhododendrons, rivers and emerald colored lakes...  Some Sherpas say It's possible that one might see blue sheep on the hills and pandas in the lower elevations.

A strong mental and physical preparation is required to successfully accomplish such a project. I have been following the same plan of exercises for the climbs I did in the past but increased anaerobic. Also, I'll be working on my advanced expedition technique course in the Alps as well as mixed terrain/vertical ice climbing at altitude in February/March. Acclimatizing on shorter peaks before going to an 8000er has served me well in the past and I plan on doing it again this season.

To  assist me with increasing my chances at success in this peak, a  Bern, Switzerland based company will provide me with weather forecast data. These guys were right on with their weather forecast on every peak I climbed in the past.

Here is a little of Kangchenjunga's history:
One of the first accounts to attempt the summit of Kangchenjunga was by an expedition led by Professor Dyhrenfurth (he was quite a character). Professor Dyhrenfurth was well known in the mountaineering circles of the time and famous for his militaristic leadership.  Every book I read on Kangchenjunga describes him as a highly skilled expedition leader.  However, Dyhrenfurth would not give in to pressures from sponsors, the professor aborted the attempt on Kangchenjunga soon after an avalanche almost killed the whole team.

Mark Twain was one of the earliest visitors to the Kangchenjunga area, staying at Darjeeling Station, back in 1896.  Mr. Twain was so fascinated by Kangchenjunga's beauty and mysticism that he dedicated quite a few pages of his book Following the Equator to this magnificent peak.

In 1905, Aleister Crowley, one of the earliest explorers of K2, was also one of the first explorers of Kangchenjunga. He was the expedition leader for his team but was stripped off of his leadership position because of his inhuman treatment of the expedition's porters. By all written accounts of Mr. Crowley's Kangchenjunga expedition, he even refused to rescue members of his own team who had been caught in a deadly ice avalanche while he sipped tea in his tent.

In 1954, John Kempe of the Hyderabad Public School and his team saw a route on the upper Zemu glacier which seemed viable. Finally, on May 25, 1955  Britons George Band and Joe Brown touched the virgin summit of Kangchenjunga.

I'll have more detailed info on my trip to Kangchenjunga as I near the departure date.  I'll post the expedition's tracking site so you can follow my climbing progress as we near our departure date.  Also, my sponsor will be furnishing GoPro cameras and if they work well on the mountain, I'll have some videos  to post as well. 

 Suggested Readings:
Aleister Crowley - The Confessions of Aleister Crowley
Charles Evans - The Un-trodden Mountain
John Angelo Jackson - More Than Mountains
John Angelo Jackson - Adventure Travels in the Himalaya