Issue 75

16 February 1999

IC Reporter


Navigating Nepal

If you are thinking of going trekking in Nepal, it’s a good idea to have a look at the 1998 Rolwaling Expedition website at

Along with stunning photographs, it’s full of useful information on how an expedition is organised from arranging finances to mountaineering itself.

Summit ridge of Parchamo.

The website’s designer Jeremy Thomson wasn’t even sure he wanted to travel halfway around the world to go climbing in Nepal when his friend Alan first came up with the idea. It sounded dangerous. But now he’s back he can’t wait to return. “It’s difficult to imagine a country less similar to England than Nepal, socially and culturally as well as geographically. While climbing in the Himalayas was a wonderful experience, it’s the friendly, uncomplicated attitude and infectious cheerfulness of the Nepalese that I’ll remember.” Setting off at the end of September 1998, the region’s dry post-monsoon season, the team headed for the Rolwaling Valley which looked as if it would provide a varied trek as well as good acclimatisation conditions.

“A long and complicated journey took us to Nepal’s capital Kathmandu, where there was so much to buy and organise that we forgot to suffer from culture shock, and even diarrhoea,” said Jeremy, who graduated from a physics with theoretical physics degree in 1997, before becoming editor of Felix, the students’ weekly newspaper, for a year. “We bought enough food and equipment for an entire regiment of the Ghurka army, hired two sherpas, two cooks, eight porters and a bus and headed towards Tibet.”

After a few weeks of walking a trail that crossed suspension bridges, passed gigantic waterfalls and plunged up and down slippery rock faces, they reached the Rolwaling Valley. “The giant rolling hills were covered everywhere with little terraced fields and the tiny houses of the farmers,” said Jeremy.

“The locals were curious, but friendly and very helpful and our sherpas treated us like royalty until it became embarrassing.”

The team on Parchamo at 6,225 metres.

The scenery changed as they ascended the valley; steamy sub-tropical jungles turned into deciduous woodland then scrubby rhododendrons and juniper. “Few tourists visit here, and it is as authentic a sherpa settlement as you will find,” Jeremy commented.

From the highest village, Na, the team climbed two peaks - Yalung Ri and Ramdung (5,925m). “While the first went well, our progress on the second was hampered by deep snow and misleading maps, and it was summitted only on the second attempt by the expedition B-team.”

The trek continued across glaciers to the top of the valley where the team were far enough away from an avalanche to safely enjoy the spectacle. Exhausted and confused from altitude and sunlight, they reached the ‘notorious’ Tesi Labsta Pass, from where they climbed the highest peak of the trek, Parchamo. Official estimates of its height vary from 6,050m to 6,300m. “Not knowing how high it was when we started the climb certainly added to the excitement,” said Jeremy. Using two altimeters, the climbers recorded it as 6,225m. The team then dropped down into the Khumbu (Everest) valley which was teaming with Americans.

“It was with a slight sense of disappointment that we re-entered civilisation with its cafés, electric lights and real toilets.”

However, there was still one peak to go, Kwangde, in a little-visited valley called Lumding Karka. After an ‘infuriating’ few days of getting lost and hacking through rhododendron forest, the team reached the triple mountain but only two of them, Alan and Tom, wanted to attempt the climb which was the most difficult so far. The geography had changed so much since their map was drawn, there was a new lake blocking the way to two of the three peaks.

Unfortunately, after negotiating several very steep ice steps, the climbers had to turn back at a crevasse just 100 vertical metres from the summit.

The team then descended from Lumding valley via the Moro La pass and flew back to Kathmandu from the tiny airstrip at Lukla.

Expedition members were: Sue Brown; Alan Geer, Antoine Jeanson, Tom Padgham, Julian Rickard, and Jeremy Thomson. They would like to thank the IC Exploration Board for its support.

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© Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, 1999
Last Revised: 16 February 1999