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). 

Photos from Kathmandu to BC



Saturday, April 28

Base Camp

It’s fabulous to be back at Base Camp (5 022 m), quite a big jump in altitude from Nyalam 
(3 800-ish m), so will have to monitor closely how my body takes the height gain. Currently, even  sitting motionless, my pulse rate is racing at double my normal resting pulse of 45, as my body tries to cope with the lack of oxygen brought on by the lower pressure. So the next steps for me are to do some acclimatisation walks from BC, slowly adding on more height each day. I also have to re-pack all of my six barrels (let’s hope the wind subsides or it will be a really difficult job) ready for the yaks to take them to Advanced Base Camp (approximately 
17 km and a 600 m height gain). 

We have a strong 25-knot, cold south-westerly blowing. Luckily we have a fab tent to shelter us. We saw Shisha as we approached but quite a bit of cloud has now come from across the surrounding mountains, so it is no longer visible.

I have tested my Iridium phone with a call to Claire in Paris. Great to hear Big Boy clacking in the background - only cat lovers will know what that means.


Shisha in Sight

Shisha came into view this morning, a magnificent sight rising above the Tibetan plains. It's very white implying lots of snow. Could be interesting in the vallley above Camp 11.

Paying Respects to the Mountain God

Deep emotions this morning  - tastes of those feelings on the summit? Will be going over the Than la pass which has a mass of prayer flags fluttering in the breeze. Very spiritual from a mountain god point of view. Will be paying my respects with incense and flags and will have my first sight of Shisha.

Friday, April 27

Mark's Birthday

It is Mark's birthday today.

He says thank-you to Peter Major for the "very generous" present and will now be able to retire early.

Wonder how much it was?

Thursday, April 26

Day with a Lama

Spent a fabulous day up a valley outside Nyalam with a Lama and some of his friends. They were building a new prayer water wheel. Also had some of their Tibetan butter tea.

Wednesday, April 25

Gyu Ba: 2012 Shishapangma Expedition - Mountain History

Gyu Ba: 2012 Shishapangma Expedition - Mountain History:  Shishapangma was first reconnoitered by a Chinese - Tibetan team in 1963, who reached 7200 meters on the north ridge before descending in...

Where is Shishapangma?

For those who don't know: Shishapangma is located in south-central Tibet, five kilometres from the border with Nepal. It is the highest peak in the Jugal Himal which is often considered part of Langtang Himal. The Jugal/Langtang Himal straddles the Tibet/Nepal border. 

In Tibet

Now in Nyalam, at around 3 800m. A cold wind is blowing and it is snowing slightly but not settling. Dogs are barking and Chinese music is being piped through the town. The view is  a bit like the back of a concrete prison block.

Tuesday, April 24

Going into China

Hoseman has just passed the Kodari border post and is now in China.

Wednesday, April 18

Preparation test message via BGAN

Currently in Nepal on preparatory trek in Langtang valley prior to Shishapangma expedition…. Yes another attempt!

Tuesday, April 10

Sunday, April 1