As reported in “Spotlight 14”


COVER STORY: KENT WING ATC NEPAL EXPEDITION 2009

CADETS & OFFICERS 358 (WELLING) SQUADRON


In September 2009, 7 Cadets and 5 staff members from Kent Wing ATC went on an expedition to Nepal, home to many of the world's highest mountains including Everest. The aim was to trek to Everest Base camp, nearly two thirds the way up the mountain at 5364 metres, the to climb two peaks which lie in the shadow of Everest: Kalar Patter and Island Peak. For Expedition Leader, Flight Lieutenant Dave Hill RAFVR(T), who largely organised the expedition, this was his biggest challenge yet. Also accompanying the expedition was the British military mountain guide,  Flight Lieutenant Ted Atkins RAF, leader of the RAF's successful Everest expedition in 2001, so the team felt they were in good hands! All the preparation and organisation was for a good cause: to raise money for the charity ' Help for Hero's.'

 

After initially landing at Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal, the group flew to the village of Lukla where they met their Shepa team for the expedition who were very friendly and welcoming. The whole team was now assembled and over the next few days climbed steadily higher through the foothills of the Himalayas, camping overnight in tiny villages. Reaching  Everest base camp, everyone felt exhausted, but they made it back to the campsites safely for a few hours sleep, before being woken up at 3am to begin the climb of Kalar Patter (5665m), a non technical (supposedly easy to climb) peak next to Everest. The team made it to the summit just before sunrise, and watched the sun come up over the summit of Mount Everest.

 

Next came the the most challenging part of the trip: the ascent of Island Peak. After reaching Island Peak Base camp, the team woke at 1am on a freezing cold morning, and prepared themselves fo 15 hours of solid climbing ahead. It was snowing heavily, which was unexpected, but he team arrived at the ice line ( where the mountain becomes ice instead of rock) after four hours of difficult climbing. With the snow falling, progress was extremely difficult. The route became very steep and everyone was exhausted. All around was the sound of avalanches, some far off but some scarily close. Snowfall became so heavy that little progress was possible and so, although less then 200m from the summit, the decision was made to turn back. This was hard for the team but they still had to trek back to base camp in these difficult conditions. Finally reaching base camp, the exhausted team collapsed into their tents and fell asleep. Later, over dinner everyone agreed that the decision to turn back had been the right one as they were all alive and safe. The rest of the trip was exciting and included two days of white water rafting in the Bhote Khosi River near the Tibetan border, and excellent way to recuperate after the gruelling trek and a good way to end an amazing, life changing trip.