The Royal Navy Khumbu Challenge is currently under way in the Nepal Himalaya. This is particularly special expedition, since it is the inaugural expedition for Project Fortitude. Project Fortitude is a Royal Navy / Royal Marines initiative which will help service personnel who have been physically injured or who are suffering from psychological injuries. Through Adventure Training, Sport and Challenging Activities Project Fortitude can bring “Opportunity, Challenge, Focus, and Belonging” to injured personnel, which will help with long term rehabilitation. The Khumbu Challenge was officially launched last year by Prince Harry.
Exercise Khumbu Challenge
Five teams are taking part in Khumbu challenge: the Main Team, High Altitude Development Team and Khumbu teams 1 ,2 & 3, with the support of the Rear Link Office in Khatmandu. Altogether there will be 88 personnel taking part in the challenge, about 18 of whom have been injured or traumatised in Iraq or Afghanistan and who are undergoing rehabilitation. Khumbu is the name of the region in the Nepal Himalaya where the exercise is taking place.
The main team arrived in Nepal on the 23rd of September. The aim for the main team is to climb Ama Dablam (6,812 m), which will involve rock climbing, ice climbing and mixed rock and ice climbing. The name Ama Dablam means “Mother and Pearl Necklace.” The main team are all experienced climbers.
The High Altitude Development Team are in the Khumbu to gain experience of high altitude climbing. They will be climbing the summits of Island Peak (6,182 m), Pokalde (5,806 m) and Lobuche East (6,117 m).
Khumbu teams 1, 2 & 3 include personnel who are undergoing rehabilitation. They will be trekking to Everest Base Camp (5,600 m) and climbing to the summit of Kala Pattar (5,545 m), which offers excellent views of Mount Everest and a 360-degree panorama of peaks including Nuptse, Ama Dablam, Kantenga, Thamserku, Tawatse, Pumo Ri, and Changtse.
For Khumbu teams 1, 2 and 3 the challenge will last about three and half weeks in total. Expeditions up to high altitude require acclimatisation in order to prevent altitude sickness. This means that when increasing altitude it is necessary to take rest days. These rest days do not include strenuous activity and only small increases in altitude. Therefore not every day will be a day of hiking.
After flying into Kathmandu, the journey to Khumbu begins with a scenic flight into Lukla airstrip, which is at altitude of 2804 m. From Lukla the hiking can commence. The administrative centre of the Khumbu region is a village called Namche Bazaar (3440 m), which is also at the entrance to the Sagarmatha National Park.
It will take nine days of trekking and acclimatisation to reach Everest Base Camp from Namche Bazaar. Below Namche Bazaar there are pine forests, climbing above Namche Bazaar the scenery becomes more mountainous with less greenery. Climbing higher the scenery becomes more rocky and mountains, with snow, glaciers and moraine. Everest Base Camp is situated at the foot of the Khumbu Icefall.
Exercise Khumbu Challenge will doubtless be a tough and awesome experience for all personnel involved! Good luck to all taking part!
More details about mountaineering Exercise Khumbu Challenge can be found on the KC09 Website.