I have been very fortunate to be able to climb on 8,000-meter peaks nearly 50 times. I'm now starting to slow down and not do so many of them each year as they are hard on the body, not to mention all the brain cells you fry when not using oxygen.
I've been on Everest, both the north and south sides, Lhotse, Makalu, Cho Oyu, Dhaulagiri, Manaslu, Gasherbrum I, Broad Peak, Gasherbrum II and Shishapangma. You can imagine that Nepal, Tibet and Pakistan hold a special place in my memories with all these expeditions.
I have participated in eight expeditions to the Tibet side of Everest. In the past it has been described as the Wild West side of Everest, but it has now become the more expensive, less crowded and better organized side of the mountain.
The temperatures are usually colder and it's windier on the north side of the "Big E" but this is a trade off as there is not the silly crowds on the route that the south side sees each year. The way the Nepal government badly manage the south side, I can only see more crowds attempting the summit each season, especially with the new huge interest in mountaineering from the Chinese and Indians.
The one advantage of the north side is that you are able to drive to base camp. I know a lot of climbers enjoy the trekking stage of an expedition just as much as the climbing, but with being able to drive gear to base camp, a more comfortable base camp can be established. I do not think there is need for a pool table or a sauna at base camp, but having a well stocked and clean kitchen is a huge advantage.
When I first visited the north side of Everest in the late 90’s there was a certain edge to base camp and with the expeditions present. One long time Everest Tibet operator seemed to think they had a monopoly of the mountain and would unofficially try to organize the rope fixing each season. The climbing permits were cheap, the food and accommodation in transit even cheaper and for the most part, the climbers present were cheaper still. There were a few organized commercial expeditions but for the most part, the majority of climbers were just using a base camp only service of one of the better well known Nepal trekking agencies.
I use the term “The Wild West” to describe the old days of Everest on the north side and I don’t think I am too off with my description.
My early expeditions bring back memories of bad Chinese food in transit followed by bad Dhal Bhat at base camp and seemingly endless meals of Ramen noodles. I’m glad to say for the most part that now days, most expedition companies and trekking agencies have improved their base camp food somewhat.
The climb on the north side starts with the long trek from base camp to advanced base camp, with the hell hole called intermediate base camp located in the middle of the trek. Intermediate camp is littered with yak shit and is a health hazard waiting to happen for those folks unfortunate to have to spend a evening or two there. Do yourself a favor and spend some additional nights at base camp and then only spend one night here, before moving onto advanced camp.
Once at advanced base camp things improve apart from the altitude of 6,400-meters. Yaks bring supplies up from base camp and it’s amazing how complex and large campsites have become over the past few years.
I will write more about my experiences of Everest in Tibet soon.
I was always mystified about the south side of Everest as I had always climbed on the north side until the Chinese authorities closed the mountain to foreigners in the spring of 2008 to allow the Tibetan Mountain Guide School students to carry the Olympic torch to the summit.
I was pleasantly surprised by the good weather, easier climbing route and the ease of logistics to operate on the south side. I have now participated in seven expeditions to the south side but decided that my last expedition on Everest in Nepal would be the 2016 season as the crowds were unbearable and unfortunately, they are getting worse.
I will write more about my experiences of Everest in Nepal soon.
I will write more about my experiences of K2 in Pakistan soon.
Lhotse was once the choice of serious mountaineers, mostly them folks attempting all the 8,000-meter peaks. Some clever marketing by the western guided expeditions have seen this peak surge with numbers of climbers attempting her, mostly folks whom will try to climb Everest and then Lhotse the following day without descending to base camp.
I will write more about my experiences of Lhotse in Nepal soon.
Makalu still remains a very serious climb and very few folks attempt here each year. There are more folks now trying to complete the 14 big ones, so the numbers are increasing each year, but it's still feels like a very quiet climb on a remote mountain. I have been fortunate to be able to climb Makalu twice now.
I will write more about my experiences of Makalu in Nepal soon.
My first 8,000-meter peak and it used to be for many others until the CTMA (China Tibet Moutaineering Association) decided to increase the permit price and the Sherpa entrance fee, now making Cho Oyu a very expensive climb indeed. I'm fortunate enough to have climbed her eight times.
I will write more about my experiences of Cho Oyu in Tibet soon.
The only 8,000-meter peak where my team were the only expedition on the mountain. A truly surreal experience that I don't think I will ever encounter again.
I will write more about my experiences of Dhaulagiri in Nepal soon.
My beloved Manaslu holds a lot of good memories for me over the years during my eight expeditions to her flanks. Good experiences mostly and a few not so good ones due to big avalanches and crevasse falls.
I will write more about my experiences of Manaslu in Nepal soon.
Back in the days when there were very few expeditions in Pakistan we used to climb the Gasherbrums each summer.
I will write more about my experiences of Gasherbrum I in Pakistan soon.
Broad Peak gets overshadowed by it's bigger neighbor K2, with some climbers using the peak to acclimatize on before heading to the big one. Most try to get as high as possible as the fore summit and true summit take some reaching.
I will write more about my experiences of Broad Peak in Pakistan soon.
As with Gasherbrum I, there were very few folks on this mountain when we used to climb her.
I will write more about my experiences of Gasherbrum II in Pakistan soon.
Supposedly the CTMA (China Tibet Moutaineering Association) have now closed Shishapangma to foreign expeditions citing dangerous conditions for the closure. I feel very fortunate that I have been able to climb on her twice, both in the spring and fall climbing seasons way back when.
I will write more about my experiences of Shishapangma in Tibet soon.