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Mixed Success in the Himalayas

Roel Driesen, Kerry Alison, Ellen Cobby and I have just returned from an amazing trip to the Khumbu in the Himalayas, a first for all of us. The trip was full of highs and lows, but above all it was a great experience between best mates! The aim was for Roel and I to climb Island Peak and Ama Dablam.

We started with a couple of weeks of trekking up to the beautiful Gokyo village at 4750m in order to acclimatise. We had stunning views of Ama Dablam and Everest which served to wet the appetite ready for the climbing. Unfortunately Kerry, Roel’s girlfriend, became ill with a chest infection and had to rest in Gokyo. Ellen, my other half, kindly offered to stay with her so that Roel and I could carry on with our tight climbing schedule. I took this opportunity to propose to Ellen, something I have been planning for a long time. The setting, on the shore of Gokyo third lake, could not have been better, and she accepted.

Roel and I pressed on toward Island Peak, a stunning 6100m peak with a scramble approach, glacier crossing and exposed icy summit ridge. On the final few hours before base camp we had a big dump of snow and darkness crept in. This is very unusual for the Khumbu in November, which is normally characterised by very cold but stable conditions. Apart from some slight uncertainty about what this would mean for our attempt on Ama Dablam the snow made us feel quite at home; it felt more like being in Scotland than in the Himalayas where before this we had been used to clear blue skies.

The snow didn’t really cause us any problems. The next day we pressed on to high camp and the following day on to the summit. We climbed the route alpine style, bypassing many teams on the fixed ropes. The final snow ridge was very exposed and felt a lot more exciting than we had been expecting for a ‘trekking peak’ (as the mountain is classed by the permit). We had great views of Ama Dablam from the summit; this would be our next challenge.

ama-dablam

Over the next few days we made it over to Ama Dablam base camp. Here we met up with the girls again which was really nice after a week apart. They had done really well to get to base camp via the Cho La Pass, which at 5420m was a high point for both of them. At base camp we chilled for a couple of days and prepared for our ascent of the beast which now loomed overhead!

We had another day of heavy snow and high winds, so when blue skies finally returned we had to get on with it! Roel and I set out for camp 1. Unfortunately, despite an amazing effort, Roel had to turn back just before camp 1 due to altitude sickness, cough and utter exhaustion. I carried on to camp 1 and took stock. I decided to carry on alone and the next day made my way to camp 2. From there I planned to go straight for the summit, missing out the third camp. It would be a big day! I managed to team up with a guy called Stuart Holmes from the Lake District who had the same plans to try to go straight from camp 2 to the top. He had slightly different descent plans; he would try to become the second person ever to fly from the summit on a paraglider! It would be great to be a part of this and I felt privileged to be able to team up with him.

The next day Stuart and I headed for the summit. We made good time. We were at camp 3 after 3 hours and then made it to the top in another 4 hours. The climbing had been awesome! Getting to the top, at 6856m, was the culmination of two years of planning and dreaming. I was completely overwhelmed with emotion, both happiness and sadness, not least because Roel was not there to share the experience. The next job was to see Stuart off and film his take off. I waited for an agonising half an hour whilst he poised on the edge of the summit waiting for a lull in the wind. And then, all of a sudden, there was a brief calm; Stuart lifted his canopy into the air and calmly ran of the top of Ama Dablam. He was back down at base camp in 9 minutes, a vertical descent of 2.5km. It was beautiful to watch.

So, all in all, a great trip. Lots of amazing climbing in one of the world’s most amazing mountain ranges. And above all, 4 friends having a great time away together. Cheers to Ellen, Roel and Kerry for making it such an amazing trip!

Adam Booth.

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