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 Dhaulagiri Ski Expedition: a bit of sunshine

Last week we had a bit of sunshine for a change and together with five other climbers, Dodo (Slovakia), Kinga (Poland), Kim (South Korea) and histwo climbing sherpas, I tried to reach the summit of Dhaulagiri. Afterfour days of climbing in deep snow we came to a point where we felt that it was to dangerous to continue. The risk of an avalanche was too great. We were 7900 metres above see level and I was on top of my longest ski run ever. It was more than 3000 vertical metres of skiing in mostly powde rsnow down to base camp. Another snowstorm had pulled in before I took of my skis that evening. At the moment the snow is turning into rain as I moving to lower altitude on my way to Katmandu.

Iím having computer problem so there will be more info about the skiing on Dhaulagiri and new photos in next update

Earlier: Iím back in base camp again after a four days visit to Camp 1. My hopes for the summit were thrashed by yet another snowfall over Dhaulagiri.

Arriving in C1 on Tuesday I found a flat open space of white snow. None of our tents could be seen, only a pair of ski tips was sticking up out of the snow. One and a half meters of fresh snow covered the tents. After a bit of probing to locate itís position under the snow cover and two hours digging I found that my tent was thrashed. One of the poles was broken and there was a big hole in the side of the tent. Most of the other tents that were dug out in C1 were also broken. The next day became a repair day. Needle, thread and a roll of duct tape was brought out to put the tents back in action. Being a bit restless I took my skis for a short hike in the afternoon and got a few turns down towards camp. Thursday an attempt was made to reach C2. After four hours of breaking trail in deep snow, clouds moved in quickly and it started snowing. With no visibility we couldnít see where we were going and decided to turn around and go back to C1. Friday didnít give much better weather, dark clouds surrounding the mountain in the morning turned into snowfall by noon. Tired of the unstable weather and hungry for Budhiís food I decided to go back down to base.

This autumn is not making it easy for us climbers. Itís luring us up on the mountain with blue sky and sunshine, just to throw a snow storm in our face. Many of the climbers are giving up their hope for a Dhaulagiri
summit this year and are returning home. The Japanese team left a couple of days ago and the Dutch-Austrians are waiting for porters to pick their gear up. I have ten more days on the permit so Iím giving it another shot. Slovakian climber Dodo got a weather forecast saying that a high pressure is coming in Monday and that it will be good weather for some days. Early Monday morning I will be heading up to C1 again and depending on snow conditions slowly moving up on the mountain. This will be the last chance to summit Dhaulagiri for this year.

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


Earlier: 2007-09-27 Prisoner in Base Camp

Just after I wrote the last update saying we are having great weather here in Nepal the sky turned grey and it started snowing. Weíre now on the fourth day of non-stop snow fall. We have gone from no snow at all in camp to more than a meter in those days.

After being very positive and having great confidence towards my summit attack Iím now a bit more humble. Having a meter of snow here in camp means there is definitely a lot more on the mountain. We are going to need a few days of sunshine for the snow to settle before I even start thinking of setting my foot on the mountain again.

Meanwhile Iím a prisoner here in Dhaulagiri base camp. All Iím missing is the striped jersey. Iím spending my days trying to become a better person reading a book called ďEthics for the new millenniumĒ written by The Dalai Lama. And my ventures donít go any further than my fellow inmates next door the Dutch-Austrian guys. They have a huge dome tent that is very comfortable and warm for an evening tea and chat.

Looking out of my tent I can see that itís still snowing here in the
mountains of Nepal.

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

The weather is good and time flies by here in Nepal. Life in base camp (BC) is simple and easy going, mostly focused on food. After three days in BC I went up and had my first taste of Dhaulagiri, The White Mountain.

Since I arrived in BC the weather has been very nice and stable, lots of sunshine and not much wind. To climb an 8000-meter peak you need to spend a lot of time getting used to the altitude, acclimating as itís called. When I had my tent, our toilet tent and all my gear sorted out I was ready to check out the mountain and start acclimating.

The mountains here in Nepal are sacred and the Buddhist people believe that the godís live in the mountains. Therefore, before you begin climbing you have to do a ceremony that is called Puja to show your respect to the Godís. The Nepalese people here in BC built a Chorten (Buddhist monument) out of rocks and attached to it was prayer flags in four directions. On top of the Chorten was a photo of The Dalai Lama and offerings like rice, cookies, chocolate bars etc. The ceremony was held by Buddhist monk who was singing and saying prayers as we threw rice towards the Chorten. After the Puja you have permission from the godís to set your foot on their mountain and you have their support during your climb.

Summer has been hard on Dhaulagiri. Itís very dry on the lower slopes and the snow level is around 5500 meters. The first part of the climb is a cracked up glacier that is called the icefall. The Seracís (ice pillars) in the icefall are regularly falling and making a brumming noise giving us climbers something to fear. You donít want to be anywhere near the Serac falls therefore the climbing route goes on the right hand side of the ice fall, on the lower parts of a big rock wall. Without snow on this part itís a mix of sand, rocks, and ice. Horrible, if you ask me. After that you walk on a flat glacier for a bit until it gets steeper up to the northeast pass of Dhaulagiri where youíll find camp 1 (C1), at around 5700 meters. Apart from the sandbox in the beginning the terrain is fairly easy with only a few hairy crevasses (cracks in the glacier) to cross. My first time on the mountain was a long struggle to get up to C1, where I spent the night. It took me six and a half hours to climb the 1000 verticl meters up to camp and during the night I didnít sleep much due to an evil headache. That didnít give me much confidence for the future. The next day I went back down to base camp.

Everyday life in base camp is simple but comfortable. I have my own tent where I sleep and keep my clothing and gear. In our kitchen tent chef Budhi and his assistant Kansha are serving breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. Itís like having my mom here in camp. All I have to do is to show up to get an excellent meal. Other than that there is time to read books, listen to music and cruise around visiting the other climbers.

The climbers that are here this year to climb Dhaulagiri are a big Japanese team with about thirteen climbers, including six Climbing Sherpaís (Nepalese porters), a Dutch-Austrian team with four climbers and one Korean climber with his two climbing Sherpaís. In the last few days a French team and a Polish team has arrived as well. Itís a good mix  people and weĎre having a good time.

The Japanese team has hired Sherpaís to fix ropes on the mountain making the climbing safer and easier. The ropes are fixed along almost the whole climbing route. I heard a figure of 2800 meters of rope only up to camp 1. Personally, I think it takes away some of the exploratory experience you get from climbing a mountain. It has one positive thing though, if you follow the ropes you will never get lost.

The second time on the mountain I slept one night in C1 before I climbed up a gentle snow slope towards the northeast ridge. On the ridge it got steeper and there were a few crevasses to cross on the way to C2 at 6500 meters. After having dinner with a view of an amazing sunset on the Annapurna Mountains I tucked myself down in to my thick sleeping bag to get some rest. My sleep that night was disrupted by yet another evil headache. During the days I feel fine but during the nights the nasty ďhigh altitude manĒ is giving me a few punches in the head. To get the most out of this acclimating trip I climbed up the ridge to about 6900 meters before turning around and heading back down to C2. I spent a second night in C2 feeling a bit better and the next day I skied down to C1. It started with cautious turns in powder on the steep ridge and went big cruising turns in sugar snow on the slopes down towards C1. It was an amazing experience to ski on the slopes of Dhaulagiri with mountains like Annapurna and Nilgiri in the background. Felt good to finally get some skiing after some weeks of transportation.

Now Iím back in base camp and I will stay here for three to four days to rest before I go up again. Iím feeling well acclimated so next time I will aim for the summit. If everything goes as planned, the weather is good and Iím in good shape, I will summit Dhaulagiri at the end of the month. Looking forward to more skiing.

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

Earlier: 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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