WE first planned to climb Churen Himal in 1963. But this plan did not materialize until 1970. During the intervening period, however, we participated in the Academic Expedition to Colombia in 1967, organized by the Shizuoka University, and marked successfully the first ascent to the so-called sixteen- thousander peaks of Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.
In 1969, the Government of Nepal lifted the ban on mountaineering, and officially announced that they would open the door to the thirty-eight peaks to the mountaineers of the world. As a result, the permission for our entry to Churen Himal was granted in August 1970.
The mountaineering history of Churen Himal dates back to 1954, when James Roberts first set foot inside Kay a Khola from the north. In 1962, a Japanese party climbed up to the height of about 5,750 m. as a trial climbing from the Kaya Khola, almost by the same route as taken by James Roberts in 1954. On the other hand, James Roberts pioneered the southern area of Churen Himal for the first time from the west through Kaphe glacier in 1962 and the Royal Air Force Expedition to Dhaula IV (actually Dhaula VI) passed through the same routes in 1965.
After the release of the Nepal Government prohibition, the first party to Churen Himal was the Italian expedition led by Paolo Consiglio in the post-monsoon of 1969. They tried to take a steep western ridge to the main peak, but reached only up to a point at 6,500 m., because of the insufficient time they had. At the same time, a Japanese party to Gurja Himal led by Yoshimi Yakushi succeeded in stepping on its summit on 1 November.
During the pre-monsoon time of 1970, two parties established Base Camps at the foot of Kaphe glacier. One was of a Japanese party to Dhaula VI, and another a Korean party to Churen Himal. Later, a rumour was spread that the East Peak was attacked by the Korean party at the end of April.
Among the possible routes to the summit, we decided to take the south or south-east approach ascending from the west through the upper Kaphe glacier.
CHUREN HIMAL 1970
The Upper part of the south-east face of Churen Himal seen from Chi (5,650 m.) on the upper Kaphe glacier
The upper south-east face of Churen Himal from civ (6,200 m.)
Kozo hasegama on the summit of the central peak of Churen Himal with the west peak in the background
Photo: Masayoshi Fukui
Putha Hiunchuli (7,246 m.) from the summit of central peak of Churen Himal
The west face of Churen Himal (7,371 m.) seen from Kaphe Khola
West ridge of Churen Himal
On 9 September 1970, all of our six members arrived at Kathmandu. The team consisted of the leader Takashi Serizawa (46), Manufacturing Engineer; Climbing leader Ryozo Yama- moto (31), Industrial Engineer; Atsushi Oishi (32), University Researcher; Mayayoshi Fukui (31), High School Teacher; Kozo Hasegawa (28), Chemist and Eiji Doma (23), College Student. Seven Sherpas from Himalayan Society were Ang Norbu as Sirdar, Pemba Gyalzen, Zangbu from Namche, Dawa Sunder from Chaurikharka, Thendi from Thame, Nima Norbu from Pangboche and Wangyal as a cook.
Two days after arrival at Kathmandu, the party could fortunately fly to Pokhara by a chartered flight. We left Pokhara on 12 September, accompanied by 43 porters with wages of Rs.15 a day. After four days trekking, we reached Beni, and added another three porters to carry local provisions.
On 19 September, all porters were replaced at Muna, except five porters from Pokhara. As a result, some good progress was made in our trekking from Muna onward, and we arrived at Gurjakhani on 21 September.
On 24 September, a wonderful view of Putha Hiunchuli and the west face of Churen Himal was before us. The Base Camp was set up at 4,100 m., the same place as the Italians' in 1969. There was also a Base Camp near us of the Fukuoka party aiming at Dhaula IV. As our arrival at the Base Camp was slightly delayed, we had to carry loads hurriedly to the higher camps.
Camp I was established on the following day at the height of 4,750 m. on the Kaphe glacier, through which we found a safe route to climb to the summit.
We decided to select the small rock ridge to Gustang North, so-called ' Toyama Routeup to the height of 5,700 m. Oishi and Doma left Camp I in the morning of 1 October and established Camp II on the same day at the height of 5,300 m. Camp II could be clearly seen from Camp I through binoculars. After the setting of Camp II, they had to get down owing to insufficient acclimatization. The route from Camp I to Camp II lies in the serac area and on a rock ridge.
The heavy snowfall made it more difficult to go on. The route from Camp II to Camp III lies on a steep rock ridge and a large snow-field of the upper Kaphe glacier.
On this route there was a snow wall of about 100 m. high just above Camp II and a steep and rocky rib went upward which could only be climbed with the help of about 300 m. of rope, up to the height of 5,700 m. To establish Camp III, a party consisting of Yamamoto, Fukui and two Sherpas had to cross a large snow plateau. Camp III was set up at 5,650 m., at the foot of west face of Dhaula VI, on 5 October.
Camp IV at 6,200 m. was established on 11 October by Fukui and two Sherpas on the western side of Dhaula VI. We fixed 200 m. of rope on the steep and snowy upper part of the triangular rock ridge between Camps III and IV. In the same way, we succeeded in carrying loads up to Camp IV. On 17 October, Fukui and Hasegawa tried to establish Camp V on the upper plateau lying under the East Peak, but they could only reach the point of 6,480 m. Camp V was set on the following day at a height of 6,600 m. There was only one way to the summit from the south-east side, through the upper plateau. It was very unfortunate that Fukui got exhausted at Camp V, because he was one of the potential summiteers in our team. He was immediately directed by the climbing leader to come down to Camp II to take a rest for a while. Fukui was however replaced by Doma who along with two Sherpas reached Camp V to arrange for Camp VI (Attack Camp).
Three days after arrival at Camp V, Camp VI was established at the height of 6,800 m. The news from Camp VI was very encouraging. Between Camp V and Gimp VI, 400 m. of rope were arranged for descending from the upper plateau down to the bottom of the cirque of the East Peak. The first summit party consisting of Fukui and Hasegawa, and the second party headed by Doma left Camp IV in the morning of 22nd. Both these two parties reached Camp V in the evening of the same day. It seemed to us that everything proceeded as had been scheduled. On 23 October, the first summit party supported by two Sherpas moved to the highest Camp. Fukui and Hasegawa left Camp VI at 5 a.m. of the following day as the first summit party. The weather was excellent and the summit attack was carried out in a fairly good condition. The party reached the top ridge at 10.40 a.m. After crossing it, the party climbed the snow ridge of about 50 m. before they stepped on to the summit of Central Peak (about 7,371 m.) where they stayed for half an hour. They thought that the Central Peak would be the main peak (West Peak). Observing that another peak (west peak) was of the same level as the Central, they returned back to Camp VI. On 26 October, the second party consisting of Doma, Sirdar Ang Norbu and Zangbu reached again the summit of Central Peak by the same route.
It was unlucky that we could not attack the main peak at the same time. As a matter of fact, the climbing leader could not give adequate instructions to the summit party, due to the trouble caused by the lack of dry battery of the walkie-talkie. So, the climbing leader left Camp IV for Camp V on the 24th after observing the second summit party's activity through his binoculars in order to reorganize the attacking programme to the main peak. As a result, the third summit party consisting of Hasegawa and Ang Norbu left the highest camp at 6 a.m. on the 24th. Through the long traverse of the south face of the main peak, they climbed directly to the summit and stepped on the very summit of Churen Himal at 11.13 a.m. on 28 October 1970. The summit was like a spearhead. As the provisions in higher camps had been used up, we had to give up the idea of attacking the East Peak from Camp V.
On 31 October, all members were at Base Camp. The party returned to Pokhara on 13 November, and came back to Kathmandu safely on 17 November.
Notes: The news reporting that the East Peak of Churen Himal was first ascended by the Korean Party on 29 April 1970 is doubtful in many respects, as a result of our careful study of the documents made out by the Korean Party. The report regarding the aforesaid doubts has already been published in Japan. Our detailed report on the attack of the main peak of Churen Himal clearly shows that there are still many doubtful points in the Korean report.