Saturday, October 31, 2015

Winter Is Here! Climb update!

Well, we got skunked by the weather. The good news is that the mountains got some much needed snow - 12cm and building this weekend. The bad news is it's melting almost just as fast as it piled up,
except for the higher elevations it's sticking.

We made the call to go for Lobuche summit as soon as we got to base camp for our best shot before we are turned back by high winds. Wind this time of year is the indicator that winter has arrived come Tuesday. Wind and snow combined is the deadly mix for avalanches. Wind forms slabs on fresh snow and when a climber cuts/breaks through the slab, chances are you will have created an avalanche and we avoid this scenario at all costs.

We got pretty high, almost the summit before the snow got too deep to continue, there were a couple other small teams on the route who turned back yesterday and today so no one has been up for a few days now.

We gave it our best shot, we had a good work out and a good time while doing it. That's climbing, we climb and test the routes -  sometimes we are lucky to stand on top and sometimes we aren't.

Great group, good fun, staff got to work, we climbed!

**More photos to follow in a few days of the climbing in action.

Yak Tales 

We got a note from Herman who was in Pheriche that's worth repeating. He went to bed very tired at 8pm and was woken at 1:00am when a yak who somehow got on the roof of the lodge fell through. This doesn't happen everyday. Hope the yak is ok!

I remember when we used to sleep in the yak barn in Pangboche before the new lodges were built. It was common practice to move the yaks outside to hang about to accommodate climbers. If someone went out at night to relieve themselves and didn't latch the door well enough when coming back in, we'd often wake up with some welcomed added heat next to us, but with pretty smelly breath.

The good ole' days.


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Psst! We Love our Job!

As we walk the lonely trails of the Khumbu today we are among only a very small number of

trekkers and next to no climbers during what is normally the busiest tourism season for Himalayan routes. Some lodge and homeowners qualified for government loans ranging from $20,000US to $40,000US to rebuild after the earth quake are now left in a situation of considerable loss paying 15%
Will Goodon photo: Dry peaks, empty lodges. 
interest on these loans.

Budgets were extended to bring in enough food and fuel to accommodate what they had hoped would be a healthy come back of tourists. Sadly this is not the case. I've never seen it so quiet and everyone is starting to get very concerned what will become of their businesses and livelihood.

Many Sherpa families educate their children in private schools in Kathmandu or abroad,  and some are fortunate to afford sending them to universities.  Many men in the city and remote villages are leaving the country to work in place like Dubai and may never have the means to return again as they have to pay back their airfare,  or worse yet, die.


Many Nepali migrant workers dying in Saudi Arabia, but Riyadh blames "natural causes"
by Christopher Sharma 
Since 2000, more than 7,500 Nepalis working in Arab countries have died under suspicious circumstances: 3,500 in Saudi Arabia alone, 65 since October 2013. Kathmandu launches an investigation to shed light on the deaths. Doctors and human rights groups blame torture and violence against foreign workers.

In Qatar-One Nepalese migrant worker dies every two days.

As a guide myself working the mountains alongside my Sherpa staff,  I get really miffed at the press who portray outfitters as "forcing" our staff to work in their beautiful homeland sharing it with the world while being at arms length to their families allowing them to go home for rest days and play with their children, hug their wives and go back to work in a day or two. They are working with their brothers and friends. Each season the excitement builds for them as they prepare for the season, just like guides at home. They love it! I love it! all guides love this work. The rewards are incredible and yes there is risk but not as much as industrial hazards. There! I said it!  I don't know any guide that doesn't love his job. My wife doesn't like me being at risk climbing just like my friends wives don't like it, but it's what I do, it's what they do, and we all love it. We share the beauty- the experience and  offer safe approaches to the sport and teach respect of the environment while doing it.

Mountaineering and heli-skiing have preserved mountains for sometime.  In Canada there was an
Will Goodon receiving Lama Geshe's blessing for safe passage.
Lama Geshe is second to the Dali Lama. 
area I guided in that was slated to be logged. Those forest stands were spared because our operator was able to prove that more tax dollars could be created for the Canadian government in tourism dollars than if if they logged it and cashed out the idilic skiable terrain.

I see the same situation here whereas the Khumbu's mountains could easily be ripped open and mined

in the future because of the thirst of the two super powers on each of it's borders. Or perhaps power plants being built alongside streams of what was once famed trekking routes. I fear this, I fear this a lot.  It will be a very sad day not hearing the yak bells strolling, or the Sherpa men and woman singing as they work the trails. Sad, sad day!

Ok, that's my rant!  We are all doing good up here. Visited Lama Geshi today in Pangboche and everyone is now peacefully sleeping in Pheriche. Pangboche took a beating from the earth quake, many of the homes here are very very old and not built very well. Lots of reconstruction has gone on here.

We're all together and looking forward to our outing tomorrow to acclimatize before moving up to camp and in a few days make a summit bid on Lobuche East at 6145m.

On ward and upward!


Saturday, October 24, 2015

Recognizance of the Khumbu Post Quake

Flights are operating as normal Kathmandu to Lukla and the weather is good but definitely quiet.  

Day 1: Trek to Phakding/Monjo: There is an area here that has always been prone to landslides. Anyone who has
Phakding slide area reconstructed
been here previously would remember the sand slide area after crossing the river in Phakding. This area slid during the earthquake and has been rebuilt by a team of locals. The new trail is actually much improved now, better than the previous one.

Another area affected near the same location is the largely photographed waterfall, boulders came down changing this area and altered the trail.

HOMES:  The ones built with rounded rocks didn’t stand up too well to the earth quake, but houses that were built with chipped and sculpted stone did well, and ones using mortar faired really well. 

FOOD: There is a lot of food in the Khumbu, all the lodges stocked up for the autumn trek season well before the fuel crisis began. Kathmandu and outlying areas however are suffering with lack of supplies and cooking fuel. 

Day 2: In Namche Bazaar, it's so good to see the village in good shape. I spent the afternoon walking around the village with Tsedam, he showed me the houses that were affected and what they did to rebuild them. The school had been destroyed but is now rebuilt. Tsedam's Home-Away-Home was destroyed. Luckily a lodge in the village fixed it up for housing the children and make a classroom and rented it to Tsedam for his children till he is able to get enough money together to rebuild the one next to his home. It makes it difficult to take care of their day to day needs being further away.

I passed off a thoughtful gift from bluegrass musician Karen Jungnitsch from the Pine Pass, B.C. A couple of the
Fiddle supplies
girls at the Home-Away-Home are learning to play the fiddle. Karen made them fiddle covers and set them up with CD's, instructional books and other useful fiddle components. 

Yes please! If you want to donate to help with this, get in touch.  As promised we've been passing off the few personal donations designated to individuals. If you haven't heard back from them yet; it's
Enjoying a nice meal at Tsedam's home.
because they are working and this is a good thing.

As I walked with Tsedam we talked about the day it happened. Apparently there were huge boulders plummeting down from Kwande Ri adjacent to Namche Bazaar that was frightening for them as they watched. Our concern was the boulders above the village. Tsedam said they sent a team up there to evaluate their stability and reported everything was anchored quite well. This made sleeping at night a lot easier for everyone considering the aftershocks were significant and went on for a for weeks.

TOURISM:  Not as bad as it feels. It feels really quiet but the locals are saying it's down about 50%. The sad part of this story is the governments ongoing mismanagement of the mountaineering industry. Their silly announcement that all climbers must prove climbing to 6600m in order to climb Everest has pushed everyone  over on Ama Dablam. Ama Dablam is already ridiculously overcrowded as it is, and a toilet bowl at that, with a hazard of the hanging glacier that is expected to come off at some point. With what we've been watching around the globe recently, you won't find Peak Freaks up there.  This was a foolish statement on their part. Climbers- don't buy into it! It's a setup for something else we'll discuss another time. 

Tomorrow we'll head off to Khunde and Khumjung to have a walk around. I expect it will be in good shape. Everyone was quick to do repairs and be ready for the tourist season. 

Tim & Becky Rippel

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Deja-vu in Kathmandu & Team List

We're happy to announce that we are some of the fortunate to have the trust of our customers to
Kathmandu's fuel dependancy today
continue with our climbing objectives in the Himalayas post earth quake, thus allowing us to help bring a small number of people back to work, but not without heartache witnessing a country that has just taken a 24 year economic turn back.

We first came here in 1991 when there was no traffic on the streets and in particular in Thamel. Bikes weren't readily available, only the odd one for rent for a tourist. We remember renting one for a young man we befriended, we asked him to take us for ride around his city. We soon learned this was a bad and dangerous idea as he struggled to stay balanced resulting in a hurdle into a roadside bush of wild hemp. Fortunately vehicular traffic was not a concern back in the day and the bush was forgiving. Walking was the way of life here. Even goods were carried to the shops by cargo porters instead of trucks, their loads were huge and they were exceptionally skilled at the art of weight and balance. Then came the films on Everest, the stories of adventures like no other;  the crowds - the money- cars- and motorcycles for everyone and the thirst for fuel followed but with  consequences. We know we contributed to this but we also know that we contributed to education, families affording sending their children to private schools and universities around the world. Our wages paid out built homes and hung big screen TV's on walls - Nepal rightfully began to evolve.

As I walked Thamel, Kathmandu's tourist district tonight I experienced a great sense of deja-vu. It's
Durbar Square in the 90's 
the Dashian festival. The the lucky ones will have found a way to go home to their villages, but there are also many not so lucky. Due to the fuel crisis at the India/Nepal border, bus prices have tripled and no seat is guaranteed. Hundreds resorted to riding on the roof-tops of anything with wheels and a smitten of fuel in the tank. Fuel is $5US a litre, private vehicles are only allowed a litre or two after a 6 hour wait. There is black market fuel circulating at $16US a litre. Taxi's from the airport to the city used to be $5US now $30US. It's a long story how this all came about, it's said that ethnic groups are standing their ground since the release of the new constitution after 8 years of not having one and living  in peace. The uprising agains the constitution has brought on violence at the border where fuel trucks from India cross. Research Madhesi and Maoist and landlocked Nepal online if you want to learn more of the complexity of the situation.  This situation today is being referenced as Transit Warefare launched on Nepal.  China watches closely. 

Tonight we looked everywhere to find a restaurant to have a meal. Signs were up on our favourite restaurants stating "closed due to no fuel and no food" or "closed for earth quake reconstruction. "  We've been here before. We recall going into an inviting little establishment for a bite to eat in the 90's. The waiter handed us a menu with just 3 items on it. It took forever to receive what we ordered because the establishment didn't have food. The owner/waiter had to find it at the market but not until he was able to establish some form of credit till we paid our bill. We remember the sweat dripping from his forehead giving everything he had to make this sale happen. It is some of these people that are the owners of some of our favoured restaurants on our "must eat at" list.  Sadly due to the the current problems in Nepal they are closed.

Aviation fuel seems to be making it in when needed. We have taken note that a large shipment arrived today. Because of that we are headed up to the Khumbu tomorrow to do a recognizance of Lobuche and other mountains in the area post quake. Our team members are some of my long-time customers from my heli-ski guiding days in Canada joined with some new friends. I'm looking very forward to getting back and checking in my friends in the Khumbu and learn more on how the two disasters have affected them.

Our team!

1. Tim Rippel- Expedition leader/Guide
2. Ang Karsung Sherpa- Base Manager
3. Desh Kumar - Cook
4. Nima Sherpa- Guide
5. Paul Pargeter- USA
6. Greg Pickel- USA
7. Scott Dricoll-USA
8. Herman Hull- USA
9. Jason Snell- Australia
10. Will Goodon- Canada
11. Rob Seeley- Canada
12. Patricia Harris Seeley- Canada

Tim & Becky Rippel

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Nepalese Airline Stepping Up Safety

Tara Air, the airline Peak Freaks uses for flights to Lukla has added a faculty new Viking  DHC6 400  Twin Otter aircraft to its fleet. The second aircraft is due to arrive in September increases safety. 

"Roshan Regmi, marketing manager of Tara Air, said the Twin Otter Series 400 aircraft boasts cutting edge avionics technology with an integrated full glass cockpit that features the Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System (EGPWS), Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) to prevent from crashes, and full-color weather radar to show weather conditions.
Canada-based Viking Air had purchased type certificate of the legendary DHC6-300 Twin Otter aircraft from De Havilland in 2005. “It is the most versatile and successful STOL aircraft ever built and it was brought back into production in 2008 as the new Viking Series 400 Twin Otter,” Tara Air said in a statement on Wednesday. “The Series 400 Twin Otter picks up where the original de Havilland Series 300 Twin Otter left off, introducing upgraded Pratt & Whitney PT6A-34 engines, fully integrated Honeywell Primus Apex digital avionics suite, use of composite materials and approximately 800 other modifications incorporated to improve on the original series 300 aircraft.”
According to the statement, the Series 400 retains its ability to safely operate in the most remote and rugged environments in the world, from the sub-zero Antarctica, the hottest deserts in North Africa, the open waters of the Indian Ocean to the mountainous region of the Himalayas. No other Short Take Off and Landing (STOL) aircraft in the world has proven to be as versatile, the statement claimed.
Regmi said that the aircraft will be brought into operation within two weeks, fulfilling all required procedures. He said the new aircraft will be operated in remote STOL airfields of the country like Lukla, Phaplu, Jomsom, Dolpo and Simikot. “The new aircraft will play a vital role in transporting trekkers, local inhabitants and foodstuffs to and from these remote regions,” he added.
Tara Air plans to gradually replace its entire fleet of Series 300 and Dornier Do 228-212 aircraft with the new Viking Series 400 aircraft.
“Our second Viking 400 Series aircraft will arrive in September,” said Regmi.
Tara Air has brought the aircraft on lease for 12 months with an option to purchase after that. The aircraft costs US$ 6.9 million."