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.
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.
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.
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!
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!!
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!
We are enjoying our time in the Khumbu valley of Nepal, with spectacular views all around! Our Unclimbed Peak team is currently in Namche, the capital of the Khumbu, at the Panorama Lodge. We arrived yesterday in good health and good spirits! This morning we went for an acclimatization hike up to the Everest View Hotel. With the clear sky we had fantastic views of Mount Everest, Mount Lhotse, and Ama Dablam. Our goal is to trek up to our base camp at the 5thlake in the Gokyo valley, past the village of Gokyo. From there we aim to climb Nup La Khang (North Peak) which sits on the border of Nepal and China. At 6861 meters (22,641 ft.), Nup La Khang is between Mount Cho Oyu and Mount Everest, and is unclimbed! We hope to make the first ascent of this virgin peak!
After climbing Nup La Khang, some of our climbers plan to head to Ama Dablam (Mothers’ Necklace), a very picturesque mountain in the Khumbu valley. We have been blessed with great weather so far and are just enjoying the scenery, views, and nice people here. Tomorrow our plan is to head to Khumjung, where we will stay for 1 night before trekking into the Gokyo valley. All is well for us as we enjoy making our way up towards the Unclimbed Peak base camp.
Yesterday at 9:15 AM the Madison Mountaineering team reached the top of the Unclimbed Peak, Tharke Khang, located in the Nepal Himalayas near Mount Everest at over 22,000′ (6670m). We began our summit day just after midnight on November 3rd, and departed our high camp (19,200′ / 5820m) on the Nup La glacier near the China – Nepal border at 2 AM. This was the culmination of more than a year’s planning, we were anxiously anticipating what the route to the summit would entail, and wondering if we would be able to ascend to the top of a peak that no climbers had yet attempted before us. Although seemingly doable in our eyes from google earth and helicopter reconnaissance, we expected the route would likely have some unexpected challenges in store for us, perhaps preventing us from reaching the summit.
From our high camp we traversed the Nup La glacier 45 minutes to the North Face of the peak, ascending a firm 45 degree snow slope about 500 ft. up to the ridge line, breaking through the corniced ridge, then ascending the ridge through varying degrees of steepness, sometimes vertical for sustained portions. Over the previous 2 days our team had ascended about two thirds of the route and placed fixed ropes over the steep and exposed sections, however the remaining 1/3 of the route to the summit was still unclimbed and our plan was to find and establish this portion of the route as we climbed on our final summit push, in a ‘make or break’ style. As our team ascended the route in the very cold and dark night, we were divided into two groups. The first group was focused on climbing ahead and fixing (problem solving) the remaining portion of the route and the second group was making steady progress towards the goal of reaching the top. I climbed with my friends Aang Phurba and Lakpa Dandi Sherpa, Aang Phurba led the final steep pitches to the ridge just before the highest point on the peak. Aang Phurba and I have climbed together many times in recent years on Mount Everest, K2, Lhotse, etc. His brother was part of my team in 2014 on Mount Everest and perished tragically during the avalanche in the Khumbu Icefall on April 18th that ended the climbing season for us, Aang Phurba and I have a special bond that goes beyond the singular focus of climbing.
Before reaching the summit, Lakpa Dandi and I climbed up to join Aang Phurba just below the highest point on the peak, unfurled some prayer flags and silk Khata scarves, anchoring them near the top where they would float in the breeze, then together walked the final steps to the highest point and true summit of Tharke Khang. We could not have had a better day for climbing in the Himalayas, there was not a cloud in the sky and only a small breath of wind. We gazed upon Mount Everest, Mount Lhotse, Mount Cho Oyu, and many other of the surrounding Himalayan peaks. Shortly thereafter, a few of our other climbers ascended to the summit and reveled in the majesty of this spectacular mountain range on such a glorious day. After savoring our time at the summit, we began our descent down the ridge, a series of rappels over exposed terrain, where often both sides of the ridge dropped away into nothingness. After descending around 2800′ (910m) we traversed the Nup La glacier back to our high camp and settled in for the night. Today, we awoke at 6 AM and helicoptered down to our base camp located at the Gokyo 5th lake, then continued by helicopter to Kathmandu for a celebratory dinner this evening. It’s been somewhat of a culture shock for us today, going from isolation in a high altitude alpine zone in a remote corner of the highest mountain range on Earth, to a bustling city. We all feel very blessed to have concluded a safe climbing expedition in a beautiful mountain environment, and to now be heading home to our friends and loved ones. For me personally, yesterday was an extra special summit day, as it was my 39th birthday and I was able to share it with friends in a spectacular place never before visited by anyone.
On November 3rd our unclimbed peak expedition team reached the Tharke Khang summit! Garrett Madison checks in via satellite phone and reports beautiful conditions with views of surrounding peaks in the Himalayas. Our climbers will now descend to high camp to eat and rest up. Nice work team!
Audio dispatch by Garrett Madison