THREE SUMMITS EXPEDITION 2020

This time last year I was making final preparations for my Three High Passes‘ trek that included Renjo La, Cho La, Kongma La and the additions of Kala Patthar, Everest Base Camp and Ama Dablam Base Camp.

You can read about the route HERE and view photos HERE.

Having just returned from Nepal, this time visiting Mira Rai in her home village and working on Everest Trail Race (here). I was fueled to put a plan into action that I have contemplated for the last 12-months.

 MERA PEAK, ISLAND PEAK and LOBUCHE EAST 

Three 6000+ summits, in succession in a 16-20 day period.

It seems a logical progression for me, the peaks being considered entry level 6000ers that are graded as trekking peaks’ and not expedition peaks.

To clarify, I have come to higher mountains and challenges as a natural progression. I am a runner who has been fortunate to get high, work in difficult places and organically push my boundaries. Of all the things I have done, my 2018 High Passes Trek was the most rewarding and it has left me wanting more. 

Three Summits Expedition

Its not a project I will take lightly, and I have already started the necessary learning curves to hopefully make the 2020 Three Summits a success. I have three ascents of Toubkal (Morocco) under my belt, two in summer and more importantly, one in winter that will replicate many of the conditions I will encounter on Mera for example. I plan at least two trips (in winter) to Toubkal in early 2020. I have the first planned for January, the second probably in April. I also plan to climb Monte Rosa (4600m) in June and then if all plans fall together, hopefully Mont Blanc (4800m) in August.

In addition to the above I have signed up for ice climbing lessons, a winter skills weekend and a basic abseiling course. I dont want to leave anything to chance and, in the process, I want to really enjoy the learning curve.

What will the Three Summits’ entail?

The loop above shows an approximation of the route and the return leg after Lobuche may change as mentioned below. The total distance will be approximately 120-miles but it is hard to get a fixed figure on this, especially with so much vertical.

Arriving in Lukla, we would take the quiet trekking route to Thuli Kharka that includes crossing three passes: Kalo Himal 1st 4540m, Zatrwa La Pass 4620m and an unnamed pass at 4285m. Thank Tok follows, then Kothe (Namaste Lodge and Lama Lodge) may provide us with a lodge option? Thangnak leads to Khare and then base camp for Mera Peak.

Mera Peak at 6476m is the highest trekking peak in Nepal. A trek that leads though rhododendron forest trails of the Hinku Valley. Once acclimatized we will ascend to a high camp just below Mera La and prepare for an attempt on the central summit of Mera Peak (6461m).

Of all the peaks we will attempt on this expedition, Mera is not technically demanding but climbing at this altitude is physically challenging, we will also need to be attentive to snow conditions and wait for an optimal weather window. From the summit, we will have perfect views of five of the six highest mountains on earth.

From Mera Peak we will descend to Base Camp and then the following day start our trek to Island Peak.

This section of the trek is arguably the most challenging with a crossing of Amphu Labtsa Pass, at an elevation 5845m. It is a glaciated pass covered in Serac cliffs. It is the only way out of the otherwise isolated Honku valley. The base of the valley is at 5,000m and has several glacial lakes including the Panch Pokhri or Five Sacred Lakes. The Amphu Labtsa Pass involves technical mountaineering and is Alpine Graded D (difficult). The ice and rock summit is exposed and the descent to the Imja Valley that will lead to Island Peak requires abseiling following a fixed rope. Arguably, the Amphu Labtsa Pass may be more challenging than the three summits on this expedition?

Island Peak is a classic 6000+ Himalayan Peak and graded PD+/AD which will require our team to use multiple skills that includes crampons, fixed ropes and potentially crossing ladders over crevasses. The attempt for summit will take place early morning (estimated at 2am) and will require many hours in darkness on steep ground covering scree, loose rocks and switchbacks. The final ascent to the summit is steep (40-55 deg) and will require fixed rope work (Ascender and carabiner on a cow tail rope) via mixed terrain: rock, snow and ice.

At the top of the headwall the summit ridge extends a further 250m to the small peak with amazing views looking back towards Ama Dablam. Because Island Peak is close up to the vast and dramatic south side of the Lhotse/Nuptse wall, Everest will not be visible. The climb down is a reverse of the way up and will require some abseiling on the upper sections. It is a single line abseil with no top roping. The lower one gets, the easier it becomes, and we will descend to base camp.

The next section of the trek will go to Chukhung and then Lobuche via one of the threeHigh PassesKongma La.

Once at Lobuche, the final summit of Lobuche East at 6119m waits for us. Considered one of the more challenging trekking peaks in the Everest region our summit attempt will be made from high camp on the south ridge.

Once back at Lobuche, our expedition will then return to Lukla and the route/ schedule here is currently flexible based on time available. We are anticipating and attempting the whole route in a challenging 16-days; however, we will have 20-days available. This will allow us some contingency days for bad weather.

Route options for the return:

1. The most direct route will be to drop down to Dingboche, Pangboche and then take a high pass to Phortse. From here we will pass through the Khumjung Valley, Namche Bazaar and then take the main trekking route back to Lukla.

2. One other option would be to complete the High Passesand from Lobuche take Cho La Pass to Gokyo and then Renjo La Pass to Thame. From here we would go to Namche Bazaar and then follow the main trekking route to Lukla.

Summary 

The above is a challenge and one that is not taken for granted. The mountains are the boss and all I can do is plan accordingly. I have liaised with my contacts in Nepal, namely Pasang Sherpa who is a good friend. He has summited Everest twice, Ama Dablam many times and when it comes to the Himalayas, he is my Mr. Fixer. As such, he will be present on the expedition and have ultimate control of all aspects.

Our team will be small and personally selected with 4 and no more than 6 in the team. In addition, we will have Pasang and porters.

My ethos is to be self-sufficient as much as possible. I want and am happy to support the Nepali community and pay for porters. But I am not happy for me to carry 10kg and a porter carry 40kg. Therefore, I expect each member of the expedition to carry equal weight.

Altitude is a fickle beast and there are no guarantees. Fitness is not an indicator of how well one works above 4/5 and 6000m and in advance we will most definitely have group discussions on plans of how we work this in a real situation.

Our expedition will need individual plans so that we all understand what will happen when plans do not go as expected. For example, in a group of 4-6, it is not unreasonable for 1 person to have an issue on one or all of the ascents. We will need to have safety for 1 person (or more) to turnaround if required, while the others proceed to a summit.

There are little or no lodges between Lukla and Island Peak and what is available, may not be open in late November/ early December. Therefore, we will need to carry tents, cooking supplies and food for this section of the expedition.

Late November and early December will hopefully bring more stable weather, but we do run a risk of increased snowfall. It is also colder. 

We will have specific equipment needs for each of the summit attempts in addition to what we will need for day-to-day trekking:

  • High altitude boots
  • Crampons
  • Helmet
  • Harness
  • Ice Axe
  • Cow Tail
  • Ascender
  • Carabiners

Departure date from Kathmandu to Lukla will be November 23rd (tbc). With the expedition taking 16-20 days. (We need to allow for 20 because we may not be able to summit due to bad weather.) Return to Kathmandu will be scheduled for Dec 12th.

Finally 

This expedition is without doubt a challenge. It is going to push me to some new areas and in the process, I am going to learn not only new skills, but I am going to learn a great deal more about myself.

I plan to document the process in words and images. Lessons learnt, mistakes made and hopefully provide a platform for mutual learning. 

With a New Year looming, I am excited to start it with my most adventurous project yet!

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Running Beyond Book Here

Everest Trail Race – The Participants

Everest Trail Race ©iancorless.comParticipants and staff have arrived in Kathmandu ready for the 2013 Everest Trail Race. A couple of days exploring before we leave for the race start, some 7-8 hours away by vehicle.

Here is a face of every runner.

ETR website and 2014 booking available HERE

 

Everest Trail Race – A journey begins

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I had a dream, like any boy, I had a dream of what might be. Majestic mountains and blue skies; coloured flags draped on string and spread across the trail. Nepal and the Himalayas, it’s sometimes quite difficult to convey an emotion… Nepal stirs an emotion.

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You see, I have had a vision; a vision of what this region will hold for me. Visual delights that can fulfill the photographic passion of even a novice cameraman, to be in this region of the world, yes, near the ‘rooftop’ of the world is something that I never thought would happen.

I have experienced many wonderful things, particularly in the last two years. I have been extremely fortunate, extremely blessed and extremely thankful of the opportunities.

I have witnessed the rainforests of Costa Rica at The Coastal Challenge, the dunes of the Sahara at Marathon des Sables and the vermillion cliffs of the Grand Canyon at the Grand To Grand, but today, I depart on a journey, a journey 46-years in the making to the rooftop of the world. I am finally going to experience the majesty and the awe-inspiring wonder of the Himalayas at the Everest Trail Race.

To synthesize my emotions and thoughts are almost impossible. My expectations are high and I am sure that as soon as I experience my first sights and sounds of Kathmandu, all will fall into place. My camera will convey the images, emotions and beauty of what I see.

The Everest Trail Race is a multi-day journey that will test each and every participant in a way that they have not been tested before. A total elevation gain of over 25,000m with a minimal altitude of 3,000m will mean that breathing alone will be difficult.

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Set against one of the most awe inspiring backdrops, the race will last for six days covering a total distance of 160km. Daily distances are on the face of it relatively easy at; 22, 28, 30, 31, 20 and 22km, however, daily altitude difference goes from 3000m to almost 6000m. It is a demanding race and although each participant is required to be self-sufficient during each day, food, water and an evening camp are provided by the race organization. Daily temperatures can vary from -10c to +18c and the terrain will offer incredible variety; frozen earth, snow and rocks of varying color. Without doubt, the ETR is a challenge, why else would you do it?

My purpose and aim will be to document the journey in words and images providing a daily story that will portray the journey of all involved. Wild beauty, people, cultural encounters all encompassed in a harsh environment. The ETR will bring sharing and ultimately friendship for all. This race will be so much more than ‘just’ a physical effort; it will be a life affirming journey and one that will almost certainly change each person who has the opportunity to experience it.

This will be a race of human values, collective experiences and I for one can’t wait to experience the journey not only from the outside looking in but from within the race looking out.

Nepal and the altitude will be a new experience for me. It excites me but also intimidates me. Will I be able to handle the altitude? In addition to making the 160km journey, I need to work. I am going to need to travel light but also function on a professional level. Sometime ago I changed my heavy Nikon DSLR cameras to the compact micro four/third Panasonic G cameras and without doubt they will be worth every penny of investment on this race. I am able to carry three cameras and lenses for the comparable weight of one Nikon body and lens. My computer is the small and light MacBook Air, I will have an iPad mini, solar charger and I will be using mobile recording equipment such as the Zoom H2N.

Camera kit iancorless.com

Camera kit iancorless.com

I am equipped and well prepared for every race I attend, however, the ETR and it’s part self-sufficient nature not only means that I need lightweight and effective clothing but it needs to pack small. I have to give a big thank you here to UK based company, MONTANE. They have provided me with all the equipment I need (inc luggage) and in addition, I have some new products to test, such as a Montane Sleeping Bags that will be available on the market in 2014.

Everest Trail Race - Montane kit - ©iancorless.com

Everest Trail Race – Montane kit – ©iancorless.com

The above has my daily kit that I will need for safety. Waterproof layers, down jacket, sleeping bag (in case of emergency), windproof shell and gilet, medium gloves/ warm gloves, warm hat and peaked hat. All weighing in and including the pack at 2.93kg.

Everest Trail Race - Montane kit - ©iancorless.com

Everest Trail Race – Montane kit – ©iancorless.com

The above is a stripped down version of equipment with no sleeping bag and just medium gloves weighing in at 1.2kg.

Apparel as supplied by MONTANE:

Montane day clothing ©iancorless.com

Montane day clothing ©iancorless.com

Montane warm layers clothing ©iancorless.com

Montane warm layers clothing ©iancorless.com

Montane outer clothing ©iancorless.com

Montane outer clothing ©iancorless.com

Montane run clothing ©iancorless.com

Montane run clothing ©iancorless.com

Montane pack and luggage ©iancorless.com

Montane pack and luggage ©iancorless.com

So that’s it for now. I leave Heathrow and join the team in Istanbul, we then depart for Kathmandu.

Reports and images will be posted on my website here, I hope on a daily basis, however, communications above 3,000m may well be limited.

Watch this space!

NAMASTE.

Finally, a word from Jordi Abad, ETR director.

” If this was only a pure and hard competition, it would be a nonsense; environment gives its hardness but not the competitiveness itself. We are here to share and to help each other. It is possible to make the effort running any city marathon in the world, but the sensations, the environment and the feelings are to share them with friends, to know new people with whom laughing and weeping. This is what remains in the end and what makes it an unique experience for all”.

ETR website in the UK HERE

Information on Nepal:

It is located in the Himalayas and bordered to the north by the People’s Republic of China, and to the south, east, and west by the Republic of India. Specifically, the Indian states of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, and Sikkim border Nepal, while across the Himalayas lies the Tibetan Autonomous Region. Nepal is separated from Bangladesh by the narrow Indian Siliguri corridor. Kathmandu is the nation’s capital and largest metropolis.

The mountainous north of Nepal has eight of the world’s ten tallest mountains, including the highest point on Earth, Mount Everest, called Sagarmatha in Nepali. It contains more than 240 peaks over 20,000 ft (6,096 m) above sea level.[11] The southern Terai region is fertile and humid. Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Gautam Buddha, is located in this region. Lumbini is one of the holiest places of one of the world’s great religions, and its remains contain important evidence about the nature of Buddhist pilgrimage centres from as early as the 3rd century BC.  

Content taken from Wikipedia©

Equipment list supplied by Montane 

  • Montane Beanie 50g
  • Montane Aero Cap 55g
  • Montane Bionic Long Sleeve Crew Neck base layer 160g
  • Montane Bionic Long John 175g
  • Montane Featherlite Gilet 105g
  • Montane Featherlite Smock 105g
  • Montane Featherlite Down Jacket w/ Hood 405g
  • Montane Minimus Mountain Jacket (waterproof) 232g
  • Montane Minimus Tousers (waterproof)  125g
  • Montane Terra Pants 320g
  • Montane Tee Shirt 195g
  • Montane Powerstretch Gloves 55g
  • Montane Sabretooth Gloves 112g

Run Kit

  • Montane Sonic Ultra T 150g
  • Montane Trail Tights 207g
  • Montane Trail Shorts 140g

Sleeping Bag

  • Montane Direct Ascent (sample product) 1055g

Pack

  • Montane Ultra Tour 22 ltr 545g

Holdall

  • Montane Transition 100 

Total weight 4186g minus holdall