Dispatches

This week we are kicking-off the first of our three expeditions to Antarctica, the ‘Frozen Continent’, this season!

We are excited to be leading climbers on their quest for Mount Vinson, the highest peak in Antarctica, at just over 4850m / 16,000 ft. and one of the ‘Seven Summits‘!

Follow us as we begin our journey in Punta Arenas, the Southern most city in Chile located on the Strait of Magellan, to Union Glacier camp in Antarctica then on to Mount Vinson Base Camp.  Mount Vinson is the most remote of the Seven Summits and one of the least climbed.  It is however, arguably the most beautiful.  The peak is surrounded by Antarctica’s pristine ice for as far as the eye can see.  We are excited to ‘hit-the-ice’ again this year.  We hope that you will follow along with our expedition dispatches and perhaps be inspired to join us next year!

From his tent at Ama Dablam base camp, guide Sid Pattison checks in with this recap of the climb of Ama Dablam:

Camp 1

The climb to camp 1 was a big day for everyone.  But the views of our intended route made it all worth it. After about 1220 m (4000 ft) of elevation gain, we were happy to see our tents. But Ama kept pulling us out. Situated at the toe of the SW ridge, camp 1 let us see just about every step we will take to the summit:  the yellow tower on the way to camp 2, the gray tower just out of camp 2 and of course the intimidating Dablam with the steep fluted snow slopes leading to the summit.

Camp 1

Camp 1

Camp 2

Yesterday we woke up to beautiful skies, very little wind and the move to camp 2 ahead of us. While only a 2-3 hour day, the terrain we were to move over has little in common with the pastoral hiking we had done the day before. Right out of camp we put our harnesses on and clipped in for the move. Most of the terrain was steep, very exposed and held our attention.

The highlight of the day was the yellow tower, while only clocking in at around 5.8, with a full pack, approach shoes and at roughly 20,000ft, to say it was strenuous would be an understatement. Needless to say, we all made it up and moved into camp 2. I gotta say, camp 2 is one of the coolest places on earth! All of our tents are set on unlikely stone platforms just below the beginning of the vertical climbing. With a vivid view of what’s to come, hours are spent admiring the climbing route. We spent our day here napping, eating, prepping gear and generally wrapping our minds around the climb that would begin that night…

Climbing the Yellow Tower

Climbing the Yellow Tower

Camp 2

Camp 2

The Summit

1 am never seems like a sensible time to wake up. But when the day holds climbing one of the worlds most iconic mountains, you deal appropriately. In our case, it was wondering if the winds whipping at our tents were too much to climb in. After a few brief comments thrown from tent to tent, we decided the growl was worse than the bite.

We suited up and were off by 2:15. The night was perfect, with only two parties climbing from camp 2 there was no pressure, we could enjoy the climbing without worrying about other people. We climbed up through the vertical mixed ice and rock terrain of the gray tower, over the ridge that connects to camp 3 before the sun rose. As we stood, staring up at the Dablam and the face that rises above it we knew we would make it! Though much bigger than it appears, the mental boost was enough.

We crunched up the frozen snow, lost in our thoughts for several hours. As the valley villages below us started to show I mentally picked them out, Pengboche, Dingboche, Phortse, Phereche, also picking out the paths I had walked looking up at this beautiful mountain. At around 8:30 we stood on top. We hugged, high fived and knew we had a long road back.

Sid and Siddhi on the summit

Sid and Siddhi on the summit

Back to Base Camp

The descent is as much fun as the climb, with lots of rappels one was never bored. We arrived back at camp 2 and packed our things. We planned to be back at base camp for dinner. Reversing the exposed, technical terrain to camp 1, we put out climbing kits away and endured the 3-hour hike back to base camp where a fantastic meal awaited us. And now I’m in my tent writing this. Good night and dream of climbing Ama Dablam.

Rappelling below camp 3

Rappelling below camp 3

We just received a satellite phone call from the team. They are standing on the summit of Ama Dablam (6812 m / 22,349 ft)!! After they safely descend, we will share the climb recap and some photos.

Fun facts: Ama Dablam is the third most popular Himalayan peak for permitted expeditions, first climbed in March of 1961 via the Southwest Ridge (same as our team uses) by an international team which included Barry Bishop of the USA.

Stay tuned…

Lead guide Sid Pattison provides this update on the Ama Dablam extension climb following our first ascent of Nupla Khang:

The team is here at Ama Dablam base camp. We all rendezvoused after parting ways following the Nupla Khang climb. We met up yesterday in Pangboche and spent the afternoon resorting gear and getting ready for Ama Dablam. The team is in great spirits and really psyched to climb! We arrived at BC around 4:00 PM greeted by huge views of our anticipated route and a super comfy camp.

Tomorrow we will take a rest day to train a bit and pack for our climb. The following day, the 9th, we will head up to Camp 1. We plan to spend one night at Camp 1 and one night at Camp 2 before pushing for the summit on the 11th. Hopefully, the weather cooperates with our plans.

Heading towards Ama Dablam base camp

Heading towards base camp

Our objective: Ama Dablam

Our objective: Ama Dablam

Ama Dablam base camp

Team arrives at base camp

Our expedition has concluded, with all of our climbers making a first ascent to the summit of the previously unclimbed Nupla Khang, a 6,861 meter / 22,641 ft. virgin peak deep in the Himalayas on the border of Nepal and Tibet, near Mount Everest.

Alpine Start

We awoke in Advanced Base Camp (5,848 meters / 19,300 ft) on summit day at 1 AM on November 2nd.  Our climb began around 2 AM on the Nupla glacier to access the base of the route. Once on route we made our way up steep snow and ice, climbing terrain very similar but steeper to the Lhotse face on Mount Everest. The climbing was very arduous and because of the steep slope angle on hard snow/ice.  There was no room for error, nor any good opportunity to rest.  We witnessed a beautiful sunrise.  Mount Everest first became visible over the skyline and then the surrounding peaks lit up with morning alpenglow.

The team reached the summit ridge around 10 AM and then began fixing rope.  The precarious ridge was very firm, steep and had exposed snow with a large snow cornice overhanging. We had to be very careful to stay off the snow cornice as we made our way along the winding ridge to the highest point, where the borders of Nepal & Tibet (China) meet.

First Ascent

The first of us arrived at the top around 11:30 AM.  Luckily there was actually a small place to stand at the intersection of the 3 ridgelines.  We were happy to stand on flat ground for the first time since beginning the climb before dawn. Once at the top, we briefly celebrated the moment and the view, then began our descent; first along the ridge and then via many rappels down to the base of the route.  We were very lucky to have good weather on our summit day, with calm winds and clear skies.

What’s next?

Our team is now finished with the ‘unclimbed peak’ expedition. Some of our climbers have just arrived by helicopter in Kathmandu and are preparing to head home, while some other climbers from our team are staying in Nepal to attempt Ama Dablam, an iconic 6,812 meter / 22,349 ft. peak near Mount Everest. Ama Dablam is situated along the trekking route to Mount Everest & Everest base camp.

Currently, Sid, Josh, & Ingvild are making their way from our ‘unclimbed peak’ base camp to Ama Dablam base camp, while the rest of us have elected to helicopter from base camp back to Kathmandu, a quick and exhilarating way to exit the high Himalaya. It’s been a great expedition.  I’m very thankful for our team of climbing Sherpas who helped make this ‘first ascent’ possible. It’s been a pleasure to climb with these guys this year on Mount Everest, K2, and now on Nupla Khang, and I look forward to climbing with them again on Mount Everest next spring!

Morning view of Tharke Khang, which we were the first climbers to ascend in 2017

Morning view of Tharke Khang, which we were the first climbers to ascend in 2017

Front pointing on the Nup la Khang summit ridge

Front pointing on the Nup la Khang summit ridge

Norwegian climber Ingvild Settemsdel at the Nup la Khang summit

Norwegian climber Ingvild Settemsdel at the Nup la Khang summit

A few of our climbers at the summit of Nup la Khang yesterday (11/3/18)

A few of our climbers at the summit of Nup la Khang yesterday (11/3/18)

Flying out of the high Himalayas at over 19,000 ft. and back to Kathmandu with expert Norwegian pilot Ingmar!

Flying out of the high Himalayas at over 19,000 ft. and back to Kathmandu with expert Norwegian pilot Ingmar!

We are excited to share the great First Ascent news as reported in the Himalayan Times:

KATHMANDU: Six climbers along with five Sherpa guides of Madison Mountaineering Nupla Khang Expedition Team 2018 has made first ascent of Mt Nupla Khang earlier today.

According to Managing Director of Himalayan Guides Nepal, Iswari Paudel, the expedition team led by Garrett Madison of the United States of America summitted the virgin peak at 11:10 am.

Other members of the team were Ingvild Marie Settemsdel of Norway, Joshua Joseph Miller, Sidney Pattison, Kristan Ann Bennet, and Ben Beres, all from the USA.

Likewise, Aang Phurba Sherpa, Pasdawa Sherpa, Kam Dorjee Sherpa, Tashi Sherpa and Lakpa Dendi Sherpa accompanied the climbers on their expedition.

Mt Nupla Khang — which is 6,861 m tall — lies in the Solukhumbu region.

As soon as the team gets back to network connectivity range, we will share some photos of this super accomplishment. Join us in congratulating the entire climbing team!!

Expedition leader, Garrett Madison, checked in via satellite phone to provide this Nup la Khang (aka Unclimbed Peak) update:

Today the team flew by helicopter from base camp (4965 m) across the Ngozumpa glacier and by last year’s First Ascent peak, Tharke Khang to our advanced base camp.  Advanced base camp is located just near the Nepal / China border at approximately 6170 m (just over 20,000 ft).  After scouting out the area and base of the route, they spend some time acclimatizing to the new elevation.

The plan will be to launch a summit bid within the next few days.  The weather is favorable, and the team is strong, in high spirits and ready to do this!  Network communications are currently limited, so no new pictures yet.

We are looking forward to a recorded audio dispatch in the next day or so with a detailed update direct from the team.

Meanwhile, our Island Peak team has trekked from Gokyo over the Cho La pass (5420 m / 17,782 ft) into the Khumbu valley and down to Dingboche.  Yesterday, they continued to Chukhung.  Today they will finish the trek to the Island Peak base camp and conduct some additional training.  They should be going for the summit on November 2nd in Nepal.

We are pretty excited to have our two teams going for Himalayan summit possibly the same day!  Join us in wishing them both great climbing success, and we will have another update for you tomorrow.

Yesterday afternoon we arrived in our base camp nestled alongside the 5th of the Gokyo Lakes.  We are the only people around.  It’s a beautiful camp and from here we can gaze upon Everest, Lhotse, Cho Oyu, and many other high peaks.

Today we had our Puja ceremony, where we ask the mountain for safe passage. This ceremony is very important to our Sherpas. We’ve been sorting equipment and food this afternoon for our advanced base camp and summit attempt, which we hope to embark on in a couple days time.

We’ve enjoyed a restful day here in camp, and tomorrow plan to go for an acclimatization hike.

We’ve made it to Gokyo (4750 m/15,580 ft), the last village before before base camp.  After leaving Khumjung, we trekked up the Gokyo Valley.  This area, including the village of Machermo, is remarkably beautiful with stunning views.

Today our team went on an acclimatization hike up nearby Gokyo Ri, at 5357 m (17,575 ft). We had amazing views all around of Mount Everest, Mount Lhotse, Makalu, and could see our objective the unclimbed Nup la Khang! This afternoon we will head to base camp.  There we will spend a few days acclimatizing and training to prepare for our attempt of Nup la Khang.

Our Island peak team will head off today from Gokyo towards Dzongla and will spend several days making their way to Island Peak (Imja Tse). So we are saying our goodbyes to our fellow trekkers/climbers.  We look forward to reuniting with them after the climbing period.

The weather has been stellar the past week for us as we’ve trekked up from Lukla towards these high Himalayan peaks.  We hope it will continue.  But there looks to be some high wind in the forecast. Fingers crossed for calm winds and clear skies!

The team at the top of Gokyo Ri (17,800 ft) today, beautiful views all around! Everest is behind top left.

The team at the top of Gokyo Ri (17,575 ft) today, beautiful views all around! Everest is behind top left.

The village of Gokyo, next to the lake, with the Nazumba glacier, Mount Everest and Lhotse behind on left side.

The village of Gokyo, next to the lake, with the Nazumba glacier, Mount Everest and Lhotse behind on left side.

Close up of Everest and Lhotse from Gokyo Ri

Close up of Everest and Lhotse from Gokyo Ri

In Khumjung, heading out at 7:30AM to trek to Machermo

In Khumjung, heading out at 7:30AM to trek to Machermo

The Unclimbed Peak team is in great spirits and just left Khumjung this morning in Nepal to trek to their first stop in the Goyko Valley: Machermo (4470 m / 14,665 ft).

Translate »