As we reported earlier, Suunto athlete Kim Havell, a top alpine skier and mountaineer, and a team of nine others are attempting to climb the North Face of Shishapangma in Tibet followed by the First decent of the Swiss/Polish route. Here is an update from Kim and the rest of the team from their blog:
The lingering Monsoon has kept us in Kathmandu for an extra day. We are hoping the bulldozers are busy clearing the alleged 5 landslides between here and our first stop in Zhangmu (just across the border into Tibet).
We are all getting eager to leave Kathmandu, though the additional day will hopefully provide time to sort out the Yak weight negotions (like the Monsoon our personal Yak weight allotments have been a bit shifty). With the Yaks all set the remainder of the day will be spent finalizing details, getting some "epic temple shots", eating, and more than likely some adventure in Kathmandu transportation (uncertain at this point if it will be motorized or human powered).
Overall, all is well... The team is healthy, happy, and typically a bit sweaty.
Before they left Kim described some of the logistics of the trip:
Our food for on the mountain above advanced base camp (“ABC”- 19,200ft) will be high altitude meals provided by Mountain House, supplemented by Clif products. We will also have staples such as chocolate bars, energy mixes, soup packets and more. When at BC, we will eat local food like Dal Bhat (rice and lentils), occasionally mixed with pieces of goat, along with more standard fare like pasta.
Moving on to the gear category, expeditions that involve ski-mountaineering, which is climbing mountains and then skiing down them, demand different gear choices then other types of trips. Since skis add an extra load carry to the process, weight and efficiency become top priorities in the system.
The specifics are lengthy but generally speaking we bring two light axes/ice tools/and or a whippet (axe attachment made for a ski pole), light bindings with spare parts, light crampons- two sets, and light tents. We also bring two sleeping bags each, one for our ABC, and one that travels up with us on the mountain. There are as many variations on gear and equipment as there are cows in India, but hopefully this lends some perspective on the general process and the gear that we will use.
Playing further into the equation, our clothing choices are extremely important. We use merino wool for base layers, and down and gore-tex for outer/upper layers. Since we will be attempting to ski, we will climb in ski boots, which are not as warm and beefy as your typical mountaineering boot. So, in this case, we will bring “overboots” which are neoprene zip-on booties that allow you to attach crampons to the boot but keep your feet warm in the colder environments up higher on the mountain. We also bring more high density down jackets (800+ fill) for warmth and flexibility, as our clothing cannot inhibit our ability to move in ski descent.
When we arrive to BC (16,400ft), we will settle in for a day or two and then will slowly move our operation to base out of ABC (17,700ft). From ABC, our plan is to climb up whatever route/s we plan to ski down so as to understand the snow and the terrain. We will work our way up the mountain carefully, acclimatizing and accessing conditions and options each step of the way. We will adhere to the alpinist adage, “climb high, sleep low” and we will hope that the weather and conditions cooperate.
Good luck to Kim and the rest of the team!
For more on Kim Havell visit her website.