Project 314 Blog #7 – “Expeditions teach you nothing if not patience”

May 11, 2023

Jake Meyer

Client Accounts' Director
Sorting food ready to push up the mountain

Days 11, 12 and 13 – Acclimatisation treks

Graphic showing the journey from Tortong to Ramche

Wednesday 19th April – Day 11

Another acclimatisation day – this time a little higher than yesterday up to the Sinelapche La (Pass) This sat directly to our north, and is a key part of the Kanchenjunga Tour Trail. It was a much steeper climb – we went up over 400m in height within the first 50 minutes, and then continued winding our way up through the steep mountainside for another 90 minutes to the pass at 4700m. The final 100m was through snow, which fortunately wasn’t too deep, so wasn’t too much of a problem in our trainers. A couple of days earlier, trekkers coming over the pass had been wading though thigh deep snow in certain spots.

One of the reasons that we’d headed up this way, as well as the acclimatisation boost, was the chance to get a glimpse of Kanch through a narrow gap between the mountains. Sadly, by the time we reached the supposed viewpoint, the cloud had come down, so there was nothing to see. Nevertheless it was a good hike, nice to get the legs and heart working hard, and to reach a new altitude highpoint for the trip. The way back down was tough on the knees, and I was thankful for bringing my trekking poles to help provide a little more balance and support on the descent.

Getting back into camp, I followed a similar routine to the previous day – a quick cold bucket shower, and a wash of my clothes. Delicious egg fried rice with mini frankfurters for lunch – and then a lazy afternoon.

Thursday 20th April – Day 12

Waiting for the helicopters to come in today to take the trekkers, and some of our equipment up to Basecamp. We won’t be flying today, so we go on another short acclimatisation hike. This time we head south, over the river, intending to climb an obvious mountain (although hill by perspective) to about 4500m. Given the beautiful clear weather, the chances of the helo coming in looked positive, and a bid farewell to Petr, Attila, Gabi and Adam, who’d become very much part of the team over the past few days.

Six of us set off with Nima Mingma leading us. This Nima walks much faster than the other Nima (very confusing with the names, I appreciate!), and doesn’t seem to alter his speed regardless of the incline. It’s a pace that I can keep up with, but very quickly the team starts to spread out, meaning that we have to take frequent pauses to allow them to catch up. As soon as the last person arrives, Nima is raring to go again, so we have to gently encourage him to allow the last person to catch their breath.

We followed an obvious trail up to a flat valley bottom, almost meadow like in its beauty. With the sun shining it was a very pleasant walk. At this point, the trail seemed to disappear, and we wered faced with two options, either to just go for a hike up the valley, or to start bush whacking up the hillside. I’m all for having a nice, pleasant walk on the flat, but a couple of the others encouraged Nima to set a course straight up hill.

The going was tough as we made our way through a band of trees and relatively thick undergrowth for about 50 vertical meters. This then opened up into a boulder section for another 100 meters or so, before we hit a slightly less steep (but still probably 30 degrees!) hillside consisting of thick grass. Here you could be forgiven for thinking that we were stalking in Scotland, the terrain was very familiar, and I half expected to come over a rise and catch a glimpse of a magnificent stag.

We kept climbing to around 4300m and then took a nice break sitting on a rare flat section of the hillside. We basked in the sun, drinking from our water bottles and sharing whatever food or snacks we had – some biscuits, some nuts, a few Japanese sweets from Semba. With a thin jacket on to ward off the slight chill from the breeze, I could have quite happily lazed there for hours.

Eventually we decided to keep on going, climbing another 100m or so before deciding that our ascent profile was worthy of the acclimatisation and leg stretch that it represented. A few of the team wanted to push a little higher, so I lead Semba and Ren back down. We elected to take a slightly different approach to our route out, trying to avoid the steep thick band of trees, and recognising the slip hazard of the way we’d come up.

Spying what looked like a slightly easier decent, we set off, using route markers to focus our direction. An obvious large rock here, the blackened remains of a lightening struck tree there – all provided convenient waypoints for what we hoped would be an easier way down. Other than a short section of bushwhacking through a heavy thicket of rhododendrons, it was an enjoyable route, and we soon accidently happened across a yak trail. Whether this was the one that we should have taken up the mountainside, who knows, but it did give us the confidence of following it back down to the original meadow in the valley bottom.

Taking the trail back down to the river, it had started to cloud over, and soon enough we felt the spit-spat of rain. It wasn’t heavy enough to warrant stopping to get our waterproofs out, but we did pull our jacket hoods up. As we arrived back into Tseram, the rainfall had intensified, and whilst we were pleased that we had timed it well, we were slightly more concerned about the rest of the team, who were now no doubt getting drenched.

They got in only about 30 minutes later, having not gone too much further up the hill, and fortunately all safe and sound despite the weather which had now turned to hail.

It was no great surprise that the trekking team were still sitting in the lodge, nursing cups of tea and looking rather dejected. Whilst the morning had been clear, we hadn’t heard the tell-tale sounds of the helo coming up the valley whilst we were hiking, and with the weather having come in, there was no chance that they’d be flying today.

Throughout the afternoon and early evening the storm continued, and ended up turning to relatively heavy snowfall. Inside the tea house dining-room, the mood was high (at least for us climbers), and we had another fun evening playing cards – this time including the Sherpas, who very quickly picked up the rule of the game (Spoons), and thought that it was great fun.

As we got ready to head to bed, Nuri told us that the weather was looking much better for tomorrow, and that we should all be prepared to fly. Despite the excitement of the potential move (finally!) I had my best sleep yet – demonstrative of the positive effects of our acclimatisation programme, and no doubt slightly helped by the large goblet of Toomba which I’d drunk to celebrate our impending departure.

Friday 21st April – Day 13

Early up – sleeping bags packed away and rooms tidied up. Breakfast at 0630 for the trekking team (as they’d be getting the first flight) and 0700 for the rest of us. Boiled eggs, and warm chapattis smothered in incredibly sweet pineapple jam. Despite the thick layer of snow on the ground, the sky was blue and the sun brought a lovely warmth, encouraging us to sit outside nursing our cups of tea and coffee waiting for the ‘wocka-wocka’ sound of our transport coming up the valley.

0800 passed, nothing yet. 0900, still only the sounds of the birds and occasional rock fall. 1000, the dripping of the melting snow off the roof of the tea house was starting to turn into a torrent. 1100, still nothing. Of course some of the team were starting to get a little worried the longer we waited without any helicopter. Whilst I was quite content making my way slowly through my crossword book, the trekking team were really down to their last chance. They were due to be flying back to Kathmandu late this evening so that they could get their international flight home first thing in the morning.

At 1300, eventually we heard the comforting sound of the helicopter coming swiftly up the valley towards us. It overshot us, surveying the landing site, before circling back round. Even with the excitement of finally seeing the helo, we’ve all noticed that the blue skies have turned to grey, and further up the valley, some of the clouds are sitting quite low.

The helicopter landed, and Petr and Attila jumped in. Out hopped Mingma, one of the bosses of the helicopter company. He had a quick word with the Sherpas, who have been preparing the pre-assigned loads of kit, before giving the pilot the sign to go. We all waved excitedly to Attila and Petr, as they started their journey up to basecamp, and their opportunity to see the mountain which had claimed the life of Attila’s older brother Peter 10 years ago.

The helicopter lifted off, and started to fly quickly up the valley. With them out of sight and the sound of the heli receding into the distance, we cleared off the landing field and headed back up to the upper terrace for another cup of tea. Suddenly, we heard the sound of the helicopter again, this time getting closer. It’d only been a couple of minutes – this couldn’t be good. Looking further up the valley, we saw that the cloud bank had completely engulfed the route to basecamp, and the chopper was returning swiftly. Whilst we completely understood the reason why, we can’t help but be gutted for the guys – perhaps this was their only chance to get to basecamp and feel closer to Peter’s resting place.

The helo landed again, and after a quick discussion between Mingma and the trekking team, it appeared that there was no chance of getting any higher. In fact, with the weather changing so rapidly, we’re now at the point where the heli is going to have to return back down the valley to the safety of Tapelejung. What’s more, despite there being 4 trekkers, there is only room for 3 for the return journey. The decision was made very quickly – and Petr and Attila gave their seats to Adam and Gabi (the camera man and reporter) so that they could get back to civilisation. It’s been clear to see that over the past few days, their patience with the trip has been wearing thin (they don’t have the same emotional attachment to the journey as Petr and Attila obviously do), and the threat of having to postpone their flight home was probably too much to bear.

We waved off the camera team, pleased that they are finally heading home (and probably a little jealous of the fact that hopefully they’ll be back in a hotel in Kathmandu very soon), and we headed back into the tea house to unpack our bags, ready for another night. Despite the obvious unfortunate change of plans for the day, we were all remarkably sanguine about it, and willing to see what the next day brings. Doing big expeditions teaches you nothing if not patience, and especially the appreciation of the incompatibility of changeable weather and scheduled flights – we’re slightly non-plussed about the day’s experience. The only slight annoyance is that if we’d known that we weren’t going to fly, we’d probably have gone for another hike again – keeping fit and aiding our acclimatisation. Never mind – tomorrow is another day, and it’s not like us climbers are short of time!

Related articles

a photo of a purpose-driven leader embracing the rest of their team

What is a Purpose-Driven Leader and Why Should You Become One?

Purpose-driven leadership aligns an organization’s mission with a higher purpose, fostering engagement, innovation, and resilience. This blog explores defining purpose, aligning values with goals, enhancing emotional intelligence, cultivating culture, and measuring impact, guiding leaders on their journey to inspire and drive meaningful change.

Image showing a double exposure of a person and an office building with the words The Future of Leadership

The Future of Leadership in 2024

Part 1: Talent Wars Attracting and retaining good people used to be fairly simple. You advertised a job, paid a reasonable wage and loads of people applied. You short-listed, interviewed and then picked the best one. Easy life. But not a life familiar to most...

Contact Us

IDG UK
IDG House Royal Berkshire Hotel London Road Ascot SL5 0PP UK
+44 (0) 207 798 2848

IDG India
301, Tower 2, Montreal Business Center Baner Road Pune 411045 India
+91 955 271 5800

IDG Middle East
5th Floor One Business Centre DMCC, Jumeirah Lake Towers, Dubai UAE
+44 (0) 1276 686644

IDG UK
IDG House Royal Berkshire Hotel London Road Ascot SL5 0PP UK
+44 (0) 207 798 2848

IDG India
301, Tower 2, Montreal Business Center Baner Road Pune 411045 India
+91 955 271 5800

IDG Middle East
5th Floor One Business Centre DMCC, Jumeirah Lake Towers, Dubai UAE
+44 (0) 1276 686644