Folks, nothing is worse than overstating facts and long prose. Please review the photo and know that we have chased the good snow away from Mustang and over onto a one peak powder skiing objective. 20,200’ Thorung Peak is covered in stable and amazing conditions, we will climb and ski it tomorrow.
I want to thank my friends, my sponsors and those of you out there rooting us on and for inspiring me to never waver in my commitment to skiing the Himalayas. Six months after breaking my ankle on 23,390’ Baruntse I took my first ski turns of the season (attached photo), in deep powder at 19,000’ yesterday and shared it with my greatest friends. I know now why we couldn’t make it to Mustang, the snow is better here!
Live the dream, never doubt the possibility of true adventure. More dispatches to come.
Folks, this is my ninth Himalayan Expedition. I have seen crazy stuff happen before, but never anything like this. We are on our way to the mountains but nowhere near where I thought when we landed in the heart of the Annapurna range just days ago.
If you know me well, you know I often joke about getting a tattoo across my chest of two tigers holding hands with the statement “Expect the Unexpected” emblazoned underneath. Well…it is because my life as an adventurer and explorer has put me into some of the most twisted realities I can or can’t imagine. I live life daily and this week has been no different.
When I strolled through town with my crew of friends, fresh off a twin otter flight to 9000′ Jomsom, I was on cloud 9 and headed to a place I’d never been. We were on our way to the dream trip of my lifetime, to climb and ski 20′800′ Saribung in Mustang.
I don’t mean to be too aggrandizing here, but if you’ve ever hit the tarmac in this area, you’re already well into an experience. Within moments we had joined our cook staff, reunited with our skis and expedition bags and only one key element was missing…where were the porters?
It was that realization that brought a direct question and then a horseman to the table. How long will it take us to get to basecamp I asked Gelu, our cook for a third time. 4 or 5 days sir, he responded. Across the table, with a glance that could cut a deck of cards our less than cherubic horseman replied “15 days” Then” you walk 2 more after that’ there is no food for the horses at basecamp”. Our research abroad and locally contradicted this statement to no end.
Ok, so let’s back this up for a minute, I just finished the last of 6 flights, thousands of dollars and months of planning to get here to negotiate with a horseman. We had known that we would need to get our gear deep into the mountains but everyone knew this would only take a few days. Something I was assured had already been taken care of was this detail and our route. Something I had no reason to doubt. We work with professional liasons in this country year after year and this is the first time we all sat down to realize that this horseman held our fate in his caloused hands and not in ours.
6 hours of conversation later, only one truth maintained; We were not going to the kingdom of Mustang to ski this fall. I was crushed, we hadn’t the time, we handn’t the gumption to add three weeks to our trip. Luckily we also didn’t have any pressure, this was on our dime and we were free to do what we wanted. That’s how we roll with Ski the Himalayas these days. This trip was ours and we were joined by friends who we love to share the mountains with…and we’re still shooting a film, about climbing and skiing 6000 meter peaks in less than three weeks. All I can say is I used every bit of knowledge from 9 expeditions over here to create a totally new plan and not go crazy or reroute us to some hard core new objective…we’re right in line with what we originally wished to accomplish.
Stay tuned to the next dispatch and find out how we ended up in a deep valley, surrounded by high peaks, only to be living and breathing more mountain air and returning to some unfinished business in the Muktinath Himal. We have two objectives above us and a great story already behind us!
Live the dream,
Funny how it feels to be easing my way back into snowsports now that fall has approached and my ankle is healed. I returned from Baruntse last May just in time for great high country conditions only to find that I wouldn’t get on snow again until a few weeks from now, my ankle was broken, but not my spirit. Now that I am here, there are more than a few new things I’ve adopted to aide my recovery toward the alpine environ that I’ve let draw me back over for my second Himalayan expedition in 2010.
The first aide is a new ice axe. Although this seems like pretty standard equipment and as a pro athlete you can bet I have more than 3 pairs…this one is different…it’s long like a cane. It’s like what I started with in 1998. It’s true, I have hung up the pairs of short drooped fangy technical climbing tools on this trip and will be styling with a shiny new Ice Axe that weighs next to nothing and its really strong. It’s only function; catch a roped fall on a moderately steep glacier (easy) clear snow out of my boots. Be something to lean over should I need to puke…hmmm, well scratch that last one.
The second and most amazing breakthrough I had was deciding to purchase a pair of cramp ons, that’s right, the steely pointed traction device of mountaineers everywhere. I have so many rusted pairs of steep ice climbing cramp ons and light techy ones too but they all served on function…get me up the steepest gnarliest ice and rock climbs I could find…well, they are overkill for what I am doing today. They suck at walking. I mean really suck and make you bumble like an idiot too. So I bought a pair of cramp ons so light so shiny, so new that I have been fixated on just putting them on my boots when we hit snow, I can’t wait.
The best part about being a Ski Mountaineer on this trip rather than preparing for steep ice and rock climbing at 21,000′ is that I can actually enjoy beginning again with the same passion and love that I have had for the mounains all this time. I can’t think of anything cooler than geeking out about new gear that although it’s functionality might not be ideal for the environs of my past trips, is 100% the best stuff for my immediate future. That’s a great indicator of how fun I anticipate the feeling of climbing and skiing with my friends on 20,800′ Mount Saribung in Mustang. Breaking my ankle helped me to rekindle my love for even the most basic of functions in the high mountains and to be proud that my friends are joining me for things that don’t intimidate the fun out of them. I’m focused now more than ever, but on the mountains rather than on all of their unsung undone prizes.
It’s cool. Cooler than ever actually.
Ben Clark and Jon Miller are on a ski expedition to return to 23,390′ Baruntse, their second attempt. Ski The Himalayas Season 2, Episode 11 includes footage from Ben’s high altitude helicopter evacuation and beautiful aerials looking down on the Himalayas.. Miller and Clark share the adventure as the pair view the expedition footage often sharing a story “not for air”.
p style=”text-align: center”>[vimeo 15861418 500 282]
When I broke my ankle on May 1st last spring, I was at 17,600’ on 23,390 Baruntse, also known as my own personal Moby Dick for reasons you can research at www.skithehimalayas.com. Unlike Ahab, I was rescued by a vessel rather than doomed to one. Lifted into the skies, wrapped in bandages, worked over through weeks of PT and now here I am again today, returning to wrestle with ambition and not the ankle. Hopefully stronger, admittedly risk averse and yet still with an appetite for the unknown. The whale is gone though, off my range for a spell.
It’s a funny thing this trip to Nepal. In the midst of sat phone calls to Global Rescue and to all of those I cared about in the days after the break last May, it was the rally cries of those who knew how important climbing and skiing in Nepal was to me that were heard the most. My friends and backcountry partners. Their words melded me to a new goal, that’s right, a new goal. “Fun” is the “new” badass for me, attainable is also a word I like. Baruntse will lay on the shelf until Spring 2012. Today, we are sleeping like dirt bags on seats on the Hong Kong airport, tonight our crooked spines will rest easy knowing we have arrived in Nepal for great skiing in the province of Mustang. I’m beaming through blood shot eyes and a half grin mired by sleep deprivation.
“It doesn’t have to be fun to be fun” I’ve heard, but today, it has to be fun to get my friends out. It also has to be safe, really safe. I want to live a long life and one that is enriched by my relationships with not only my beautiful loving wife, but also the righteous experiences I’ve had with my boys in Telluride. Oh yea…it also includes multiple trips a year to ski Nepal…hmmmm, thankfully I have 14 years of climbing experience to let me tip toe that balance.
So she told me to go (my beautiful loving wife), and I am with the mightiest of friends in search of an attainable conquest. We hope to vanquish a misty summit hidden in a remote province and then ski down. The five of us. There really isn’t much more to that that words can express without gushing at how extremely grateful I am to have such supportive and wonderful partners at home that will join me at large. Well, I could say that Jon Miller has returned and that you will get to know these three additional folks as we write our way through this experience and blast it into your inbox with some photos to inspire.
Join us as we trek to the province of Mustang and climb and ski a 6000M peak named Saribung. This expedition promises to be unique, it’s actually the type of dream trip that I would have followed up Baruntse with had I summited this spring. Funny how that works, as a hopelessly committed explorer, it seems that the mountains will always call me back. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose but this: my fifth ski expedition to Nepal since 2007 will truly be the one I cherish most. Read the dispatches, feel free to e-mail us and stay tuned to learn why.
Live the Dream,
Ben Clark and Jon Miller are on a ski expedition to return to 23,390′ Baruntse, their second attempt. Ski The Himalayas Season 2, Episode 10 shows how emergencies are handled in the remote areas of climbing expeditions. Ben has severely sprained his ankle and the team has to decide what to do next. Miller and Clark share the adventure as the pair view the expedition footage often sharing a story “not for air”.
p style=”text-align: center”>[vimeo 15651718 500 282]