NEWSLETTERS - Shishapangma 2006

Newsletter 224 September 2006

Well, sorry for such a long time inbetween my first and last desciption of our Shisha expedition which looks no more like a kind of Disney on the top of the world life...

Our laptop has been somewhat reluctant as to let me, Arnauld, carry on telling you how we are, whether at ABC, or at Camp 1, or Camp 2, that we simply had to wait until today to get another computer. For unknown reasons, this one had been sent immediately by Russell, from Cho Oyu BC, and went to Kathmandu instead of here !

Well we do not work here with DHL, Fed Ex, UPS... but rather with mail runners and yaks and sometimes, but rarely, they are not as efficient and reliable as other well known means.

We and the sherpas have been very active on the mountain. On the 10th we walked up to the depot camp, 300m higher than ABC, just at the foot of an impressive forest of huge penitents that has to be crossed over before the foot of the glacier can be reached, but still a long and uneasy way to get there, where we piled up in a tent a lot of gears, food, ropes, etc.

We were back at ABC mid afternoon after many ups and downs on the moraine. After a day rest on the 12th again we went again to the depot camp, faster than the first time, though we were heavily loaded, especially those carrying skis and snowboards. Then we put our crampons on and happy to start getting in touch with what we are here for, going up up and away...We crossed the penitents barrier, not a simple game, believe me !

We have had to find our way, up, down left, right, backwards...Sometimes it looked as if everybody had disappeared, hey, where are you folks, then suddenly the ice breaks under your weight, you have to use your ice axe as well as one of your ski poles then no more noise around, just the sun burning, and you can't see the glacier, it's like a sort of game in a big big fair (a suggestion to Disney) but still very demanding to your body, for a good hour. Then here we were on the glacier and went up to 6000m and back to the penitents and back to ABC, exausted, almost all of us. We rested here on the 13th.

Mark and Dean, together with Phurba, our Sirdar and the Sherpas decided that it was time on the 14th (my birthday) to leave for three nights up there, two at C1, and one at C2. Weather conditions were perfect and back again to the penitents and then (and at least) ascending toward C1, located at 6450m, and reached at around 2pm.

The wind was blowing a lot and we were happy that the Sherpas could fix the tents quickly so that we could take a rest and start to make water immediatly. Roch, my tent mate, has been very helpful at this job - we all admired the splendid view towards the Tibetan plateau even though we had little headhaches. At 6 pm our day was over until 7am the next morning . Many hours of rather bad sleep !

The following day we just walked around the camp and our three snowboarders did snowboard down one or two slopes.

On the 16th we got to C2, almost exactly located at 7000m, after 3 to 4 hours of ascent on steep slopes where our Sherpas had put on fixed ropes at some dangerous points. Again we were alone and everyone contributed to fix our three tents very quickly. Once again we immediately started to spend the required time to start melting snow to get boiling water. We were in our sleeping bags at 6pm (no more wind but it was real cold around -8 deg C in the tent).

On the 16th, we left C2 at 8am and arrived at ABC around 1.30pm, just in time for some french fries but pretty tired, although happy that our plan did work perfectly.

What did not work perfectly was our plan for the following days. We were to rest here 3 days and them leave for C1, 2, 3, and summit push on the 24th. Well, as up today, the 24th, we are still waiting for a good weather forecast and probably we shall have to wait much more. For those who have an early plane back home, or, who, like me do not wish to stay more days lying in my sleeping bag, well, the game is over !!...

Lolo, Manu and myself are leaving for Zangmu and then Kathmandu the next day. Too bad, but there might not be any summit possibility until two weeks from now ...

I took for granted the first summit plan, ignoring that Shishapangma is a very capricious mountain. I simply did not prepare myself to those long waiting days (weeks...).

How strange are those 8000's m peaks ascents : you train yourself for months in order to be prepared to doing nothing for weeks!... And you come back home, you have lost kilos, your muscles have melted down like crazy, and whether you have summited or not, most of the time, back to normal life, you are thinking about your next 8000m mountain...

Someone else will keep you posted about what's happening here from now on!

Arnaud de Fouchier