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 Dhaulagiri Ski Expedition: Headache and Donkey dung

8751 Ė Nilgiri, just another mountain on the Dhaulagiri trek.

After the spectacular flight from Pokhara to Jomsom and a short walk to Marpha my two companions Budhi and Kansha and I started the three days trek towards Dhaulagiri Base Camp. Leaving Marpha at 2670 meters we headed up the trail on steep grassy slopes gaining altitude quickly. According to Budhi, that has done this trek a couple of times before, our camp for the night was supposed to be at 3600 meters and it would take about 3-4 hours to get there. That sounded good to me. I didnít want to go too far since Iíve been battling a flew for the last few days and didnít feel very strong. After about three and a half hours we came up to a couple of stone houses on a nice grass field. It reminded me of the sheep herder huts in the Alps. That was a perfect camp site I thought but Budhi had something else in mind. -Itís time for lunch, he said. We sat down and took out our lunch package that we had brought. It was made up of Chapatti with a sliced boiled egg on top, a package of crackers and a chocolate bar. As we dug into our food Budhi pointed to the top of the hill that was at least 500 vertical meters higher up and said: -Thatís camp. We didnít go all the way to the top but set camp about halfway, which I was happy for. Budhiís brother Kansha that is carrying a huge and heavy wooden basket, full of kitchen stuff, strapped on top of his head, also looked happy that was the end of the day. Alongside us on the trek we had around 30 donkeys carrying gear for us and other expeditions going to Dhaulagiri. They do a good job with the loads but they also do a good job spreading their dung. They go as they like and that might be on the 50 cm wide trail or all over our camp sites.

Second day of the trek was a feast in beautiful views. The higher we got the more spectacular the surrounding mountains became. We had Nilgiri, on the other side of the valley, behind us and after about an hour of uphill the stunning view of Tukuche Peak and Dhaulagiri came into sight on our left hand side. The more than 1000 meters higher Dhaulagiri looked disappointingly small compared to the much closer located Tukuche from that angle. Going around the northern side of Tukuche Peak we lost sight of Dhaulagiri but saw the sun set behind its brother peak Dhaulagiri 3 as we pitched our tents in camp. During that day we walked for eight hours, climbed over the 5250 meter high Dhampus pass and gained more than a thousand vertical meters. At that altitude itís a quite long day but the only worry I had was at what shutter speed I would set the camera to get good photos. And I guess watching out where I put my feet so I didnít step into donkey dung. I wonder if Budhi and Kansha were enjoying the view as much as I was or if itís just another day at work for them. They sure smiled as much as I did.

Unfortunately we didnít reach our camp in the Hidden Valley before the donkeys had spread their shit all over the place. During the night I got a headache that was growing heavier and heavier leaving me with only a few hours of sleep. Iím definitely blaming the donkeys for my headache and not that I had ascended too fast to 5000 meters.

The final day of the trek was a four hour walk on rocky and uneven moraine with the high point of The French Pass at 5360 meters. My headache from the night before slowly disappeared with my growing excitement as we closed in on our final destination, The Dhaulagiri Base Camp.

I have now settled down in our camp at 4780 meters. I have built a nice platform for my tent that is going to be my home for the next month, taken my first shower in five days and Iím enjoying Budhiís excellent food. All is good and Iím eager to head up the mountain.

Fredrikís partners: Dynastar, Osprey, Adidas Eyewear.
Supporters: Grivel, Giro, Ortovox, Dynafit, Therm-Ic, Himaya, Duracell, Loben Expeditions and Jšmtport.

8729 Ė Kansha with his basket full of kitchen stuff

8767 Ė Fredrik with Dhaulagiri and Tukuche peak in the background.

Photos: Fredrik Ericsson

Earlier: 2007-09-10      On the road, again!

After a week in Kathmandu things have finally started moving here. With  a smile on my face Iím 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 wouldnít 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  Iíve found here? I didnít 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 couldnĎt say anything else than ďBag not foundĒ, said something  different this time. Bag is here! I didnít 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 couldnít 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 Deviís 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 Annapurnaís 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. Theyíve been trekking in three days from a town
 called Beni with the food, gas canisters and all the rest of the gear that couldnít 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. Itís 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 Ė 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. Iím 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 didnít 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 youíre 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 Iíve found out that a Nepalese guy is competing in the TV show ďIndiaís IdolĒ. Heís one of only three remaining so itís getting big here in Nepal. What can be better evening entertainment than watching Indiaís 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 Iím stuck here in Kathmandu and I can only hope that the bag arrives soon. Fredrik

Photos: Fredrik Ericsson

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