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Canadians on Nepal First Ascent with Strong Team

In October, a team of international climbers made the first ascent of Beding Go 6,125 metres in Nepal.

In October, a team of international climbers made the first ascent of Beding Go 6,125 metres in Nepal.

The following is a story written by Cian O’Brolchain from Ireland. On the expedition were six team members, five climbing Sherpas, five kitchen staff and 30 porters. The team included Dean Carriere and Sean Konings from Canada. Mingma Tsiri Sherpa was the leader of the expedition and he has been a longtime contributor to Gripped.

The First Ascent of Beding Go by Cian O’Brolchain

In 2014, it was announced that 104 new peaks where to be opened for climbing in Nepal. When I heard the news, I was very excited about exploring other areas of Nepal and having a chance to attempt a mountain that had never been climbed.

It has been a very difficult few years for the people of Nepal with the death of 16 Sherpas in the Ice fall on Everest in 2014 and the devastating earthquakes in 2015.

I have been lucky enough to become friends with and climb with a great group of Sherpas from the Rolwaling region. I first met Pasang Tenzing Sherpa and some of his family when climbing Cho Oyu in 2011. I was amazed at the strength and skill of Pasang and the other Sherpas on the team.

In 2012, it was great to be back climbing with Pasang, and his brothers, who are in the Guinness book of Records for having the most Everest summits (54 Everest summits between seven brothers). I knew I was in good hands while climbing the big mountains of the Himalayas. It was great to climb Everest with Mingma Tsiri Sherpa (Pasangs older brother) who has climbed Everest 19 times and the first Nepalese to climb K2.

Mingma set up Ascent Himalayas, The Sherpa’s Company, in 2012. While climbing with Mingma, Pasang and the rest of their family and friends over the years, they told me many stories about growing up in Rolwaling and climbing in the Himalayas. Since Everest, I knew I had to visit this area and hopefully climb some mountains there. I was shocked to hear the news of the tragedy in 2014 on Everest.

When the new peaks were opened for climbing a few months after the accident in the Ice-fall, myself and Mingma talked about attempting one of the new peaks. Mingma said that the mountain he would like to climb was Beding Go 6,125m which means guard of Beding, just behind the village of Beding. I was delighted that he invited me to attempt an unclimbed peak, and I would get the chance to visit his home valley and see where these amazing group of Sherpas are from.

Ascent Himalayas 1st Beding Go(6,125m) Team
The Ascent Himalayas Beding Go Team  Photo Mingma Sherpa

We left for Beding Go in October 2014. A small team of Mingma, Furtemba, myself, and some kitchen staff and porters. Rolwaling is in a section of the Himalayas east of Kathmandu along the Tibet border (coordinates 27°57′N 86°20′E). The district is Dolakha. We drove seven hours from Kathmandu to our start point near Jagat. From here we trekked up to the village of Simgau (Furtembas home village).

Over the last few years, I had climbed and trekked with teams of foreigners and Sherpas. This was a totally new experience for me to be the only western person on the team. The next day we trekked to the small village of Dingaun right beside a huge glacier river and entered the amazing valley of Rolwaling. During the trek, Mingma and Furtemba told be about the area and what it was like back when they were young growing up there.

The following day we made our way the main village of Rolwaling, Beding at approximately 3,700m. I was fascinated by the remoteness of the area and also the big difference between Rolwaling and areas such as the Khumbu valley. I knew this was a very special place and had a long history of the Sherpa culture. There were hardly any other westerners and was privileged to be meeting Mingmas family and friends in Beding.

I found that the people here were so welcoming and friendly. We stayed with Mingmas mother in law at her lodge. There weren’t many lodges in the area and they were completely different from anywhere I stayed before. We spent two nights in Beding. It was great to meet the different people of the village. On every climb I have done in the Himalayas, we always had a Puja ceremony (Buddhist blessing for safety on the mountain) before the climb. Our Puja ceremony was different this time as we went to the monastery in the village. It was an amazing experience to be in this ancient monastery and pray with the Lamas and the team for a safe climb ahead.

The next day we made our way up the left side of the valley behind Beding to find a good spot and make our base camp. Each side of the valley was steep and as we got higher we got a good look at Beding Go and the beautiful surrounding mountains. Once we established our base camp at 4,400m, then we needed to try find a route to the summit. We had only two photos of the mountain that we studied. I took a rest day, while Mingma and Furtemba went up to explore the mountain and try find the best route. They got up onto the glacier just at the bottom of the south face. There was a lot of deep snow which made it tough going for the guys. We were trying the south face of Beding Go. We could see a big long ridge and thought that if we can get onto the ridge then we can follow it to the summit.

The following day Mingma and Furtemba went up passed the glacier and did the tough technical climb up the south face to get onto the ridge. While they were trying to put in the route, myself and Galzen (our chef went for a climitisation walk up to about 4,900m to see if we could find an advanced base camp. We found one nice flat spot but there was a big risk of rock fall. Late that night while waiting in base camp, Mingma and Furtemba came back. Mingma told me that it wasn’t going to be possible this year, once they climbed up onto the ridge there were lots of rock pyramids that we couldn’t see from our base camp. We didn’t have enough equipment and were short on time.

I was very happy to see the guys back safe and felt disappointed for Mingma as I knew he wanted to climb this mountain for many years.

The decision was made to leave the mountain and try again in 2015 with a bigger team. I was delighted to be part of this first attempt and to be up there with Mingma in his area and meeting his family and friends and seeing where he grew up. We packed up our camp and headed back down to Beding. The next day we made our way to Naa at a height of 4,100m. This is another beautiful part of Rolwaling, and where Mingma was born. From here there is amazing rock climbing, ice climbing and mountaineering with some beautiful trekking peaks. We trekked up to one of the biggest glacier lakes in Nepal, Tsho Rolpa at 4,580m. From here you can make your way towards the Khumbu valley over a five or six day trek through the Tasilapcha Pass.

The base camp. Photo Mingma Sherpa
The base camp. Photo Mingma Sherpa

On our way back through the Rolwaling valley we started making plans for 2015 and another attempt on Beding Go. It was one of the most amazing trips I have ever been on. On the way back down through the valley, there were Buddhist festivals that we attended in the monastery, tried some local food and drink. I knew this was a very special place and the heart of the Sherpa culture.

After hearing the news of the earthquakes in April and May 2015, I was very worried for the people of Nepal and in particular my close friends Mingma, Pasang and all the sherpas that I have gotten to know over the years. I was very concerned about the people of Rolwaling as the second earthquakes epicenter was very close to Rolwaling. I started a fundraising campaign for the people of Rolwaling. After seeing the valley in 2014, I knew that they would need help and it was a very poor part of the country.

They are such good people and were so welcoming when I visited there. I was concerned about the lack of supplies that would get there such as food, food, medical and water. There were other concerns too such as the Tso Rolpa Lake bursting and flooding the valley. As the valley is very steep on both sides, there was huge risk of landslides and avalanches. Also many houses got totally destroyed and very badly damaged and this posed more risk for the people of Rolwaling.

Mingma and Pasang and the rest of their family have done so much for me over the years climbing in the Himalayas and I wanted to help as much as I could. We had been planning to go back to attempt Beding Go, and this time with a big team of clients and Sherpas. This would be a great way to help the people of Rolwaling and bring business to the area. We also wanted to get a project off the ground so that the people of Rolwaling would feel safe there and stay in the valley. The project we started working on was a solar project for Beding. We started raising money for the solar project so the people of Beding would have light and electricity for their homes. To my amazement nobody died in the Rolwaling area during the earthquakes and was delighted to hear that.

Since visiting the area in 2014, I was very interested in going back to see how the people of the valley were going and try and help them recover after the earthquakes. I had seen a lot of photos of the damage but wanted to get out there and do my best to help. Mingma and the team at Ascent Himalayas organized a Beding Go Expedition for October 2015 and we brought six team members, five climbing Sherpas, five kitchen staff, and 30 porters. This was one way of helping the people of Rolwaling by giving them work. When we arrived Nepal, in October, it was very clear that there weren’t as many tourists around. For a remote area like Rolwaling this was going to be a big problem as there aren’t many tourists under normal circumstances.

I was delighted to be back in Nepal and on our way to Rolwaling. Some people who I had talked to from Europe and other parts of the world said they didn’t want to go to Nepal as they were afraid of more earthquakes. This was very clear when the team arrived for the start of our trek up the Rolwaling valley. The damage to schools, houses, monasteries was very visible. A lot of the road on the way to our start point had been taken out by landslides.

Looking down the steep face of Beding Go.. Photo Mingma Sherpa
Looking down the steep face of Beding Go.. Photo Mingma Sherpa

We had an international team with us. Dean Carriere and Sean Konings from Canada, Eystein Grusd and Steine Arve Bernes from Norway, Dino Cammigaro from Brazil and myself from Ireland. Our Sherpa team consisted of Mingma Tsiri Sherpa (leader of expedition), Pasang Tenzing Sherpa, Tsering Sherpa, Furtemba Sherpa, and Nima Galzen Sherpa. I always enjoy meeting new climbers, trekkers ad Sherpas and hearing their stories from the mountains. While we were trekking through the valley towards Beding, destruction could be seen everywhere. Some of the tracks, and farm land were totally swept away. I was wondering how all Mingmas family and friends’ houses were going to be.

We made the four day trek to Beding, and everyone was doing well and enjoying the experience and remoteness of Rolwaling. As we were got closer to Beding, we could see the remains of three houses that were totally destroyed by a huge landslide. These houses belonged to Mingma, Pasang and Tsering. It was very sad to see my friends’ houses totally gone.

When we arrived in Beding, we stayed with Mingmas mother in law. Again her house had been badly damaged by the earthquakes and she was lucky enough to have a new roof on the house. A lot of the other house had huge cracks in the walls and were unsafe to live in. I was shocked at the amount of damage there had been to Beding.

Once we settled into Beding for the evening, many villagers came to greet us in the house and welcomed us with jugs of the local drink Chang as well as giving many scarves to us. It was a very special moment that the people of the village were so appreciative of all the money that was raised to help them and also that there was a team of people back in their valley. This went on for a day or two while we got acclimatized in Beding. The other great thing that was happening while we were in Beding was the opening of the Solar project for the village. It was a great feeling to see the solar project get off the ground and the people of Beding so happy with the project and that they now had electricity for their houses.

Once again we had our puja ceremony in the monastery which was also in need of much repair. Once the puja ceremony had finished, the next day we starting making our way towards Beding Go. This time Mingma had a different plan for our base camp which was going to be higher on the mountain. He knew the area very well from last year and also growing up around there. Our base camp this year was at approximately 4,900m below the south face of Beding Go. It was the perfect spot for our camp, sheltered from the wind, flat, and safe from rock fall or avalanches.

Canadian Dean posing on the ridge
Canadian Dean Carriere on the ridge. Photo Mingma Sherpa

We spent a couple of days at this spot, getting our bodies acclimatized, doing some rope training, checking gear, eating sleeping and generally preparing for summit push. Rolwaling is known for having some of the strongest Sherpas. As we were in Base camp, our team of Sherpas went up to try and find the route. I couldn’t believe the heavy packs they were carrying full of equipment. After last year we knew that we would need a lot more gear and strong team for people to have chance of being successful on the mountain. The Sherpa team spent two days putting in anchors and fixing rope up the south face of the mountain.

On the third day at base camp, the Sherpas came down from hard day on the mountain and said we were going to leave for the summit that night at approximately 2.30am. They told us that the glacier and mountain was in good condition (better than last year). All the team seemed to be in good shape and were excited to be going for the summit.

We left our base camp and made our way up a steep rock scramble to the start of the glacier. This is where we put on our crampons and started on the glacier. As we were walking on the glacier, we could hear rocks thumbing down and landing on the glacier but couldn’t see as it was too dark.

We made good ground and got to the start of the 600m technical south face of Beding Go just as the sun was coming up. The views were amazing but we could also see the hard mixed climbing we had do before getting up onto the ridge. As we were traversing a section near the start of the fixed line, there was a lot of rock fall. I was in the middle of the traverse when a few rocks came crashing down. I was lucky enough that most of them missed me apart from one that hit my shoulder and bag.

I was thinking if this is the start of the mountain, what is it going to be like up higher up. Luckily enough nobody got injured by the falling rocks. The climbing was tough going with lots of steep ice, rock and snow along with some tricky traverses. We were moving quickly to get up onto the ridge. Mingma said the pillars up on the ridge looked difficult and that they would take a lot of time to climb over. Tsering and Nima Galzen went ahead of our group, as a lot of the pillars had no rope and needed a fixed line put in.

Climbing the last snow slope to get onto the ridge steep and some of the team began to struggle a bit. Once we reached the ridge, we had a great view of what was ahead with six pillars that we had to overcome. It looked like it was going to be a tough ridge to climb and also a very narrow one. There were huge drops into Tibet on the right and Nepal on the left. The other main problem of the pillars and the ridge was all the loose rock which had already been falling on us.

We took a rest at the top of the south face. While we were resting, it was obvious there was something wrong with Stein Arve. He had altitude sickness and was swaying on the ridge and not making any sense. The decision was made, he had to get down as soon as possible. Furtemba did a great job in bringing Stein Arve down safely to base camp.

As the rest of the team tackled the first three rock pillars, it turned out to be more difficult than we expected. There was so much loose rock falling while we placed our feet and hands on it. With big drops on either side the narrow summit ridge was taking its toll on some of our team members. When we climbed the third rock pillar, we decided to take a rest. Sean Konings was sitting and half falling asleep and didn’t feel he could get down safely as he was exhausted. He decided that it was time for him to get of the mountain and climb back down to Base camp. Eystein Grusd had a headache and was drained of energy. He also said he needed to get down.

Dean, myself and Dino were feeling tired but I knew we could keep going as there was three pillars left and Mingma thought we could climb them in three hours. After more traverses and climbing up and down the rock pillars, the summit was getting closer. Tsering and Nima were near the last pillar and doing a great job putting in the fixed line. Mingma, Pasang, Dean, Dino and myself decided we would keep going.

There were many parts of the ridge that looked like it would be easy climbing but turned out to be more difficult and dangerous that it looked. While I was on a narrow snow section of the ridge, bits of snow were falling off leaving smooth rock underneath that was very difficult to get across.

As we got closer to the final summit rock pillar, it was clear that this was going to be the hardest. The angle of the rock was jutting out with lots of loose rock falling to either side. I could see Tsering on the final rock pillar with Nima belaying and Pasang helping. As myself and Dean got to the last section, Tsering was standing on the summit with the Nepalese flag. It was amazing to see him, Nima Galzen and Pasang standing up there with the flag. A Himalayan first ascent. I was so happy for the Sherpas to have made the summit and be part of their expedition. Now all I had to do was try and climb up there to join them.

Tsering & Mingma on Summit
Tsering and Mingma on summit of Beding Go.  Photo courtesy of Mingma Sherpa

When I reached the summit pillar, I knew I had to use all the energy I had in the tank to climb it. We had been climbing for nearly 12 hours at this stage. It had been tough climbing all the way to this point. I started climbing the last bit being very careful not to put my hands or feet on any loose rock. There was a lot of exposure on either side of the pillar and lots of loose rock. I started climbing up and at one section of it, I tried to move out to the left on the Nepal side but a big rock fell from underneath my feet. Then I moved back to the center of the pillar. As I climbed a bit higher a came to a difficult part and got stuck there for a few minutes.

Holding on with my arms and trying to move my feet higher, was proving difficult. The other problem was the rope was slack and I couldn’t move the jumar up without letting go of my arms. After another couple of minutes my arms started to shake. I let go with one arm to try and tighten the rope in order to move the jumar. Next minute I fell and swung onto the right side of the pillar with a huge drop below me into Tibet. Hanging on the rope I got back onto the rock. Was able to tighten the rope and move the jumar bit higher and began to climb again. Was so happy the rope didn’t snap as there was so much sharp rock around. Tsering and the guys did a great job with the anchors and fixing the rope. I climbed the last part of the summit pillar without any problems, a few rocks fell on either side beneath my feet and then did a bit of a scramble to get onto the narrow summit.

Soon after Dino and Mingma followed. It was amazing to be up there with Tsering, Pasang, Nima, Dean, Dino, and Mingma. We reached the summit after 12 hours of climbing at 14.30. As it was getting late, we knew we only had a short time on the summit and had to make a quick descent as there was so many technical sections we had to overcome to get down and wanted to make it off the ridge before dark. The winds were picking up and it would begin to get very cold.

After some photos, video and congratulations on the summit with views of Everest, Cho Oyu, Ama Dablam and some other amazing mountains surrounding us, it was time to get off the summit. As we abseiled, traversed, and arm wrapped down, we could see that Dino was exhausted. The wind starting picking up and both Mingma and Pasang were helping Dino to move as quickly as he could to get off the ridge before dark came.

I knew it was going to be hard to get down after we had pushed so hard on the mountain to reach the summit. We got off the ridge just after dark and was a big relieve as the wind picked up and people were getting cold. We slowly made our way down the south face of Beding Go, being careful not to let any loose rock fall on the people below.

Once we reached the bottom of the ropes, we still had to make our way across the glacier and back to our crampon point. It was so good to see some of our kitchen staff at crampon point with hot juice and water. It was midnight at this stage and we still had an hour or so to make it back to our base camp. We reached base camp at 1.30 a.m. and was relieved that all the team had made it back safe to our base camp safe and were resting.

The next day we packed up our base camp and made our way back to Beding. We had a great celebration with all the locals in the monastery that night and the following days started our trek back down the valley of Rolwaling and started making our way towards Kathmandu.

The team on the summit of Beding Go. Photo Mingma Sherpa
The team on the summit of Beding Go. Photo Mingma Sherpa

It was a great honour to be part of the Ascent Himalayas team and climb with Mingma, Pasang, Tsering, Nima, Furtemba on this first ascent of Beding Go. It is one of my favorite mountains that I climbed and also one of the most challenging. I was so happy to be up on the summit with my great Sherpa friends especially after the devastating earthquakes and also the tragedy on Everest in 2014. It also meant so much to climb the mountain in their home valley where they grew up. Rolwaling is a very special place and the heart of Sherpa culture. I really hope for the future that more people will visit this amazing place for trekking, climbing and experience the culture and friendliness of these amazing people.

Lastly, I would like to thank all the team members, and all the staff at Ascent Himalayas (The Sherpas Company) for making this expedition a great success and a truly amazing experience. I have been very lucky to meet and climb with Mingma and the team at Ascent Himalayas and am very privileged to be working with such a great group of Sherpas. Ascent Himalayas was founded By Mingma Tsiri Sherpa and has been growing at an incredible rate.

Each year Ascent Himalayas runs Everest Expeditions, Manaslu, Ama Dablam, and other climbing peaks and trekking throughout the Himalayas. I have learnt so much about climbing from Mingma, Pasang and the team at Ascent Himalayas and wouldn’t climb with anyone else out there. They have helped me achieve many of my climbing dreams and look forward to a great future with Ascent Himalayas Treks and Expeditions.

– A note on Mingma Tsiri Sherpa, who is a regular contributor to Gripped. He is the managing director of Ascent Himalayas, has summited Everest 19 times, was the first Nepalese climber up K2 and a Guinness World Record Holder for most siblings to have climbed Everest.

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