Four years on from a successful and pioneering expedition to the South Pole to commemorate 100 years since Scott’s Antarctic endeavours, April and May this year shall host the latest quadrennial Joint British Service expedition, to the Dhaulagiri region of Nepal. Several mountaineering challenges are set for the teams of British servicemen and women this year and with the 8,167m summit of Dhaulagiri the ultimate goal for the expedition’s main team, this year’s expedition shall continue to renew Britain’s stockpile of talented mountaineers.
Joint Service expeditions bear testimony to the continued health of British mountaineering and exploration and this year’s expedition continues the tradition of past years by providing high quality adventurous training alongside important medical research. Participants in this year’s expedition shall take part voluntarily in medical experiments to research the impact of altitude and acclimatisation upon the human body and in the spirit of this research, the team of 12 climbers who shall attempt to reach Dhaulagiri’s summit shall do so without supplementary oxygen, alpine style.
A subsidiary ambition of this year’s expedition is to summit Tukuche Peak, a subsidiary peak of the Dhaulagiri Massif. The climb on this remote and technically challenging 6,920m peak shall be led by the expedition’s main team and involve members of the High Altitude Development Team, helping to foster a group of talented young mountaineers from this less experienced division. Meanwhile eight trekking teams also from the armed forces shall attempt the Dhaulagiri Circuit trek and will be at the heart of the expedition’s medical research into the impact of altitude and acclimatisation.
The main team who shall attempt to summit Dhaulagiri shall climb via the mountain’s ‘normal’ North East Ridge, following the same route which saw the mountain’s first ascent in 1960, achieved by an expedition team led by legendary Austrian mountaineer Kurt Diemberger. The 12-person team shall be entirely self-sufficient and shall attempt the route alpine style without oxygen, led by Surgeon Commander Adrian Mellor, a highly experienced mountaineer from the armed forces who has previously led Joint Service expeditions to the Himalaya.
Dhaulagiri 2016 Teams Prepare for Their Second and Main Objectives
The main team flew to Kathmandu in March and were met, after some weather and technical delays, by the remainder of the Joint Service teams soon after. They then travelled via Pokhara to the Hidden Valley Base Camp where, after a somewhat challenging journey in with illnesses, issues of altitude and intermittent weather, the team successful completed the first target of their expedition with several team members ascending the 6,035m Dhampus Peak in the Dhaulagiri area. With this first objective complete, the teams continue to advance through their stages of acclimatisation and the focus of the main and High Altitude Development Teams is now firmly placed upon a planned ascent of 6,920m Tukuche peak.
Medical research has also begun, with meaures of acute mountain sickness and physiological conditions of the climbers taken with the aim of better understanding cardiac function at extreme altitude.
Following the planned ascent of Tukuche Peak, the main team shall shift focus to the expedition’s main aim, Dhaulagiri, whilst the High Altitude Development Team shall return to the UK. The North East Ridge route by which they will climb involves the challenging navigation of a major icefall above Base Camp, an area particularly prone to rockfall, after which the team shall ascend via airy and exposed ridges towards the summit at 8,167m.
A Joint Service expedition last took place in the Himalaya in 2008, where three mountaineers from the armed forces successfully reached Makalu’s summit via the North East Ridge, whilst an attempt on its south east ridge was made and peaks over 6,000m were successfully climbed by the High Altitude Development Team. The last quadrennial expedition took place in 2012 at the South Pole where alongside important scientific research the team trekked in previously unexplored areas of the Antarctic Peninsula and made first ascents of unclimbed mountains.
The pioneering successes of Joint Service expeditions should therefore not be understated. They pay testimony to the continued health of British mountaineering and foster a new group of talented British mountaineers. With the teams progressing through their stages of acclimatisation and important medical research well underway, expedition Dhaulagiri 2016 is set to be another success.
You can follow the progress of the Dhaulagiri expedition team on its official blog and twitter page: