NEWSLETTERS - Shishapangma 2006

Newsletter 111 September 2006

Although English is not my language and also the fact that I am not used to the QWERTY typing board, I will try to let you know how our expedition to Shishapangma is progressing.

Our team of nine, including our two very experimented New Zealand guides Mark and Dean, has started his progression toward what is called the Advance Base Camp two weeks ago from Kathmandu.

Unexpectedly we have had to drive from there to Tibet, via Kodari and the Friendhip Bridge and then Zangmu, Nyalam and Tingri. The plan was to fly from Kathmandu to Lhasa but our flight was canceled so Russel Brice has had to find in a very short period of time another way to reach our destination taking into consideration the acclimatisation process that we all need to go through.

Up until Tingri, a very small village located at around 4300 m, where you can see both the Everest and Cho Oyu summits, our expedition was sharing everything with another one going to Cho Oyu organised and lead by Russel.

Six days ago both expeditions did split and went to their respective real beginning which start from what is called the Chinese BC which you can access to by trucks and 4X4 cars. There ends the easy life, and also starts the exciting part of our expedition. Also there we meet with our sherpas that have settled our camp before our arrival.

There also we come to meet with each one of the team, you start to know who is who, where each person comes from, what mountaineering background each one of us has, as a guide, as a sherpa, as a client. I must say that I have been, and still am, very impressed by the experience of every one. Having participated to many expeditions, I however have never met with such an impressive experience from almost everyone.

As far as this experience is concerned I though I may have had a nice one, but I must realised that all our sherpas, our two guides and three of our group of clients have summited Everest several times as well as some other well known 8000m peaks.

Laurent Dupre (Lolo), Emmanuelle Nalet (Manu) and Roch Malnuit, all three from Chamonix, have not yet summited any of those 8000, but they have a great experience in snowboarding and they intend to go down from the Shisha summit via a very difficult "couloir" called the "couloir Chamoux". Roch is also known for being a famous base jumper, and I must say that, though I am much much older than they are, we are making a good team of four french guys.

Katja Staartjes is Dutch and after Everest, Gasherbrum 1 and almost Daulaghirim is intending to go to the real summit of Shisha. She is very well known in her country where she gives many lectures about her experience in these thin air parts of our world.

Chieko Shimada has summited Everest and she also is well known in her country.

Mogens Jensen is Danish, has gone from Copenhagen to the Everest BC biking and then, on the same trip has almost summited Everest - he had to go down while at 100 m from the summit due to frosbite fingers. He is so fast at climbing that we have little chance to see him on the mountain... I am trying however while we are resting at ABC (advanced base camp, located at 5635m) to beat him at backgammon and at the moment, well, after hours of playing together we are almost even.

Tomorrow we shall again go to our "depot camp", where the glacier is starting, in order to acclimatise and to leave some gear we will need later. Our fantastic sherpas have gone today to this depot camp, loaded with backpacks - you could not even imagine how heavy they are, and they will, for the next two days, put fixed ropes up to Camp 1, where they will also fix about ten tents. Then in three days from now, we shall be able to go to Camp 1, thanks to their fantastic work.

We are very excited and also far too impatient to get to higher altitude. At the moment everyone looks in pretty good conditions, but the difficult times have not yet really started.

Also, before I give you some more news, I must say that we are very lucky to have nice tents, one for each of us, and also our cook, Tashi, is a real Chef. Anyhing we need, we just have to ask him, and here it is in our plate !

C'est la vie de Chateau... but it may change pretty soon !

Arnaud de Fouchier