One of the member of our last years Dolpo Triple Expedition wrote this descriptive summary on their trip, which we would like to share here in our blog. The person who wrote this is Mr. Ingo Roger from Chemnitz.
Dolpo Triple Expedition 2010
“Once Upon a Time in the West”
Short expedition report
Dr Steffen Klassert, Leader (Dresden)
Georg Beierlein (Dresden)
Jana Bogatin (Chemnitz)
Uwe Erkelenz (Chemnitz)
Bert Gust (Chemnitz)
Stefan Herrmannspahn (Darmstadt)
Hanna Hilsberg (Chemnitz)
Hans-Jörg Pade (Chemnitz)
Ingo Röger (Chemnitz)
Our expedition crew arrived on Thursday, 23 September 2010 in Kathmandu. Niru Rai from Adventure Geo Treks Ltd. gave us a very warm welcome. After visiting the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation for the permit procedure we spent two days in Kathmandu with shopping and sightseeing some of the ancient places of the Kathmandu valley. On Saturday afternoon we took the domestic flight to Nepalgunj in Western Nepal, close to the Indian border. At short notice no flights to Juphal airport were available there. That’s why our travel agency had organised a bus transfer to Surkhet for the evening and a charter flight for the following day from there to Juphal for us. Unfortunately all bus drivers on this route were striking the whole weekend. So we had to stay for one night and one sultry day in a luxurious hotel near the airport and wait for the end of the strike. On Sunday, after sunset, a bus picked us up and we started a three hours ride through the night, crossing the deep forests of Bardiya National Park.
Next morning a small but modern plane took us to the small airport of Juphal 500 metres (1.640 ft) above the bottom of Thuli Bheri Khola valley. The weather conditions were nearly perfect. During the flight we were enjoying tremendous views at small villages and at terraced stripes of fields deep down below us and also at the first peaks of the Himalayan range too. After landing on the dusty and wavy landing strip we met our crew for the following weeks: guides, assistant guides, cooks, kitchen boys, porters and the mule drivers. All our expedition luggage, that was carried ten days in advance by porters upstream the Thuli Bheri Khola, also had arrived completely. After lunch all the luggage was distributed amongst the porters and mules. Our eight-day-trekking to the base camp of Norbu Kang could start. We followed the banks of the torrential Thuli Bheri river for two days. Along the way we passed small settlements and Dunai, the centre of the Dolpo district. Those sunny days were characterized by encounters with the lovely local people. On the second day of the tour one of the expedition members was bumped into thick nettles by one of the heavily packed mules. Afterwards his arm has swollen for some days.
A few hours after leaving Tarakot, the last village we had passed for the next three days, we crossed Thuli Bheri Khola over an elegant suspension bridge. From there we followed the hardly inhabited Tarap Khola to the north. Those days were characterized by clear blue sky, by a tremendous landscape and by a magnificent peacefulness. The beautiful camps were situated on narrow stripes of grass embraced by towering rock faces and the rushing river. After a long day’s march finally we got to the village of Dho Tarap. It is situated more than 4.000 metres (13.123 ft) above sea level in a wide valley basin. Here we spent a relaxed acclimatisation day visiting the local Buddhist monastery. The next day we continued the trekking. Near the little village of Modo we said goodbye to a group of trekkers who had joined us so far. They went to the Upper Dolpo from there. The last barrier on our way to the base camp of Norbu Kang was a high pass called Numa La (5.238 m, 17.185 ft). The last night before crossing the pass we spent in a rough camp just 300 metres (984 ft) below it. At the pass we enjoyed the views at the huge Dhaulagiri Himal to the east and to the icy summits of Kanjiroba Himal in the west. On the way down to the Panklanga Khola valley we were surprised by the first sight of Norbu Kang, our first climbing destination. Its glaciated north face was looming up above a desert-like hollow. We rested for one night where the path crosses Panklanga Khola. The next day we went up this valley for less than one hour. An even meadow near the banks of the river offered us a perfect place for the base camp, where we stayed for the following seven days.
The ascent of Norbu Kang starts at the end of Panklanga Khola valley. More than one hour hiking upstream from the base camp, a 200 metres (656 ft) high rock face blocked the way up to a flat glacier plateau. The wide plateau obviously offered safe and comfortable places for the high camp. Two cascaded icefalls led up across the rocky face to this glacier. Both allowed a tolerably safe ascent across short vertical steps. The eastern icefall was the shorter one. But on sunny days the fall was melting very quickly in the early morning sun. Climbing was nearly impossible then. The western icefall offered a less direct access to the glacier. Both routes met at the edge of the flat glacier on the top of the rock wall.
It took us four days to clear this hurdle and to set up the high camp on the glacier. At first we tried to climb the eastern icefall, because it seemed the most logical line to the top. But some wet hours in the waterfall let us change our plans and we tried to climb the western icefall in parallel. On the way to the bottom of this ice line we had to cross steep slopes of scree. In the afternoon of the third day four climbers reached the glacier: Uwe and Georg along the western ice line and Steffen and Ingo via the eastern one. They left tents, mattresses, instant meals and other equipment in the camp (5.250 m, 17.224 ft) and started to rappel down the western ice fall. They returned to the base camp more than one hour after sunset. The kitchen crew surprised them with a delicious meal. The following day Hanna, Jana and Bert reached the high camp via the western fall. They also brought climbing and camping stuff and they set up one tent. Everything was prepared for the summit climb now:
Sunday the 10th of October was the summit day for the strongest climbers Georg, Uwe and Steffen. The day before they had started heavily loaded to the high camp, where they spent a short and less comfortable night. They woke up at 4 am and started more than one hour later to the summit. Crossing the flat glacier for about half an hour was the warm-up. The huge icefall between Norbu Kang main summit and Norbu Kang West Summit looked like an unfriendly barrier on the way to the high col (5.798 m, 19.022 ft) between the two peaks. Only a steep slope of snow and ice at the right edge of the icefall (45° to 60°, short steeper parts) allowed the ascent. While climbing this part of the glacier first rays of sun were warming up the summiteers. At the end of the slope they had to cross straight to the left (east) short above the icefall until they got to the even pass. It was a good place for a rest. From there they went on to the edge of the rocky summit cone across snow slopes without any crevasses. The last 180 metres (591 ft) in altitude across very loose rock were a quite easy but dangerous rock climb throughout the western chimney (Grade UIAA II-III). It was the first ascent of the main summit after two successful attempts on Norbu Kang West summit by Japanese and Austrian climbers. The weather conditions on the top were nearly perfect. The exhausted summiteers spent about half an hour on the mountain enjoying the unique panoramic view, before they begun to descend. During rappelling down the upper rocky part some falling rocks hit them and damaged one of the ropes. In the late afternoon light snowfall set in for a short time. The climbers reached the high camp nearly two hours after sunset. The next morning they removed high camp and rappelled down the western ice fall, where the guide Sanga Rai with Ingo and two porters were waiting for them. Together they carried the whole luggage down to the base camp.
On the same day they climbed Norbu Kang main summit Ingo climbed a non-glaciated pre-summit directly from the base camp. Afterwards he called it “Panklanga Khola Guard” (5.520 m, 18.109 ft) because of its tremendous views across this valley.
After one week we went on to our next destination. Across steep meadows we reached an even plateau and the regular trekking route across Baga La Pass (5.214 m, 17.106 ft) further on. Prayer flags flapped in the stormy winds while we where crossing the ridge. We could also see our next mountain Kanta Gatan (5.916 m, 19.409 ft) for the first time. Then we hiked down the valley for more than 1.000 metres in altitude. We passed a beautiful waterfall. After a rest we left the valley and turned to the east. The riverbed that we followed across steep meadows upwards was completely dry. After two hours we got the shores of a mystic lake called Chhoitai Tal. In the late afternoon we set up our base camp for the following four nights. We enjoyed good views of Norbu Kang West summit in the distance, but Kanta Gatan itself was hidden by smaller pre-summits. Old and faded prayer flags reminded us of the Japanese Norbu Kang expedition eight years ago.
The following day seven tour members explored the further way to the high camp. Without any greater difficulties they reached an insignificant pass. What a surprise: An azure blue lake called Chhalugal Tal (4.900 m, 16.075 ft) and a turquoise lake next to it were situated in a light and open valley in front of us. What an amazing place for a high camp! We chose an even place near the lake shore for our camp, deposited our luggage and went back to the base camp after a longer rest.
Next day all expedition members started at noon to the high camp, where we arrived in the afternoon. Two of us explored the further route up the edge of Kanta Gatan glacier immediately. They found a safe and direct way and marked it with small piles of stone. After eating our instant meals we entered our sleeping bags very soon that evening.
15th October 2010, Summit day: We started at 5:15 am into the calm and starry night. Less than two hours later we entered the glacier in the morning twilight. Because of dangerous crevasses we used ropes and crampons while we crossed the lower part of the glacier. We entered a significant step across a short rock wall (grade UIAA II). Finally we followed an easy but seemingly endless snow ridge to the top. Shortly after high noon all expedition members reached the summit within 45 minutes. After a longer rest we started to descend. We met Sanga and a second guide near the glacier. They gave us a warm welcome and feed us with Tibetan bread! We reached the high camp at 4 pm and removed the tents immediately. Heavily packed we went on to the base camp, where we arrived about 7 pm in the darkness. Our crew had been waiting for us with a gorgeous dinner.
Next day we left the base camp and went down the green Maduwa Khola valley to the famous pilgrim village of Ringmo. It is situated near the holy Phoksundo lake (3.700 m, 12.138 ft), where we spent the following two days. We enjoyed the breathtaking views from different places around the azure blue lake. We also visited the picturesque village and the Bon monastery nearby.
After two lazy days we started for our last adventure. At first we went down Maduwa Khola valley for half a day. Short below Ringmo village we were amazed at the impressive Phoksundo waterfall. Soon it was time to say goodbye: In the garden of a lovely inn three members of the expedition (Hanna, Georg and Hans-Jörg) left the remaining crew. They had to go directly to the airport of Juphal because of a lack of time. They were escorted by an assistant guide, and a few porters and mules.
Shortly later we got to the mouth of the Pugma Khola valley. We entered this valley and followed it upriver for two days. The valley was a place of great beauty. First night we rested near the small Bon village of Pugmo. When we passed the settlement the following morning most of the local people were reaping the corn from the fields around the village. Later on we enjoyed tremendous views at the icy summits of Kanjiroba Himal around us. At the end of this varied day we finished one of the most exhausting stages of the entire expedition. We camped short below the dreaded Kagmara La pass (5.115 m, 16.780 ft): “Kagmara” means crowkiller – most of the time winds are blowing so strong here that even crows avoid this place. From our camp we could admire the glaciated north face of Kagmara Peak (5.978 m, 19.611 ft), the last destination of the expedition. The following day we crossed Kagmara La in the late morning and descended on the west side of the pass for 200 metres (656 ft). We set up our base camp close to the tongue of the glacier that flows down from Kagmara Peak. Unfortunately the weather got worse in the late afternoon. It begun to snow. After a snowy and windy night we decided to put off our summit climb for one day. But a cold front with thunderstorm and repeated strong snowfall that evening destroyed our hope for success. According to the records of Elisabeth Hawley (www.himalayandatabase.com) every attempt to climb this summit since the first ascent by a British women expedition in the early Sixties failed. After two nights we left the base camp and carried on the trek.
We wandered down a secluded valley to the settlements of Hurikot and Kaigaon for two days. The Balangra Lagna pass (3.835 m, 12.581 ft) was the last obstacle on the way back to Thuli Bheri Khola and to Juphal airport finally. The last three days we crossed mountain jungle, watched a herd of monkeys and enjoyed the panoramic view to the whole Dhaulagiri range during sunset.
After 30 days in the remote mountains we completed the circuit and finished our trekking in Juphal. Two days later we caught a domestic flight to Nepalgunj and after only two hours a connecting flight back to Kathmandu. There we spent the last four days of the journey. We got the re-registration in the ministry out of the way, relaxed, went shopping in Thamel downtown and visited some of the ancient places in the Kathmandu valley. From the top of Nagarjun National Park we were overlooking the entire Kathmandu valley sitting and relaxing in the late summer sun. Niru’s family had spoiled us with an unforgettable farewell dinner before we returned back to cold and grey Germany on Tuesday, 2nd November.