The Monsoon certainly isn’t over!

Hi guys, Ben here with my first team update, I apologize in advance to any mountain climbers reading this as I might explain the seemingly obvious for those non-mountain climbers reading.

Ben and Mal taking every opportunity!
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The morning after our brutal, almost catastrophic, commute we hit the trail. My only experience of Nepal is the Khumbu Valley area in pre-monsoon so being as hot and sticky as we currently are is a massive change. The upside of this is that Mal and I have been stripping off and jumping into almost every waterfall or decent sized pool we cross. Mal’s Soph watches in envy on as we cool off and have free waterfall massages.

Last night’s camp was at a small village called Soti Cola. We arrived mid afternoon after a short four hour trek and set about spending the afternoon lounging under a small shelter reading books, Soduko-ing or in my case staring down the valley and being thoroughly stoked to be in such a beautiful area.The night bought with it rain, rain and more rain. So much rain fell that most of us spent the night adjusting the extra plastic sheeting over our tents with varying success.

We all floated out of our respective tents early in the morning thoroughly wet. Soph and Mal had the most rugged night moisture-wise. While I got away with only wet shorts and a wet Tshirt, Mal and Soph suffered a comprehensive drenching of their kit. Sophs Down Jacket was soaked as was Mal’s entire wardrobe. None the less we wrung out our gear, packed up our kit, smeared sunscreen on every exposed bit and hit the trail to tackle our slightly more taxing day two trek.

IMG_4760We spent the day following the Buddhi Gandaki Nadi uphill (I am unsure if this if the name of the valley or the river but felt the need to throw in a name) The effects of recent monsoonal rains is clearly evident with beautiful waterfalls across the valley, lush green padis of rice and massive sections of track completely washed out. One area of track had a fifteen meter section missing over a particularly exposed (big drop if you fall) section. The freshly uncovered, rich brown dirt looked like the side of a cut chocolate cake, a cake sitting over a swollen glacial river. We all gingerly picked our way through the pass and realized that there was no way the donkeys could make it. IMG_4810Pembaour lead sherpa stayed back with some helpers and worked to dig a crossing for the donkeys. Somehow they built a suitable track for the donkeys and managed to pass the town we had lunch in only minutes after we left. A couple of waterfalls (and two glorious hours following the river upward) we arrived at Khorla Beshi where we are going to spend the night. Tomorrow, not surprisingly we are going up, hopefully the monsoonal track is more gentle on our donkeys from here on.

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.

How did the training go in respect to my expectations?  For me the first trip away on to the snow was a significant start to the whole adventure, the weather delays had been frustrating and the time off work was becoming harder to acquire!

 

 

I enjoy a steep learning curve and from the moment we stepped out onto the mountain it was game on.  Crampons went on immediately just to get to the hut, then it was a necessity to clear are way into the building just to dump a little gear.  With a swift glance at our accommodation for the next few days it was back out on to the hill and wings out!  The flying side of adventures is generally the main reason I am on them, however I have loved skiing since a young age and to be able to combine the two is perfect…if not a little daunting at first.

With the added weight of our rucksacks complete with ice stakes, ski poles, crampons and more waiting to snag our lines, the relatively slim knowledge of where I was about to fly off to and the shear compilation of new aspects for me – it was an immediate chance for me to take the bull by the horns and ski launch for the first time from right outside our hut…successfully.

 

 

A short flight and a slightly bouncy landing got me started on to the next phase of my learning…ski touring.  Having never really been drawn to this side of snow sports I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it makes moving around the terrain and how enjoyable it is.  I can see with all the challenges presented in this first proper mini mission, technique and practice are going to be crucial.

The crampon and ice axe use, and ski touring skills that were needed to get us to a number of our glacier locations and launch sites were both fun and great practice.  To be able to move around an environment and choose almost any route is fantastic.  Mal’s principles of prevention rather than cure when making route selection and plans certainly reassured me on the snow.  The necessity to read the weather and the snow is as important as reading the wind before a flight.  My relatively constant stream of questions about how to do things and “when can we try” things were answered patiently and with solutions that I can work with.  The location of our trip was stunning, the hut was well equipped although if it wasn't bad weather I certainly wanted to be out and about exploring and practicing my new skills.  And perhaps the most important aspect, the Speedfly8000 team seemed to work extremely well. 

Looking forward to more missions soon!

 

 


 

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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