Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Au revoir Ed, till next time!

An avalanche cloud over base camp

News from lots of different people in the last day or so (thanks for the various phone calls and emails!). Everyone having a good rest at base camp and sounding up beat! Waiting for the weather to clear and then hoping to go back up the mountain. Very pleased about their acclimitisation at Camp 2.

The disappointing news is that Ed has now left the expedition and is making his way home. He emailed me to say:

"Following the success of Sandy's Pakistani Diet Camp, I was allowed to leave after losing his allocated couple of stone. Unfortunately due to a combination of no food or liquid staying in me, a little trip down a crevasse, and generally feeling that I should not be on the mountian anymore; I decided to head home. The descent started off beautifully, the thaw had changed the upper valleys, and the plant and animal life and smells were returning. After passing through a small decideous forest and then pine wood, we came across the mountain villages again, with their intricate irrigation systems. The land soon changed to the desert type valleys, with the Indus churning away below, and the temperatures rising to the 40's. It was at this point, unfortunately, that one of my bags finished up taking a trip down the cliffs and off down the river.... And then the jeep ride to Chilas along the ridiculously narrow roads following the cliff contours. It was amazing to see Nanga Parbat, and great to be climbing with Sandy and Rick (if only to camp 1), and it was a hard decision to leave, but the right one for me this time"

No doubt we will hear lots more news from Ed and hopefully some mail etc. We wish him many varied and tasty meals.......There's always gonna be another mountain.

Monday, 29 June 2009

News, news and more news!

So, finally a photo of Ed, Sandy and Rick

Three phone calls this morning, all cut short and then a flurry of emails from various people.

So, the great news is that Sandy and Rick slept at Camp 2 last night and are back at Base Camp. The high altitude gear has arrived (I think thats what he said !!).

Mr Stoats man is having an ace time. Weather forecast is poor with snow and high winds forecast.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

A phone call from Sandy on Friday morning (Sorry for late posting, Scottish schools are now on holiday! Its been celebrations for the end of primary school, picnics and parties!).....

Sandy sounding very relaxed and wanting news of the world. ..though they had already heard about MJ!! Confirmed that they had reached Camp 2 and now having a rest at BC. Predicted storm had not as yet appeared though there was concern about very strong winds at higher altitudes.
The first photo shows life at Camp 1 while the second is of Rick Allen on the Kinshofer wall. A Google search reveals that its a particularly nasty obstacle (my words, obviously I am not a climber!) between Camp 1 and 2.
My daughters class sang The Climb at their school leaving ceremony on Friday..... some appropriate words..
Ain't about how fast I get there
Ain't about what's waiting on the other side
It's the climb
The struggles I'm facing
The chances I'm taking
Sometimes may knock me down
But no, I'm not breaking
I may not know it
But these are the moments that
I'm going to remember most, yeah
Just gotta keep going
And I, I got to be strong
Just keep pushing on
Slight concern that there was no news of Mr Stoats man....but as Sandy says, "no news is good news..eh!!"
PS Sorry about the lack of line spacing, blog just won't put them in, there are some things in life not worth fretting about!!!

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Camp 2

A phone call tonight on a terrible line received by an eleven year old!!! Sandy and presumably Rick reached Camp 2 and were now back at Base Camp. So, on the premise that no news is good news, this is excellent!!!

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

5400m and Aiming Higher!

Sandy and Rick did really well yesterday and reached 5,400 m. They returned to Base Camp last night where Ed remains unwell. Later on today, they hope to climb up too Camp 1 and spend the night. Tomorrow they aim to reach the area where they will establish Camp 2 (6025m). They will hopefully dig out a ledge for their tents before coming down (too high too sleep there on their first visit). A storm is forcasted for the weekend so they fully intend to be back at Base Camp by then, to rest and see how Ed is progressing.

Mr Stoats man is hanging out with Ed at BC, somehow feels more secure with him! Infact, looking at this photo of Sandy and Ed, its smiles all round!!!

Monday, 22 June 2009

Mountain Life

Camp 1

Happy Days!

A girl from Chilas, apparently with a baby snugly wrapped and perhaps a little brother full of happiness. Beautiful clothes and beautiful smiles.

And who says these people are poor?

Above Camp 1

Another phone call!

Ed, Rick and some of the Austrian team have been up to Camp 1!!! As the others went down, Rick and Sandy climbed a further 300 m or so. Conditions not good, a lot of avalanches and wind slab. Mr Stoats man found it hard keeping his grip, he forgot to take his crampons up to C1 and its tough on steep slidy snow. He knows he would get a better grip without his cellophane wrapper, but people keep looking at him with a strange sort of hunger in their eyes!!

So, everyone safe back at BC. Its approx. 5pm there and Rick and Sandy planning to go up and stay the night at Camp 1 with some of the Austrian team, and hopefuly then go higher. Then, back to base camp for a rest. Ed staying at base camp for now.

It seems TNT are doing something after all and high altitude gear is supposed to be in Islamabad today and then taken to Base Camp!!!! Lets hope!

Friday, 19 June 2009

Base Camp Photo

19th June 2009: Camp 1 and Back Again

Another unanticipated phone call from Sandy.

Ed (now feeling fine), Rick and Sandy went up to Camp 1 today (so much for resting eh!). Reckons that Camp 1 is at approx. 4860 m. They cut out two platforms for tents and then went back to BC. Weather good though a lot of snow around and even although there is a Korean team on the mountain, there is a lot of trail breaking needed.

Altitude gear has still not arrived... So much for TNT, payments of extra cash has only resulted in empty promises. No-one very impressed at the moment!!! Have tried to find out what is happening but my attempts have failed. Very helpful woman on the phone but not having a consignment number or a zip code for Nanga Parbat has proved an insurmountable problem!!! Any suggestions helpful?!

Anyway, fortunately Rick had stashed two tents from a previous trip and the plan is to take them up to Camp 1, hopefully tomorrow. Then come down and have a rest day.

Mr Stoats man busy brewing bed tea so no news from him tonight!

Thursday, 18 June 2009

18th June 2009: More from Base Camp

There has been an amazing fall of snow.

Sandy had an "interesting" night when his tent collapsed on him in the "wee small hours" with the weight of snow. Lets hope Mr Stoats man had his hands over his ears!! Other tents where OK although everyone and everything was rather damp and wet. Ed troubled by a dicky tummy, but is OK! Sandy has re-pitched his tent and all is as good as it can be!

Weather now improved and they have seen Nanga Parbat for the first time. It is heavily clad with avalanches racing down its faces. The day turned into a beautiful one.

High altitude gear is still awaited from Karachi...

Rick Allen and Sandy managed a walk to an altitude of 4620 m (300m higher than Base Camp).

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

17th June 2009 At Base Camp!

Phone call received today at approx. 5.30pm.

The team have arrived at Base Camp as scheduled and tents are pitched. Everyone happy with their good progress and am pleased to say that Sandy is enjoying his food again!! There is heavy snow. The team will rest and let their bodies acclimatise to the higher altitude before progressing further. Hopefully, in that time the weather will abate. All is well with Joe, Ed and Rick.

Mr Stoat man is still going strong and is thanking his lucky stars that he packed his thickest duvet jacket!!

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Chilas. Personal Protection for Stoatman: 14th June 2009

Sandys sister here!
Phone call from Sandy this morning at his local time of approx. 3.30pm (he still has mobile contact!!).

He is delighted with the fast progress of the trip. They have now reached Chilas having taken "vans" up the Karokoram Highway. Pretty exciting in that they had a police escort for part of the way (near the Swat valley and the Taliban/Pakistan fighting). Stoat Man very excited as at one point a policeman armed with a machine gun sat beside him in the van to offer personal protection. Being from the refined city of Edinburgh Stoat Man has never ever encountered such happenings before, but luckily he is made of "strong stuff" and bore the situation with poise and dignity. Fortunately they saw no sign of fighting, refugees etc. A relatively easy journey (is the KH ever easy??). By now, they will have reached the "road head" where they will camp and meet their porters. Tomorrow they will start the 3 day walk-in to their base camp. Everyone getting on well with only Sandy suffering a slight but not atypical, travellers problem with his digestive system! Weather is OK!!

So, as we sit and have our Sunday roasts raise a glass to cheer them on their way!

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Change of Plan!

Well, the weather in Gilgit is not so good today with bad visibility especially for flying. As we were driving to the airport we were phoned to tell us that the Gilgit flights were cancelled, so we are back at the hotel for ten minutes simply to change our bus so that we can now drive up to Chilas on the Karakorum highway. Its an exciting drive but after one has experienced it several times its rather nice to fly!
Chilas is before Gilgit and the important Rakoti bridge is located near here. This road junction leads us up towards Nanga Parbat!
So, its 12 to 15 hours in the bus.... we will have a nice trip!

Friday, 12 June 2009

Exit Newtonmore and arrival at Islamabad.

Above: Stoats man trying to read the Koran in his hotel in Islamabad. The beverage list is more to his liking!
Stoats man repacking his bags at T2 Manchester airport ensuring that there is only 40 Kg in total as that is the Air Blue baggage allowance. His carry on actually came to 29 Kg, but he manged to get it through security and on to the plane!
The Air blue flight Manchester to Islamabad went OK .We were routed by Turkey to re fuel and that went well, but on take off we collided with birds so the plane had to land in Turkey again and there was delay of about one and a half hours as the plane was checked and found to be safe to fly. We were met in Islamabad and taken to the Best Western hotel. After some rushed introductions we had to repack our gear into porter loads of 25Kg and load up a truck and send it by road to Gilgit. The team plan to fly to Gilgit tomorrow morning as we wish to move fast and get into the mountains as soon as possible to aid our acclimatisation. If the flights do not fly due to weather then we have a bus lined up to drive us there along the Karakorum highway.
Rick Allen has just arrived at midnight and is repacking ready for the 6.00 am start tomorrow morning. Sandy has been making final arrangements and paying out vasts amounts of dollars to the local agents and others. We have decided to take two bottles of Oxygen and two face masks with regulators for emergency medical reasons and have also two high altitude porters coming with our three man expedition team. We are teamed up with a big Austrian expedition and we are all moving as one big team to base camp and after that we will split into our own expedition teams.
TNT has still not got our air freight to us and for ten days now it has been stuck in Karachi but every day they said, it will arrive tomorrow for certain. But it has not and today Sandy spoke to the TNT reps. in Karachi and they demanded payment of around 200 Euros. This is a total surprise and we are finding it hard to understand why they are asking for an extra payment now rather than ten days ago! But its all arranged and payment is set up for tomorrow so maybe we will get our equipment soon. This is a hassle as it means we have to employ more people to take the equipment to base camp and catch up with us.
Still its all part of mountaineering . but man.. its tough to get people in the UK and Karachi to understand how much we rely on our equipment and on them to deliver it as promised!
All cool other wise...
There are expeditions also heading into Skardu for K2. Apparently there has been a high snowfall this year so lots of snow high up but the approach walk should be clear of snow by now.
So, Ed, Rick and Sandy are in pone place together ready to climb and all fine, Stoats man is doing OK and things are looking good!

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Stoats Man prepares for Nanga Parbat

It's truly hectic here in Newtonmore, Inverness-shire, Scotland where Stoates man has at the last minute decided to join Mountain Guide Sandy Allan on his mountaineering expedition to Nanga Parbat. All preparations have to be completed so that Stoats man can travel to Manchester for his international flight to Islamabad Pakistan on the 11th June. Below Stoats man checks his Passport and visa, vaccine , letter of invitation to Pakistan and BMC insurance. Stoates man will get the opportunity to meet the rest of the team when he arrives in Pakistan and is looking forward to the adventure of is lifetime!

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Stoats Porridge Oats Bar - Special Delivery

Rupert Hutchenson turned up late at Newtonmore today having driven all the way from Edinburgh with a special delivery of the superb Stoats Porridge Bar. This contribution to my Nanga Parbat expedition is greatly appreciated. These bars are manufactured from organic jumbo rolled oats and have many healthy and energy giving organic ingredients and are truly fantastic. Check them out on www.staotsporridgebars.co.uk
My intention was to not open them until I arrived at Nanga Parbat base camp, however the temptation was to great!

Hannah and Cara could not resit either!!

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Late afternoon and evening walk abouts

Scotland is ace for walking about....Been busy over the past couple of days packing and hassling for last minute free equipment and snack bars for Nanga Parbat. Also tidying the garden; planting and sowing Aquilegia, Delphiniums, Lupins and Poppies but still managing to get some good long walks in. The deep heather makes the legs work harder which is probably good training for the deep unconsolidated snow of the Karakorum!

Friday, 5 June 2009

The Haughs of Cromdale

This evening I took a walk in the rain around the Haughs of Cromdale, around Tom Laith above Balmeanach Distillery.( OS sheet 36 Grantown, Aviemore and the Cairngorm Mountains) There are some nice hills there where as a kid we gatherd sheep for the annual shearing and went Grouse beating for "wealthy gentry" who came to shoot on Revack Estate. The highest hill is Creagan a' Chaise at 722m however one can link the nice row of tops together which gives an excellent walk or ski tour in the winter. This evening there were an abundance of birds, Curlew, Snipe, Oyster Catchers, Lapwings and a raptor. There were also many Rabbits, Hares and two Roe Deer. Occasionaly as kids my twin brother and I would see wild cats, but none showed themselves this evening. These photos are of Aultcharn Farm where I used to spend much of my teenage years driving Massey Ferguson tractors, Landrovers and shepherding sheep. This evening during my walk I realised that in my quest for some extra fitness before a trip to an 8000 meter peak I seem to take walks in old familiar places. There is less than a handful of days left before I head off to Nanga Parbat in Pakistan and I find myself lured back to these familiar haunts.... interesting.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

An evening of rock - Creag Dubh

Facing south south east and only a few minutes drive from my back door is one of the finest and largest crags in Scotland. Creag Dubh with more that a 100 climbs on horizontally stratified mica schist gives steep and exposed climbs on generally flat or slightly in-cut holds with spaced protection.The crag has a reputation for exhilarating and occasionally scary climbing! This evening we climbed "Outspan" 45 meters - E2 5b**.

The way to happiness : Guide book, chalk bag , midge repellent and rock shoes.

Nanga Parbat Climbing Permit and making Jam

At long last our climbing permit for Nanga Parbat arrived dated the 30th May 2009. I have enjoyed some interesting negotiations with Gerfried Goschl ( Leader of an Austrain Expedition) to share the costs of this expensive permit. I am guiding on the mountain and there are only three of us in our small expedition, Rick, Edward and myself as leader and mountain guide. It's cost effective to share a climbing permit between groups rather than us obtain one simply for ourselves! Many of the costs can be shared, including porters and land transport to reach base camp.

Also, yesterday I learned that all our Air Freight such as high altitude tents (Vango) and special pre- packed and specially pre- cooked meals made to a secret Sandy Allan formula and sealed in tough pouches are delayed in Karachi, India. Included in the shipment are our Primus Gas Stoves and some other utensils which were supplied by http://www.rosker.com/. I am semi- confident that our agent Ali in Islamabad will be able to get them moving again and Pauline at TNT Glasgow has also been incredibly helpful.

Meanwhile back in Newtonmore, the Rhubarb crop has been massive, so yesterday I added Ginger, Vanilla pods and lemons and have made some tasty Jam. Nigella eat your heart out! European elections today so I must wander over to the village hall and cast that hard won vote!
Did you know that if you take all the letters from "Vango", they read Govan, originally the company were sail makers. Govan is on the river Clyde, and many famous ships were built there. As the great sailing ships were being replaced with coal making steam and then of course Oil ,the company diversified into making other products from their sails, tents being one of them. But please do not think that we are sleeping under sail canvas on Nanga Parbat!The tents are made of lightweght almost ballistic like nylon these days, incredibly light and there is no doubt that by the end of the expedition some of the tents will be torn to shreds by the fierce Karakorum weather. We have about a week to go and we will be departing for Pakistan.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

IRATA assessing at Stockton - On - Tees

Saturday saw me in Stockton- on- Tees, an interesting industrial suburbia! Total Solutions Direct Limited have opened a new training centre here. They were successfully audited and awarded their Irata membership a few weeks back. The company offer both training and contracting services and can be contacted on 01642674682 or http://www.total-solutions-ltd.com/