Mid April 2019 ... The journey begins ...
It's a new chapter that opens, with this Himlung 2019 .
The objective of these chronicles is to shed light on the functioning of an expedition, to tell stories from the inside, both for a better understanding of this desire for a summit, this attraction for high altitude, and to allow you better choose a next expedition or organize your own ascent.
First a photo of the summit…
How "good" to speak of this expedition?
To make known the Himlung and the realities of its ascent by a group of amateur mountaineers were the main objectives of these chronicles of Himlung. Testify and explain, again and again, to make the perceptions of this Himalayan expedition style clearer.
Just before our departure, the “Himlung 2019” expedition thus became an Montagne Magazine expedition as part of a partnership with Expedition Unlimited, one of the branches of Secret Planet (an agency based in Lyon).
Articles have been published on the web by both Expedition Unlimited and Montagnes Magazineon their respective websites, from the texts of the chronicles that I sent to Expedition Unlimited during the course of the expedition. By email to Koto then, thanks to my Thuraya phone. The use of audio files was surprising and new to me. A different way to share an experience.
The challenge was interesting…
I would add another requirement, on the journalistic quality of this form of conversation.
It is difficult to know whether these objectives have been achieved. There remains for me the pleasure of writing, this exercise so difficult and so captivating.
Cécile and Dorje
The rest of the story will be written by Cécile , one of the participants in the ascent, in a future article in an issue of Montagnes Magazine, certainly in the fall of 2019.
An idea of the route…
A small map, to understand the environment…
And finally, a photo of the team on arrival, on the terrace of the Hotel Padma.
We are a group of 10 people.
The photographer, Frédéric, is missing. But where has Jean Paul gone?
The different stages of an expedition on a large summit.
An expedition is thought, built, shared and prepared far in advance.
Sometimes more than two years in advance ...
And some of these steps are particularly important.
About two months before departure , meeting mountaineers during a weekend in the Alps is essential. This is what Cécile described in an article for Montagnes Magazine.
In La Grave, for a meeting we.
Everyone made the effort to be there and it's really very good!
Then, here I am in Kathmandu for the second step, the validation of the organization.
I always arrive 3 or 4 days before the group to validate the concrete preparation of the expedition and participate in the official briefing at the Ministry of Tourism.
On the Padma terrace, in front of the white dome of the Boudhanath Stupa, with my Nepalese companions, it is a question of checking that the material organization is in accordance with what we had imagined together last fall and, at what I presented to the participants during the winter.
There is Bishal Rai , head of the Himalayan Travelers agency, but also sirdar of the expedition and trek guide, and Dipen Both e, "Nepali Mountain Guide" in charge of the whole ascent part.
A view from my desk!
For Himlung, this work meeting is relatively simple because it is a classic ascent that we know almost by heart. Except that many things can change and, thinking carefully about the possible (probable) hazards allows you to be more serene.
This 2019 expedition to Himlung is no exception to this rule, because the news fell 15 days ago.
Impossible to reach the base camp with mules as had been planned and budgeted. It has snowed a lot this winter in Nepal and the access trails to Phu have been damaged and are not passable with pack animals.
You have to transport everything on a man's back!
Indeed, the situation there is very impressive. I had never seen this before.
Bishal therefore organized everything with an additional constraint: loads calibrated absolutely at 25 kg so that the porters could add their belongings for a total load of less than 30 kg (knowing that there is accommodation and food everywhere in path, so the porters can be autonomous).
This, at a minimum, doubles the transportation budget for equipment. And inevitably, the question of who will bear this cost arises immediately.
But for now, let's take action.
Today, three days before departure, the situation has radically changed!
Following an accident where a horse broke a leg while sliding down the slope, the local DDE did a good job!
Pu rna and Durga , the Tal muleteers with whom we have been working for more than 10 years in the Phu valley (but also for the Manaslu) return from a location to Meta. Good news, it's playable with mules if the whole Nepalese team lends a hand in two or three places that are still too complicated and if we accept the possibility of delays.
Everything is much simpler.
It remains to list the equipment, calculate the number of gas cartridges and agree on the functioning and movement of the team of Nepalese mountaineers. Because in continuous progression, it is a specific skill that few agencies master and it is also an issue of continuous training for us. It is above all the work of Dipen, to manage his team and plan the altitude food, with an important constraint: that there is always a team of Nepali Leader with us at each camp with adequate means of communication.
We also decided to integrate Kumari into the “Népali Leader” junior team (and not just in addition) with a real salary.
There will therefore be 7 people in the team of Nepalese mountaineers, from very different ethnicities:
To be more precise, the Nepalese guide is free from the task of portage and we managed to integrate a woman in our Nepalese team, also respecting the ratio of a Nepalese for 2 Westerners (the French guide UIAGM is counted in the team of travelers).
The salaries of the Nepalese team constitute the most important budget line of an expedition (this is the subject of a new page of the site "How much does an expedition") , but this reinforced management team is also a very real quality criterion . What was pointed out in this article on the comparison between the two expeditions to the Himlung of spring 2019 .
At the end of the meeting, for Dipeen, I took a pair of Millet SHIVA from my luggage, a new model of shoe intended for intermediate climbs (the 7000). It will be a good test in situ, since I will use the same model at altitude.
A day later…
It is now time to join Bishal at Bhrikuti Mandap, the offices of the Ministry of Tourism and the Mountainering Section.
Bishal, at the office of the house of Kopan, the office of Himalayan Travelers
"Behind the scenes of the Ministry of Tourism"
“I want to facilitate in my service the administrative formalities for expeditions, to make things more fluid for foreigners. It really is my priority… ”.
There is something to be surprised when these words are spoken in a ministry in Nepal.
What a revolution!
Especially when Bishal , in charge of the administrative process of our shipping permits, testifies to the same reality this year.
Everything is simpler…
I can only admire the courage and the energy expended by this young woman.
What a pleasure to have a coffee with this head of high caste service who takes the time to listen to a simple "quieré" , a stranger.
However, I wanted to address unpleasant subjects.
See also the editorial article of Montagnes Magazine .
Correction of the official list of authorized summits.
This document is the most important key for organizing an expedition to Nepal. And, unfortunately, it still contains many errors, in particular for the mountain access routes, the "Caravan Route". And this detail has many consequences, technical but also economic.
For example, for Himlung, this "Caravan route" is indicated only by the slope of Phu, (the one we are going to use), while there is of course another slope to this mountain, to the East from the Tilje valley (that of the return from the Manaslu tour).
Concretely, if you want to open a new route on this slope…. Impossible, because even if the summit is authorized, you must follow the "Caravan Route" by Phu, and therefore this slope is inaccessible to you.
Which is difficult to understand for Western mountaineers.
However, it was the mishap that happened to 3 young talented Austrian mountaineers who were forced to fall back on an opening on the Phu side, with in the end a very nice crossing on the nearby Himjung.
More generally, updating this document is also very important with a view to computerizing the formalities of ascension permits, as is the case for entry visas to Nepal or trek permits.
The answer is relatively simple.
The decision to correct this list belongs to the highest level of the Nepalese state, "the Cabinet", the equivalent of our Council of Ministers. This makes things more complex and necessarily takes a lot of time.
Will the prospect of the national event " 2020, year of tourism in Nepal " have a beneficial effect?
I also had a second request.
Know the procedure for proposing new vertices to add to this list.
These are interesting peaks from an alpinistic point of view or for the economic development of a region like the Limi massif or the Dolpo, but also in Phu.
His response is consistent and much more optimistic!
“Nepal having become a federal state, it is therefore the local level (community of communes or district) which must challenge the ministerial level by sending a request directly to the services of the Ministry of Tourism. "
Of course, this necessarily requires energy, perseverance and time ... And a little internal support to move the file forward. ...
My third proposal, much more ambitious (the opening of all "small summits in western Nepal) will be for later," Tea time is finish ... ".
We will talk about it of course.
With Bishal, we are going to devote ourselves to promoting the opening of some summits, such as the Nemju in the Phu valley, the Teri Himal in that of Naar, the Gyaekochen in Dolpo, the Futi Himal in Mustang or the Nyalu Leck in the valley from Limi.
First meeting to organize…, with the Chairman of Phu, vice-president of the intermunicipal association of Naar & Phu… Narpa Bhumi Rural Municipality.
Job in perspective, but for now place at Himlung.
Nemju, from Phu, of course!
Will we be able to do so officially authorized to organize an expedition in 2020?
I'm going to the airport with Dipen to pick up my travelers from the altitude…, who will be far behind in the end .
Our new Hotel in Boudhanath…
A little more room for all our luggage, but without the Padma terrace!
No need for a great hotel, especially for spending so little time there. The choice of place, here Bouddhanath seems to me much more consistent with a strong cultural immersion.
"An adventure that ends well ..."
At Kathmandu airport, in front of the baggage carousel.
I try not to worry too much ... The luggage of the last flight of the Turkish begins to arrive. It's crazy how many suitcases or bags an airplane can hold, when you expect only one, in particular.
Bernard did not collect his hold baggage yesterday.
It is a rather rare situation but it causes a lot of stress and enormously complicates the rest of the trip, and even more so an expedition.
We first had to understand the situation and find a trace of the missing baggage. Then spend the evening and the night as best as possible, hoping that everything will be fine. And finally, the next day wait long minutes in front of the baggage carousel.
Bingo… here it is.
What a relief !!!
Our experience at Himlung can continue quietly.
We will be leaving tomorrow, at dawn…
And here are some small details that will simplify the story if unfortunately it happens to you.
1… Before departure
2… At registration
3… Upon arrival
4… in Nepal
And above all, you must plan a real day of security, upon your arrival in Kathmandu. While we always want to limit the stay in Kathmandu as much as possible.
It all sounds very simple.
But don't worry… it's going to be fine.
And above all have a good trip for your next expedition!
After a long trip by bus and then by jeep, our stop for the night.
It might be possible to push straight to Koto, but taking a little safety and saving are also important factors.
The boss is a long-standing relationship that greatly facilitates our organization
"The approach walk of an expedition is not a trek !? ..."
We have just completed the first stage of the Boudhanath expedition. It is a veritable airlock between our western life and the new rhythm that we must set up to live well at high altitude.
And the first message for this acclimatization is to pay attention to our traveling condition : our health, our well-being and the small details of everyday life.
Above all, do not want to run everywhere, do everything, see everything ... But, on the contrary, land in a corner of the square, turn into stone and observe the passing life.
The reality of Kathmandu is currently being shaken up by large construction sites (alignment of avenues, water supply) which add to the ambient mess, traffic jams, dust or mud. This makes life even more difficult, so you might as well rest quietly in the unspoiled universe of the Great Stupa.
But also, the situation is improving from year to year. The road is now paved in front of the Stupa!
A pose tea towards Dharapani, it is also the occasion to establish or maintain relationships followed on the way. The competition between the lodges is real ... And nothing beats a good network of partners.
Here we are on the way to the start of the Annapurna Tour which we will take to Koto, where the Phu valley joins the Marsyangdi, the main river. And here is some news from this start of the journey for our trekking friends.
From Koto, the first mountains are finally revealed!
And in particular this long ridge between the Lamjung Himal, an almost 7000 and the Annapurna II. The small summit in the middle is pristine and doesn't even have a name!
It is also a project that slowly settles in my desires for ascent. And the next step will be to join the base camp to see what the beginning of the eastern ridge of Lamjung looks like.
Nagdi's major Chinese hydroelectric project is now complete, but two other projects are planned for the Danaqiu / Koto section. As a result, the road has improved a lot, with large concrete sections. Which is very good news for us. The journey time by jeep from Besisahar is reduced (3 hours for Syange and 3 hours for Koto) and it has even become much more pleasant.
For hikers, the start on foot begins (for me ) in Chamje .
After Tal , a “new” path on the left bank for Dharapani has been opened. Then, it is recommended to make the detour to Nache and even sleep there before continuing by an exceptional suspension bridge and a very discreet monastery.
Currently, the trail that we will use tomorrow, for Meta, Naar and Phu is increasingly used in Teashop trek mode by trekkers, to avoid the valley floor and the road.
Will this "Restrictive area" of Naar / Phu soon be open to everyone, without formalities or special permits?
On the way to Himlung, the still rudimentary lodge of Chacha. We will use it downhill to camp in the forest.
Because, next fall it will be an important point on our journey to Kang Garu .
Trek or approach walk…?
The work in progress on the Koto Meta route is particularly impressive.
Everything is done by hand ... Weights and crowbars to dig the holes for explosive charges.
And what about the security conditions!
Just at the start of Koto, another team activates to enlarge the path. We pass quietly in the middle of the site.
Just be a spectator and witness to this reality: the road is advancing…!
Slowly, but it advances i
I suggest an inspiring reading on this subject, with the sharp pen of Cédric Sapin-Defour, in his little red book "Expresso" .
Sorry… I also have to find you the chapter…
An approach to a summit is not a trek, even if it is exactly the same route, with the same steps! The difference lies in the fact that the approach walk is first of all the preliminary to the main objective: the ascent of a summit…
It is therefore much more than a trek !!!!
And that changes everything.
There is an "after" to this walk and it is a real preparation for the ascent and not a formality or worse a constraint. It is a much longer period than it seems and it is often during this period that the success or failure of an expedition is played out. It is the site of the mountaineer's mutation in the Alps into a Homo Himalayus in search of a summit.
The beautiful path to Naar.
We will sleep more than 4000 and higher than Phu.
It is a great way for me to consolidate our acclimatization. the village is superb… Of course, it makes people agree to make a detour. This represents time, but above all an additional cost for the agency.
For us, this journey on foot begins tomorrow and we are all in good health and in great shape. We found the entire Nepalese team and all the equipment was carefully prepared to be loaded onto the mules. We now need to take into account several factors that complicate our shared adventure:
And the second message to facilitate this acclimatization is therefore to pay attention to our hiker's condition : a minimum bag with just enough for a day, but adequate equipment and above all a rhythm adapted to each. No one has anything to prove to others.
The day will be long and the departure early. It is also the longest day of the approach walk.
And tomorrow we will all be in Meta, far from the road and from the Annapurna Tower. Definitely without connection, apart from our satellite phone.
Cécile, on the way to Phu.
The path crosses the bridge to change banks during periods of low water.
A recording of my conversation with Eric for Expedition Unlimited.
We do not stop progress…
“Here we are in Phu, the last village of our approach walk. "
A short day still separates us from our base camp at around 4850 m, higher than Mont Blanc.
Everything is fine, everyone is in good shape and in good health. The weather is nice and the temperatures are quite mild. However, spring has not yet started in Phu. People in the fields, people are still in the pastures, quietly at home or in Kathmandu.
Today is an à la carte day, we will sleep in the same place. The awakening was early and it will therefore be an active acclimatization with for some a hike to the small summit which dominates the village Gurusangbo at 4746 m. The view is particularly beautiful over the mountains of the valley and of course the Himlung.
Others will stay near the village, go up to the monastery or rest. For my part, I wait for the sun by writing this column, then I would go have a tea at Karma in the village, meet the vice president and discuss with Lakpa the steps to have the Nemju, a beautiful summit of 6000, the " Hausberg "by Phu.
Our approach walk from Koto was ideal , we took the time to detour to the village of Naar, to sleep at more than 4000 then descend to Kyang before joining Phu, for a complementary day of acclimatization. Difficult to do better, to take more time. There is always a tension to get to base camp as quickly as possible, not to waste time, to be efficient and in effort. For some, it is really difficult to put the summit at a distance.
Going up to Naar, the place is superb, the monastery is a very beautiful building.
It is a classic camping spot and recommended for groups traveling from Phu to Naar.
On the other hand, the decoration of the labrang is disappointing with only poor quality tankas hanging on the wall.
This approach is also cultural , which does not spoil history. I transform myself into a tourist guide to visit a monastery, explain the iconography or the history of Buddhism. And the detour to Naar allows you to see a reality very different from that of Phu and also imagine one day climbing the Kang Garu, a summit of "almost 7000" particularly aesthetic.
The Thau chortens, just before arriving in Naar.
A place of great energy with a splendid view.
Kyang, the winter village of Phu.
Now with several lodges, including Phukarsland , the largest.
On a beautiful flat area with beautiful cliffs nearby Kyang could be a superb climbing spot. But my energy is currently elsewhere ...
Who would like to open the first long route there or at least a climbing school (with Bishal, we can organize all the logistics at cost price ...?
Desperately looking for climbers !!!
In Phu, we are now at 4000 m and we will not descend below for the duration of our stay. We are in a hypoxic environment and above all we will continue to climb. But, making efforts at altitude is not particularly reasonable ...
So we have an appointment this afternoon at tea time for a small altitude briefing.
The third message to facilitate our acclimatization is to pay attention to the quality of our walking.
This walk is for hikers or mountaineers become more often natural, but also without real conscience. We will be inspired by the reflection of conscious walking (which is also close to Afghan walking).
We will talk about breathing, rhythm, our steps ... Everything that increases the quality of our walking to ultimately limit our physical efforts as much as possible and above all how to develop more awareness in our gestures.
More fun too.
And it's really an essential step to live the altitude well .
Right in front of the village, on the other bank, our usual campsite. The house serves as a dining room and the kitchen team is also well installed. It is a very good camp to stay there for at least two nights and enjoy the village.
I never tire of the special atmosphere of the village of Phu. A village at the end of the world. I just sit in a corner to transform myself into stone and melt into the place.
Difficult, however, to refuse invitations to drink yak butter tea…
8:30 am, the sun lights up my tent, it's time to go to lunch.
Fiona has just completed her first paraglider flight!
See you in 4 or 5 days for the next column from the French Camp for "Le grand Départ".
What a great energy…
Crossing the black gracier between the Kari Kobler Base Camp and the French Camp.
The itinerary changes every year and even sometimes during the expedition. An unpleasant but fortunately not very long route. A little dangerous also to go up the moraine of the French Camp . The choice of transforming the French Camp in ABC with the kitchen team for me is essential for us to avoid going -back on the glacier. But the effort required of the Nepalese team is very important and requires a little anticipation. Of course it also costs more!
This explains why the Nepalese agencies avoid making this choice!
Find a result of these columns in the following page:
the chronicles of Himlung, climb ...
Happy reading ...
Paulo_ June 9, 2019
One last day in Kathmandu