11th October – Manaslu Base Camp

Right now Mal and Ben are slowly making their way to Camp 4 at 7,400 metres in readiness for their push to the summit tomorrow morning 12th October. The sherpas went up yesterday to pitch the tent and set up camp.

The winds have died down a little but unfortunately not enough for Mal to consider flying from below the summit. So he will leave his skis and wing behind and is currently looking at waiting at Camp 3 till the 13th to try and fly then when the winds are forecast to drop again.

Tonight Mal, Ben, Siddhi Mama and Phemba Rinji will be huddled in their tent at camp 4 eating and drinking as much as they can and trying to stay warm. Mal and Ben will be resting on oxygen and they will start their climb at around 5am hoping to reach the summit by 9am.

The forecast is for clear skis and moderate winds and a full moon tonight.

In the meantime base camp is getting pretty quiet with just 4 expeditions left, all of whom are going for the summit tonight or tomorrow.

Wishing them all the best for a successful summit and more importantly a safe return to BC.

11th October – Manaslu Base Camp

Right now Mal and Ben are slowly making their way to Camp 4 at 7,400 metres in readiness for their push to the summit tomorrow morning 12th October. The sherpas went up yesterday to pitch the tent and set up camp.

The winds have died down a little but unfortunately not enough for Mal to consider flying from below the summit. So he will leave his skis and wing behind and is currently looking at waiting at Camp 3 till the 13th to try and fly then when the winds are forecast to drop again.

Tonight Mal, Ben, Siddhi Mama and Phemba Rinji will be huddled in their tent at camp 4 eating and drinking as much as they can and trying to stay warm. Mal and Ben will be resting on oxygen and they will start their climb at around 5am hoping to reach the summit by 9am.

The forecast is for clear skis and moderate winds and a full moon tonight.

In the meantime base camp is getting pretty quiet with just 4 expeditions left, all of whom are going for the summit tonight or tomorrow.

Wishing them all the best for a successful summit and more importantly a safe return to BC.

Sophie at Base Camp

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

Well – Sophie and I are sitting in Kathmandu! Currently at the Mandap Garden restaurant enjoying a Everest beer, a Nepali green salad and BLT.

Our flight from Auckland to Seoul Yesterday was … bumpy, very very bumpy. And as a PG pilot I’m totally comforable with turbulence, not. Actually I find that flying on large planes in turbulence quite discomforting, not quite sure why ;) However the flight from Seoul to Kathmandu was really really nice – lots of HUGE cumulus clouds everywhere on the flight over and as we landed

The next few days will be pretty busy with sorting gear, buying gear and packing gear. We’ll be using Zupka’s (cross between yaks and cows)_ as well as donkeys to get to basecamp. So lots of packing to ensure that gear doesn’t get smashed!

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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.

Unfortunately Zac has pulled out of the expedition due to work commitments.  besides flying, Zac's otehr passion is film work and film making.  Right now he's working for WetaDigital in Wellington a place he's long dreamed of being.

 

Whilst I'll be a bit lonelier on the mountain, it will mean a great deal less to worry about in terms of launches, landings etc.  With me on the Mountain will be Siddhi Bahadur Tamang and Ah Mingmar Sherpa.  I've worked and climbed with these guys a few times over the years in Nepal and it'll be great 

Sophie Ward will be coming along to act as Basecamp manager and all round amazing type of person.  A small part of Soph's role will be to put out updates on the internet and pipe weather reports to us on the mountain by VHF radio!

After a beautiful climb up Single Cone to inspect one of the future winter missions, we moved on to double cone and discussed the possibility of a launch from the summit by tossing the gliders above us and checking them in the air before stepping off.  This time the decision was made to move to a lower more suitable take off and practice some rope skills on the short descent to it.  After several attempts during the short moments of clearance we received from Queenstown Air Traffic Control we again decided to move down the West face to an area less effected by wind rotor.  From here we both launched for a great gully flight!

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A mid Autumn flight from the top of Single Cone.

May 1st to May 9th

Open to all Speedflying Pilots

This time of year can be pretty tricky.  There maybe a fair amount of new snow up on single double cone or there may still just be bare rock!  There are a few ways up Single Cone, all involve a little bit of technical rock climbing but the route of choice is to do a traverse of both Double and Single cone!  We'll be focusing on flying from Single Cone initially but if weather and local conditions deny us we may need to move lower on the hill. 

We have two flight options – to the west all the way down to the valley floor – a descent of near 2000m or to the N and into the Lake Alta region.

The Remarks after a mid summer snow storm.  looks like winter!

How the Remarks looks normally in Summer

Here are two video's that show 2 different launches in the Khumbu Valley region of Nepal.

#1 is of a launch in the Kyajo Ri Valley.  The intent on being in this area was to try and make a flight from the summit of Kyajo Ri – unfortunately the weather was too bad making the approach to the hill difficult and we ran out of time.  There were a series of large cliffs on the way up the valley that you had to climb through and this flight was made from one of them – just above Basecamp.

 

#2 is a flight from above the township of Dingboche – off a small peak aptly named – Dinboche Ri.  The peak provides a number of excellent launch site – although the thinner air at 5000+ meters and nil wind makes for a very committing and fast launch!  The landing area here is basically potato paddocks and with the rock walls coming up at you quite quickly it's very important to pick the right one.  I found myself coming in a bit too short and had to almost stall my wing over the final wall to land safely in the paddock

 

#1

 

#2