Thursday, 18 December 2014

Summit Day - The First Ascent of Nar Phu Peak

" Morning Sir - black tea?" I am woken at 1am in my tent at Base Camp at 5200m by Nima, our camp sherpa.

I have slept in all of the clothes I will be wearing for the summit attempt so I only need to pull out my inner boots from my sleeping bag, where they have been overnight to keep them from freezing, before pulling them on and then fitting my outer boots.  This is a task that takes a lot of effort and has me out of breath and needing to rest for a few minutes before then leaving my tent for a porridge breakfast with the rest of the summit team: Rhiannon, Heather, Dawn, Catherine, James, our 2 climbing Sherpas, Pasang and Dorje and finally Shika Pande
y, a trainee guide.




We start by heading downwards through a deep snow furrow that our climbing sherpas waded through yesterday for us.  It is not ideal to be heading downwards for 150m but our peak sits on the other side of a rock valley from our base camp.

It is minus 24
as we trudge down and then back up the same height to reach the face of the glacier.  It is here that we don harnesses, crampons, helmets, ice axes and rope up together. The initial climb is a simple 8m of 45° ice to get us onto the glacier where we plod upwards for 1.5hrs to reach the huge 100m high hanging glacier that blocks our path onto the upper glacier we need to reach to gain access to Nar Phu Peak.  





We have spent a lot of time using binoculars from base camp looking for a feasible route through the hanging glacier and have opted for an ice ramp at the glacier's right hand edge that leads right and then switches left.  The ramp starts out at an easy 45° but soon steepens to 65° hard ice.  We climb together in 3 rope groups and make it to the top shattered and in need of a drink and a snack bar.  Most of our water is frozen so we chip away at the ice to get some fluids into our bodies.





The wind has really picked up now and a few of our group are suffering from the early onset of frostbite.  We take off their boots and massage their feet before placing them into our armpits to rewarm them.

We now have an important choice, to continue along the glacier to the col, another kilometer of ice with crevasses to cross and then climb the West Ridge with a few false summits OR attempt to climb directly on the West Face where we are.  Until this moment, it has been hard to see which route is best due to the hanging glacier blocking our view of the complete route.




We choose the much steeper but objectively safer West Face.

We are now in a fight against the elements as the wind speed really picks up and freezes any skin that is not covered.

The West Face is very steep with snow pitches of 50°-75° which we climb in our rope teams with the use of some fixed rope and running belays to avoid any waiting around in the increasingly cold and harsh conditions.




We reach a tantalising 150m below the summit to find a large crevass to cross and a very steep 80° ice and snow wall blocking our route.  The time is racing away and we are aware that we will be descending the steep West Face in the dark. To come this far not to reach the top is heart breaking but we are not ready to give up yet so after a quick discussion, we agree to go for it and see if we can make it even though it will mean descending in the dark.  Dorje, one of our climbing sherpas, crosses the crevass on a snow bridge and leads up the ice placing a fixed line and an ice axe anchor at the top.  We follow him up scrambling on the ice and snow before reaching the top exhausted with our efforts at this altitude of 5900m.  There is now only a steady slope of 50° to reach the true summit.  We are going to make it and as a complete team of 9 out of 9.




 We reach the rock tower summit on the top of Nar Phu Peak at just after 2pm and check our GPS and get a reading of 5930m.  We have done it, we have climbed an unclimbed peak, we are the first sumitteers of this mountain.  To stand where no one has previously stood is exhilarating and emotional!  Lots of hugs and a few tears before putting up our prayer flags bought specifically from the Buddinath in Kathmandu and taking our summit photo and off we go conscious of the route to be reversed and the need for safety now on the descent.





It takes all of our energy reserves and more to make it back to camp in the dark, finishing after 16.5hrs at 7:30pm.




 
What an amazing day!



Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Meet the Nar Phu Team - Unclimbed Peak Expedition 2014

When people think of those who would attempt an unclimbed peak in Nepal they would probably imagine some hardcore, multi-skilled bionic humans that do nothing other than climb mountains, have survival skills that would make Bear Grylls' escapades seem tame, eat nothing but raw meat and energy bars, spend 99% of their lives in the mountains with the other 1% spent shopping for mountaineering kit and don epic adventure beards.

OK, a slight exaggeration there but you know what we mean!

So who are the team that are heading to Nepal in November to attempt to climb a previously unclimbed peak in the Himalaya, and do they fit the profile described above? 

Let’s say yes...... and no.

The thing is the team are just normal people with normal lives, jobs, families and none of them have beards (yet), but they all share a love of climbing mountains. They all have trekking experience, having taken part in a variety of expeditions around the globe and it is this that has brought them together to become the Nar Phu Team. A team with a shared goal – to climb a mountain that has never been climbed before.

So, let’s meet the Team & hear their thoughts on the upcoming adventure of a lifetime.




Catherine


I have lived in Hong Kong for almost 20 years. I was a lawyer for 22 years (14 years as a Partner) with global law firm Allen & Overy, but since May 2012 I have been working for various NGOs (fundraising and doing a broad spread of volunteer work).  My hobbies include travel, hiking, working out in the gym, reading, the arts and spending time with friends.

Expedition/Charity Challenge History: 

In March/April 2013 I completed “Catherine’s Africa Challenge” to raise funds for AfriKids, comprising of trekking in the Ethiopian Simien Highlands. I also climbed Kilimanjaro in 2007.

I like to go on adventure/wildlife/nature trips to out of the way places which have included Tibet, Nepal, Myanmar, Laos, India, Indonesia, Antarctica, South Georgia, The Falkland Islands, Greenland, Iceland, the Arctic, Guyana, Brazil, Peru, to name a few.

Favourite place in the world that you have been to & why?

I recently went to the Kashmir Himalayas to try to see snow leopards. I managed to see some leopards, which was an incredible experience as they are so difficult to find. 

What destination would you like to visit most & why?

I would like to explore more of Africa as it has fascinating human history, amazing landscapes, incredible wildlife and very welcoming and open people.

What attracts you most about climbing an unclimbed peak?

There are less and less places which remain untouched by humans. It excites me that the team will place footprints somewhere for the first time.  

What important item (not on the kit list) will you be taking with you?

A sense of humour.


Heather

I live in Suffolk, work as a vet and have 2 grown up daughters, 2 dogs and 2 cats.  I enjoy walking and being outside, theatre and food. I am quite competitive especially with myself and enjoy challenging myself.
Expedition/Charity Challenge History:
Kilimanjaro 2007
Avenue of Volcanoes and Cotopaxi
Elbrus
Stok Kangri

Favourite place in the world that you have been to & why?
Summit of Kilimanjaro - my first mountain, truly a live changing experience. 

What destination would you like to visit most & why? 
Norway Pulpit Rock & Finland - Anywhere to see the Northern Lights!
Favourite expedition/charity challenge memory:
Summit of Kilimanjaro and the amazing camarderie of a team of Charity Challengers.

What attracts you most about climbing an unclimbed peak?

The unique experience to the unknown.



James 

I live in Yorkshire with my family and work for myself.


Expedition/Charity Challenge History 

Kilimanjaro, Elbrus and Aconcagua.

Favourite place in the world that you have been to & why?

Dimaniat Islands in the Indian Ocean…because there is no phone reception there.

What destination would you like to visit most & why? 

To the black section of my bank account!

Favourite expedition/charity challenge memory:

Waking up with a bucket on my head at the bottom of a ski lift on Elbrus, beware the local vodka...

What are you looking forward to most about the unclimbed peak expedition?

Struggling in knee deep snow until I feel like weeping, then reminding myself that this is a holiday.


What important item (not on the kit list) will you be taking with you?

Shanks pony

What are you most concerned about with regards to the Unclimbed Peak Expedition?
Whether Barnsley FC will be promoted next season.


Rhiannon

I live in Chester where I work as a freelance Marketeer. I am a creative soul with a thirst for adventure, and love nothing more than spending my free time on the hills or in the wilds.

Expedition/Charity Challenge History

I have done many UK based challenges such as the Welsh 3000s, 3peaks and national trails, spending most of my time exploring the national parks of the UK. In 2011 I climbed Kilimanjaro, which was my first proper taste of an overseas expedition. Since then I have continued to explore the UK and beyond, completing the Tour du Mont Blanc and climbing Mt. Toubkal in Morocco. I have also travelled to Malawi and Zambia, which was an amazing experience.

Favourite place in the world that you have been to & why?

I can 100% say my favourite place I have ever been to are the islands of the west coast of Scotland. Be it the Outer Hebrides, the small isles such as Rum and Eigg or the Isles of Mull and Skye there is just so much to do there and the landscape and wildlife are incredible. We are incredibly lucky to have such amazing places in the UK.

What destination would you like to visit most & why? 

Top of my (extensive) list is Patagonia. For years it has intrigued as it seems such a wild & beautiful place. Plus it boasts some pretty gnarly peaks!

Why did you choose to do an unclimbed peak expedition?

I am fascinated with exploration and by those explorers who have visited lands unknown over the centuries. To stand somewhere where people have not stood before is a very unique experience in an increasingly explored world.

Favourite expedition/charity challenge memory:

The night sky on Kilimanjaro. Standing there under a vast amount of stars & the Milky Way was truly incredible.

What attracts you most about climbing an unclimbed peak?

The challenge of the unknown. To take it as it comes.

What are you looking forward to most about the unclimbed peak expedition?

The experience of being in the Himalaya, the landscape, the culture & the people we will meet along the way. Oh, and the epic views!

What important item (not on the kit list) will you be taking with you?

Music & morale food – 9bars and Mini Cheddar Branston Pickle flavour.

What are you most concerned about with regards to the Unclimbed Peak Expedition?

The weather. If the conditions are against us it could seriously affect our attempt on the ascent.

Dawn

I'm the senior PA for a nuclear power station.  Fascinating stuff!  Hobbies include anything outdoors but mainly running and cycling with the odd bit of swimming.  Love hiking and being up high.  I live in Darlington and regularly walk in the Cleveland Hills.

Expedition/Charity Challenge History:

I've mountain biked across Peru, Vietnam and Cambodia and hiked the Simien mountains in Ethiopia.

Favourite place in the world that you have been to & why?

Bermuda  - it's a little piece of heaven.

  
What destination would you like to visit most & why?

 Australia - just feel it's one of those places I should go but the long flight puts me off! 


Why did you choose to do an unclimbed peak expedition?

I guess it's something different, something no-one else may have done and I'm desperate to go above 6000 metres, slowly does it!


Favourite expedition/charity challenge memory:

It has to be Ethiopia.


What attracts you most about climbing an unclimbed peak?

 It's quirky!  Oh, and de-ranged! 


What important item (not on the kit list) will you be taking with you?

 Nothing - there's no room once I get several pairs of stilettos in my suitcase :) 


Brian

I live in North Wales and work for Expedition Wise Ltd. My Interests are visiting new places and walking up mountains!

Expedition/Charity Challenge History:

Kili, Elbrus, Chhubohe, Kaloche, lots of peaks in South America, all the 4000m peaks in the alps.

Favourite place in the world that you have been to & why?

Apart from the unclimbed peak last year, Ecuador is my favourite country.  It is  a small country where you can be on Cotopaxi (highest active volcano in the world – 5897m) in the morning and in the jungle in the afternoon. 

What destination would you like to visit most & why? 

Alaska – pristine wilderness of the area. 

Why did you choose to do an unclimbed peak expedition?

The excitement about trekking in an area not often visited and then attempting a mountain that no one has ever stood on in the history of humanity blows my mind. 

Favourite expedition/charity challenge memory:

Last year – climbing Chhubohe in Nepal.

What attracts you most about climbing an unclimbed peak?

The fact that I will be walking in an area not often visited and I am not following lots of other people – the thoughts that you may be the first to walk on the summit ridge and the summit itself.

What are you looking forward to most about the unclimbed peak expedition?

Trekking in to the Lost Valleys of Nar Phu.

What important item (not on the kit list) will you be taking with you?

Kindle Paper white – my books are important in all the downtime and acclimatisation days. 

What are you most concerned about with regards to the Unclimbed Peak Expedition?

Finding a route up the peak and the snow conditions.  



I am sure you will agree they all seem pretty normal!

Though we are sure they are all excited and nervous ahead of this epic challenge, we wish them all the luck and safe travels.

You can follow their journey throughout November by liking the Expedition Wise Facebook page where there will be daily updates from the Unclimbed Peak Expedition, as well as on our Twitter account @ExpeditionWise.

If you would like to climb a previously unclimbed peak in Nepal, either for charity or just for your own personal experience, check out our 2015 Unclimbed Peak Expedition!


All the best Team Nar Phu!

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Ours are the Journeys that take us to the Unknown – Unclimbed Peak 2014

On the 9th of November 2014 a team of 6 intrepid adventurers will set off to Nepal, where we will embark on an incredible journey to climb an unclimbed peak.

Located in the Lost Valleys region of the Himalaya, the previously unclimbed peak ‘Nar Phu’ stands at approx 5921m in the far eastern Chulu range. This is an area that is home to snow leopards and the isolated Tibetan villages of Nar & Phu. It is relatively unexplored by both climbers & trekkers.

This really is a once in a lifetime trip for many. How incredible to explore an area where few have been and to be the first to stand on a summit overlooking the Himalayas, with views across to Pisang Peak (6,091m)  with the Annapurnas beyond and the main peaks of the Chulu range to the west.

Four of the NarPhu Team in Snowdonia
From our research studying maps and Google Earth, Nar Phu  Peak is more of a ‘Trekking’ peak.  Therefore, the ascent should not be overly technical like a climbing peak but we will all be prepared with the right kit and will have fixed ropes to be used if needed.

The Nar Phu Team members look at the route on the map 
There are many obstacles to overcome and things that could affect whether the team are able to successfully summit the virgin peak. These include injuries on route, altitude sickness, unknown territory, poor weather conditions, stomach bugs, and a whole host of other things. There’s also the issue of whether we will be granted permission to climb the mountain from the village Lama as many of the peaks are seen as deities by the local Tibetans in Nar village and it may be that they would find westerners climbing it disrespectful. We require the Lama to give us permission so that we can carry out a Puja, a Buddhist blessing ceremony, as otherwise, our Sherpas would not accompany us. It would be both disrespectful and dangerous to continue on without them and in essence, our Unclimbed Peak Expedition could end right there before it had really begun.

It is these elements of the unknown that makes an expedition such as this all the more intriguing and exciting and indeed challenging. Perhaps it would be a less attractive adventure if it involved following a well known path, climbing a much ascended mountain and following in the footsteps of many trekkers who have stood on the summit.

From our first day of trekking, it will take 7 days to reach the virgin territory where NarPhu Peak stands and the truly unknown meets us. Here we will have left the main trekking path having spent a tough day ascending Kang La at 5,306m and need to explore the area to source a suitable Base Camp. Standing in the Chulu range, the ever present view of the mountain will be a constant reminder of why we are there.


 Once Base Camp is set up, we plan to spend the next day resting, acclimatising and discussing possible routes to the peak. As the east end of the Chulu range is relatively unexplored, our route planning so far has evolved from looking at maps and Google Earth images of the peaks. It is only when we are actually at Base Camp that we will be able to determine what route would be best to take to the summit and evaluate the conditions on the ground and high up on the ridgeline. Again, poor weather conditions could now abruptly bring this expedition dead in its tracks as it could be that the snow conditions are too dangerous to ascend.

All being well in terms of weather conditions, acclimatisation and general health, our plan is to spend the next day ascending a neighbouring unclimbed, unnamed peak at 5890m. This will allow the team to experience the type of climbing we will be doing on the main ascent, testing our ascent skills, getting comfortable with our kit and surroundings and ultimately building our confidence ahead of the main summit attempt a couple of days later.

With another day of rest and preparation for the main climb the next day, the team will no doubt be experiencing mixed feelings that often arise prior to such a challenge. Here it will be important to pull together and work together to ensure everyone is ready to go for the summit. It will also be a time to reflect as to why we are here, take in the stunning scenery and appreciate that moment of being in unexplored territory, for many a once in a lifetime experience.

Fingers crossed everyone will be in tip-top condition, well acclimatised, feeling strong, determined and ready to go. Though nervous I am sure we will be, we must eat and sleep well for tomorrow we will begin our ascent of Nar Phu.

Summit Day: It will be 15 days since we left the UK to embark on this adventure, with 10 days of trekking to lead us to this point. After an early start, we will attempt the ascent of the mighty Nar Phu Peak, with hopes of great conditions and a safe and successful summit bid. Here we will also be able to accurately measure the true height of the mountain.

Nar Gate on the route to Nar Phu Peak

If all goes well, we will then stand on the summit of Nar Phu Peak as the first people to climb this mountain. After months of planning, training and dreaming about the expedition we can only hope that we achieve what we came to do and more, to climb the mountain, to experience the unknown and to achieve the amazing.

What if we don’t? Nothing good has come from negative thinking so we try to not focus too much on the ‘what ifs’ at this point. If it is meant to be it will be and if not, nothing is wasted and we will be thankful for everything experienced on this truly remarkable expedition.

Hopefully our team’s story will be one of success and a safe descent back to Base Camp where we will take a moment to reflect on our achievement before trekking down to the village of Ngawal, looking back every now and again for our last view of NarP hu Peak where we stood only hours before. Here we will stay overnight to be met the next day by our helicopters that will fly us out to Pokara. What better way to end this incredible adventure than to fly through the Himalayas, passing 7000+m  snow capped mountains as we go.

Once the helicopter lands in Pokara we will then take a commercial flight to Kathmandu where we will have time for a shower (the first in a long time!), enjoy a celebratory meal and sleep in a proper bed! The next day we will visit the Ministry of Tourism where we will have to take all our documentation and evidence to prove we actually did reach the summit of Nar Phu.  This is quite a detailed affair which includes showing the route we took, photos of us at the summit and GPS/Altimeter readings at the summit. We will also need to meet the famous Elizabeth Hawley who has been officially recording all new summits and new routes for the last 50 years and is a legend in the climbing world.  As her decision is final, this could make or break the success of the Unclimbed Peak Expedition. Sure, we will know did it but if it isn’t in the log book it isn’t seen as a first ascent!

Team Training weekend on the hills of Snowdonia

In between now and November (which really isn’t far away at all) the Team will continue to train, as well as sort out all the administration needed for such an expedition including visas, purchasing final bits of kit, Travel Insurance, Mountain Rescue cover etc.

Practising rope techniques on the Team Training Day

There’s a lot to think about and to prepare for such a trip, but all the hard work will be worth it to stand on the summit of NarPhu, knowing that we are the first people to do so.

Good Luck Team NarPhu & safe travels!



Tuesday, 5 August 2014

'Lights Out' Moel Famau - WWI Centenary Walk in aid of the Royal British Legion



 On the evening of Monday 4th August a group of people from local areas of North Wales and further afield met at Moel Famau Country Park near Ruthin to take part in the ‘Lights Out Moel Famau’ night time walk to commemorate the WWI Centenary, organised and led by Expedition Wise on behalf of the North Wales Poppy Appeal.
 
A fantastic turnout of over 40 people were greeted by a beautiful sunset before commencing the walk to the Jubilee Tower at the summit of Moel Famau just after 9.15pm, walking up the mountain with their head torches lighting the way.  With perfect weather conditions and an endless sky of stars the participants arrived at the summit of Moel Famau just after 10.15pm, where a special commemorative ceremony took place. 


Gathered around at the top of the Jubilee Tower, they watched as the candle of hope was lit and the WW1 Centenary Wreath was laid by Lesley Griffiths AM, Minister for Local Govt.

After wreath laying all torches were turned off for ‘LIGHTS OUT’, leaving the summit in complete darkness apart from the single lit candle and the stars above. Bugler Gareth Rogers of Rhyl Youth Marching Band played the Last Post followed by a reading and a 2min silence to reflect and remember all the brave men and women who gave the lives all those years ago. The silence was broken by Reveille, its haunting echo drifting across the mountain range.


Head torches were all turned back flooding the Jubilee Tower with light, signifying rebirth and new hope.
It was such a special event where people could share the experience together and take the time to reflect and remember. It was also great to see children taking part with their families.

Kevin Forbes with Lesley Griffiths AM, Minister for Local Govt.

Kevin Forbes, North Wales Community Fundraiser for The Royal British Legion said of the event
‘The Lights Out’ programme has been a huge success. People were given the opportunity to stop and reflect in a focussed way. It truly was a mass act of remembrance by the nation. I was particularly impressed by the large numbers of young people who participated. The huge number of participants across the nations ensures that ‘Lest we Forget’ is not just an empty phrase’

He added ‘As Poppy Appeal approaches we could all show further support by assisting the leading supporter of the armed service family so that those in need can ‘Live On’. Poppy Appeal volunteers just ring 0808 802 8080’

Our Director, Brian Jackson, who organised and led the walk said “This was truly a fantastic event that we are honoured and proud to have been a part of. It was great to see so many people take part and share this experience together whilst raising money for such an important charity.”


We would like to thank all those who participated for making it such a special and memorable event that saw hundreds of pounds raised for The Royal British Legion.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Fantastic charity challenge events for the local community!

As well as providing charity challenges and expeditions across the UK and overseas, we also love to provide events for the local community and local charities.

This year we have the pleasure of organising the Erddig 10K on behalf of the National Trust Erddig Estate charity and the ‘Lights Out Moel Famau WW1 Centenary Walk’ in aid of the Royal British Legion.

These are great opportunities for people in the local community to take part in something fun and challenging whilst raising money for local charities. It is also a fantastic way for companies and work colleagues to do something active and enjoyable together outside of the work environment and all for a great cause.

If you are in the local North Wales/Cheshire area and fancy taking part in a charity challenge why not sign up to our local events today!

Lights Out Moel Famau


 ‘Lights Out’ is an invitation by the Royal British Legion to commemorate World War One by encouraging everyone in the UK to turn off their lights between 10pm and 11pm on 4th of August 2014 – leaving only a single light or candle for this symbolic act of reflection and hope.

The North Wales Poppy Appeal are inviting people in the local area to take part in the ‘Lights Out’ campaign in a unique and special way by joining them for an evening’s walk up Moel Famau on August the 4th in aid of the Royal British Legion.

Participants will begin the walk up Moel Famau at 9.30pm, climbing the hill as the sun sets and reaching the Jubilee Tower at the top of Moel Famau for 10:15pm. There will then be a ceremony where all torches will be turned off to replicate the ‘black out’ during the First World War, followed by a 2 minute silence to reflect & remember the more than a million Commonwealth Service men and women who lost their lives in the First World War. Torches will then be turned on again to signify the new hope, before the group start to make their way down Moel Famau arriving at the bottom before midnight.

For more information and to book your place on the Lights Out Moel Famau Walk please click here.


Erddig 10K

Following the success of last year’s event, we are happy to announce we will be returning to the beautiful location of the Erddig Estate on Sunday 14th September for the Erddig 10K!

With three running options including the 10K, 5K and 2km Fun Run, it’s a great event for all levels and a fantastic event to do as a family. Each runner will receive a goody bag and free entry for themselves and one other to the Erddig Estate Gardens, so you can make it in to a lovely day out for the family!

So whether it will be your first 5K, or you are a seasoned runner looking to beat your Personal Best, this is a fantastic running event to be enjoyed in stunning surroundings.


£2.50 from every entry goes to the Erddig Estate charity.

For more information and to book your place on the Erddig 10K please click here

Please note:

Strictly NO entries on the day.

Entry closing date is 30th August at 12pm.