Sunday, January 12, 2014

Anidesha Chuli 2014 Expedition, Nepal.

I first met Paul Hersey when I started working at Bivouac Outdoor in Christchurch, New Zealand. I had read both his books 'High Misadventure' and 'Where the Mountains Throw Their Dice', which left me laying awake at night, gripped both with fright and inspiration by tales of climbing success and tragedy in New Zealand mountains and peaks abroad. Paul worked at Bivouac once a week, every Tuesday. Having read his books and with constantly seeing his name in the climbing magazines, I was pretty excited about working with him. My co-workers at Bivouac described him as the big kid, and they could not be more accurate. Paul and I quickly became friends, and spent our shifts together drinking way too much coffee while talking climbing. Paul was one of my first mentors, and I had no idea that just three years later he would be asking me to accompany him and his wife Shelley to attempt an entirely unclimbed mountain in the Nepalese Himalayas.

    *Anidesha Chuli 6900m, Photo Credit: Ben Dare.

On the 7th of April I fly out of Sydney to Kuala Lumpur where I will reunite with Paul and Shelley before boarding our flight to Kathmandu. We plan to spend three days in Kathmandu after which we will travel by bus and jeep to Taplejung. We will then trek 8 days on route to Pang Pema, the base camp for Kangchenjunga - the worlds third highest mountain. A further two days trekking will take us to the upper Ramtang Valley, where we will establish our base camp at an altitude of roughly 5000m.

Anidesha Chuli is an incredibly beautiful unclimbed mountain which lies in the Kangchendzonga region of eastern Nepal. It rises from the Ramtang Glacier to a height of 6900m; a respectable altitude which will provided challenging conditions. The Kangchendzonga region was only opened to trekkers and climbers in 1988, and is still considered a "restricted" area by the Nepalese government. Our plan is to climb the Northeast face and East ridge from our base camp in the Ramtang glacier. From base camp to the summit there is about 2000m of vertical to ascend, and once acclimatized we expect the climb to take between 6 - 8 days. We have chosen to climb alpine style as a team of three, carrying all of our bivouac, cooking and climbing equipment with us on the route. We have allocated about four weeks time to spend at or above base camp, allowing us adequate time for acclimatization and two summit attempts.

In April/May last year, Rob Frost led a team of strong kiwi climbers to attempt the first ascent of Anidesha Chuli. Unfortunately, one of the climbers took a long fall high on the Northeast face and sustained serious head injuries. The team then impressively partially self-rescued themselves to a lower altitude, and were later evacuated by helicopter. Rob and the other members of the 2013 expedition have been extremely supportive and helpful in the preparation of our upcoming expedition, offering a huge amount of information and insight.
    *Anidesha Chuli, photo by G. Dingle, from 'Wall of Shadows' 1976

Our 2014 Anidesha Chuli Expedition is part of an ongoing project called 'Backyard and Beyond', started by Paul Hersey, Shelley Hersey, Jamie Vinton-boot and Troy Mattingley. The success of their first film 'One Fine Day on a Mountain' has inspired us to document and produce a film about our expedition to climb Anidesha Chuli. In order to do this we require a large amount of hardware, including dolly sliders, tripods, multiple DSLRs, small point and shoot cameras and GoPros. We will also take a laptop and another external hard drive to base camp to dump footage on during our trip. Over the past year I have been incredibly inspired by other photographers, namely Paul Zizka and Jon Griffith, to pursue my own photography more seriously. A few months ago I bought a Canon 6D, Canon's lightest full frame camera which handles low light and high ISO extremely well, making it a perfect fit for a climber who is interested in night time and landscape photography. I am extremely excited to document our trip in Nepal, and my mind is reeling with ideas of different ways to tell the story of our adventure: from isolating distant summits, shooting wide open at a bright blanket of stars, to star trail experiments. I'm almost just as excited for the photographic opportunities as I am the climbing.

   * Power of the 6d. A shot I took during a night ice climbing session / shoot at Haffner Creek, Canada.

For the past two years I have been living in the Canadian Rockies, working 3 - 4 days a week, spending the remaining days climbing ice and mixed routes in the winter months, and rock and alpine routes in the summer. My time here has been invaluable for my climbing progression, and I have achieved goals I thought would take me twice as much time. A large part of this personal success is a reflection of the community I have been surrounded by, and the psyche, experience and patience of mentors and friends I have climbed with and learnt from. My experiences here have grounded, inspired, scared and humbled me, and without the mileage from the last two years I would be no where near ready for an expedition such as this. In preparing for Nepal I have changed the emphasis of my training from power and strength to cardiovascular endurance with my mantra being "Lungs, Legs, Core". I am currently nursing frost-nipped toes, so the treadmill, rowing machine, stationary bike and swimming pool have been my weapons of choice for fitness to avoid the cold whenever possible.

In three weeks I fly back to Canberra, Australia. I have not been home in two years, and am excited to touch base with friends and family. Once back home, my training will be more outdoors focused, as I will be battling heat, not extreme cold, and my frost-nipped toes won't be a concern anymore. I'm looking forward to road riding, hill running, weight training and climbing warm sandstone. 

This opportunity could not have arrived at a better time. When Paul originally emailed me asking if I wanted to join the team, I was struggling with deciding what to do next in life. Move back to New Zealand? Apply for another work visa and stay in the Bow Valley? Moving back to Australia is always an option, but having fallen in love with climbing mountains it makes it a rather challenging place to live. I look upon this next adventure as a door of opportunity that has opened to further my climbing career, and a stepping stone that presented itself at the perfect possible time. I'm honoured to be invited on such an expedition, and look forward to a grand adventure with two fantastic friends. Regardless of failure or success, it will be an incredible experience in an awe-inspiring landscape with endless learning opportunities. As for what happens afterwards? Well that all depends on a lot of things, but I do know that a trip like this will at the very least offer me some clarity as to where my heart longs to live.

If you're interested in following our trip then keep an eye on this page. Here are a few other links that you can find us on:


  1. All the best for the safe and successful climb....will see you soon

  2. Kia ora,
    I’m a primary school teacher at a rural school in Southland, New Zealand. In 2012, Gareth Morgan and his team travelled to Antarctica to educate NZer’s about Our Backyard and environmental issues there. We followed their journey, via Skype, blog and letters and met up with them a numbers of times, discussing problems and ideas, and fundraising for their cause, the ‘Million Dollar Mouse’. The children had a fantastic experience, meetings scientists, economists and explorers and learnt valuable life lessons, contributing to our environment.

    I heard news of your expedition this year to climb Anidesha Chuli. I was wondering whether there was a chance we could connect with you and follow your journey? Perhaps send along a mascot, Skype before and after your journey, perhaps you have a blog or twitter account? Anything would be great! Our focus for this year is Our Backyard and Beyond so it fits in perfectly.

    Let me know your thoughts on this. Whether anything is possible? Thanks.

    Kind regards,
    Alice Casey
    Limehills School
    Centre Bush