Baruntse Expedition 2011 (7129m)

I’ve just returned from climbing Mera Peak (6476m) and Baruntse (7129m) in Nepal where I have been leading for www.adventurepeaks.com.

The 35 day expedition treks in via the Hinku Valley, a remote area in comparison to the near by Khumbu Valley.  The route chosen takes in some remote villages whilst steadily climbing towards the Mera La Pass at the head of the valley and where Mera Peak can be climbed from.

 Remote village we spent a night at on the trek to Mera.

Some local kids.

Mera Peak is a technically straight forward peak and a classic of the Himalayas.  We experienced some very cold but clear weather on Mera, the summit, once gained by a short steep ice cliff, rewards you with spectacular views of the range, peaks such as Everest, Makalu, Ama Dablam, Chamalang and Kanchenjunga are all in clear view.  Following descent we made are way towards Baruntse Base Camp, about 2 days trek.

 Mera High Camp.
 Summit views to Everest and Lhotse.
Irish patriotism on the summit!

Baruntse is a larger peak than Mera at 7129m and is a classified ‘Expedition Peak’.  Having acclimatised on Mera we were able to make the most of the stable weather on arrival at Baruntse and start up the mountain after 1 rest day.  We moved to camp 1 from Base, rested, then camp 2, and then with a 2:30am start we went for the summit.  6 of us summitted on this attempt, 6 dropped down to Base and made a 2nd attempt some days later, 2 more summitting on the 2nd attempt.  Again we had clear, but very cold weather for Baruntse, it was about -15 in the Base Camp tents on average so much colder high up.  Again we were rewarded with spectacular summit views of the range with Lhotse seeming a stones throw away!

 Approach to the West Col and Camp 1.
 Arriving at Camp 2.
Baruntse Summit.

After this the trek out took us over the reasonably technical Amphu Labtsa Pass and then a few days down the Khumbu Valley, which is comparatively developed and a shock to the system giving a night in a bed after almost 30 in the tent.

 Ascent of the Amphu Labtsa Pass.
 Descent of the Amphu Labtsa Pass.
 Walking back into the Khumbu Valley.
Evening sun on the Lhotse Face.

This was another really great trip to lead and in a great part of the Himalayas.  Thanks to everyone involved for their input and well done.  Also to the out standing Sherpa team we had, an inspiration to all!

A quote I read whilst in Nepal said, ‘come back alive – come back as friends – and come back having summitted – but in that order!’

Warm weather scrambling on Dow

Alex and I had a great day out with Tish, Jane, Nick and Nat on Dow.  The unusually warm weather made it a perfect day for Dow Crag.  We climbed a link up of Easy Terrace and Giants Crawl.  Following getting to the top of Dow, we also took in Brim Fell and the Old Man.

Thanks for another great day out and Happy Birthday to Nick!

Some photos of the day below.

 Climbing from Goats Water
 Dow Crag
 Jane and Nat
 Jane- pleased to have mounted the Donkey!
 Alex belaying Jane
 Nick enjoys his birthday bash

 The last steep pitch of Diff.
 Tish and Nick top out
 Jane, Nat and Alex top out.

 Coniston Old Man
Hazy heat of late afternoon

Unclimbed Peaks and Khan Tengri Expeditions 2011 – Kyrgyzstan – Leading for Adventure Peaks

I have just returned from Kyrgyzstan where I have been expedition leading for www.adventurepeaks.com.

The two phase trip firstly focused on exploring new areas of the Tien Shan mountains and climbing unclimbed and unrecorded peaks up to about 4700m.  We managed about 7 significant peaks, a number of new routes up to about Scottish V/5, and a number of ascents of previously climbed peaks also.  The area offered great Scottish style mountaineering at a altitude similar to the European Alps.  Access to the area is by six wheel drive trucks and the sense of remoteness quickly builds.  As well as great mountains, the area is also steeped in history and an ancient nomadic culture.

Access Truck
Nomadic Family

Base Camp Mess Tent

The Range

First ascent of the obvious line up the toothed ridge

En route for an unclimbed summit

A new route on a previously climbed peak
Using this stage to acclimatise we then moved on to the 7010m peak, Khan Tengri.  Some days over land and a chopper flight dropped us into Base Camp on the glacier.  This area of the Tien Shan is on a much larger scale, the peaks are higher and Base is already above 4000m.
We spent about 10 days on the mountain and despite slow progress initially due to heavy snow fall, 3 of our group of 5 summitted on the 14th on a perfect summit day, also the first really good day we had so far on this phase of the expedition.  Khan Tengri gives a challange in that its summit day is 1200m, its also the steepest part of the route, it would compare with the Hornli ridge on the Matterhorn only at 7000m and having already spent 8 days climbing to camp 3, where the summit day begins.
Khan Tengri 7010m

Heli drop to Base Camp

Camp 1 before the snow came

Summit Day

Other groups ascending the shoulder on summit day
Arriving at 6200m

Skye Mountaineering – 31st May and 1st June

Now joined by Andy, we decided to head to the northern end of the ridge and make a traverse of the north skyline.  We started from Sligachan and went up the NW ridge of Bruach na Frithe at grade 2.  We then moved on to the Bhasteir Tooth.  After a ‘team talk’ we decided to climb the tooth direct via Naismith’s Route (V.Diff 35m).  This was Sean’s first rock climb and was a great achievement as its an intimidating looking pitch.  We then climbed the steep bulge onto Am Basteir and continued up the west ridge of Sgurr nan Gillean (mod) and then descended the SE ridge at grade 3.  A really great day out and taking on some of the finest Cuillin peaks and climbing.

The weather then decided to remind us we were on the west coast of Scotland on the 1st.  We walked up to Coire Lagan thinking we may do some rope work on the slabs until to wet to continue.  Once in the coire we were pleasantly surprised that the horizontal rain was noticeably warmer than on the previous days.  An ascent of the Inaccessible Pinnacle had been a very slim plan B but was not looking out of the question.  We pushed on to the start of the route, had a ‘team talk’ again in the bivi shelter and decided to go for it.  The horizontal rain, zero visibility and Sean’s sound effects made it an atmospheric ascent and one of my most memorable I’d say!

Well done and thanks to all over the 4 days for their enthusiasm.

Its also worth pointing out that there was a serious rock fall on the Cioch on 31st that resulted in one death and a number of casualties, sad news.  I believe it was on Cioch Direct so anyone thinking of climbing in that area may want to do a bit of investigating about the state of the route.

More info here – http://www.ukclimbing.com/news/item.php?id=62485

Butter Wort

Things to come…

Sean and Andy

Naismiths route, Bhasteir Tooth

Bulge onto Am Basteir

The northern skyline – our traverse

Andy about to finish Naismith’s

Sean on Naismiths – gripped!

Andy on Naismith’s retrieving the gear
Gilleans West Ridge

Skye Mountaineering – 29th and 30th May

After a very windy and damp day introducing Sean to grade 2 scrambling and some mountaineering rope work on ‘The Spur’ scramble on Sgurr an Fheadain, we decided to step things up abit for the better weather due on the 30th. 

Joined by Janet, we decided on an ascent of the ‘great stone chute’ to gain the summit of Sgurr Alasdair.  After this we scrambled onto Sgurr Thearlaich and then headed towards Sgurr Mhic Choinnich taking in 2 abseils and looking at set up and prussick back-up.  We then took Collie’s ledge to gain Sgurr Mhic Choinnich and then descended to the bealach before a surf down An Stac screes.  A great day out and good taster of the various terrain encountered on the Cuillin.

Great clouds on Sgurr Dubh an Da Bheinn

Coir a’Ghrunnda

Collie’s Ledge

Another group on the first abseil

Walking and Scrambling in Scotland

Last week we spent a week exploring some classic walks and scrambles around the Fortwilliam area and in Cuillins on Skye.

The weather was always better than forecast with only one very wet day on Skye.  We started with CMD arete on Ben Nevis, then the Ring of Steall and then Curved Ridge on the Buachaille Etive Mor.  We then moved to Skye and the Cuillins.  There we traversed a section of the main ridge taking in Sgurr Alasdair, Sgurr Thearlaich and Sgurr Mhic Choinnich.  This is a great section of the ridge with 2 abseils and a section known as Collie’s Ledge, a shelf which cuts through some otherwise very steep ground.  We also did another section of the ridge taking in the main top of Sgurr na Banachdich in less the perfect weather.  This all gave a great taste of the Cuillins.

A great few days with 12 Munros taken in on route.  Thanks to all for their effort and enthusism, well done!

The wire bridge, early bath?!
The valley below Steall Falls.
The Ben, CMD on the right.  Not much snow left.
Approaching the summit of Sgurr a’ Mhaim.
Approaching the summit of Sgurr a’ Mhaim.
The Devil’s Ridge.
Looking down Curved Ridge on the Buachaille.
Climbers on Rannoch Wall.
The summit of Stob Dearg, the Buachaille, with the wilderness of Rannoch
Moor stretching away behind.

Scotland – Classic Walks and Scrambles

Have just spent a week in Scotland exploring some classic scrambles on the west coast and Skye.  We were very lucky with the weather, with only one very wet and windy day on Skye, and all the others staying mainly dry.

First up was CMD arete and onto Nevis, followed by the Ring of Steall and Curved Ridge on the Buachaille Etive Mor.  Then it was up to the Cuillins, the best days weather allowed an ascent of Sgurr Alasdair and a traverse of the section of the main ridge to An Stac screes.  This section takes in Sgurr Thearlaich, then 2 abseils and a section known as Collie’s Ledge up onto Sgurr Mhic Choinnich, a good taster of the Cuillin Ridge.  After a wet and windy rest day we then went up and did the section of the main ridge onto Sgurr na Banachdich in less than perfect wether.

A great few days and some classic routes, 12 Munros also.  Thanks to all and well done!

Mark Rock Climbing Course

‘Having spend three days in the mountains with Paddy I’ve got to say he’s the best guide I’ve ever worked with. Everything was pitched perfectly for my individual level - the choice of climbs, the balance between learning and mileage on the crag, all suited my level of experience. In three days I went from never having climbed trad to leading VD, seconding HVS+ and ticking off a classic mountain route, all thanks to Paddy’s professionalism and enthusiasm. Can’t wait to get out there again!’