Ganesh I (Yangra) 2012 Expedition Dispatches
Dispatch #14 – November 11, 2012 – Base Camp
Several of our team members departed base camp for Kathmandu by helicopter this morning for the 45-minute flight to Kathmandu. Damien, Sammy and myself will wait for the porters and mules to arrive at Ganesh base camp in roughly 4-5 days and then we will trek down to Arughat before heading back to Kathmandu.
It has been a very enjoyable expedition with great team members and a fantastic team of hard working climbing Sherpas and cooks. We are very frustrated that every route we attempted came up short but I guess that's not entirely surprising when making an attempt on a route that has never been climbed before.
The great thing about the end of a expedition in Nepal is that we get to relax and have fun in awesome Kathmandu for several days before heading back home to the real world.
The above photos show our base camp from above and the helicopter extracting several of the members from base camp.
Dispatch #13 – November 10, 2012 – Base Camp
The local people at Domje told us that roughly twenty years ago a team attempted Ganesh I and that five of the team members lost their lives in the process. Details from the locals about this climb are vague to say the least and I had found no information about the said climb during my research. If true then Ganesh I seems not to be wanted to be climbed from the Nepalese side of the mountain.
The first ascent was made in 1955 from the South-East Ridge and South-East Face that lie entirely in Tibet terrority. On this climb one of the three climbing members died on the descent, so again it seems as if Ganesh I is not kind to climbers ascending her flanks.
The team discussed the above events and the fact that every route that we have sighted on the mountain either has huge hanging seracs protecting the couloirs on the South-West Ridge, crumbling rocks and dangerous rockfall on the West-Face direct or some of the largest and deepest crevasses I have ever witnessed on the glacier leading to the North-West Ridge.
Ganesh I is held as a religious mountain by both the Hindu people of Nepal and the local Buddhists of the Tsum Valley and it really does seem as if she has a protector watching over her. She has been kind to us and none of our team have suffered any injuries during the climb but for how much longer will she be patient with us foreigners trying our luck.
Climbing is meant to be fun and enjoyable but we are now thinking that as the temperatures start to get even lower than they already are and the constant jet stream winds that are hammering the summit ridge it may be time to let Ganesh I be alone and be on our way.
The team members, Sherpas, Sammy and myself have collectively decided that a first ascent of Ganesh I's North-West Ridge will have to wait for another year when the mountain lets her guard down and welcomes climbers to her higher slopes.
The above photos show the complete Junkies Ganesh I team of 2012.
Dispatch #12 – November 9, 2012 – Base Camp
A big day it was indeed for all the members and Sherpas but also a disappointing one. We departed base camp at 6 am to make the climb to camp one at 5,100 meters, that's a climb of 1,100 meters. After resting at camp one for a short while the team members and some of the Sherpas roped up an headed towards camp two up the amazing but scary glacier with it's huge crevasses.
Three of our Sherpas, Pasang Awongcho, Kami Neru and Sangee all went slightly ahead of the rest of us as they are faster and wanted to explore the different attainable routes to the ridge.
Unfortunately after several hours we came to a high point of 5,700 meters. The snow bridges were to weak to hold passing climbers and the open crevasses were too large for us to pass without aid of aluminum ladders. Our Sherpas are very experienced Everest climbers, both north and south sides, and they calculated that we would need roughly 8-10 ladders to to be able to cross the glacier safely.
With heavy hearts and even heavier legs after a 1,700 meter climb we descended to base camp after a very long but enjoyable climb.
As before, now we have to access our options and make another plan to get access to the elusive North-West or South-West Ridges of Ganesh I.
The above photos show the route to camp two passing through a heavily crevassed glacier under the watchful eye of the majestic North-West Ridge and our high point on the crevasse field that left us unable to access the ridge itself.
Dispatch #11 – November 7, 2012 – Base Camp
We once again managed to find a route to a new camp one in quite good time. Upon arriving at our planned camp we observed the formidable North-West Ridge in its entirety and a glacier with massive crevasses.
Pasang Awongcho Sherpa and Kami Neru Sherpa roped up and explored the glacier a little to give us a better idea of what to expect when we proceed and try to find a route to camp two. Our initial response is that we will have to placed fix ropes over the visible crevasses to allow extra security when traveling roped up to camp two.
We will take a rest day tomorrow and then the following day all the team members and Sherpas will have a massive day and try and push from base camp to camp two and return to base camp the same day. If all goes well we will then spend the nights at camp one and camp two at 5,100 meter and 6,000 meters respectively for acclimatization before returning to base camp.
The above photos show the Sherpas resting at a yak man's summer shelter lower on the mountain and our first close up view of the formidable North-West Ridge and the place of our new camp one on the heavily crevassed glacier.
Dispatch #10 – November 6, 2012 – Base Camp
We reviewed the photos of the South-West Ridge yesterday evening and we cannot seem to find a safe couloir free from hanging seracs that could possibly collapse on our possible routes. With this in mind we had to switch our attention back to the North-West Ridge and find a possible alternative route to access the ridge.
Several of the team members today walked down the Torogumba Glacier to see if there are any visible routes leading up to the glacier which allows access to the elusive ridge. We took a vantage point high on the moraine and watched with the scope as Sammy explored a possible route.
The plan for tomorrow will be for the Sherpas and I to try and find a route to a new camp one and Sammy will take the team members up the Torogumba Glacier and show them in person the South-West Ridge and all those annoying hanging seracs.The above photos show a different view of Ganesh I from the foot of the Torogumba Glacier and the view looking up the glacier with the flanks of Ganesh I on the left and Ganesh II on the right with Ganesh III and IV in the center of glacier on the left and right respectively.
Dispatch #9 – November 5, 2012 – Base Camp
Sammy traveled with the team members to camp one today so they could collect their crampons, tools, boots, etc., as the initial route we had hoped to climb is just too dangerous from the now constant rockfall. Sammy insisted on carrying a tired team member's gear down along with two large spools of fixed rope.
Pasang Awongcho Sherpa and myself took a walk up the Torogumba Glacier to see if there were any viable routes from couloirs accessing the South-West Ridge. We took several hundred photographs from different angles of the entire length of the ridge and the team and Sherpas will review the photos and then make a decision if the South-West Ridge is a possibility.
The above photos show the South-West Ridge of Ganesh I with the “Cobras Head” visible on the left hand skyline and Ganesh III in the center at the end of the South-West Ridge.
Dispatch #8 – November 4, 2012 – Base Camp
Our climb from base camp to camp one to deposit gear was very fast for the Sherpas and just a little longer for Sammy and I. The team members all made a gear carry of crampons and ice tools on the 2nd so they elected to take a rest day today as the Sherpas, Sammy and I planned to try and make the route and fix ropes to camp two.
As we had expected, the snow line above camp one was actually hard glacier ice and was hard to navigate with crampons initially due to its brittle state. Higher on the slopes the conditions improved with perfect snow which allowed us easy passage of several hundred vertical meters. The snow ramp ceased upon reaching the huge hanging seracs that guarded the all important slope lying behind that we needed to reach to access the North-West Ridge. We were protected from any serac collapse due to the fact that there was another deep gully immediately beneath them to catch any debris.
The Sherpas led the steep climb of the rock tower to the left of the seracs as this route was the only possible way to access the ridge. After one hour of trying to navigate a safe route through the rock tower the Sherpas had to descend because of dangerous rock conditions. It was impossible to place any rock protection as the rock was just too brittle and the rockfall danger was becoming more apparent as each minute passed.
We collectively decided that this route was way too dangerous to proceed with and we were lucky not to sustain any injuries from rockfall on the descent to camp one as the upper slopes had now become a bowling alley of coffee table sized boulders heading our way. We collected as much fixed rope as possible from the stash of around 2,000 meters that we had deposited and headed back to base camp.
We will spend a few days resting at base camp before deciding on the next plan of action.
The above photos show Sammy heading up the slopes above camp one and the view of Ganesh II on the right and Ganesh IV on the left from just below the huge hanging seracs.
Dispatch #7 – October 31, 2012 – Base Camp
The Sherpas and I spent twelve hours to find camp one and descend to base camp today. Sammy did a fantastic job of directing us with his unobstructed view from the scope at base camp.
Our initial reconnaissance using satellite images showed us a possible route up the left hand side of a very steep gully. We were hoping that this very steep and direct route would allow us to easily access the North-West Ridge without having to cross the glacier which we believe is very heavily crevassed.
We have already fixed around 500 meters of rope and tomorrow the Sherpas will climb to roughly the halfway mark and complete the rope fixing which will require around another 400 meters of rope.
The route involves a very steep grass slope taking us 350 meters above base camp and then turns to rock, scree and talus. There are several near vertical rock sections that we have to climb to be able to access the more gentle easier talus slopes immediately below our proposed camp one.
The above photos show the Sherpas ascending a steep rock section early on in our search for a route to camp one and finally making the route all the way to our camp one at 5,000 meters where the snow line begins.
Dispatch #6 – October 30, 2012 – Base Camp
Today we held the all important Puja ceremony at base camp. This was different from the usual ones we have as the lama was unable to walk to base camp from Gumba Lungdang because of his age. With this in mind he held the ceremony at the Gompa at Gumba Lungdang in our absence and our own lama, Pemba Sherpa, conducted the service at base camp.
We had been told by the folks at the Ministry of Tourism in Kathmandu who issue the climbing permits that Ganesh I was a very sacred mountain and we should treat her with respect. We had been told to honor the mountain by various people in the know and that we should carry an image of the deity Ganesh, who is the son of Shiva and Parvati. We elected to have our helmets decorated with the image of Ganesh and during the Puja ceremony had many references to Ganesh.
Tomorrow the Sherpas and I will make our first foray onto the mountain and hopefully we will find the route to camp one.
The above photos show our all important Puja ceremony and the view of Ganesh I from base camp with the prominent knife-edged “Cobra's Head” visible slightly to the right off center.
Dispatch #5 – October 29, 2012 – Base Camp
Today we arrived at base camp after spending the final evening trekking yesterday at the Kharka. The final day trekking to base camp was short and this allowed us ample time to find a suitable campsite with a clean water source. The Torogumba Glacier is huge and seems even larger still as we are the only team here and it has had very few visitors since the Tsum Valley was opened only a few years back. It is truly an amazing, unspoiled and uncrowded base camp with no sign of any previous foreign visitors. There are several yak huts which the Yakpa's use during the summer months when they bring their yaks up here to graze because of the cooler temperatures.
Base camp is surrounded by four of the majestic Ganesh peaks. The largest is Ganesh I followed clockwise by Ganesh III, Ganesh IV and Ganesh II respectively. Our base camp is located at an elevation of 4,000 meters and our climbing objective looms a massive 3,500 meters above us. We are unable to get internet satellite connection through the Inmarsat BGAN satellite system as the mountain is just too big and it blocks our line of sight with the satellite.
We will try to keep folks at home up to date with short dispatches posted by our satellite phone and we will post the full dispatches with photos when we descend from base camp and resume satellite internet connection.
The above photos show our first view of Ganesh I from just past the Gompa at Gumba Lungdang and a closer view of the formidable North-West Ridge with it's wind plume.
Dispatch #4 – October 27, 2012 – Domje
Our trek has taken us on the usual route we take on the Manaslu trek with evenings spent at Soti Khola, Macha Khola, Jagat and then we diverted from the normal Manaslu trail and spent evenings at Lopka and tonight we are at Domje.
On first entering the Tsum Valley, we were all taken back by the sheer beauty of the valley. This was even more so when we spent the evening at Lopka with its amazing views from its tiered campsites.
Tomorrow we hope to make base camp but this is all dependent on if the mules can make the trail through the dense forest in time. If not we will have to spend an extra evening at Kharka.
We have sorted all of our gear that has kindly been stored here courtesy of the Lama who lives in Domje. He was quite excited when our helicopter landed on his land a few weeks ago and unloaded 23 spools of fixed rope as well as many other cargo loads needed for our expedition to Ganesh.
The above photos show the majestic views allowed in the Tsum Valley and some of the Junkies enjoying the warm dining room of our friendly Lama's home.
Dispatch #3 - October 22, 2012 - Arughat
We made the drive to Arughat passing through Dhading Besi for lunch in record time arriving before 2 pm. We were lost for things to do to occupy our free time here so we had to sample cold beers on offer at our lodge.
Tomorrow we will start the trek and spend the evenings at Soti Khola, Macha Khola, Jagat, Lopka, Domje before arriving at base camp on the 28th. Unfortunately we will be unable to post any dispatches for the next few days as the gorges that we travel through are so steep that we are unable to get BGAN satellite connection until closer to the mountain itself.
Arughat seems quiet due to the Dashain Festival and we have only met two other groups of trekkers who are heading for the Manaslu circuit. We expect to run into more trekkers along the way but don't expect to see too many other climbers heading towards the Tsum Valley.
We will try to post another dispatch when we resume satellite connection.
The above photos show some of the Junkies relaxing at Arughat and our comfortable campsite.
Dispatch #2 – October 19, 2012 – Kathmandu
All of our team members are now in Kathmandu and will spend the next couple of days purchasing those last minute items they need for the expedition.
This evening our group enjoyed a group dinner at the awesome Jatra Restaurant in Thamel where old friends reacquainted with each other and new friends were made. Sammy was absent as he is presently trekking with a Finnish group to Annapurna base camp but he plans to meet us at base camp a day after we arrive.
Our expedition permit was granted last week and it was the first time a permit has ever been issued by the Nepal Ministry of Tourism for a Ganesh I (Yangra) expedition. The peak is considered a “Virgin Peak” by the authorities so we had to pay a permit fee for our climbing Sherpas to be able to climb. Another first is the fact the our Liaison Officer will be trekking in with our group and will be present at base camp throughout the expedition. Those familiar with dealings with the ministry believe that there was some fall out after the Manaslu avalanche due to the fact that no Liaison Officers were present at base camp during the incident. Let's see how long this new rule stays in effect.
With us climbing a peak that has had very few previous attempts and the fact that we are traveling in a not so popular trekking area, we have had our hands full with logistical challenges. There are no porters available in this area unless brought from Kathmandu and this is even harder to accomplish when our expedition starts during the Dashain Festival, which basically means Nepal closes down for a week. We had sent exploratory mule drivers to Ganesh base camp in the spring and again they recently visited to make sure that the trail was suitable for the mules. Various helicopter flights taking aerial photos has enabled us to get a better idea of our intended route and the same helicopters have deposited fixed rope and the relevant hardware at base camp for us.
We plan to depart Kathmandu early on the morning of the 22nd and we have elected to take the shorter but more adventurous drive to Arughat through Dhading Besi rather than Gorkha as we did for Manaslu. Some of this team are veterans from our 2011 Manaslu expedition so I'm not too sure if they are thrilled about this idea going on the road conditions we endured last year. At least we know somewhat about what to expect with the road ahead whereas the climb itself is going to be totally unknown until we are on the hill itself.
The above photos show some of the Junkies gathered for their first meal together as a team at the awesome Jatra Restaurant in Thamel and our one of our custom Black Diamond Vector Ganesh helmets to be worn by some of the members.
Dispatch #1 – October 14, 2012 – Kathmandu
After staring from a distance at the majestic Ganesh I for the past five years whilst being stationed at Manaslu base camp during the early fall climbing season, we have finally decided to do something about it. For the next forty or so days we will try to make only the second ascent of the mountain the first being in 1955. We believe we are making the first attempt of the impressive knife-edged North-West Ridge.
Our team will consist of the following climbers and due to the technical nature and unknown terrain of the climb I am honored to be co leading a Junkies expedition once again with Sammy Mansikka who I had the pleasure of co-leading Alpamayo in Peru with this past summer.
The team members are as follows:
Phil Crampton - UK/USA (Expedition Co-Leader)
Sammy Mansikka - Finland (Expedition Co-Leader)
Jose Ferro - Colombia
Damien Francois - Belgium
Robert Kay - USA
Liudmila Mikhanovskaia - Russia
Ville Sutka - Finland
Several of the team members are regular Junkies climbers and we welcome the new climbers to the Junkies family.
Several of our awesome Sherpas and cooks from our recent successful Manaslu expedition are as usual supporting the team. Unfortunately our regular Sirdar, Dorjee Sherpa will have to sit this one out due to injuries sustained on Manaslu this past season. We wish him a speedy recovery and look forward to “Big Boss” being at the helm and in charge once again on Everest next spring.
Pasang Awongcho Sherpa (Sirdar)
Kami Neru Sherpa
Pasang Nima Sherpa
Da Pasang Sherpa (Head Cook)
Pemba Ngtar Sherpa
Pasang Lhapka Sherpa
Our good friends at Fishtail Air assisted us with a gear drop by helicopter at Domje on the way to pick up our climbers at the conclusion of the Manaslu expedition at Sama Goan. Making an attempt at a new route on a peak this size takes a lot of gear and we have already deposited 5,000-meters of fixed rope, 100 snow bars, 100 ice screws and the other relevant hardware at Domje in anticipation of our arrival. It will be strange being the only team on the mountain fixing the route and hopefully the weather cooperates and we reach the top of this beautiful Tsum Valley peak.
We also have to give a shout out to our loyal sponsors from the States who have helped us with specialized gear for this expedition. We have tents courtesy of Mountain Hardwear, ropes courtesy of Bluewater Ropes, climbing hardware courtesy of Black Diamond and as always our laptops are the trustworthy GD8000 computers from the excellent folks at General Dynamics Itronix. Without these guys our climb would be a lot harder than we already expect it to be.
The above photo shows the impressive North-West Ridge with a possible route to the summit.
Phil CramptonContact us: email@example.com