Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Update on my 8000ers in 2010

My Recent Climbs

Pakistani Children in the Northern Areas

After Everest this last Spring, I embarked on  a solo expedition to  Nanga Parbat, Pakistan on June 14th. I shared a climbing  permit with the Polish expedition led by Mr. Arthur Hajzer.  Nanga is my favorite mountain in Pakistan so it was with much excitement and anticipation that I arrived at its basecamp on the 19th of June, 2010. As everyone knows by now, the weather in the Himalayas and the Karakorum wasn't so kind this past climbing season.  Nanga was no exception to this year's brutal, erratic weather pattern. For the most part, while I was climbing there, Nanga was buried under deep snow and constantly beaten by strong winds, rock fall and mega avalanches. One avalanche flattened all camps at basecamp in late June. Soon after my arrival at Nanga Parbat, the  South Koreans and their Sherpas Mingma and Dawa arrived. In early July I did my first attempt at the summit along with  the Koreans and their Sherpas, but I turned back after spending a night on upper C3. Although I had cleared all the most difficult part of the climb I had to make a decision based on the conditions of that day and the weather forecast at hand, and I came to the conclusion that the best thing to do at that point was to to descend. My only HAP(high altitude porter) was not going to climb any further, he told me as we were getting ready for C4 that he felt very ill.   With Mr. Ali's decision to come down, I was unable to proceed alone since the weather window was not long enough  for me to do the carries to C4  and clear all my camps on the way down by myself, so I decided to abort the expedition. It was a difficult decision to return to BC but it was the right one. My expedition left Nanga on the 12th of July  to the Baltistan capital of Skardu via Chillas where I rested for a few days. The trek out of Nanga's BC through the Diameroi Valley was unforgettable. Since my arrival at basecamp, the brown/grey fields were now covered in a carpet of colorful forget-me-nots and many other pretty flowers that make the meadows around Nanga so memorable. The hills were green and the farms showed signs of a bounty harvest just around the corner.  I made new friends in the Chilas/ Diameroi area and gained new insights into Pakistan's complex, rich culture. I hope to return to Nanga for another chance in the near future.

Cleo and friends on the Summit of K5

Peak K5

                                           Altimeter data on K5 Summit
                  Descending the Japanese Couloir after Summitting K5

On July 20th, 2010, I arranged for another solo expedition to the Baltoro via Gondoro La pass, this time my objective was K5 (Hidden Peak). Like Nanga, K5 is a mountain of considerable technical difficulty with a very challenging approach, steep flanks, and infamous for its dangerous ice falls and numerous ever widening crevasses. It's the 8000er in Pakistan with the least amount of summits.  My expedition arrived at the Gasherbrums' base camp on the afternoon of July 27th, 2010. We rested for four days and on August 2nd at 3am I began climbing to C1. I spent one night on C1, the next night on C2 and on the afternoon of the 4th of August, I arrived at C3. Muhammad Ali of Sadpara and "little Hussein" of Machulo were my porters. I left for the summit push that night at about 10:30pm,  it was snowing heavily on K5 and there was a complete white out throughout the night as we climbed. Unlike the feelings I had on what would have been my summit push on Nanga, here, despite the very dangerous conditions, I felt good about this climb. Of the 20 or so persons who had left base camp for the summit push, 10 decided to stay behind because of the weather. It was a cold, very dangerous uncertain climb, as none of us could see the summit through the snow blizzard and white out or had any idea as to what was below us or above us. We stayed mostly on the rock and ice sections so as to avoid the deep snow on the steep slopes (highly avalanche prone) that at  times it seemed bottomless. On the last slope before reaching the summit's ridge we were met by two avalanches caused (accidentally) by our teammates traversing the slope above the rest of the group, we were close enough to its apex so the collision wasn't so strong, but the Slovenians who had turned around several minutes earlier felt its fury below us. After 16 hours of an epic climb, in the most difficult conditions, I arrived with the rest of the group on K5's summit. We all arrived together at the saddle and two people decided to stay behind and not summit. It seemed like a miracle that our lives had been spared, the sky cleared and the sun was shining on us for a little while. We sat on the narrow ridge of K5 where one can place one leg in Pakistan and the other in China while marveling on the expansive beauty of the Karakorum. We all thanked God for such a gift and descended to C3 for the night. Eight out of the 20 or so strong climbers who were at C3 summited that day. Five people had summited a week earlier, bringing the number of summiteers for the 2010 Summer season at K5 to 13. At my debriefing in Islamabad, I was told by the secretary at the Pakistani Alpine Club that I was the only woman to top an 8000er in Pakistan this year.

Last few meters to Mt. Manaslu's Summit

C1 to C2 - Mt Manaslu

River in the Manaslu Conservation Area

I returned to Nepal during the first week of September. I had planned to go to Shishapangma but decided to face Manaslu instead.  I had my briefing at the Ministry on the 8th and on the 9th of September my team and I began our trek through this most amazing conservation area. The first two days were spent, mostly, stuck in deep mud. The Manaslu Conservation Area is a dense, hot and humid rain forest. With hundreds of waterfalls, beautiful fauna and flora, and the most fascinating scenery. The rain was relentless but we kept pushing forward. By the fourth day, we had exhausted our dry trekking clothes and now everything was wet! We survived the very long rainy, hot and humid days of trekking plus two days in the village of Samogoan, arranging for porters to carry our things to base camp and sorting our camp gear out. We arrived at Mt. Manaslu base camp on September 19, 2010 under heavy pouring rain. Weather wise it was much the same as the other mountains, lots of rain and snow… But patience paid off and the forecasters in Switzerland gave me the green light for an Oct 1st summit window, I had to be fast for the window would only last a few hours. On September 28 I headed to C1, 29th C2, and spent the 30th at  high C3 enduring extremely high winds. On the first day of October at 7:48am I started my summit push. I  topped  Manaslu on October 1, 2010 @ 11:25am.

Special offerings to the Mt. Manaslu God made from flour by our Lama

On the summit of Mt. Manaslu

Samagoan Child near Mt. Manaslu

Manaslu Conservation Area
My favorite porter

Lunch break with my Lady Porters on the foothills of Mt. Manaslu

I'm happy to be back at home after a very long climbing season. I apologize to my friends for the delay on information but my computer was damaged early on in the season in Pakistan and I couldn't send updates anymore. As a personal challenge, I had set a goal for myself last Autumn '09 to summit six 8000er within twelve months.  I'm very happy to have reached the summit of four 8000er in twelve months and seven days given the difficult conditions on the mountains this year. God willing,  I'll resume my training in the Andes and the Alps very soon as I prepare for yet another challenge in 2011. I'm planning on starting with Kanchenjunga Spring 2011, follow up with Chogori Summer 2011 and Shishapangma's South Face in the Autumn.

P. S.  I did NOT give any interview at the Gasherbrum's base camp as it has been reported.