Sunday, 28 October 2012

Kathmandu celebrations

High winds have shut Lukla airport but not before the whole Adventure Peaks Island Peak team were safely back in Kathmandu. As expected we made the journey in a far smaller plane than usual which gave everyone some spectacular views back towards Everest and a number of other 8000m peaks. Lots of folk getting big ideas after their recent success! A shower and shave and folk are looking forward to a couple of lemonades at Rum Doodles tonight for a celebration dinner with the traditional signing of a yeti footprint. Our final early start and the whole team should be winging their way back to the UK tomorrow after a very successful expedition

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Chocolate donuts!

The Island peak team back in Lukla now after a long but stunning days walk. Even before we checked into Paradise Lodge most of the team had consumed one of the the world’s biggest chocolate donuts with a fresh coffee. Yak sizzlers and a beer or two on the menu tonight before an early morning flight back to Kathmandu weather permitting. It seems very strange that just four days ago we were stood on the summit of Island Peak. A huge thanks to Nuru, Mingma 1 (aka Bob) and Mingma 2.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Back to Namche Bazaar

The team have now arrived back in Namche Bazar. Last night saw a few individuals sampling the delights of Chang or locally brewed rice wine. Surprisingly there were no headaches this morning and we made an early start for the stunning walk back down the Khumba. We now believe we summited in temperatures of -24 degrees in what has been the coldest October in the region for the last 20 years. Everyone is now tucked up by the yak dung stove and eating cake. We've spotted some very clean looking members of the Adventure Peaks Ama Dablam and Ultimate Everest expeditions in town who are just beginning their journey. For us it's back to Lukla tomorrow and an early morning flight back to Kathmandu on the 27th

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Changes in the weather

The Island Peaks team is now in Pangboche. Weather has changed with lots of cloud and snow this afternoon. Back to Namche Bazar tomorrow for beer and cake.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Summit Success

We have had a very successful summit day. Although a long and tiring climb, eight clients made the summit with Zac and two Sherpas. It was good weather with no clouds, a little gusty but the team were wearing down-jackets to ward off the cold.

It’s now 18:00 (local time) and the team are all back down to Base Camp. Temperature is dropping down to -10 degrees as it's dark now. Trekking back to Tengboche tomorrow.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Summit preperation...

The weather has been stunning; the afternoon cloud disappeared and didn’t leave a cloud in the sky. It’s now dark and the stars are out. Temperature is -10 and dropping.

The team are all feeling in top form with no headaches and planning on having an early start, then going for the summit around 01:30 (local time). It’s a great team and Zac is expecting a good summit success rate.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Summiting Chukung Ri

We all reached the summit of Chukung Ri today at 5565m. The weather was good with only a few high clouds, so the views of Pumori and Makalu were stunning. Everyone is a little tired after a long day, but all are well and in good spirits as we settle down for the evening. There is no shortage of food and no sign of anyone's appetite being affected by the altitude! Tomorrow we head up to Island Peak Basecamp. The sherpa team have already gone on ahead and have set up a good basecamp ready for our arrival, and we aim to try for the summit on Tuesday.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Onwards to Chukung

Reached Chhukhung (4730m) today. Weather is perfect and we have been watching climbers on the summit ridge of Island Peak this afternoon. We will spend two nights here, climbing Chhukhung Ri on Sunday for acclimatisation, moving up to Basecamp on Monday and going for the summit on Tuesday. Zac is the only one with a bit of a headache and the team are all well and continuing with their hearty appetites.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

First views of Island Peak

We traveled from Tengboche to Dingboche (4358m). A good day's walking through beautiful rhododendron trees that eventually led us back to the river and into Pangboche. We left and trekked into the Imja valley to arrive in the village of Dingboche and enjoyed the amazing views of Island Peak. Despite a few headaches the team are all well and continuing with their hearty appetites.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Tengboche Monastry

Stunning views of Everest, Lhotse & Ama Dablam today from the trail to Tengboche. After lunch by the river we paid our respects at the monastry before fortifying ourselves on chocolate & rum cake and strong coffee. A quick descent to Middle Earth and the Rivendale Lodge in Debouche for dinner watching the sun set over Everest.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Acclimatisation in Namche Bazaar

Another stunning day in the Khumbu. Today’s plan was an acclimatisation day around Namche Bazaar. In the event there was a wee bit of walking and plenty of eating - hot chocolate at the Everest View Hotel, Potato Rosti in Khungjung (sp), a quick viewing of the yeti scalp in the Gompa and back to Namche for a repeat visit to the Everest Bakery.

Everest stayed hidden in the clouds today but we had great views of Lhotse, Ama Dablam and Thamseku. Two more meals and we're away up the valley heading for the Buddhist Monastery at Tengboche.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Namche Bazaar

Everyone comfortably up to Namche Bazaar and tucking into cake and coffee in the Everest Bakery. Funny as a few hours ago they were complaining as there was too much food at lunch!

A slow and steady pace today meant that there are no headaches and everybody is feeling fine at 3400m. No sign of Everest yet due to the afternoon cloud but an early morning acclimatisation walk tomorrow morning should give us some great views of Everest, Lhotse, Ama Dablam, Thamseku and Kusum Kangri.

After yesterdays luxury accommodation with en-suite bathrooms and hot showers expectations were high and the group have not been disappointed with comfortable twin rooms overlooking the Namche bowl. We've got yet more food in a couple of hours with a three course dinner finished off with apple pie.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Ama Dablam & Island Peak

Ama Dablam from Base Camp

I'm currently on my way to Nepal to lead an Island Peak expedition for Adventure Peaks followed by a 'solo' attempt on one of the world's most beautiful mountains Ama Dablam. I was stormed off it a couple of years ago while guiding so it's very much unfinished business. Updates on Island Peak will be on the Adventure Peaks news page and I'll try and keep the blog updated as well, technology permitting! It's going to a busy mountain. Heather Geluk, Tim Mosedale, Jon Gupta, Stu Peacock, Ben Bradford, Chris Szymiec and James Thacker will also all be on the route with various groups. Blue skies everyone.

Ama Dablam from Camp 1

On the fixed lines above Camp 1

The North Face Shaffle Down Jacket - First look

The North Face athlete Andy Houseman used the new Shaffle Jacket on his repeat of the Slovak Direct on Denali. A world class ascent in some very challenging conditions. Check out the spindrift avalanche at 11.10 in the video below! Not quite in the same league but I have the opportunity to test this jacket and a few other North Face products over the next few weeks in the Himalaya while guiding on Island Peak and a 'solo' attempt on Ama Dablam.

The Shaffle is an alpine down jacket aimed at fast and light ascent of 6-7000m peaks. It was developed for the successful ascent of Meru's Sharks Fin by Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin and Renan Ozturk. First impressions suggest that it feels a lot warmer than 200grams of 800 fill down would suggest. My current jacket for peaks such as Ama Dablam has 325grams and is almost half a kilo heavier than the Shaffle's 808grams. It appears to be very much a over layering jacket to be used in conjunction with a well thought out system of clothing as opposed to a big warm jacket to throw on over a thermal at base camp. Andy Houseman described the basics of his system in this interview with UKClimbing.

The most interesting aspect of the design is body mapping where extra down is held securely over heat sensitive areas and areas that are compressed by a harness have less. This makes a lot of sense but does give the jacket an unusual silhouette from a few angles! The rest of the features have been designed specifically for the climber with internal water bottle pockets, high chest pockets and a helmet compatible hood. The internal cuff that The North Face use on a number of their insulated jackets feels great and helps to protect the vulnerable wrist area.

I will write an in depth review on my return from Nepal but initial impression are very favorable and with this in my bag I've opted for a lighter sleeping bag for my planned bivi on Ama Dablam.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

The North Face Meru Jacket - First look

The North Face's flagship alpine shell, the Meru Jacket, has an awesome pedigree - Designed by Conrad Anker, Renan Ozturk and Jimmy Chin for their successful return to the Shark's Tooth on Meru and worn by Andy Houseman on the 6th ascent of the Slovak Direct on Denali it has real potential to be a top end performer. It'll be in my bag for Ama Dablam next month and then get a good hammering in Scotland this winter but here's my initial thoughts on what looks a very smart piece of clothing before a long term test in the next few months.

As an advocate of soft shell or windproofs for the majority of conditions my waterproofs usually stay in my bag. Luckily the Lake District weather has obliged over the last few days and I've been wearing this jacket almost constantly. As expected I've stayed pretty much dry, however when the sun did make a brief appearance the Gore Active shell wasn't far off soft shells levels of breathability and comfort and I was able to forget I was wearing a waterproof.

Many manufacturers will tell you that they don't like pit zips but fashion over function means that they have to include them in their high performance jackets to be able to sell them. Unfortunately they add weight, complexity, are a weak point and personally I find they don't work. Your waterproof should be your final bombproof layer against the elements. Full marks to The North Face for going against the grain and keeping the jacket simple and watertight - or so I thought!

They've replaced one weakness with another bigger one by including chest pockets with a mesh back to aid venting. This makes the jacket lighter and more breathable but means you will get wet if you are using the pockets. They are also only closed by weather resistant zips which aren't backed or covered by a storm flap so although I've not had any problems so far, there is the potential for driving rain to force it's way through. The main zip has a bit more protection with a small internal guard.

Many American designed waterproof jackets struggle in the windy UK conditions for want of a wired hood. The reinforced peak on the Meru is probably one of the better non wired hood I've used. It'll be very interesting to see how it copes with a Scottish hooligan this winter. It's also one of the few hoods I've tried which is actually helmet compatible.

The grippy rubber on the waist and shoulders is designed to prevent wear but also helps prevent your rucksack and climbing harness moving around. An interesting innovation as I have a couple of rucksacks that definitely slide off my waterproof clad shoulders as soon as I start climbing. I'm not a fan of chest straps, finding them restrictive, so this idea has a lot of potential...

Initial thoughts are that this is going to be a very good lightweight winter climbing and alpine shell. The potential problem with the chest pockets won't be an issue in alpine conditions so the real test will be in Scotland. The fit and styling are excellent and it has very clean and simple lines. Areas of wear are reinforced with tougher Active Shell and I get the feeling it'll be a lot tougher than it's weight would suggest.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Welcome to the new & updated MountainZ blog...

Sunrise from Wrynose Pass

I started my origional blog on the 21st December 2009 to share my adventures as a mountain instructor and expedition guide. Nearly 600 posts later and with more than 100,000 views I've managed to upload 1GB worth of photos and writing which has taken me up to my upload limit. So it's now time for a new blog.....however my old blog is still available at;