Summiting a 8,000 meter peak and then skiing down it is no easy feat. But for Kenton Kool it seems like just another day on the slopes. We talked with this cool Brit one-on-one, to find out more about his recent Mt. Manaslu expedition.
By Dan Sanchez
FAJ: Kenton, most alpinists just prepare themselves to summit a mountain, but you summit and ski down it. So how do you prepare your route and training for a feat such as this?
Kool: I’m really lucky that my ‘day job’ is being a mountain guide. So I spent most of the summer taking clients up and down some of the most amazing mountains in Europe. This means that my baseline fitness is always quite good. This year, I’ve taken things a bit further and I use a trainer when I’m in the UK to try and peak when I’m away on an expedition. It seemed to work well on Manaslu. The skiing was a bit different, I hadn’t made a turn since March, it was all a bit seat of the pants stuff, but once I got the first few turns done I felt fine once again.
FAJ: How do you decide which type of pack to use on the Manaslu expedition. Is an expedition pack or more of a ski pack to carry your equipment?
Kool: Well I’m pretty easy when it comes to packs. For the last three years I’ve been using a specially made Mountain Hardwear pack, which is especially made for me; so its light weight. Its getting a bit thread bear now, its currently done three summits of Everest and most of my winter climbing in Europe and now Manaslu….it totally rocks!
In Chamonix I ski with some prototype Mountain Hardwear ski sacs, which are great. They are much better for skiing with but in the Himalaya you need to be able to carry big loads up and down. From camp 1 to BC this year I had almost 30Kg on my back…try skiing with that!!!!
FAJ: When skiing down an 8,000 meter peak, how do you determine if the terrain in front of you is safe to ski down; let alone figure out a route?
Kool: Its all in looking out for stuff on the way up. We didn’t ski the line of ascent. Instead, we got pushed from side to side a bit with conditions and terrain. We also had some photos from some friends taken a few years ago, which gave us some good indication of where to go. The biggest issue was the poor snow conditions. In places the wind ridges were almost 50 cm high, so we were always looking out for the areas that looked less affected.
Mt. Manaslu, although not totally safe, is pretty good with regards to crevasses so we were happy with that side of things. The only really tricky section route wise, was between Camp 3 and 4. But we had lots of time to scope out the route when we were at Camp 3. We ended up skiing way left from the climbing line and it provided some of the best skiing!!
FAJ: Because of the technical nature of climbing and skiing down a steep peak, do you really have time to enjoy the trip down ? Or are you focused fully on the terrain and your positioning?
Kool: HA ,HA . I really need to go back to both Cho Oyu and Manaslu because my mind was 100 percent focused. Cho Oyu I skied on my own while Manaslu I had a friend with me. Only looking back at the photos, do I now see how amazingly lucky we were to be able to ski is such a beautiful place!
FAJ: On a trip such as the Manaslu expedition, you had mentioned that you lightened up your load at camp 3 to reach camp 4 and make a summit attempt. What apparel and gear did you take with you? Looking back would you have done something differently?
Kool: We left the sleeping bags behind to lighten the rucksacks…..we thought we would only be a few hours at camp 4 before going for the top and returning to at least Camp 2 if not Base camp. As it turned out the weather meant we spent 2 nights at camp 4…BOY was it cold.
Luckily we both had below Zero down suits on which kept us in one piece. The only other things I would have taken were down boots (assuming that we had no sleeping bag), as both of us experienced very cold toes both nights.
Kit wise I had the Down suit, and full underwear, a monkey man fleece, Power stretch tights, Masherbrum Mitts (these are simply the BEST) power stretch gloves, wind stopper balaclava, hat and goggles. Once the sun was up and the wind dropped we were pretty toasty…but the wind was brutal when it blew!!
FAJ: Finally I know you’ve summited Everest several times, and skied down many other peaks. What’s your next goal?
Kool: Back to Everest next year for a mission and again in 2012 for a great story that we hope to film. In between I hope to do a non-stop ski traverse across the European Alps. This will take between 70 and 100days depending on conditions. Again we have a film crew so watch this space!!!