The first time I visited Nepal, in the autumn of 2000, I was mainly trekking at altitudes up to a maximum of 5.400 meters. When I returned to Nepal in the spring of 2001, I had only one wish; to get higher.
I came directly from a relaxing holiday in South-East Asia to the dirty and crowdy airport in Kathmandu. I expected a cooler climate in March, but instead I found it rather hot in the polluted valley. The taxi driver told me there was a big festival in Nepal, so it turned out to be an interesting time to visit Nepal. We drove to Thamel and I checked in at my usual hotel. It was nice to meet the staff again, and they were surprised to see me only 3 months after my first visit.
The next 3-4 days I stayed in Thamel to take part in the festival. I also met some other climbers, who intended to climb some 6000 meter peaks in the Khumbu valley. I decided to join the team 3 weeks later at the basecamp. But first I went to Langtang to do a one week trek on my own.
Returning from Langtang to Kathmandu, I spent a couple of more days in Thamel. While the other climbers traveled by plain from Kathmandu to Paphlu, I chose to take the bus from Katmandu to Jiri instead. From there it was a 12 days trek (included rest days) to the basecamp of Lobuje East, and approx 150 kilometers of walking. I started March 31 and arrived April 10. I will never forget all these wonderful days, walking in so many different climatic zones, from the lowland of Solochumbu with its green forests and beautiful flowers, to the sparsely growing landscape above Namche Bazar.
We had signed a very good deal with Equator Expedition. They only charged my VISA approx. 1000 USD and that even included two 6000 meters peaks (Lubuche East and Island Peak). The team consisted of:
Kieron - N.Ireland
Chris - USA
Sancery - USA
Leslie - Canada
Kreis - Holland
Arien - Holland
Lyngve - Norway
Senior-guide Branei - Nepal
Guide Lhakpa Sherpa - Nepal
6 porters (sadly one of them died because of altitude illness)
After 10 days of trekking I arrived the village of Pheriche (4240m) from where I had a first glance at the summit-cone of Lobuche East (6119m). Here I surprisingly also met one of the guides, and we stayed in his familys guesthouse. We went up to the lodge in Dzonglha (4.830m) the following day to met the rest of the team, and we stayed there for a couple of nights in order to acclimatize. The views from this lodge was stunning, with Ama Dablam towering in the horizon. We had some daytrips while the porters prepared the highcamp. Then the accident struck. One of the porters got serious altitude sickness in the highcamp and they tried to get him down to the hospital in Pheriche. We got the information in the morning, but still we decided to go up to highcamp this day according to our schedule.
After 3 hours of walking in dense snowfall, we finally reached the highcamp at the altitude of 5.300 meters. The weather was still bad when we pitched our tents, but later in the afternoon the sky turned blue again. From here we could see the route up the the mountain, most of it to be climbed in complete darkness the following night.
We started off 2 AM and a couple of hours later we reached the altitude 5.500 meters, where we had to belay up a steep and icy couloir. Lhakpa Sherpa took the lead and he climbed it with a minimum of belays. When the first crux of the route was finished, we could start to enjoy the spectacular sunrise in the middle of the Himalayan kingdom.
On the glacier in approx 5.800 meters altitude, we started to suffer because of the thin air. Hence we were taking a lot of short breaks. The temperature increased a lot with the warm sun and I started to get too warm in my fleece and goretex. Lhakpa Serpa leaded the first rope team followed by Kreis, Lyngve and Arien. The second rope team struggled a lot and were at least 1 hour behind us. Sancery had to abort the climb because of altitude illness and she agreed to wait for our return.
Finally Kreis and Lhakpa Sherpa were pointing at the summit, which was only 1 hour away. But in the middle there was one more challenge because of a difficult crevasse on the ridge. Finally I am on the summit of Lobuche East, 6119 meters above sea-level. We had to wait for at least 1 hour on the summit, before the second rope team arrived (minus Sancery). During this hour the weather had worsened a lot, and during the descent it was strong winds and dense snow conditions. Because of reduced visibility Leslie had taken of her glasses, and later we found out that she had developed snow blindness. The next day she had to go to the hospital in Pheriche for treatment. But a few days later she was ready to join us for the climbing of Island Peak. Sancery however, did not recover very well, and she had to cancel the second climb as well.