I have arrived in Kathmandu and it is good to be back! I literally went straight from the plane to see Miss Hawley to discuss, who is interviewing which expedition this season. Despite the economic crunch this spring looks pretty busy, at least when it comes to big expeditions in Nepal, which we cover in the Himalayan Database.
For those, who do not really know what Miss Hawley’s Himalayan Database is, I will take some time to explain. Miss Hawley, who is now 85 years old, has been interviewing expeditions to so-called ‘Expedition Peaks’ in Nepal since 1963, when the first big American Everest expedition arrived in Kathmandu. Over the years, she has continued to interview climbing groups and has become the icon of Himalayan mountaineering. Hardly any mountaineer gets past Miss Hawley’s scrutiny and if she does not believe that you made it to the top, you have a problem. My colleague Jeevan has been working for Miss Hawley for more than ten years and I joined her in October 2004, when I decided to move to Nepal.
We cover all 237 expedition peaks in Nepal, however, many of these 237 mountains are still unclimbed. The lion share of our work lies in mountains like Mount Everest, Makalu, Dhaulagiri, Annapurna I, Lhotse and all the other 8,000m peaks that are situated in Nepal. And then of course there are peaks like Ama Dablam, Baruntse, Himlung, Pumori, Phuta Hiunchuli, Saribong etc, which are vary from just under 8,000 m to 6,767m and are classified by the Nepal Ministry of Tourism as ‘Expedition Peaks’.
Whizzing through Kathmandu
In my job for Miss Hawley I try to track down the expeditions that arrive in Kathmandu during the season. We normally start at the beginning of March (I am a bit late this year) by ringing hundreds of trekking agencies to find out which expeditions will be coming, which countries are they coming from and which date are they arriving in Kathmandu – and of course, in which hotel are they staying in.
I already have a long list of expeditions I need to chase for this season – and when I say ‘chase’, I mean ‘chase’. Some big outfitters, who have organised expeditions in Nepal for many years, ring Miss Hawley, or sometimes Jeevan or me, to tell us that they are here. We then arrange an interview to find out, which mountain the expedition is going to, which route they are intending to climb, how many members etc. etc.
Most expeditions do not contact us, which means that we have to catch them when they get to the hotel to arrange a meeting. This can be very stressful at times as sometimes five or six expeditions arrive on the same day and that means that I have to whizz around Kathmandu on my bike trying to find them.
Once we have spoken to them, we need to know when they are planning on returning to Kathmandu as that is the time when we do the important part of the interview, meaning ‘did they get to the summit, who got to the summit, did they use oxygen, who did not make it to the summit and why and so on.
Making life easier
Even though I love this work, it can be very stressful at times and I am currently trying to make life a little bit easier for Miss Hawley, Jeevan and myself. That is why my friend Richard has very kindly put together the forms, you will find on the bottom left side of my website.
So, if you are an expedition preparing to climb an expedition peak in Nepal, it would be great if you could let me know by using these forms. That will save me a lot of work and it saves the trekking agencies a lot of hassle from my side, as some poor trekking agents receive zillions of phone calls from me trying to track down an expeditions.
However, if you are a trekking agency coming across this website it would also be great if you could fill in these forms and tell me what expeditions you are expecting.
I hope this all makes sense and even though I miss my other life in Islamabad and the amazing people I met there, it is good to be back in Kathmandu for the climbing season! I will not be climbing high this season, but I will join Russell Brice at Everest base camp to write the blog for his website and hopefully nip up Lobuje Peak, which at 6,119m is one of the nicest trekking peaks I have ever climbed in Nepal.
But before I depart for base camp, I am sure you will hear from me again.