Well folks, this is it. Nearly. The penultimate written blog post prior to my Baruntse expedition. I’ll likely post a video blog before I go with more personal thoughts- haven’t done one of those in a while.
This week has rocketed towards me. After many long and arduous months of planning, plenty of hiccups on the way, lots of anxieties (and some utter miracles), it’s finally arrived. It’s exciting. Equally nerve-wracking. I’ve spent a whole day packing gear, and if I can eventually get the Adventure Peaks kitbag fastened up without threatening to explode and a zip pinging towards me, then I’ve already got half the challenge sorted. My training finished last night with a hill run and cycle, with a proper sports massage today to loosen me off ready. This is as fit as I’m going to get. Not as fit as I’d like to be, but like I’ve said- the power of determination is far greater.
As a newly-adapted night owl I’m catching up on sleep so I won’t stay too long, but wanted to give you more information on the actual expedition. For months and months I’ve just mentioned Baruntse or Everest… and even to this day I still have people asking ‘What’s Baruntse?’!.
So here’s a bit of a summary. I fly from Heathrow to Kathmandu on Saturday morning, arriving Sunday afternoon. I’m looking forward to meeting my leader and team-mates at the airport. There’s only 3 clients including myself so we should make a good, close-knit team. We’re in Kathmandu for 2 days sorting bits out before flying to Lukla, the infamous mountain airstrip. Not too looking forward to that part, I must say. From Lukla we trek to Poyan for our first camp in the great outdoors. Then it’s 8 days of trekking, gradually increasing altitude from 2800m to 5300m- the Mera La. The next day it’s a trek to high camp and the next day is our Mera Peak summit day. Mera Peak is a 6476m trekking peak, so still a serious altitude and my first Himalayan (and major) peak. Really looking forward to that one. Then we spend 2 days trekking to Baruntse base camp, losing height once again, arriving at the remote base camp at 5450m. That’s 600m higher than Mont Blanc’s summit! Rest days are important and we’ll be taking one at BC before climbing to Camp 1, then to Camp 2 the day after when we descend right down to base camp. We have another rest day before moving up to Camp 1 and Camp 2 again. Although it seems like we’re going back on ourselves, these rotations allow us to acclimatise to the extreme altitude slowly then recovering, rather than in one hit, maximising our chances of success. This time, though, we move from Camp 2 to the summit the next day on our ‘summit push’. There’s no waiting round at that sort of altitude. Camp 1 and Camp 2 are established by Sherpas at the start of the season.
Of course, the summit attempt depends on a suitable weather window and so these plans are all just a ‘guideline’. We have 2 spare summit days as a result so we have flexibility. We then head back to Camp 2 (or possibly 1 if moving quick) then back to BC the next day. There are far less camps than on Everest. Of course the itinerary can change, but essentially if we summit early, we’ll use the spare days to head back sooner. We depart via the stunning Amphu Labsa pass, camping as usual. 2 more trekking days, visiting small villages and traditional teahouses along the way, at a nice and leisurely pace. We trek from Namche Bazaar to Lukla, flying from that dreaded airstrip back to Kathmandu, and then, likely to be buzzing regardless of the outcome, heading home.
Meals are provided by the Sherpa cook crew and the treks are relatively short in duration and distance. They form a huge part of the acclimatisation process. We’ve been told to expect to be fed well, with a mix of Western cuisine and traditional Nepalese- sounds good enough to me! The key is to eat as well as you can on the mountain to stay strong and maintain weight. I’ve put on a bit of weight before the climb as I’ll expect to lose a fair bit thanks to my lamp-pole physique and super-fast fibre optic metabolism even though the trekking isn’t too strenuous (unlike the Baruntse climb!). We’ll be sharing tents and this will be very much a team effort. Plenty of time to relax, chill out, explore and absorb the amazing scenery. In fact, that’s the aim of the trip, regardless of whether the weather conditions and other factors allow us to attempt the summit or not. Just to have an amazing, safe experience and a good time. Technically, Baruntse has two cruxes, in the form of an ice wall graded Scottish Winter II and some mixed climbing at 7000m near the summit. Doesn’t bother me as I’m equipped and competent enough to deal with the terrain, but it’ll definitely be exhilarating. The majority of the climbing on both the peaks is by fixed ropes, which is a safe and efficient system that essentially means I am clipped into a rope the whole time for safety and route-finding. Of course, there’s so much more to the climb but if I write any more I may as well copy and paste the expedition dossier. Regardless, it’s going to be a real eye opening indulgence into a completely new culture for me.
As for communication, my sponsors Textlocal have kindly donated a Thuraya XT Satellite phone so I can keep my family updated whilst I’m away. Baruntse is in a very remote valley of Nepal and so mobile coverage is nearly inexistent. The Thuraya phone will enable me to keep my worried mum updated with SMS texts who will then relay this to my friends Chris and Ste who have very kindly agreed to man my Facebook, Twitter and Blogs on my behalf. They’ve also kindly supplied me with promotional clothing to wear on the mountain.
The rest folks- is an adventure!
I best finish packing then get some rest… over and out…