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Gangchempo

by Matt Wendling

December 2001 marked the beginning of an expedition by NOLS instructors Ant Chapin and Dave Anderson. The two climbers plan to spend a month ascending big mountain routes in the Langtang Valley of Nepal. Located in the Himalayas, 18 miles north of Katmandu, the valley became Nepal's second largest National Park in 1976. The lush forests of the area provide habitat for many species of wildlife, including the endangered Red Panda. The Langtang region also provides opportunity for numerous first ascents of the mountains dominating the landscape.

Chapin and Anderson's main climbing objective is the imposing West Ridge of Gangchempo (6,400 m). The mountain has been successfully summited eight times since its first ascent by a Nepalese team in 1991. The majority of these repeat ascents have followed the original route up the South West Ridge. Chapin and Anderson hope to establish a new route on the more difficult West Ridge of Gangchempo. The West Ridge was attempted twice in 1994 by Japanese and English expeditions. Both teams abandoned their attempts about 400m from the mountain's summit.

Gangchempo's West Ridge begins with steep, technical climbing on bands of rock, snow, and ice. This section terminates in a long, knife edged ridge leading to the summit. It was this sharp ridge that thwarted the 1994 expeditions. Chapin and Anderson will climb alpine style, travelling light and fast. This style of ascent greatly increases their level of danger and commitment. If successful, the two mountaineers will have made not only the first ascent of the West Ridge, but the first ever winter ascent of the mountain.

Ant Chapin began climbing after taking a NOLS mountaineering course in 1990. Since then, he has built an impressive climbing resume. Chapin has guided expeditions in Nepal since 1997 and considers Katmandu home. He currently guides for an experiential education program called Sojourn Nepal, in addition to the NOLS backcountry rock and mountaineering courses he instructs. Chapin is also fluent in Nepalese and has previous experience climbing in the Langtang Valley.

Dave Anderson has worked for NOLS since 1996 in a variety of course areas. He has taught mountaineering and rock climbing courses in Alaska, the Cascades, the Wind River Range, and India. Dave has made numerous personal climbing expeditions to establish new big wall and mountain routes in areas across the globe including Pakistan, Alaska, Patagonia, Newfoundland and Ecuador. Anderson is well versed in the logistics of planning long expeditions to third world countries and possesses great technical expertise on steep ice and snow.

The team faces a number of hazards on this expedition. The Langtang region was named by the Tamang people of Tibet, Langtang meaning "goddess of snow." Because they are attempting their route during the winter months, avalanches are a very real threat to Chapin and Anderson. Deep snow and large crevassed glaciers are also a consideration. The two instructors plan to minimize the threat of avalanches by climbing ridge systems and will utilize typical NOLS travel practices when on glaciers. If snow conditions prevent the men from attempting the West Ridge, there is the possibility for a first ascent of Gangchempo's North West Ridge.

This expedition has been partially funded by the National Outdoor Leadership School's Instructor Development Fund. This fund allows instructors to gain new skills other than those contained within the NOLS curriculum. These instructors, in turn, share their new skills and experience with their future NOLS students.

 
 
 
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