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 Dhaulagiri Ski Expedition: On the road again

2007-09-10      On the road, again!

After a week in Kathmandu things have finally started moving here. With  a smile on my face I’m on my way to the mountains.

It all changed last Friday after a few days of grumpy me. I was close to exploding of anger believing that the airline had lost my skis and climbing gear. I had started working on plan B: finding gear in  Kathmandu, so that this wouldn’t be the end of the trip. Most of the climbing  gear and clothing was possible to gather from friends and shops. Skis were  more difficult, at least there was nothing from the 21st Century to be  found. I asked myself, is it safe to go to Dhaulagiri with the gear that  I’ve found here? I didn’t have to answer that question. Friday morning I went on one of our routine trips to the airport to  look for the ski bag. The man at the lost baggage desk, that I was sure couldn‘t say anything else than “Bag not found”, said something  different this time. Bag is here! I didn’t believe him first until I saw a man dragging my ski bag towards us. All my gear was right in front of me  after a weeks detour. In a second I was a changed man, all the anger was gone and I couldn’t stop smiling.

Having sorted out the gear problem I got on the bus for the six hours  ride to Pokhara where I was met by a massive rain.  I guess the monsoon is  not quite over yet. Walking back to my hotel from a restaurant in the evening was like walking in a shallow creek. It was water all over the place. I had one day of sightseeing in Pokhara and went on a boat ride on the  Fewa lake, visited the Peace Stupa and the Devi’s waterfall.

Sunday morning I got up early and went to the airport to catch the
 flight to Jomsom. Ghorka Air took me along for a mind blowing experience. As  the small propeller plane rose through the clouds we were in the middle of  an anfi-theatre of beautiful peaks. The Machhapuchhare, also called the  fish tail mountain, the four Annapurna’s and Nilgiri to mention a few.  Last but not least I got the first glimpse of Dhaulagiri. That was a great  feeling.

In Jomsom Budhi, that will be my cook in base camp, and his brother was waiting for me. They’ve been trekking in three days from a town
 called Beni with the food, gas canisters and all the rest of the gear that couldn’t be taken on the plane. As soon as I got my bags we left  Jomsom and walked the one and half hours down the valley to a town called  Marpha and the Snow Leopard Lodge were we were going to spend the night.

Monday the trek towards base camp will start. It’s a serious trek
 going over two passes (Dhampus and French pass) that are higher than 5000 meters. If everything goes as planned we will reach Dhaulagiri base  camp (4700m) on Wednesday.

Captions: 8658 – First view of Dhaulagiri through the window of the plane.  Photos: Fredrik Ericsson

2007-09-04: Missed flight and a lost bag!

Finally the trip has started. I’m on my way to Dhaulagiri, the 8167 meter high mountain in Nepal to climb and ski. I must admit that the trip could have started better. I left Chamonix last Wednesday and flew from Geneva in Switzerland to Doha in Qatar. That part went smoothly. I was in time, the flight was on time and I didn’t have to pay for any excess weight for my big and heavy ski bag with all my ski and climbing gear.

In Qatar my luck changed. I had three hours until my flight for Kathmandu was leaving. That was plenty of time I thought so I strolled around the airport, checked the internet and listened to a book on my mp3 player. Not at all thinking of the one hour time difference between Europe and Qatar I arrived at the gate when the plane had already left. Fortunately for me they let me rebook on the next flight without charge. Not so fortunate, the next flight to Kathmandu was 24 hours later. By now I know the Doha airport quite well. I do not recommend the restaurants.

Friday morning I arrived in Kathmandu and after a bit of queuing to get visa I walked over to the baggage belt to pick up my bags. My duffel bag was there, but my ski bag was nowhere to be found. In that bag I have my skis, poles, crampons, ice axes and down clothing: the gear that I need to be able to go up in the mountains. Without it I might as well take a flight to a beach resort and go swimming.

After filing a report for my lost bag and checking in at the hotel my Nepalese friend Loben took me sightseeing in Kathmandu. We visited the touristy shopping quarters of Thamel, Bouddhanath, the sacred Buddhist stupa and the Hindu temple of Pashupatinath. Kathmandu is a big city with millions of people and it seems that everyone has a car or a motorcycle. It also seems that they have a competition where the one that honks the horn the most wins. Even though the city is a bit too stressful for me, it offers a lot to see and if you get out of the tourist traps the people are very friendly.

I first met Loben in 2004 when I was in Tibet to climb and ski my first 8000-meter peak, Shisha Pangma. Loben runs a company called Loben Expeditions that is organizing anything from short treks to big
expeditions all over the Himalayas. If you’re interested in a great experience in the mountains of Nepal, Tibet or India you should talk to Loben. On my Shisha Pangma Expedition as well as my ongoing Dhaulagiri Expedition Loben has made all the arrangements with climbing and trekking permits, base camp staff and all logistics in Nepal.

Hanging out with Loben and his friends I’ve found out that a Nepalese guy is competing in the TV show “India’s Idol”. He’s one of only three remaining so it’s getting big here in Nepal. What can be better evening entertainment than watching India’s Idol? I guess if I could understand what they are saying.

I take full credit for missing the flight, but the lost bag; I must give
that to Qatar Airways. They have put in a great effort to lose a big ski bag. Now it has been four days since I arrived in Nepal and still no news about my ski bag. Until I get my gear I’m stuck here in Kathmandu and I can only hope that the bag arrives soon. Fredrik

Photos: Fredrik Ericsson

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