Cholatse Alpine Style
One of our coached athletes, Giovanni, sent this in on his way home to Europe and he gave me permission to post on his behalf. Congrats Giovanni! -Steve
We climbed Cholaste from the normal route. The goal for my friends was to use this climb as an acclimatization summit for their big project on Nuptse South face. We did no acclimatization prior Cholatse and we did bring a lot of food and fuel to spend time at altitude.
Given the bad experience at the Lukla airport last year, we decided to leave Kathmandu by Jeep. After an adventurous day (we broke the brakes, overheated the engine, and had a few other mechanical misadventures) we finally reached Phaplu where we met our porters (6 of them total). From there, in three days (Nunthala, Puyia, Namche) we reached Namche while the porters arrived on the fourth day.
At this point, two porters left directly for Chuckung, while we went to Phortse with 4 porters. In Phortse we further reduced our load and left two bags at the lodge (it felt we made and remade bags all the time). With only two porters and with all our personal gear on us, we left for Cholatse base camp at 4700 m where the porters went back.
During the first day at the base camp, we brought a bag of food and fuel to camp one. I only carried some personal equipment with the food bag. We slept a second night at base camp.
Day 2: we reached C1 on the glacier. My friends went a bit further to drop the food bag below the col while I was making water, etc. at C1
Day 3: from C1 to C2 on the col at 5600 m; left some more supplies at the col
Day 4: climbed only a few hundred meters until just after the rock tower to C3; from now on we carried all our food and gas in our packs, no more back and fourths. We did not use any of the fixed ropes in place.
Day 5: climbed few hundred meters to C4 on good snow. Only difficulty was the serac at the end that was indeed steep and difficult to manage.
Day 6: C5 just below the summit
Day 7: Summit day on a very fragile arête! Back to sleep one more night at C5
Day 8: Downclimb to BC and then back to Phortse. We did not have any porters at BC, so we carried our own equipment all the way back. We did not leave any rubbish behind (something I am very proud of). We did clip in some of the fixed ropes on the descent in order to be faster.
Day 9: back to Namche to find a replacement communication device for the InReach. Then back to Lukla.
One important thing to notice is that my friends are all seasoned alpine guides, so, although I was not officially a “client,” it is like having three Steve House with you: the third person is not yet to the bottom of the rappel that the new abalakof is ready and well balanced. Frankly, it is a bit like cheating.
What went well:
I think my acclimatization went well. I only had mild headaches and it all went away with an aspirin. Overall I was recovering fast and was feeling relatively well.
Equipment wise, I think I was well prepared. The only exception could be a few older items for winter climbing that I use seldom and that I did not feel replacing (like my Spantik: good but heavy)
What I need to improve:
I definitely need to be able to carry much more equipment. In the alps I got used to climb almost naked with the exact number of pros I need and nothing more. For the sake of speed, we carry the bare minimum, but this cannot be done at higher altitude.
I am not sure it was a good idea to acclimatize on such high mountain because we moved very, very slowly. Also we had to carry much more food than necessary.
Food: we brought 8 days of lyophilized food. This is not bearable, I need to find something else, because I cannot eat this crap!
What I would change:
I think bringing a few more comfort goods at base camp and spending a little more time there while acclimatizing and then climbing a bit faster could be a good thing. Having a place to call home and not spending days and days on a glacier looking at the tent ceiling and eating lyophilized food would be a great improvement on morale.
I am looking forward to talk to Sam Naney tomorrow. He was a great coach. Thanks Sam!
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