Profound. The most appropriate word to describe the outdoor experiences I have had in New Zealand and Nepal. They are both lands where valleys, mountains, rivers, and forests still exist which are seldom visited. If the effort is made to seek out these places and one ever happens upon another individual, then they have the luck of a lottery winner. In fact, many mountain faces and ridges have still never been ascended in both these countries. So, when one attempts them, and occasionally succeeds, the memories last forever.
First glimpse of Anidesha Chuli (White Wave, 6900m) Photo: Scott Scheele
Four years and countless hundreds of vertical kilometers I have climbed in these places. In part, it has been possible due to a few instrumental items of equipment. There are very few items of equipment to which I have trusted my life unto and can say that I am proud to keep purchasing the exact same model after it eventually wears out. I stay grounded with the Grivel G12 crampons . Literally. It is the crampon that I guided with for years with Fox Glacier Guiding and took into the Southern Alps during my spare time when I occasionally wanted to spend even more consecutive days in the hills.
Two of the most memorable big trips I have made in the last few years were to climb the Kaipo Wall in Fiordland, New Zealand, and to attempt the still-unclimbed Anidesha Chuli (White Wave, 6900m) in Nepal.
Easter Weekend, 2012: Exposure, Soloing, Pitons, and Custard
Plans of an ascent of the East Face of Pope’s Nose were cancelled due to poor conditions, and instead directed to the Darrans. I found out after I agreed to the climb that we were to fly from Milford Sound into the Ngapunatoru Plateau and descend into the Kaipo Valley to have a climb of the Kaipo Wall. Rarely visited, climbed fewer than five times (closer three total ascents of the original line as of 2012), New Zealand’s tallest rock face, and 1300 vertical meters of granite.
Two views of the Kaipo Wall. Photos: Ben Dare
Ben Dare and myself leave our camp at the top of the wall and cross over glaciated terrain to reach a ridge that would take us down to the valley floor. This was made simple and carefree with my Grivel G12’s. At the bottom of the Kaipo Wall, we had over 600 meters of soloing in mountain boots and my La Sportiva Python shoes to gain a bivy on a cramped, damp nook for the night. Ben had room to sit upright, and I had room to rest my torso flat and dangle my legs off the end of the nook. Rest came easily after a brew and meal. I was too tired to mind that my legs below my knees were dangling over 600 meters of airspace. The valley slowly filled to become blanketed with inversion cloud.
The next morning and afternoon we ascended first class granite up a corner, and established about 7 new pitches on a face to the side of the Range Rover Route. Dozens of breezy belays were kept toasty and comfortable with the lightweight, packable Rab Generator Vest that I had stowed in its pocket and clipped to my harness. Eventually reaching the top of the Kaipo Wall and our tent by sunset, we were greeted by Daniel Joll and Steven Fortune after their own first ascents of routes on the wall with some electrolyte drink, custard, and Ben Nevis whisky. To get back to civilization, we had to crampon off the Ngapunatoru Plateau first. Then, we navigated into and then down the 1200m-high Grave’s Couloir to reach the Tutoko Valley floor and walked for hours to reach the Milford Road.
The Ngapunatoru Plateau at the top of the Kaipo Wall, Photo: Ben Dare
April and May, 2013: Momos, Moraine, Seracs, and Rescue
Two years of planning, training, and preparation saw a group of four depart Christchurch, New Zealand for Kathmandu, Nepal. Rob Frost, Andrei Van Dusschoten, Ben Dare, and myself were the first people to ever attempt a climb of Anidesha Chuli (White Wave, 6900m).
Rob first discovered White Wave after seeing a photo of White Wave in the Graeme Dingle book Wall of Shadows (1976). It was after extensive research and international correspondences that Rob could confirm no recorded or even rumored ascents of the peak.
After eleven days of trekking from Taplejung into the Kangchenjunga Conservation Area, we finally reached the entrance to the Ramtang valley. The four of us ferried our personal and group equipment over two weeks and eventually established a camp at 6100m from which we could launch a two-day climb to gain the summit. I spent the nights preceding the last climb resting up in the comfort of my Rab Andes 800 sleeping bag, optimistic yet unsure about the impending climb. I couldn’t have predicted what would come.
Approach to Anidesha Chuli, Photo: Ben Dare High on the north face of Anidesha Chuli, Photo: Ben Dare
On the morning of the summit attempt, Ben Dare and myself left the tent early, I strapped on my Grivel G12’s, and we began our climb up a glaciated face. We weaved our way upwards through seracs, ice walls, and snow, eventually to an altitude of approximately 6450m on the East Ridge. Sadly, I came upon a pocket of unconsolidated snow that avalanched and sent me on an 80-90m factor 2 fall, cracked my helmet, and knocked me unconscious. Ben saved my life by responding, lowering my hallucinatory self down the face, and helping to coordinate my helicopter evacuation. To this day, I do not remember either my fall or the four to five days afterwards. As much as I love my Grivel G12s, please note that they will not prevent you from being swept down a mountainside by an avalanche. Instead, this is prevented by careful study of prior snowfall events, prevailing wind, temperature, sun exposure, and constant awareness to climb according to what the conditions dictate at the time.
Remember that in the outdoors, there is no substitute for planning, physical preparation, appropriate equipment, carefully considered clothing, and an exploratory attitude. Oh, and have fun, too!
Note: Three climbers will attempt Anidesha Chuli (White Wave) for the second time this April. These three will be New Zealanders Paul and Shelley Hersey, and Australian John Price.
Gear that I took, that I wouldn’t climb without:
Anidesha Chuli (White Wave):
-Grivel G12 crampons, Helix ice screws, 360 ice screws, Master Pro belay device, ice tool/walking axe, tool leashes,
-Nalgene 1500 mL canteen (tent pee-bottle)
-Rab fleece salopettes, softshell jacket, thin down jacket, fleece hooded jacket
-VBL (Vapour Barrier Liner) socks
-Base camp booties
-Black Diamond Icon and Storm head torches