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 Kangchenjunga Autumn 2000

This is the Czech Expedition Himalaya 8000

Himalaya 8000 ( Czech Republic )
departure :  8/30/00
in order :  Seventh Expedition
path :  South-West Route
leader of expedition :  Josef Simunek
deputy leader :  Ludek Ondrej
members :  Josef Moravek, Martin Minarik, Radek Jaros and Sona Vomackova
sirdar :  Lhakpa Dorjee Sherpa

Dispatch 9/1/2000

Josef Simunek, the leader of the expedition reports from Kathmandu.

The expedition goes on well without some grave problems. After our arrival to Kathmandu we paid the expedition permit. This means the approval issued by the Nepal government to reach the mountains. Our gear and climbing things which were transported by air are still in Bangkok. It is expected to arrive on Sunday. We have decided to employ one more Sherpa. According to the report from the Ministry of Tourism, we are the only team operating on Kangchenjunga.

The summer monsoon is near ending in Nepal, and the rainy weather is still here. According to the news, this years monsoon was really strong, so the snow level is expected to be higher than in other years. We are expecting to pick up the expedition permit on Tuesday, and we are planning our departure from Kathmandu on 10.9.00. We are going to fly from Kathmandu to Britnagar, and from here to Taplejung by car. The transport from Kathmandu to the Base camp will take about 9 days, so we will be there a bit later than expected. The transport will run in a few phases. Firstly we will send our gear on the truck including our Sherpas to Britnagar. About one day later the members of the expedition will fly there as well. From Britnagar we will go by bus and by truck to Tablejung, and than on foot to the Base camp. It is necessary to complete a lot of bureaucratic things before leaving Kathmandu, and we hope to have few problems.

Simon, Bouda

Dispatch 9/9/2000

All members of the expedition are on the way to the Base camp, which they hope to reach by September 19th. Before that, they spent a few nice days in Kathmandu.

The Team and Pictures

Bouda - Ludek Ondrej

Radek Jaros

Lhakpa Dorjee Sherpa

Martin Minarik

Pepino - Josef Moravek

Simon - Josef Simunek

Sona Vomackova

Dispatch 9/20/2000 on the way to BC

After a long break we are reporting from our way to the base camp. We couldn't communicate earlier because permission to use satellite phone for two months cost $ 3000. We couldn't pay that. So we will use our phone without permission. As a matter of fact nobody would care, but every expedition is required to have the so called liaison officer who works for the Ministry of Nepal Tourism accompany them and report any infractions. This liason officer is a real pain in the backside to us. Imagine this, you are paying the guy a salary, feeding him and he is snitching on us to the Ministry of Nepal Tourism everything we do against state law. How a lot of expeditions deal with this situation is that they pay the guy his salary in full and he stays in Kathmandu. Climbers can then enjoy peace and quiet. Unfortunately, our liason officer is somewhat crazy and attacks his job with quite a bit of enthusiasm, and is still with us. He is always looking over our shoulders and remembers everything.

We were able to sleep in tents for the first night and therefore we have some privacy using the phone without risking too much. Until today we slept in lodges, which is like an accommodation for trekkers where everybody sleeps together.

Talking about the trips we've been on we all agreed that we went through a lot together, but this road to the base camp has been the most difficult one. At first we flew from Kathmandu to Biratnagaru which is all the way south of Nepal, very close to the Indian border. Elevation over there did not exceed 100 m above sea level. Then we continued cross Nepal to the north close to the border with Chinese Tibet ( concretely to the north-east border with north Indian Sikkim). We were riding the bus for a day on pavement roads which is in Nepal an unbelievable experience. Then we were told than bus can not make it any further and we switched to the truck. We were 6 people with the driver in his cabin for two days, while our 25 porters were sitting in the back of the truck. The goal of these two days was to keep the truck in the equilibrium and get drunk, because we were really afraid to fall from the steep sides of the road.

Our first destination was the little village of Taplejung which we finally reached after we fought our way through three days in three huge valleys and three ridges. We were almost there, but the drivers showed us the village saying :" There about 600 m is your village. We can not go there , because the road is down." So our expected 9 days to reach base camp turned into 13 days. The most depressing thing is that we go up 800 m and immediately down 800 m to some river and so on.. This is our 5th day to the base camp and we are still in the same elevation as Kathmandu is.

However, there are worst things here that we have to deal with. For example Leeches are everywhere. The small ones are about a centimeter and are unpleasant, but we can deal with them. The bigger and fatter ones are about 7 cm long and are disgusting slimy creatures. They are stalking on you everywhere and stick on you immediately and anyway, Yuck !!!

Yesterday was the worst of all. It was raining every day due to the fact that it is the end of the monsoon season and leeches are having a party. Before we could reach our destination ( a small, dirty, smoke everywhere cottage ), each of us got jumped on by 10 leeches at once. Luckily, Simon knows Tae Kwon Do. One has no time to peel them off before others attack you again. We couldn't sleep on the porch as we planed because these yucky creatures were everywhere. That day we finally crossed over the saddle in 3000 m and were happy not to have to deal with any leeches anymore.

The road really changed. We are going through rein forest in 3000 m and lianas and bamboos are all around us.

We are approaching base camp. We should be there around 9. 22. as we hoped. We also hoped that nobody gets hurt because we don't have a real doctor with us this time and so we play doctors ourselves. For now we have about five sherpas with some scratches which are infected. In normal conditions they should be in bed and dry environment, but these guys are going on even with infected and painful legs. The money they are making is very important for them. We feel sorry for them, but when our translator tells them that we recommend them to go home, they don't hear.

Regards Sona

Dispatch 9/24/2000

Hi finally from Base Camp ( BC ).

Just a short note for today. So far we couldn't run the generator, so we don't have much energy. Yesterday we finally reached the base camp. It is located on the big rocky ledge 5300 m between two glaziers, so we are on grass. This is different from ours other expeditions where we had our tents on glazier.

We had a problem because our porters went on strike. They refused to work even after being offered more money. So we were left with half of the porters and the last 3 days of walk that were left turned into 6 days because we had to go twice. Another big problem was that Pepino's personal bag was stolen so he lost a lot of clothing and climbing tools. So far we put together some things, but it will take some work to set him up completely.

Tomorrow is going to be celebration to make peace with the gods - Pujja. We can see the whole mountain face and we are looking forward to climb.

Everyone is OK. Regards Simon

Dispatch 9/25/2000

In the Base Camp ( HURAY !!! )

The weather is good - stopped raining, and snowing. Last night it snowed 5cm.

We are still fighting the generator. Transport was difficult and the water in the carburetor is condensed. Pepino understands motors well, so it is in good hands. So far we function on solar power only and thanks to the sunny day we recharged everything important today.

This afternoon we had celebration to make peace with the gods - Pujju. Our friend, sirdar, and elevation porter all in one person - Lhakpa Dorjee Sherpa is also Buddhist lama, so he conducted the ceremony himself. It was very nice. We didn't observe any bad signs during the ceremony. Bad omens might be a falling avalanche or a black crow lucky for us, we didn't see any of these things, the wind didn't even blow. We have a beautiful view of surrounding mountains because our BC is on a rocky ledge.

In the afternoon we reorganized our stuff to be ready to leave for the other camps. Sona prepared a first aid box for everyone. Pepino is responsible for transmitters. Together with Simon they fight the carburetor. Bouda is putting stuff together for the elevation camps and our sherpas Lhakpa a Tsomba, with Martin and Radek left to check snow and route to C1. We can see trash after other expeditions last spring, so we want to find out if there are any fixed ropes left. Due to a strong monsoon with lots of snow we can not see any ropes. So we will take our own.

Regards to everyone Simon.

Dispatch 9/28/2000 Hello again from base camp.

We have done a lot of work so far. Already on Tuesday our sherpas left for camp 1. They are planning to put some more fixed ropes. Martin followed them with other fixed ropes and other needed materials. They almost reached C1. The rest of us are in base camp preparing in food and supplies. Sona came down with a cold so we are supplying hot tea, vitamins and some medicine from fist aid box.

Next day Pepino, Radek and Simon left for the mountain. Three of them carried on their backs everything needed for the first camp which is 19,685 ft (6000m). On their way they repaired a couple of fixed stations with fixed ropes. It was necessary because the sherpas take these things lightly and aren't as concerned about our own safety as we are. In the morning we dug two platforms for tents in C1 ( we chose Tatonku Sherpa Dome and Vango Hydra ). Anchoring the tents in the loose snow was a problem. We already completed the inside of the tents too. In the kitchen we have a VAR 2 cooker and ALB dishes. In the bedroom are waiting mats. After finishing C1 everybody returned to the base camp for a dinner. During the descent they experienced some dangerous moments. Snow was loose and some snow anchors couldn't hold and sometimes slipped out!

The porters left again the next day with materials for camp 2. In camp 2 we will raise 2 already tested Hannah tents. Martina and Bouda followed the porters. Besides some things they left in camp 1 they carried the materials to set up camp 2. To acclimate herself Sona will join them halfway. The Sherpas planed to build tents in camp 2 on this trip. Late in the afternoon we saw the porters coming back and we understood that something happened. We found out that they tried to fix the path from C1 to C2. Unfortunately there are a lot of cracks and the path has to be lined with bamboo stakes and some cracks must be fixed with ropes, glazier screws, and snow anchors. The Porters did not have enough ropes to cross the cracks to camp 2. That's way they returned to BC.

Tomorrow we all will leave for C2 with more supplies. We need to finish building a path to C2. Some of us will return to BC and some of us will say in C1 to get acclimated.

Otherwise everything goes well.

On Behalf of everyone in BC Sona Vomackova.

Dispatch 10/1/2000

Hi everyone. So, 9. 29 Martin spent the night in C1 and that morning sherpas Lhapka and Tsomba followed by Simon, Pepino, Sona and Radek left for C3. They took the things that we need to build the camp as well as our personal belongings. The Sherpas went to finish securing the path to C2 and built a tent there.

Pepino and Radek went from C1 to check the fixed ropes and stations done by the Sherpas. Sherpas rely on Buddha more than their own experiences. They came back with an interesting detail. Camp C2 is in the same elevation as our C1. So we will spend whole evening deciding what to do.

Sherpas went to BC tonight. They like to be on the mountain during day and return to the BC for night. Well, somebody who was born at an elevation of 2800m does not need to worry about acclimatization. We decided to cancel camp 1 and on 9.30 we moved to C2. In "C1" we left only one tent Vango as a deposit and decided to go from BC directly to C2. This means one should always leave BC a bit earlier. The best time will be between 7:30 and 8 AM, so we would reach C2 in 5-6 hours.

Location for C2 is big and we know that this is a safe place in case of avalanche. Gnarly!

We reorganized the set up of our tents, because people will meet here while going up and down. So we need a camp with the capacity for 8 people. Six members and two Sherpas. Today we build in C2 Tatonka Sherpa Dome and Alpinus Expedition 3 and VauDe K2. This way we all will be comfortable.

Today and tomorrow we will work on a path from C2 to C3. This means to fix the path on face 800-900m. On its end in 7,200 - 7, 300m should be our C3. We will build two Hannah tents there which should accommodate 4 people.

Lhakpa, Tsomba and Martin worked on path to C3 today. Boda left for acclimatization in C1 and will go tomorrow to C2. He will sleep there if everything will go well.

After a day of relaxing, hygiene, recharging of batteries using generator Honda - ( which is operational again for our sponsors ), group Simon, Pepino, Rradek and Sona will leave BC. They want to go directly to C2, where they will meet with Sherpas, Martin, and Bouda. Together they will continue building C3. So far the weather is great and they are planning to finish C3 and sleep there for acclimatization. How this will go you will find out in 2-3 days.

As you noticed we are talking about our climbing equipment very often. In order to not worry about our safety we are using only the top quality stuff. For example to fix the route we are using lanex Bolatice ropes 8 mm in diameter, which we have 800 m of with us. Because we are the only expedition here at the moment, we will have to use an additional 700 m of this rope. In a different situation expeditions might share equipment and that would help to lower the cost. Well, this time it is all on us.

On the other hand, it is an unbelievable feeling to be the only 10 people under this huge mountain all alone. Six climbers, two sherpas, a chef, and his assistant. The closest inhabited building is 2 days a way by walking over glazier and moraine. It is fantastic. Romantic.

Well, back to equipment. Besides ropes we also need ice screws and ice pitons, which we bring some with us from the Czech Republic and the rest we buy in Katmandu. We also have Singing Rock karabiners, which are light and strong. Our harnesses are also made by Singing Rock, which are easy to put on and off in high altitude and cold conditions.

As I have told you before, some of our stuff we brought from Czech Republic got stolen on our way to the base camp in Taplejung. Unfortunately we can not use it at all. Transmission is completed using the Hewlett-Packard Omnibook 4150 computer.

Later... Sona

Dispatch: 10/7/2000

Everyone is getting ready to go to the summit! 

Teams were selected by a lottery. The Sherpas, Pepino Moravek, and Radek are on the first team. They will leave tomorrow ( 10. 8 ), build camp C4 and try to reach the summit on 10. 11. The next group - Simon, Bouda, Sona, and Martin Minarik will try to reach the summit on 10.12. If everything will go well, the second group will already pack C4 on their way down. Our communication is working again, so expect new news very soon. Yeti

Dispatch 10/7/2000

After two days of rest, we needed to decide how and when to approach the summit. Teams were selected by a lottery. The Sherpas, Pepino Moravek, and Radek are on the first team. They will leave tomorrow (10. 8 ), build camp C4 and try to reach the summit on 10. 11. The next group - Simon, Bouda, Sona, and Martin Minarik will try to reach the summit on 10.12. If everything will go well, the second group will already pack C4 on their way down.

Everyone is OK and we all are very energetic. From BC behalf all members regards Sona.

P.S. Thanks to all our friends and people, who are sending us regards and support. Unfortunately we can not reply to every one of you personally. So we would like to say thank you all for the support we are getting. It makes us very happy. Stay with us and wish us luck. We will need it the most in the upcoming couple of days.

Transmission is completed using the Hewlett-Packard Omnibook 4150 computer.

New update: 10/11/2000 late...

We lost our chance to go to the summit. The temperature declined by 30 - 40°C and the wind is about 100km/h. Our next attempt will be around 10/13/2000. Wish us luck. Radek 

It had been almost a week since our last news and here is why.

On Monday 10/2/2000 Pepino, Radek, Simon a Sona should leave for elevation camps as was planned. It was snowing the whole night and in the morning we experienced a terrible fog. In such situations it is better to wait about a day. Bouda, Martin, and the Sherpas were at the higher camps when it was snowing. Bouda slept at C1 and because he was OK he wanted to bring his stuff to C2 and spend the night there. The route between C1 and C2 is through a flat glazier with a lot of cracks and so he had to deal with cracks and fog as well.

Even though the Sherpas marked the route with bamboo stakes it was difficult to see in the fog. Bouda experienced a bit of adrenalin when he had to wait for the fog to split a bit to see next bamboo stake. He arrived at the camp ok and on the way back he filled in some more stakes so they were closer to each other. We didn’t really map out our routes so we could orient ourselves by compass as we couldn’t see from one bamboo stake to the next because of the snow. Well, one is always learning.

People at base camp did take care of mail and messaging, but we ran into a bit of a problem. When we wanted to send our prepared mails an error occurred somewhere and we couldn’t connect to the server. We had to leave for the higher camps and our mail was not sent. So, now you know the reason we were quiet for a while.

The weather was OK on the Tuesday 10/3/2000, so we could finally move up. The first group went to C2, Bouda left for BC, and the Sherpa with Martin went to C3. They wanted to build C3 already yesterday, but it was not possible due to bad weather, so they slept in C2.

We met Bouda on his way to BC. His descend went well and he was looking foreword to a good dinner in BC. We were going to C2. The route to C1 is always terrible. The second half to C2 is usually in very warm weather and the other part reminds me of climbing in the winter at Tatras. In C1 we always cook some tea and C2 is really close by, lets say about 1.5 hour. Because it’s pretty sunny in C2, we can dry our clothing easily.

Using walkie - talkies we communicate with each other to know how we are doing and what is needed in each camp. This time we can also see each other. The route to C3 is clearly visible from C2, so we were watching our Sherpas working, zig-zaging between seracs and how Martin was following them. Sun was really strong, but it is not pleasant during ascent for it feels like we are in the desert, but we are up to our knees in snow.

Around 2 in the afternoon the Sherpas built C3 on the top of the seracs.  As we already know them, they will return as soon as possible. So we cooked a lot of tea enough for everyone. They arrived around 4:30 PM, told us about C3, drunk a little tea and left in hurry for BC. We announced to Bouda in BC to expect them and let us know if everyone arrived OK. We slipped immediately to the tents, because after the sun sets it gets very cold at this elevation.  

Martin called us upon his arrival to the BC at 6 PM. We were glad he is also OK. Later on Bouda called from BC with bad news. Our Liaison  officer, whom we thought we got rid of, is BACK. So we have another problem on our hands. Luckily Bouda put the computer and phone away (we do not have permission to use it, because we did not have a money to pay for usage). So we couldn’t use mail nor phone because the liaison officer could hear it.

We left for C3 on Wednesday 10/4/2000 at 9 AM. It is hard work to get your body moving. Martin spent the night in C3 and is on his way down. Lhapka told us there is about 150 m of fixed ropes. The rest is under  the snow. The snow was heard in the morning during our ascent, although in some places we think an avalanche could happen. Noon weather is reminiscent of a sauna - dry, hot, and foggy. On top of that we’ve got some wind and snow.  We arrived to C3 at about 2 PM. Immediately we started to cook. Everyone must drink and eat in order to avoid elevation illness. Our man goal of this afternoon is to eat and drink. At 6 PM according to our communication schedule is time to talk to BC. We found out that the liaison officer is back with porter to personally return Pepino’s lost bag. This is unheard of! We were also informed that the officer doesn’t really like the cold weather in BC and wants to leave after he gives the bag to Pepino’s hands.

Morning of 10/5/2000 We are in C3. The sun is up very early and that is super, so we are cooking. Using this weather we are making lots of pictures for our sponsors and after this we are descending. On the way to C2 we thought about Lhapka who warned us that sometimes the snow is up to one’s waist. We are fixing some parts of the route down, because it is more difficult than on the way up. 

Arriving to C2 was ok, but we looked more like snow men, we disturbed a couple of ravens looking for leftovers. Descent from C2 to C1 went without complications. We know it so well, we can go blindfolded. Typically in the BC we wash ourselves, thanks to the liaison officer, wash and dry our clothing.

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