In the first week of Feb 2019, 20 climbers participated in Nepal Climbing Team’s Ice Climbing Festival in Humde, Manang.
Nepal’s winter off-season is perfect for climbing technical ice in the Himalayan foothills. However, ice climbing is a very young, underdeveloped sport in Nepal. With the help of sponsors, including chief sponsor Khukri Rum, Nepal Climbing Team organized their 1st Ice Climbing Festival in Humde, Manang from Feb. 2-10 with the help of IFMGA Prem Gurung, Gurung’s teammates, and the local community.
The original plan was to travel by Jeep to Humde, but recent snowfall and icy road conditions made that impossible. Instead, participants walked for two days from Danaque to Humde, arriving on Feb. 4.
Climbers split into a beginners group led by Prem Gurung and Aspirant guide Dhurba Bista and an advanced group led by Gurung’s teammates and fellow IFMGA guides Anup Gurung and Vinayak Jaya Malla. The beginners group learned core skills including using climbing crampons and ice tools. The advanced group explored a route that Prem Gurung and his team established a few years ago.
During time off from climbing, participants also tried out skiing and archery around the Humde area.
On Feb. 8, participants began the long walk back to Chame, breaking trail through hip-deep fresh snow. The following day, they walked through brief whiteout conditions to Danaque. On Feb. 10, the participants returned to Kathmandu. The tough weather conditions added an alpine flavor to the adventure.
Nepal Climbing Team is grateful to all the sponsors, participants, and Prem’s team who made this event successful. Looking to the future, they plan work again with sponsors and the local Manang community to host a second Ice Climbing Festival next year with more participant-tailored clinics and possible competitive climbing activities.
In one of our participant’s words:
Nepal Climbing Team’s Ice Festival was an amazing adventure. I’m pretty happy I got to climb ice again after not climbing for a few years — even if it took two days of walking through ice and snow -covered roads to get there! The weather definitely didn’t cooperate. We were snowed out on one of the days we wanted to climb, but instead it just became a big Himalaya adventure for me.
After reaching Humde, we split into two groups every day to check out different spots which Prem Gurung and his team (Anup Gurung and Vinayak Jaya Malla) had established. Back in the US, sometimes you showed up at the bottom of a climb and there were already people picking their way up the ice, so there’s almost always holes already in the ice. When we broke away from the trail and got to the ice with Prem the first day, it was this beautiful, unmarked, thick, low-angle ice. The perfect ice to get back into climbing on! Prem was so helpful teaching the beginners how to climb and giving me tips to improve my technique.
The second climbing day was an adventure: Vinayak and Anup had explored the area a few years ago, but we left the trekking trail to follow a river and start up a steep hill in search of the ice. This ice was much steeper and more brittle than on the first day, but more exciting to climb. It really felt like we were off-the-beaten-path. I mean, without Nepal Climbing Team’s ice festival, when would I be able to explore Nepal this way?
Each night was enjoyable as I got to know my fellow participants more as we huddled around the dining room fire. I’ll never not be a tourist, but little by little, I felt like I had gained a new family.