Dhaulagiri 2016 Expedition Dispatches
Dispatch #11 - October 6, 2016 - Kathmandu
We would like to send our thoughts to the families and friends of the three Sherpas who lost their lives on the Manaslu Trek, Himlung and Shishapangma respectively this fall season.
We got back to Kathmandu yesterday after heavy snowfall put an end to our Dhaualgiri summit attempt. Our team members and Sherpas did a fantastic job on the hill and their patience nearly paid off, but the late monsoon that is still somewhat present in Nepal was not kind to us.
Our expedition has had several major logistical headaches to overcome throughout the expedition. Our initial trek to base camp was scrapped as a bridge leading to a major town was washed out and this left us unable to drive with our porters and gear to the starting point of the trek.
Our only option was then to drive to Marpha and trek the higher way through the Hidden Valley. On route to Marpha, there were two separate landslides to deal with. Vehicles were unable to pass these obstacles so we ended up walking for about 4 hours between Beni and the slides, and then made a very late arrival in Marpha by jeeps.
Finally on the trek we were concerned when the elevations of the campsites where we had decided to camp were higher than all the maps we had consulted, which had lower heights then the camps actually were. Our first night out of Marpha was meant to be at 3,600 meters but in fact was 4,200 meters. Over the next several days we proceeded to go higher and higher but we had no illness whatsoever due to the experienced nature of our group. It was nice to finally drop lower and settle in at base camp at an elevation of 4,700 meters.
We had arrived at base camp two days earlier than was originally planned from the other direction, but we still had to ferry all of our gear from the mule drop depot that was two hours away from base camp. We had brought a large number of porters with us from Kathmandu to assist with loads that were too big for mules, so over the next four days we had to ferry all our gear to base camp. By the time the Puja was held on the 12th, everything was in camp and the Sherpas were eager to get the rope fixed to allow our members access to the hill.
Several of our Sherpas have climbed Dhaulagiri before, some multiple times, and they all decided the route was longer than usual because of all the open crevasses. Even though it was more work for the Sherpas with the extra distances, they all decided that Dhaulagiri seemed a much more safer objective in the fall season over the more popular spring season. The boys made great progress getting the fixed ropes into camp one and two respectively before our first wave of bad weather happened. We had planned for the Sherpa to take a three day rest before continuing back up the hill to fix the ropes from camp two to three and to the summit respectively. The Sherpas had encountered several large crevasses that were blocking access to the ridge and to camp three, so we ordered several aluminum ladders from Kathmandu to assist us pass these. Our porters, who we had hired for the entire expedition duration, ran down from base camp to collect them from Marpha for us so we could get them higher on the hill.
We had about 4-5 days of mixed weather and while base camp got the afternoon showers and snow, it still seemed as if the upper mountain was not receiving too much snow. We would check daily through the scope and still see the Sherpa tracks leading to camp two which was encouraging for all of us.
When the weather finally cleared and the forecasts predicted stable weather, the Sherpas headed back up the hill in anticipation of fixing the ridge and the summit day. What took them 4 hours the previous time now took them 14 hours after wading through deep snow to reach camp one. The lower glacier was still somewhat dry but the the area of camp one had collected a lot of snow. When the boys went higher they found the snow conditions a little better but there was a lot of snow once they got closer to camp two. Our team members were traveling a day behind the Sherpas so they were now in position at camp one. The evening of the 28th saw unexpected heavy snow. Camp one received about 12 inches and camp two more. It continued to snow all day on the 29th and all of our tents at camp two were buried under about 3.5 feet of snow. With the waist deep snow at camp two, the Sherpas had no choice but to descend.
Dhaulagiri has a reputation for avalanches, especially just out of base camp with the traverse across the Little Eiger, and the ridge above camp two and summit day have all experienced slides in the past. With this in mind we had to play it cautious and make a calculated descent to base camp. All of our fixed ropes were now buried and our bamboo marker wands were barely visible above the snow. Joe and Josh did a great job of breaking trail and route finding from camp one to base camp and this assisted the Sherpas who were retreating from camp two in waist deep snow. The avalanche debris on the Little Eiger section had completely buried the ropes and made for a tricky descent with the additional hazard of rockfall. We were all relived when all of our team were down at base camp safe.
Our weather forecasts had looked perfect for an October 1st summit date and only the surprise storm on the 28th/29th was not predicted. October 1 was amazing with clear skies and no wind but the GFS forecast was showing a significant dumping starting on the 1st/2nd. True to form, it snowed heavily on the evening of the 1st through a good part of the morning on the 2nd. With such an experienced team of climbers, we all knew that our shot a the summit of Dhaulagiri had gone as the avalanche danger now was too high for the next several days.
We had arranged helicopters to pick us up from the lower Italian Base Camp but with the continued bad weather in the Valley and in Kathmandu it was going to be several days before the choppers could reach us. With this in mind we decided to make the long trek from base camp directly to Marpha. Beer was the beverage of choice after the 10-12 hour walk and the next day we took jeeps to Pokhara and managed to get onto an afternoon flight to Kathmandu.
Some of our team members are now on there way home whilst others are enjoying a few days in Kathmandu before going home to their respective countries. We are reading about record numbers of summits this season on both Manaslu and Cho Oyu and congratulate all those climbers who were successful. We didn't reach the summit of Dhaulagiri but gave it a good shot with a small team of dedicated climbers and Sherpas who had the entire mountain to themselves which was an experience to be savoured.
Dispatch #10 - October 1, 2016 - Dhaulagiri Base Camp
We started our summit push and were at Camp 1. We then had very deep and unexpected snow at Camp 2, 3 feet to be exact. This meant we had to abort our October 1 summit push. All the team members are ok but disappointed. There is the possibility of new snow coming, so we may have missed our summit window. The team is now back in base camp contemplating their next move.
Phil Crampton via Sat Phone
Dispatch #9 - September 27, 2016 - Dhaulagiri Base Camp
There has been 4 days of pretty bad weather, but we are letting the snow consolidate and will continue on with our summit plans. Normally, most teams are pretty clandestine about summit pushes, but since we are the only ones on the peak, here are the tentative plans.... weather dependent. Right now, we are looking at going to Camp 1 on the 28th, Camp 2 on the 29th, Camp 3 on the 30th and October 1st for the summit. We are not sure how well the sat phone will work, so we will keep you posted as per our technology allows.
Phil Crampton via Sat Phone
Dispatch #8 - September 20, 2016 - Dhaulagiri Base Camp
The Sherpas tried to fix the ropes up to Camp 3, but due to such a dry season, there are several large crevasses which have opened up. There is little snow and the glacier is melting. We have 6 ladders coming from Kathmandu and our porters will have to bring them up from Marpha.
Everyone is doing well and looking forward to a summit push.
Phil Crampton via Sat Phone
Dispatch #7 - September 18, 2016 - Dhaulagiri Base Camp
The weather has been fantastic and insane. Yesterday, there wasn't a cloud in the sky and absolutely no wind. It was one of the best weather days I have ever had in 20 or so years in the Himalayas. It felt however about 125 degrees F on the glacier.
On the 17th, we went up to Camp 1. On the 18th, we went up to Camp 2. Some of the group stayed overnight, others came back down. Our Sherpas are still fixing rope on higher camps and trying to finish before any bad weather sets in. We are now still doing load carries on the hill. Our goal will be to try to summit sometime between the 25th and 30th of September.
Phil Crampton via Sat Phone
Dispatch #6 - September 14, 2016 - Dhaulagiri Base Camp
It was the first clear day today. We have had 2 days of rain. The team will climb to Camp 1 on Saturday. Then, on Sunday, climb to Camp 2. We are hoping to be able to summit around the 25th or 26th of September, depending on wind speeds and weather.
Our Sherpas will be fixing ropes on Saturday from Camp 2 - 3, and hopefully on Sunday up to the summit. Despite the rain, there has been no snow above base camp but some rain. The conditions on the mountain are still quite dry.
Everyone is doing well, and looking forward to getting on the hill. We will update again soon.
Phil Crampton via Sat Phone
Dispatch #5 - September 10, 2016 - Dhaulagiri Base Camp
The team reached base camp on September 8. The all important Puja ceremony will be held on Monday, September 12. After that, the work will begin and the rope fixing will start. The plan will be to create a new route to Camp 1, due to the dry snow conditions. We are still the only team here.
The weather has been great... warm with clear skies, and just a little bit of rain at night. Unfortunately, our Inmarsat BGAN is not working once again. It has disappointingly not worked now on the past two expeditions. So, because of this we are going to be limited in posting dispatches. We will have to call in short updates.
Phil Crampton via Sat Phone
Dispatch #4 - September 4, 2016 - Yak Kharka
I just received a call from the team as they still have cellular service. They were in Yak Kharka, and were going to spend two nights there to acclimatize before proceeding to Kalopani on Tuesday. They said it had been a very wet trek, but everyone is in good spirits and looking forward to getting to base camp.
Dispatch #3 - September 2, 2016 - Beni
Our flight to Pokhara was delayed by two hours as the Pokhara airport was closed for most of the morning due to the heavy rains the region was experiencing. When the rain stopped and the clouds cleared, we made the short half hour flight and started our journey to base camp.
We had hoped to reach Marpha tonight but with the flight delay and another landside between Beni and Marpha, we have decided to spend the night at Beni and make an early morning start. We will have to change vehicles en-route and we expect to have to walk for around three hours from the drop off to the pick up area. Hopefully we will be with our Sherpa staff tomorrow evening.
Some of our Sherpas, mules and porters are now on their way to base camp and will be there in a few days. We are hoping to get there on the 9th if all goes to plan, but that does not always happen in the Himalayas.
One good piece of news is that Paul has finally figured out his inReach Explorer which he was not very impressed with initially until Yinyin and Margaret explained to him how to use it.
Dispatch #2 - September 1, 2016 - Kathmandu
All of our team members are now in Kathmandu with all of their luggage which has to be a first in a long time.
Yesterday we enjoyed our group dinner in Thamel, had a couple of drinks after and today our team members were able to relax and do some last minute shopping and packing. I received our expedition permit from the Ministry of Tourism at the expedition briefing and at present we believe that we are the only team on Dhaulagiri this fall season. If this is the case, it will be the first time I have been part of the only team on an 8,000-meter peak in over 40 expeditions to the big ones.
Our original plan to start the trek from Darbang has had to be changed due to a bridge that has disappeared because of the heavy monsoon rains that Nepal experienced a couple of weeks ago. The monsoon is still present but the rain has not been too bad in Kathmandu this past week. We will fly to Pokhara tomorrow morning and then take jeeps to Jomsom. We have to change vehicles around the halfway mark of the drive due to another bridge gone, so at least we will get about half an hour of exercise tomorrow. We will have porters and jeeps waiting for us so hopefully we will not arrive too late in Jomsom.
The teams on Dhaulagiri in the spring reported problems with their satellite internet service due to the mountain blocking the satellite signal, so if you don’t hear from us immediately, don’t be alarmed. We will try and get as many dispatches out as possible even if we have to call them in by phone.
Dispatch #1 - August 27, 2016 - Kathmandu
Another fall climbing season begins and we are very excited to be heading to Dhaulagiri this September. We have spent the past eight post-monsoon seasons climbing Manaslu, but for certain reasons we have now ceased climbing on her flanks and will focus on other less travelled Nepal peaks.
Dhaulagiri is one such peak that has been on our radar for quite some time and I am very pleased to be able to lead a team of very experienced climbers. Our team members have many 8,000-meter peaks between them with collective expeditions to Everest, K2, Lhotse, Makalu, Cho Oyu, Manaslu, Gasherbrum II, Gasherbrum I, Broad Peak, and Shishapangma. As always, we have a very international team with climbers from Australia, China, Nepal, UK and USA.
The team members should start to arrive over the next few days and then we will start the trek to base camp at the start of September.
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