Wednesday, August 1

Next challenge

So yes its time for some more climbing!
This time it will be on my trusted Specialized Roubaix road bike
Countdown today is 18 days to go
More details later

Monday, July 16

Jens Voigt quotes from 2012 TdF

"Every cell of my body was screaming at me: 'Stop, stop, I'm tired.' I could hear them all, millions of little cells yelling in agony: 'Jens, stop, I can’t do it anymore!'
Shut up body shut up, don’t fall apart yet, don’t fall apart yet, give me one more day"

"If they are looking for an undestructable dead hard worker, then I'm in, thats me"

Jens Voigt 

Thursday, May 17

Day 24 - 17 May - Shishapangma - Au revoir

"Parting doesn't have to be sweet sorrow..."

Shisha showing jet stream impact - from Advanced Base Camp

Yes it's good bye (again) Shisha. Hmmm I can hear you all say...
Taking all I know and can see, I believe that 1. the lack of climbers on the mountain and 2. the current wind patterns will not allow me the opportunity of getting above camp I. I may be proved wrong, but perhaps 2012 will another year when no one summits Shisha

Perhaps that's how it should be - they do feel amazingly sacred places

As you know the journey (all these times) has been the important part. I'm now familiar with this path... No need to return to experience more...

I was definitely the strongest and most prepared (other than the EV2) this year.
I loved my days on the hill. The control I felt was amazing - even in "Luke's" blizzard.

Its a shame I did not get to the top of Yebokangjial (my secondary objective).
It only required a 2 day adjustment of days/weather. But one can't just decide that schedule. 

Again, I will use this experience in my future, as Sir Ran says it will be part of my future motivation.

All the best

Wednesday, May 16

Day 23 - 16 May - Shishapangma/Yebokangjial - First draft - How to climb

Over 50 summits on Everest as reported on Alan Arnette site!
As already stated on May 14th, the conditions for a summit attempt on Shisha were not going to be possible for me. Now even more so, with the news that the professionals Juanito and Carlos did not reach the the summit. 

If you read Alan's information, you can see that in fact there is significant coordination with teams and the "Ice fall Doctors", in putting in place the infrastructure that is required for humans to get to the summit. Teams contribute funds/ropes to Sherpa's who in fact will connect ropes for the entire route up the mountain. Until this is done, climbers have to wait, or in only a very few cases, take the risk of going "unconnected"

Perhaps due to the less popularity of Shisha, this does not occur. Teams seem to think that they have the ability to climb it on their own. Over the many years (other than some truly great climbs - Inaki Ochoa, Andrew Lock, Ueli Steck) that I have been to Shisha, I'm surprised by the lack of coordination. Even simple things, that would make life (approach trekking/climbing) easier, safer, faster and hence more efficient, do not occur. Remember, its a multi-day endurance event. Efficiency is key.

As an unsupported climber, these would obviously help perhaps I'm biased? Why though do climbers approach similar obstacles in different ways - obviously ignoring the "unique" attempts aka Inaki Ochoa...

ABC to Depot
Not that critical, but 2 hours of slog and 200 meters of ascent. Its a stony icy gravel path, on which route finding, especially after a snow dump can be treacherous. A single attempt could easily mark the ideal route which could easily be maintained as the conditions changed

There must have been at least three routes this year. Even one that included an additional rappel. If a little more time was spent on the initial recce, every climber would save time and energy and have reduced risk of injury. How about removing some of the the previous seasons (stubborn) incorrect wands?
GPS comparisons show that the 2012 route, was at least 20% less efficient that average of all my previous attempts.

Crest - Camp I
Ok so its better to have every one rope up and bear the consequence of having to drop to the lowest common denominator (slowest) rather than properly mark and set fixed ropes for the crevasse section. That or face the risk of popping the lid (snow bridge) and having an icy cold dark experience

Approach to Camp II slope

Camp III
The climb from the "valley" to camp III is always complicated by deep snow. Yes this does make fixed rope maintenance a nightmare, but it still is possible, especially if correctly setup in the first place.

Camp location
Shisha's weather does impact camp location. The problem of incorrect camp location occurs, using camp I as an example, is that, as one reaches the "crest", the icy head wind forces one to start thinking about getting into ones tent as as soon as possible!
One therefore pitches early... Albeit you may have had a long day already, all that one does, if repeated, is make the next even longer. 
This years camp I was probably 800m short in distance and 140m to low. This obviously impacts the climb to camp II. From Camp II, the "valley" to the slope up to camp III can be awfully long - this is earlier camps have not been correctly located.

Often its the Sherpa's who reach the "locations" first. Again clear communication and instruction are required.

Working with two fairly fixed points, Camp III is located at 7,500m and Depot (before Penitentes) is at 5,800m. 
Therefore ideally you want Camp II to be at 7,000m and Camp I at 6,500m

Which one? The true summit is extremely difficult to achieve. It is such a pity that Elizabeth Hawley does not record attempts and successes for the true summit of Shishapangma.
The ratios of successes must be extremely low! Depending on your reason for climbing, then the central summit may be a complete waste of time! Its not the top!

2012 - just a note to say that there were some fixed ropes and markers - unfortunately though they were not maintained and often poorly setup initially. So much for my portion paid towards this activity...

In essence then, I strongly believe that a similar coordinated attempt (similar to that on Mount  Everest) would significantly improve climbers chances of reaching Camp III. (The funny thing is that all the equipment and resource is on the mountain - its just a matter of communication). 

Then the fun could begin as to how committed climbers were to reach the true summit.

Day 23 - 16 May - Shishapangma/Yebokangjial - Crevasses

So yes these fellows do cause some concern...
The small Argentinian team had to help pull out a Japanese climber from a slot this year.
In 2010 while on the way up to camp I, I saw a climber (on skis) disappear. 

So as I mentioned they are prominent on the way up to the crest (to Camp I) and also on the lower sections up to Camp II (on the recce we found 9)

So one can rope up together (and then use standard crevasses rescue techniques if one (or more) of the group pop through). The more people the better, as if the fallen climber is injured during the fall and can't help him/herself, then the others often have to resort to use pulley systems to get them out.

This year I just popped the roof of a couple. My forward momentum, luckily got me to the "other side". But these were not wide crevasses, and due to the wind, had many levels that were "blown" closed.
Where is that right leg?

One can either be petrified or just long as not too frequent!

See, its was just a small one....heaven knows whats below that little hole

Tuesday, May 15

Day 22- 15 May - Shishapangma/Yebokangjial - Retreat

Another "Man Alive!", what a night!
Pack up as soon as light. Jet stream (see article on Explorers Web) still roaring - calm, roar,calm roar...
Pack entire tent contents (have to do this all inside else will just get blown away)
I'm exhausted and low on energy - due to no sleep or food, but probably due to no options, muster the motivation to do it. Then its a matter of timing my exit. Need to put on my crampons...
I;m leaving the tent - as mentioned previously made the mistake of not using my Terra Nova Gemini - would have been a much better option - actually a major mistake.

Exit, blown literary to the "crest". At least the wind is behind me...also good for any crevasses as will help blow me "over" them if I'm to puncture through.

As I drop, less impact of the wind, relief. Got to push down

Arrive at Penitentes, much calmer now, what was all the fuss about?

Penitentes a bit of a struggle, but soon at Depot Camp. Hour sleep, then down to ABC
Gallon of sweet milk tea...

Monday, May 14

Update/Correction - no true summits still on Shishapangma

On Friday 11 May I relayed that had reported that Juanito Oiarzabal, Carlos Pauner, Juanjo Garra and Argentine Ariel Petinetti, had summited the true summit of Shishapangma.

It turns out that they turned around just short of the true summit - this reported on Explorers web (see

So Shisha again, keeps her illusive true summit to herself!

Below is a Google translation of what Juanito Oiarzabal said on

A little sad.
In total have been more grueling five days.
Always the same. We will not use Murphy's Law, but that we are inveterate optimists. Well, better to be so, there's no regrets. It is better, always see the glass half full.
We expected the time would be better, but has not been bad. If you get to be bad, certainly not lower.

We left on Tuesday, 8, climbed slowly. A day to reach Camp I to Camp II other ... reserving strength for the final attack. We arrived at Camp III, a little tired, but it is normal if we are at almost 7,500 meters, which is where we set up camp.
And it was on Friday 11. We had slept little, but that we had counted, and prepared to leave at four o'clock, but we had a bit of fog, and without the help of the moon, and without knowing the way, it was crazy to leave. So we had to wait for daylight. Of course we were the only ones who were attacking the summit by this route, although initially there were two Finns who came up with us. We had to open the track between ourselves.
It was very hard. The climb is beautiful, is a tour of the best that can be done in the Himalayas, we were surprised by its beauty, is not too difficult or dangerous, but is long, heavy, we sunk 30 to 40 inches and had to earn every step and, of course, fatigue accumulates, and time passes, while the forces are spent, and every time you slow down.
I for one was not convinced to go ahead when we saw that we would do at night. We had access to an edge which also joins the British route Southwest (which we did in 1998). We reached the edge and I warned, by the memories he had, that we still had enough. But as all we wanted to make top and we were not in danger, follow up.
But at night, tiredness, and limited light of our front, he surely we had a miscalculation. At one point believed to be on top and gave it for good. (The summit of Shisha is not exactly the kind that have some characteristic that identify it as such).
Even in the fall, at some stage that ice sheets have not noticed the mark, we doubt and we struggled to find the way, but beyond these small sections and with a tremendous tiredness by the time we had non-stop, finally the four o'clock in the morning we arrived at Camp III.

In total there were about 22 hours straight ...
We rested some and at dawn returned our eyes to the summit and the route we had followed ... We soon realize nothing in that, possibly, where we were not the highest point, although we had been very close. We looked and remiramos and there was no doubt.

The first record we did was at night, to reassure us and tell you that we had already summit and descended, but when we realized our error, we announced to everyone, hoping to make "official" statements on arrival to BC, and relaxed and clearer ideas on the reasons for our mistake.

And this is the sad reality. These things happen quite often in the mountains. The whole illusion so long as the support of good people who trust you, who helps to get your aim and effort, sacrifice and hardship many have not had the desired result.

We have the consolation, which is something, that we have given everything to exhaustion, we are satisfied and you can be sure that we have all that was on our side, but in the "fight" against the mountains can not always bind all the circumstances necessary for you to win. Nevertheless we are back safe and sound and will continue striving to achieve our dreams ... and that we can celebrate, because "soldier who becomes goes for another battle"
Not how I could thank you for your unconditional support, THANK YOU and until we meet "face to face" a big hug,

Juanito Oiarzabal. Shisha Pangma Base Camp, May 14, 2012

Day 21- 14 May - Shishapangma/Yebokangjial - Hoseman 0 - Jet Stream 1

Man alive! (Just)

Packed light, notice Jet stream impact on Shisha
Sherpa’s, Gyalzen, Ngima & Kaji about an hour ahead of me out of ABC
No problems to Depot Camp, but slight colder headwind (Isn’t Summer meant to be coming?)
Have usual rest lying in tent with feet sticking out in the sun…
Load up climbing suit, some gas & food.
Wind definitely feels colder – different source?

Through Penitentes, nice that this year am confident on downward journeys to be more adventurous and find new routes…

Penitentes. Depot in the distance.

Trail fine, but Sherpa’s steps eroded by fine headwind of spin drift

Spindrift increases as climb higher – but all manageable, albeit a bit colder (hands)
(later note: did have some first degree (minor) frostbite (frost nip) after this climb)

Three quarters way up see Sherpa’s returning… News that Luke’s group not going to Camp II…One party has snow blindness…
I should have enquired more, as actually conditions at Camp I far from ideal….my mistake!

Carry on pushing upwards into the cold spindrift wind, familiar landmarks en-route
Arrive at the crest - I will never forget that part of the entire trip – ever!

The Crest

Bleak landscape, some scattered rope, looming crevasses (even inviting, due to the ever cold strong spindrift wind)
But Camp I visible, you know you are almost home…
One of Luke’s group sees me, on arrival offers me lovely soup…

The wind is really bad, strong gusts like a freight train passing at speed…
Dive into my tent (another mistake was not to have erected my tried and tested Terra Nova Gemini single walled mountain tent (had recently bought a Mountain Hardware EV2 – which is useless in high winds as can’t cook without gassing oneself (or let all the winds spindrift in!)) Note to self, don’t change what works!

So there I am. Huddled in my small single walled tent, watching the sides buckle and the poles bend, unable to do anything other than slink deep into my sleeping bag.
Dehydrated, tired, but unable to really do anything about it…

Just another 16 hours till morning to endure….

I think in those 16 hours there was 45 seconds of calm…should have at least taken advantage and slept then!

Multiple blog updates - go to Day 19

Day 21 - 14 May - Shishapangma/Yebokangjial - GOYA and change!

I have decided to make a major change to my plans!

About 6 years ago, Jamie McGuinness (Project Himalaya) and some of his clients, climbed a small snowy peak called Yebokangjial  - just to the right of Camp II.
Its fairly prominent on most of the pictures of Shisha from ABC – snowy mound to the right


This peak at approximately  7,070m is my new objective. So no 8,000m for me. One of my objectives out the door….See curvature of the earth from earth….

This is due to 2 main reasons:

1.       Seeing the jet stream lower itself on Shisha, I think the clear weather wind is now past us
a.       Visible by wispy  clouds on the summit, misty (very strong) winds at all lower camps, and generally colder Westerly winds at ABC
2.       Depth of snow up to Camp III
a.       I think that this is the crux of the climb – yes just getting to Camp III!. Already there have been reports from other teams and our Sherpa’s about the depth of snow around and above Camp II
b.      If its thigh deep, I cannot carry a load…

So my plan is to go up to Camp I today, Camp II tomorrow, and then go the  next day to see what Yebokangjial has to offer!
It is unfortunately through the largest crevasse zone on the mountain…

Sunday, May 13

Day 20 - 13 May - Shishapangma - Preparations for mass exodus of all other teams & plans

As you may be aware Project Himalaya decided to try a late tactic this year.
We arrived at ABC after many teams had already been here for weeks.
Hence the summits of Juanito & Carlos only on our day 18 – for them it possibly was around their day 35/40

As you know, I have some pre-criteria that is required for me to at least to have a chance of reaching the summit. These ALL have to align correctly:

1.       Good health
2.       Have eaten enough – i.e. good energy stores
3.       Have a trail – i.e. as I’m carry a load, I can’t make the trial for too long (else I probably won’t get to my destination camp), just too exhausting (note the Sherpa’s, Gyalzen, Ngima & Kaji can easily do this – amazing, hence why I track other peoples movements and try to follow them
a.       Note that this year, somehow I have been the first (on a day) on two occasions to Camp I – luckily the snow conditions did not erode too much of my energy supplies.
b.      My ration of steps also increased from approximately 10 steps per rest period (2010)to 30 steps per rest period this year  – am feeling good BUT do see later note
4.       As single on the mountain (some think stupid/crazy…) as few crevasses as possible (this was my main issue in 2010 – risk/reward balance)
5.       Good weather – after last note seems to be the biggest fact, but only one part

As the other teams are now packing up, I have less choice for options 3 & 4. The reality and impact of being later is setting in…

Climbers retreating at end of their "stay"

Luke’s group have the following plan:
Today, Camp I
Tomorrow, Camp II, Sherpa’s leave to Camp I & II
Day after, Camp I then back to ABC

Saturday, May 12

Day 19/20 - 12/13 May - Shishapangma - weather

Small storm early evening, but stopped snowing 8:00pmish
Not the greatest of sleeps at ABC – had to watch movie at 1:30am  on HTC phone to distract myself

It’s incredible how the only constant regarding the weather here is change.
The impact that this mountain has, mainly because it is so high, on its surrounds is big. The interesting thing is that the extended weather periods (constant) never seem to be good.
I have been here enough times to confirm that.
The couple of days of still and calm are amazingly infrequent!

Luke’s group are going up to CI & CII over the next couple of days, this suits me as have some tracks, but am thinking of a new objective – hmmmm

Current Weather:

Weather by meteoexploration

Friday, May 11

Day 18 - 11 May - Shishapangma true summit reached - Juanito Oiarzabal & Carlos Pauner

It has been reported ( that Juanito Oiarzabal (Basque) accompanied by Carlos Pauner, Juanjo Garra and Argentine Ariel Petinetti, summited the true summit of Shishapangma this morning.

When should get local confirm tomorrow when they return to ABC
So yes it is possible!

Shishapangma is often talked about as one of the easiest 8,000m peaks. But when investigated, the true summit is quite projected. Not only its unpredictable weather patterns, high winds but also a knife edge ridge if approached from the North ridge. These guys followed a similar route used by Inaki Ochoa back in 2006.

Juanito, is though a pretty amazing guy. He is on his second round of climbing all of the fourteen 8,000m peaks. He has three more to go.
Including all repeats he has stood on an 8,000m summit 27 times

Carlos has now reached the summits of 13 of the 14 highest mountains of the world.

Luke’s team were also monitoring climbers attempting the (slightly lower) central summit. No confirmations have of yet been received.

Juanito Oiarzabal

Day 18 - 11 May - Shishapangma Advanced Base Camp (ABC) - Recce of crevasses towards Camp II

Up early as possibly an attempt on establishing camp II!
Lovey morning at Camp I
Have asked Sherpa’s if I can join their rope as they are definitely going to establish Camp I for Luke’s group.


Kaji & Ngima

Route up to Camp II

We set off roped together, with Gyalzen probing the snow ahead with his ice axe. We also spot an Austrian group coming down from Camp II. They have unfortunately run out of time (after many weeks) and hence are packing up.

Initially the route is just a gentle gradient, but perfect conditions for ice to bend while it is moving down, and hence crack causing crevasses. We find 9!
We then hit a steep section. At this point I know that I do not have the legs to carry on, so although I have camp II load with me, I say to the guys that I’m going to turn around.
I then return to Camp I un-roped – running (ha ha) the gauntlet over the 9 known crevasses.

Just another crevasse
So the situation is not ideal, that is the number of crevasses. My feeling is though, as with the crest to Camp I, that the crevasses are pretty filled in (by snow/ice been blown over days/weeks) and hence are not large cavernous pits of nothing. If one pops through, I believe there is a good change of self-extracting…

Quick stop to drop Camp II load at my camp I, then beetle off down the hill…

At the crest, pop one crevasses, but forward momentum ensures I fall face first down in the snow on the other side…
Aah that lovely crevasse adrenalin rush – again in the morning!

Reach Penitentes with no further incident.. Decide to film the route, but include a new version. Nice to have the time to explore it a bit. Video will be posted later – including a slip – hee hee

Short rest at Depot Camp, then back down (the changing/melting/mudslide route as conditions warm) to ABC.

My Depot "home"

On arrival, usual gallons of sweet milky tea…

Sherpa’s arrive back very later afternoon after a very long day up to and establishing Camp II for Luke’s group – reported thigh high snow…

Thursday, May 10

Day 17 - 10 May - Shishapangma Camp I - Luke's blizzard

What a day!!!!!!!!
Woke up to 20cm of snow on ground – but temp feels warm
Decide to wait half hour…
Get delivered a large bowl of Sherpa stew – same as Sherpa’s - kick start the engine

All clear, go up to Depot Camp with the Sherpa’s

Meet up with Luke’s group coming down from Camp I
Raphael gives me the kick to carry on up to Camp I

Pack the following for Camp II
-          Terra Nova Gemini tent & stakes
-          Bamboo Stakes
-          Jetboil stove
-          3 gas
-          4 food
-          Normal mountain clothing & bit of tech & medical stuff
So a relatively light load…

Sherpa’s ahead of me through Penitentes, 35 mins and I’m also through

During previous night’s radio call had asked Luke if forecast indicated any reason why I should not go up – none he replied, plus he was sending his Sherpa’s up to Camp II

As climbed higher, with Sherpa’s 100m or so above me, the weather and visibility started to deteriorate.
It was though warmish, not the very biting cold that sometimes comes down from Camp I (especially near the crest) –so I did not feel very uncomfortable
Plus I now know this route very well – I should after being here for so many years!

Eventually I was in a complete white-out, with horizontal snow blowing towards me.

Entering Luke's blizzard 

For some reason, I felt in complete control and just continued with the task in hand. There was no longer any sight of the Sherpa’s above me. The trail (Sherpa’s foot prints in the snow) was slowly starting to disappear. But I knew the direction I had to take. Every now and then, I spotted landmarks to my left and right. The crevasses on this part of the route on mainly around the crest.
This continued for approximately 200m of vertical ascent – but still felt calm and in control.
Eventually I reached the crest – marked with icy bits and ropes where other climbers have tried to secure the area for crevasses. Unfortunately not all crevasses have been secured by fixed rope, so I decided to wait a bit to see if the weather cleared. I radioed Gyalzen, who by now was in the established tents at Camp I.
After a little time, Ngima came bounding down (after popping one crevasses) and as if by a miracle the sun cleared the area we were both in.

The result of "Luke's Blizzard".

It was very surreal – especially after just fighting my way through the blizzard conditions. I followed Ngima, and soon the camp came into view. Suddenly I realised how tired I was.  It had taken me just over three hours from the Penitentes. (previously 4.5 hours), so time was great, especially considering the conditions. But perhaps that was the motivating factor and I had subconsciously reduced the number of rest periods)

Ngima coming from Camp I

Sir Ran Fiennes says that “motivation is the sum total of your life’s experiences, you are made up of your experiences since you were tiny, in fact possibly before…”

Currently I am feeling very “comfortable” while on the mountain. I have had two fantastic days, both while going up to Camp I. Perhaps my past trips to Shisha are coming together – providing me with the knowledge and motivation.

After a rest in my bombshell of a tent (as just crashed in), went to Sherpa’s tent for chat and dinner. Took my own Jetboil and food, so now sponging off them)

Very restless night. Ridiculous dreams…

Camp I next morning

Wednesday, May 9

Day 16 - 9 May - Shishapangma Advanced Base Camp - continued

So which cheeky person said “Aww Mark, was that by design or default.... ?!” regarding the lack of photos?
I was a plonker and left my camera at Camp I

Although at ABC had some odd breathing moments last night
 as lower should be enjoying the richer oxygen proportions so this should not be an issue at these levels:

Some Relative Oxygen Rates:

8,848m   33% (Everest)
8,000m   36% (our summit is 20m or so higher)
7,500m   39% (Camp III)
7,000m   41% (Camp II)
6,000m   47% (on way to Camp I)
5,500m   50% (ABC)
5,000m   53% (BC)
4,000m   60%
2,500m   73%
1,000m   88%
0m           100% (sea level)

I do feel well acclimatised at present
My plan is still to follow the Sherpa’s tomorrow am

Summary of gear at Camp I
Mountain Hardware (MH) EV2 tent – think the Terra Nova Gemini is better – will have for Camp II
Ghost -40 sleeping bag
MH large puffa jacket
MSR stove
4 meals
Grivel spade
Summit Gloves

Photos - none?

Sorry, left camera at Camp I

Day 16 - 9 May - Shishapangma Advanced Base Camp (ABC) - Thanks

To those of you on Facebook and those who have commented on the blog – great to get your feedback and enthusiasm
As you are aware I’m trying this on my own. It’s often very hard to maintain the forward momentum. Especially when the Giro is currently on TV – ha ha
Yesterday while walking back down from Camp I, I had a multitude of thoughts - mostly about coming back home. Even though I had achieved camp I (again, been there every attempt), I think that going in the wrong direction (i.e. down) is very soul destroying. It’s an obvious fact though, I have to go down to collect the next camps gear. But because it’s the wrong direction, it erodes everything.
So to reiterate, the “likes” and comments are really appreciated!

Thanks so much to Feather, for taking my calls and updating the blog so well on my behalf (mainly when I’m away from ABC).
I call her very erratically, so appreciate her patience and interest – you are doing a great job!

Day 16 - 9 May - Shishapangma Advanced Base Camp (ABC) - Summit window and plans

We have certainly been in a Summit window (clear skies, no precipitation (snow), and relatively low winds) for the last 4 days.
For the groups who had already acclimatised it would have been a perfect “window” for a Summit attempt.
I think though, that the highest climbers had been, was Camp II (approx. at 7,000m).
It will be interesting to see if this “calm” period prevails, as if not I believe that after this attempt the majority of climbers will end their trips.
The groups that are still here, were climbing onwards to Camp II yesterday and probably Camp III today.
Luke’s Project Himalaya group are spending their second night at camp I tonight.

As I still need to acclimatise and build my camps, this current window is not really relevant. The important question, is will we get another one?
I remember that this time in 2010, there was a similar “window” – that’s when Uwe summited the central summit.

I’m sitting at ABC, trying to eat to replenish what I last over the last 2 days. It would be good to go to Depot camp this afternoon, in preparation for taking Camp II’s load up to Camp I tomorrow.
I probably have about 5 hours to make that decision!

Monday, May 7

Day 14 - 7 May - Shishapangma Camp I

Fantastic day, no one initially on the trail (hopefully it’s not soft!)
Packed load for Camp I – has to be done right as no real second chances if forget something.
Through Penitentes in approx. 40 minutes. A good route this year, have to follow the markers through the teeth maze that the earlier teams have placed. In some cases there are some steep long drops, so one has to rappel down these. Eventually pop out onto the icy glacier.
Looking back to Penitentes

Even though had not really eaten for dinner last night or breakfast this am did feel good – result of eating so well at BC & ABC

Now although its only 3.5km in distance, it’s the climb from 5,850m to 6,387m that’s the real killer. I’m also not acclimatised for this altitude yet – that’s the main reason for the struggle.
20 to 30 steps then rest –yep head on ski pole, trying to get ones breath back. Pick next target point and carry on. Three and a half hours later I’m getting close to the crest. Have past some tents that are really too low for a Camp I (must have had bad weather hence needed to stop). Will make their day to Camp II impossibly long. So although it’s tempting to stop, no worth it in the long run – better to suffer a bit more.
By this stage, Luke’s three Sherpa’s, Ngima, Kaji & Gyalzen, have caught up to me. They will be establishing Camp I for Luke’s team. Nice now to have someone ahead of me on the trail.

Sherpas catching up with me

It always seems to blow an icy headwind at the crest to the plateau of Camp I.
Imagine if they had my tent with them…hmmm can’t change the rules now!

4h34mins since exiting the Penitentes arrive at the place where other teams Camp I has been established. Luckily for me some climbers have already left so could use their tent platform that they had cut into the snow. Just a quick scrape with my Grivel Spade, and ready to put up my Mountain Hardware EV2, single skin, hence light. Wind just ok, so not too difficult.

Camp I. My tent bottom right

Collect some icy snow and place at tent door – easy access for stove. But lighters did not work, you may ask, why will they work higher up???
Confession time: Ngima brought up two rolls of toilet paper (yep forgot to take those to Depot) and a “special” lighter from Luke for me. So I have had Sherpa support on the climb!

So got stove to light but noticed that my (new) gas canister seemed be a little weak – hmmm buying gas in Kathmandu…..
Long short, could only “boil” enough water for three quarters of a litre for soup and another luke warm water bottle…
Luckily weather good and hence not too cold (ABC had range from 33 plus to minus 6 Celsius the other day)
Problem though is that this did not help with me eating one of my mountain food packets! Another day with no real food. Yep only had one canister – trying to go light – but really on the edge now. Also decision that would have to go down tomorrow made for me -  this instead of one extra night acclimatising at 6,387m.

Crevasse note: Much better snow bridges over the slots than in 2010 and in fact did not see any holes on the way up…
But next morning when leaving and just at the crest, did pop a meter or so wide hole – luckily behind me, so must had had enough forward momentum to carry me over. There were some fixed lines which I used after that, but none in that particular section. “There’s nothing like the feeling of crevasse adrenaline in the morning” – like the smell of napalm quote….

Sunday, May 6

Day 13 - 6 May - Shishapangma Depot Camp - Prep for Camp I

I have always found it a good idea to get all my gear to Depot Camp at 5,850m as early as possible. The second part to this is to trek from ABC to Depot camp the night before, hence reducing the 2 hour walk on the day that you are actually climbing to Camp I. Depot camp is situated on a rocky/icy moraine, just next to the Penitentes (long patch of massive ice teeth)
So as Feather mentioned I got two Tibetans to carry all my gear up to Depot Camp with me. On arrival I cut a tent pitch and unpacked all my gear into the Terra Nova Super Quasar tent I use here – little larger and bomb proof for winds.

Depot Camp. Platform cut out for tent.
I then have to go and chop some ice from the Penitentes for melting and boiling later. Just a note that the ( 2 to 3 hour) route up to Depot Camp from ABC is a little challenging. It’s a rocky moraine with mud slides… I broke my thumb a couple of trips ago along here. So amazing that the Two Tibetans could actually carry such large loads (over 30kg’s) over such difficult terrain.
I had lighters from three countries – UK, Nepal & China – none worked, even after I had warmed the stoves and gas canisters in my down sleeping bag with me for most of the afternoon. Oh well, just had to have some cokes as hydration and energy bars for food. Without a working stove an attempt is probably impossible! The food (3rd priority) water (2nd Priority) but importantly having some boiled water (1st priority) to keep one warm are all important. At Camp II in 2010 I spent most of the night awake just boiling water to keep my extremities warm.

Saturday, May 5

Setback at ABC. But en Route Again.

Mark had a bit of a setback at ABC when he realised on Thursday (3rd May) that not all his equipment had arrived as too few yaks had been organised. Maybe because of the stress, or perhaps because of the cooking fumes, he had an asthma attack. The yaks had to go down the mountain again to collect the rest of the gear and arrived back on Saturday afternoon (5th May). The barrels were repacked to continue the climb with the next stop being Depot.  Two Tibetans, who were on the mountain looking for work,  helped with the load and each carried one of the two 35kg barrels up to Depot.

Before leaving for Depot on Sunday (6th May), Mark did puja, where he asked permission to the mountain gods to climb the mountain. It was full moon and it was Buddha's birthday so all good omens. They arrived at Depot having walked on rocky terrain, with the penitentes (spiked ice) lining one side of the route upwards, in perfect, windless conditions.

Two-feet penitentes

He set up camp at Depot, packing everything in the tent,  but found his matches would not light the fire to boil water and cook food due to the altitude and had to radio down to ABC for some Nepalese  matches which are more suited to the conditions. Having left Luke's group at ABC, Mark is now alone on the mountain,  with a view of the next stop, Camp I. He was due to leave for Camp I on Monday (7th May).

Friday, May 4

Thursday, May 3

The Yaks Arrive

The yaks arrived yesterday at BC with the food and infrastructure needed for the climb. Mark will be moving to ABC today which he says is a big milestone as the climbing can then begin in earnest. He'll stay at ABC until 5th May, when "puja" is scheduled to take place, a ceremony where the climbers pay respect to the mountain gods, and then move everything up to Depot Camp. Yesterday, he went on a 20km, four and a half hour walk to 5 400m as part of his acclimatisation to the conditions.

Quote from Mark over his satellite phone: "I'm feeling fit and strong at the moment and looking forward to arriving at ABC. We will hear from the other groups at ABC what the conditions are like further up the mountain."

Wednesday, May 2

Would you like to come for dinner?

What do you eat on the mountain? 

I eat specially prepared, high-calorie, freeze-dried food from a company in the UK called Expedition Foods and choose things such as chicken korma with rice.

Until I found this supplier, I always battled to eat on the mountain as not  feeling hungry is one of the effects of high altitude. This brand makes it a little easier for me to keep eating as its food somehow tastes better than others I have tried. Preparation is also easy -  just add boiling water. I know that eating is important to replenish the calories I have burnt after six hours and more each day when I will be climbing and making camp, especially if I want to “work” at the same level the next day. 

This year, I also have a large number of high-energy powder, gels and bars which I use when cycling which, hopefully, I will eat too to keep my energy levels high. I’ve also packed some Cokes and Red Bull and will drink these, mostly after returning to ABC as they are too heavy to carry up the mountain.

Monday, April 30

Climbing Alone with no Oxygen

Hoseman will be climbing with a group until Advanced Base Camp (ABC) when he will leave them and climb independently with no sherpas or oxygen.  

Why are you climbing alone from ABC? 
I’m dying to get to ABC as then the umbilical cord between me and Luke’s group (see *) will be  severed. I’m free, yes, to begin the suffering on my own which is a huge challenge, but I relish it and can become entirely focused on what I have ahead of me.  I'm not solo as there will be other climbers on the mountain - we believe five other groups are ahead of us -  and will be using any fixed rope I find along the way, which is appropriate to use. Also, my load prevents me from being the first on the route after a new snow fall, so I will be using other climber's trails.

What have you taken with you?
 A fair amount! Six barrels which weigh approximately 70kg. I need to establish four 

camps above ABC - Depot, Camp I at around 6 400m, Camp II at 7 000m and  Camp III at 7 500m. 
I'm not climbing alpine style ie once  acclimatised at ABC,  I go all the way up, but I'm rather making camps along  the way which is slower, but gives me more security and safety.  Therefore, I've got with me four tents, four sleeping bags, four stoves, gas, mountain food, and climbing gear. Yes I'm going to be a yak and carry it up the mountain over the next couple of weeks. Once all camps are established, I will go back to ABC for a bit of a rest before going back hopefully all the way to the summit (ideally in a good weather window when the jet stream lifts so that the wind stops)!

What are the weather conditions like at the moment?
It's blowing a gale, so there is no chance of anyone summiting at present, though that is 
mainly due to the wind-chill factor. There has also been a fair amount of

snow, so the going will be tough.

Why are you not taking oxygen? 
The effect of using oxygen is to reduce the altitude. I feel if one is using it, why not just climb a lower mountain? I also feel that it is only really necessary above 8000m, one of the reasons 8000m is called the death zone. I'm not taking sherpas either, for similar reasons.  It's possible that I may not be able to get to 8000m as it may be too difficult - but I need to try, so at least I will know. 

*Luke Smithwick's company Gya Ba organises expeditions in the Himalayas. Mark is using the group up to ABC for infrastructure support such as visas, permits and organising yaks.   



Sunday, April 29

Questions for Mark

Mark answers some questions about his new attempt to climb Shishapangma.

*Why has Shisha got such an appeal for you?

In 2006, I was looking for an 8000 m peak that was non-technical and slightly off the climbing radar as I did not want to be stuck in a summit queue. When climbing Koskulak in western China (with Victor Saunders)  in 2001, he mentioned a mountain that rose up from the Tibetan plains. It was Shisha and it somehow stuck in my mind... 

Even though I got very sick when entering Zangmu in 2006, and my attempt at climbing Shisha was 
pretty weak, I found I had some affinity to the mountain. The lovely Base Camp, on the Tibetan plains with the view of Shisha, was inspirational though still pretty daunting, rising 3000 m rise directly in front of me. I am also attracted to The Penitentes (upside down ice teeth),  a massive  along the approach route from ABC to the start of the climb. The view from Camp I, down past the Penitentes and the Tibetan plains, is spectacular. 

*Why are you climbing Shisha again?

I suppose the main reason is that I really believe I can do it.  But it's not only the summit that's the lure. The journey is amazing though, I have to admit, from the Penitentes onwards it is a real struggle. I have done a number of endurance events over my life (three South African Ironman triathlons, three Comrades Marathons, three Two Oceans marathons) so I'm pretty used to testing my endurance. Two years at One Parachute Battalion (in the South African army) also taught me a lot, mainly about myself but also that with the right mind, a positive approach and good planning,  anything is possible. Also I learn more and more with every attempt. 

*What is the point of the climb for you? 

My objectives have always been the same:

*Live life. 
*Dare mighty things.
*Experience the freedom of the hills.
*Get above 8000 m.
*See the curvature of the earth from land.

The climb also provides me with a sense of maximising the opportunity I have of being on this earth.  Hopefully others can be drawn along for the ride and they can be inspired to do something they want to do. Perhaps I see myself as a catalyst. Later on in life, I hope to use all my knowledge and experiences to inspire young people who may not be able to see the opportunities which present themselves. 

*What do you need to reach the summit? 

There are many factors that all have to line up  for the summit to be reached. My mind needs to  be focussed on my objectives. As I'm on my own, with no support, self-motivation needs to be maintained. It is a continual battle to keep my belief in myself going.  

My body needs to be in perfect condition, and my aclimatisation has to be fine-tuned to allow me to go  higher. The weather needs to play ball too, not only on the day of the summit attempt, but also before, as I  need to get to the final camp (Camp  III) and if the snow is too deep, it might not be possible. 

The technical aspects of the mountain, in this case I mean strength of the snow bridges over the crevasses, need to be approachable. Before Camp I and Camp II, where the gradient is steep, the compacted snow is drawn downwards which forms cracks which can become large crevasses. In 2010, on a few occasions I popped though the bridges, luckily only up to my waist, but with my legs dangling into the crevice, and with my ice axe driven into a firm side. If I had gone down, anything can happen as crampons can catch the side, twisting my legs, and I could also be knocked unconscious. This year, there are more guided clients, and the guide companies will often protect the route by staking ropes over areas of danger. I'm hoping that I can clip my harness onto these ropes and hence cross
the crevices without going down all the way. 

(More questions and answers tomorrow).