Monday, 31 May 2010

Reply to the post Changes 2. by Ian Wall Country representative of Community Action Nepal.

Below is the exact E-mail reply I recieved from my friend Ian Wall, Country Representative of Community Action Nepal and resident in Kathmandu. Ian, or Old Git as i like to call him has made some fairly straight down the line comments and observations about the post below written by me. Ian's comments make very interesting reading, well all of them apart from the first one wondering why I wasnt climbing on a bank holiday. To answer that question is easy, I have just returned from 7 days (6 of them climbing) in Ireland.    

Hey Nick .. a few thoughts of mine .. Bank Holiday Monday and you not on a crag somewhere? .. Or is it not BH Monday, have I got that wrong as well?!

Firstly, excellent PDF blogspot.
Shit what about the use of GPS, sat phones, mobiles ..and even map/compasses, research on the internet .. – to do a Tilman/Shipton in the true meaning of the phrase (and you should be in some of ya great granddad’s kit as well) .. then we should abandon GPS and sat weather forecasts broadcast high up the mountains and the depth of knowledge available to us today – all these technologies help individuals avoid danger .. but not heard many people complain about GPS or refuse the benefit of information provided by weather forecasts.

If you want to take it to the limit everyone in exploration history has in most cases gone out of their way to avoid danger or at least minimize it – the appropriate time of day to start a climb, the best time of year to take advantage of the best conditions, even Tilman chose his tides appropriately.

In real terms the majority of small modern technical gismos help us to AVOID danger and I bet many of your critics use them .. and it’s the use of GPS, sat nav etc that actually replace a skill. The use of a heli to get in would not be replacing a skill, it would be like Tilman using the tides and his tide tables to reach the point of max potential danger when everything was in his favour to the best of his knowledge and equipment at that time.

It’s just a matter of size .. a GPS or heli both help avoid danger, one replaces a skill and subjective danger the other objective danger and luck.
So it’s not a question of to use or not it is a question to go or not.

Anyway, onto the thoughts of Chairman Moa! What I wrote was a bit tongue in cheek but if the cap fits… so for me to go further… and dissect your blub ..

The most obvious answer would be to forget about the ridge and move on, move on to something new, but when has climbing ever been about doing the sensible thing? And the ridge is one of the most compelling objectives for an alpinist, made more compelling and intriguing by the mystique and aura surrounding it.

Firstly, you did the sensible thing, you retreated without any harm, I assume, to anyone.
But why forget and move on .. it’s not a good shag .. What if Mallory, Mummery, Bull, Whymper, Scott and even Bullock to name just a few just turned a blind eye .. in 5 years time someone will come along and do just that .. heli in, look .. Greg Child did not turn back at the final pitch on Lobsang Spire - why? .. No, they used bat hooks – to reach the summit.

As you say ‘they’ use to walk in from Kathmandu now they fly to Lukla etc. Before that they would walk from Darjeeling or where ever. Before that it was a boat from Southampton. Where do you draw the line? I contradict your previous statement (above) .. you are doing the sensible thing and climbing is about doing the sensible things, using your skill and knowledge, push it yes, but you try to avoid dropping bollocks .. every time there is an advance in technology whether it be equipment or modes of transport .. it is seen as an advance in the sport and gets used on future trips .. why not this .. heli ski-ing cuts out the ball ache, when we stopped using knots in rope to lop into a crack .. that was not ‘sport’ (and before you say anything yes I also used that technique) .. go through the hole range of developments .. all to give added protection and a safer traverse of the terrain .. whether it be vertical or the Fuchs/Hillary’s tractors across the Antarctica .. they first did that crossing on foot.

The most obvious argument I can come up with for flying is it will avoid the death of a local and I was under no doubt that this would have happened if Matt and myself had not called a halt to the first attempt.

This shows the humility of the guy, not a selfish point of getting to the summit at all costs .. look at the picture in ‘Tigers of the Snow’ – the story of the mountaineering development of the Sherpa people .. consider the two pictures 24/25 – the top one of the posed shot of the Germans on Nanga Parbat in 1934, Aschenbrenner and co .. then look at the bottom one .. a collection of Egyptian Mummies, the Sherpas who were not looked after all hands and feet swathed in bandages ..who got the bollocking in the latter years for not looking after ‘the expedition members’? The expedition is everyone who helps the goal being achieved from the kitchen boy to lead climbing Sherpa.

The Sherpas are risking their lives to fix rope, carry oxygen, carry tents, food, clothing etc, to molly-coddle and if called upon, to rescue… they do this for a wage which gives them a high standard of living in a third world country

These are proud people and deserve the dignity this role (profession and skill) gives them .. why demote them to disposable items of equipment. Why should they not work and earn to their potential .. it is only a crime if they are exploited by whatever means like crossing dangerous ground unprotected .. you could argue that by not going at all you would be doing some guys out of a potential income .. whether Loban, the porter (not sure if you will use any if you go by heli) .. or the local girls!

Also remember the small wage of the average trekking porter not only sustains himself during the lean months but also his family both immediate and extended .. a wage for these guys goes a long way and to ‘kill off the wage earner’ is a devastating outcome for any Nepalese family and a friggin crime against these people. A porter discarded by his trekking group has this season died in Langtang, a criminal act .. and if you are from that trekking group ..we’ll find out!

My main concern here is the precedent we will be setting. In years to come will rich climbers from developed countries fly into all base camps because of me and my decision now?

Precedents have already been set I mentioned heli skiing .. but what about pegs, bolts, chalk, oxygen on Everest, GPS and mountain weather forecasts .. if they want the summit they use them .. Apa Sherpa used oxygen on his 20th summit climb .. so did that little 13 year old .. now there’s a precedent .. apparently now age is no barrier .. the next thing will be conception on the summit .. (remember those words!)

An argument against flying may be our use of a limited resource, (the helicopter), for our selfish reasons and in using the helicopter we are delaying the more important work, of lets say, building bridges.


it just isn’t very Shipton/Tilman.

No .. but what expeditions are carried out these days in true Shipton/Tilman style

. I’m starting to think that once we are actually climbing, this will be the easy part. (Said very tongue in cheek)

Maybe .. exchange the words ‘easy’ for safer’!

His report has been added to the blog, it’s very thought provoking and has convinced me of my decision for the autumn.

Does this now mean you won’t fly or will fly? OK Shipton/Tilman went in probably with a little knowledge of the area .. but they had a great deal more when they came out .. you could do all this arse about tit .. you fly in over a possible exit route you might come out on .. but the real route finding will be on the way out .. I always think going up is easy from a route finding perspective .. getting down is much harder .. especially if knackered .. or worse.

Is this not like heli skiing down a slope you have not climbed up? Or skiing the Valley Blanche from the cable car? How many times have your critics done that or similar?

As you have covered nearly all these points .. in a nut shell

You achieve your objective (maybe)

You will not put others at risk on the approach route

You will not desecrate the mountain .. like with pegs bolts etc as happens on many other mountains .. what about ladders in the ice fall, and higher on Everest .. do fixed ropes come into this debate?

You may achieve your goal .. rather than have someone else doing the thing in a few years time. Only a few have said .. I can’t climb it I’ll not bolt it/pull on gear etc .. but far more have used the opposite way of thinking to reach their goal .. even if there are good wire placements right next to the bolt.

In reality you are making the right decision for a variety of reasons .. it is just your conscience you have to contend with .. and maybe a rough tongue from a few of the climbing fraternity .. but why .. check them out, have they always played the Tilman/Shipton game .. even going into a crag on a mountain bike, chair lifts in the Alps, GPS and weather forecasts. .. it’ll all break down to the lowest common denominator.

Just about every other sport has rules that safe guard participants – Formula 1, high tackles in football, boxing, even skiing (I believe they breath test you on certain slopes in the Alps now) bob sleigh

I wonder if the guys who came up with the idea of seat belts and drink driving laws .. were drivers?

If porters had the powers to make the rules what would they do .. make heli access compulsory on dangerous approaches, refuse to go even for mega bucks, or just trust to fate? Unfortunately the $ sign has persuasive power for the boys … but you talk to their women folk and families as I do … and you would soon find out their choice.

Whatever you do Nick I guess you will need a LO, and maybe a couple of boys to keep an eye on things while you’re off playing .. if you have a real problem with the porters missing out on wages (which I think is the only real concern) then donate a wedge to KEEP Porter Clothing Bank (see their website) !!!!

Heli in or a few dead porters .. no choice

Go by heli ..and have an epic walking out .. that’ll keep them all happy! If the glacier was there many years ago .. would they use snow shoes or skis .. this could go on and on

You have my support anyway and I’ll defend your corner on the issue if I have to in Nepal
Cheers me young mucker


  1. Who cares if it's Tilman/Shipton/Bonnington... Is it Bullock?!!!

    Intergalactic greetings

    Captain Kirk

  2. Hi, I'm one of the people whose flickr images you're using in your slideshow. Can you please change the settings of your show so that you are not using my images, I have them set to 'All rights reserved' and you really shouldn't be using them without my permission.
    Chris Hoskins

  3. Hi Chris, i'm sorry that your images were pulled in through the flickr APP for blogger. It was set to search for all publically avaiable 'annapurna 3' tags on flickr, which I have now changed so it only pulls through our photos. Hopefully we get some good weather and are able to both take beautiful photos like yours and climb the route.
    Pete Benson