4th October

Ben and I are back down at basecamp after 6 days of hard work and effort on the lower mountain. Originally the plan was that we would only be on the mountain for 3 days, spending either 1 or 2 nights at camp 1 and climbing to touch camp 2.

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Instead, after reaching and establishing ourselves at camp 1 we both felt that we would be better served by making an attempt to reach and "touch" camp3. This would then put us in a position to make a summit attempt on our second rotation.

Before leaving basecamp we had arranged food for camps 1 and 2 so we would be ok in that regard for our plan change! Our radio system is also working well – allowing us to communicate with Sophie back in basecamp – the higher we go the better the reception.

RIMG0436The actual route on the mountain varies radically from camp to camp. Basecamp to camp1 is a long slow climb crossing a number of crevasses that are easily negotiated – the sting in the tail is the final 180m or so climb up to Camp 1 at 5700m. Camp 1 to Camp 2 is through the icefall and has numerous steep sections (all using fixed lines) as well as one ladder to cross. Camp 2 is located just above all the seracs on the first really flat section at 6400m. Our first time up there was pretty hard and both of us were breathing fairly heavily and really feeling the altitude. Camp 2 to camp 3 is a pretty easy day (easy is a relative term above 6400m) and gradually climbs up the final headwall to the col. The col is a pretty windy place and many teams have placed their camps just below the col – protected from the wind but also in a position where they can be covered in snow. Right now we have a number of loads of gear buried at the Col awaiting our return.

Our original, optimistic plan was to sleep at C1, touch C2 and then climb the next day to C2 and sleep. After our first touch of C2 we were both totally exhausted so instead we planned a "rest" day at C1. It was a rest day for Ben – but for me it was a day of climbing up above C1 and finding launch sites to make a number of flights to my chosen landing area below C1. The flying was great – the canopy was a little bit slow to inflate and I dropped much more than I would normally flying at lower altitudes but once I was actually in the air the normal glide ratio of the canopy was the same (about 1:3.5). Swooping in above other climbers was great fun – skinning back up to C1 and above was not so much fun!

Speedriding on Manaslu
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I had planned to make a flight from Camp 3 but heavy cloud, occasional snow showers and minute weather windows made making a flight attempt just too risky. Instead, I skied down from C3 to C2. It’s not easy to ski at that altitude with a heavy pack and in flat light. About 1/2 way down the cloud cleared just below C2 to the summit and it made the final few hundred meters of skiing just simply glorious.

There was a weather clearance from C2 to below C1 which would have made a a flight possible but it was getting pretty late and Ben wasn’t the only one who was tired! Sidi MaMa, Ben and I quickly packed up C2, stored all our gear and made it waterproof and started to make our way down the fixed lines to C1 and then continued down baseamp. It was great to Sophie when we got down and it was also great to have a shower (in our new flash shower tent) after 6 days of alternatively sweating, freezing and then sleeping in the same clothes.

Right now we are enjoying one of the finest days that basecamp has seen all season, Ben has been eating, sleeping, reading and then sleeping some more. Soph took the opportunity to drop below basecamp to actually see the view for the fisrt time (it’s always been in cloud) and I went to catch up with Russel and co at the Himex tent to see how the team was getting on with their summit bid.

So now our waiting game for a summit window starts. The wind is forecast to increase from the 7th and doesn’t look like dropping until after the 10th of October so we’ll have the time to rest and recover here in basecamp for a bit.

All the best to ya all

Mal

Nepal-Kathmandu.195204432_stdNepal is a land of mystery, excitement, amazing mountains – and mountains for red tape and last minute hassles!

About a week ago I was informed that the Ministry of Tourism and the Nepal Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) had revoked my permits for "flying" from Manaslu …. As you might imagine this caused me some concern!

The issue arose from an ilegal flight attempt from Everest by a Paraglider and the proximity to the Chinese Border. There was another (legal) flight from Everest this season been – a Tandem PG flew from the summit to Namche – My friend Babau then went on to mountain bike back to Kathmandu – an epic achievment!

However, with the increased amount of attention on using canopy’s in the Himalaya and the word "flying" being used in my application meant that there were going to be problems issuing my permit.

My good friend, Nima, spent 3 days at the Ministry of Tourism, often waiting up to 4-5 hours at a time to get meetings with the Minister. His hard work has paid off, after a week of discussions, phone calls, and emails the Ministry has, once again, allowed my permit to be processed!

So now we actually have 3 permits!

  • 1 for climbing
  • 1 for skiing
  • 1 for "gliding" or "canopy skiing"

A huge thanks to Nima for all his ahrd work and the Minister of Tourism for allowing us to make this attempt.

It's actually the 5th of November – and I was heading out to have another go on Mt Aspiring – the last few times I've been shut down by the weather.  The overall plan was to go in with the Speedwing and Paraglider, fly off Aspiring and then fly off the Breakaway back into the valley and or hopefully the car- no need for ropes and or climbing harness etc etc.  I was more worried about the actual flight off Mt Aspiring rather than the flight off the Breakaway – as it was it turned into a bit of an Epic!

The actual climb of Aspiring was fairly straight forward – it's not super hard and I've been up it plenty of time – however most times I've had 2 tools and this day the ramp was in pretty hard conditions – only one tool made it pretty spicey!

 

The Epic began on the way down – I couldn't fly down due to the winds being the wrong direction  – I would have run off down the mountain with a tail wind!  Not pleasant when it's blowing 25k the wrong way.  Then ensued a epic of purely self inflicted proportions.   Down climbing in hard icy conditions with ski's in your hands and a paraglider on your back is hard – harder still when you can't get to your crampons or ice tool …

 

French Ridge is a steep wooded trail – and with ski's strapped to my back on a wide pack it was simply horrendous – I mostly had to walk down hill backwards to make sure my tails didn't catch and pitch me forward.  In my touring boots … Nasty.

 

All wasn't lost however – I got a great ride back out to my car from Aspiring hut – late at night when I turned up and found a mate there in the hut – just simply amazing – thanks Mike.

 

Enjoy the Vid – Edited by Zac

 

Images – Marty Beare

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Just a very quick update on the last mission we did.

A very short and intense 3 day trip up to the head of the Tasman Glacier has paid off with some very kewl summits and flights from various mountains and cols.  Probably the highlight of the trip was Dugald's successful ascent of Eli De Beaumont – which he climbed solo (without a rope, not without climbing partners) and on bullet proof sastrugi (storm ice).  Flying wise the team flew from the summit of Hochstetter Dome, the shoulder of Eli De Beamount, the side of Mt Annan, numerous flights down the beside the Tasman Saddle Hut and very epic day skinning, climbing and flying from high above the Darwin Glacier just below the summit of Mt Hamilton.

Conditions meant that we had to abandon our planned attempt on the Minarets as the lower ridge was basically just ice – that's New Zealand though – you need to be flexible.

Enjoy the images and short teaser trailer – more to come soon.

 

     

We've just gotten back from the West Coast.  Dugald is going to be writting up a tale or two shortly (and we have a few from the trip) but in the mean time please enjoy our short teaser video and Image Gallery!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

West Coast Speedflying  – Image Gallery
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Today Dugald and I managed to get to the summit of Single Cone and double Cone but unfortunately we were not able to launch from the main summit due to inconsistent winds and a poor launch area – the summit Single Cone and Double Cone will be good when there is snow covering the peaks.

We had to make a conscious choice to find a better launch site – which meant we needed to climb down another 150m to the main ridge.  Unfortunately we were again thwarted by winds and rotor conditions as well as Air Traffic Control and Air Space Regs – it's hard to just go when you need to make a call to the tower to get clearance.

After enduring some of the most difficult launch conditions we have both experienced we once again had to descend to a lower point on the West Face of the Remarkables to find a suitable launch site.  This was at 2087m and flew one of the western gully systems.  The conditions meant that we were unable to launch together, however we both had a screamer of a flight – landing in one of the farm paddocks at the base of the western face.

Dugald will be playing with his new Apple Mac to make an video edit of the days adventure.