Himalayan Journal vol.37
The Himalayan Journal
Vol.37

Publication year:
1981

Editor:
Harish Kapadia
Index
  1. EDITORIAL
  2. YUGOSLAV EVEREST EXPEDITION
    (TONE SKARJA)
  3. AUSTRIAN LHOTSE EXPEDITION AULEX, 1979
    (ERICH VANIS)
  4. POLISH LHOTSE EXPEDITION, 1979
    (ADAM BILCZEWSKI)
  5. THE BRITISH-NEPALESE GAURI SHANKAR EXPEDITION, 1979
    (PETER BOARDMAN)
  6. AUSTRALIAN GAURI SHANKAR (TSERINGMA) EXPEDITION
    (P. A. CULLINAN and G. BRAMMER)
  7. MAKALU WEST PILLAR
    (JOHN ROSKELLEY)
  8. TUKUCHE WEST PEAK (6780 m) EXPEDITION
    (RENE COLLET)
  9. ANNAPURNA III, SOUTH FACE
    (RON and LINDA RUTLAND)
  10. SWISS SISNE HIMAL EXPEDITION, 1980
    (RUEDI MEIER)
  11. DHAULAGIRI EAST FACE EXPEDITION
    (ALEX MACINTYRE)
  12. SIKKIM HIMALAYAN EXPEDITION, 1979
    (SAMARENDRA NATH DHAR)
  13. SINIOLCHU*
    (SONAM WANGYAL)
  14. ASCENT OF RATABAN AND CANOEING/ RAFTING THE MANDAKINI AND ALAKNANDA RIVERS
    (COL BALWANT S. SANDHU)
  15. SATOPANTH GLACIER EXPEDITION, 1980
    (SHASHANK KULKARNI and SOUMITRA WADALKAR)
  16. GUERILLAS IN THE GARHWAL
    (JOHN THACKRAY)
  17. CZECHOSLOVAKS OVER THE SOURCES OF THE GANGA
    (ZDENEK LUKES)
  18. VASUKI PARBAT
    (N. G. CLEAVER)
  19. RAKTVARN GLACIER AND ASCENT OF UNNAMED VIRGIN PEAKS
    (RANVIR SINGH)
  20. KINNAUR, 1980
    (SUDHIR SAHI)
  21. EXPEDITION TO THE DHARLANG VALLEY, PANGI AND ZANSKAR
    (N. A. PITTS-TUCKER)
  22. AIRMEN IN LAHUL
    (WING COMMANDER N. M. RIDLEY)
  23. A TREK IN LADAKH AND ZANSKAR
    (HARISH KAPADIA)
  24. TERAM KANGRI II EXPEDITION
    (COL N. KUMAR)
  25. LADAKH, 1979
    (AAMIR ALI)
  26. THE FIRST ASCENT OF CHORICHO1
    (GEOFFREY CHILDS)
  27. THE 'OBVIOUS LINE': ULI BIAHO
    (JOHN ROSKELLEY)
  28. THE CHILEAN KARAKORAM EXPEDITION, 1979
    (GASTON OYARZUN)
  29. RISK *
    (MIKE THOMPSON)
  30. EXPEDITIONS AND NOTES
  31. EXPEDITIONS 1978- 1980
  32. IN MEMORIAM
  33. BOOK REVIEWS
  34. CORRESPONDENCE
  35. CLUB PROCEEDINGS, 1980

THE BRITISH-NEPALESE GAURI SHANKAR EXPEDITION, 1979

PETER BOARDMAN

GAURI SHANKAR is a twin summited mountain - its Northern Summit is 7146 m high, its Southern Summit is 7010 m. Before 1964 5 expeditions attempted to climb the mountain, which soon gained a reputation for difficulty as ‘The Eiger of the Himalaya’. Before 1979, the last expedition to attempt the mountain was a British one led by Dennis Grey. The attempt was from what is now the Tibetan side and ended close to the summit when the lead climbers, Don Whillans and Ian Clough, were almost carried down by a major ice avalanche. This disaster the lower camps on the route and necessitated a difficult retreat 1.

In 1977 the authorities announced that further attempts would be allowed on Gauri Shankar by foreign expeditions containing Nepalese members. There was strong international competition for the first bookings. Eventually an American Nepalese expedition was allotted the Spring 1979 booking, and a British Expedition given the Autumn 1979 slot.

The American Nepalese expedition suceeded in making the first ascent of the North Summit. An expedition of ten members; five Americans and five Sherpas approached the mountain with 107 porters and forced a very difficult and direct route up the West Face using traditional Himalayan fixed rope and siege tactics. On 8 May 1979 Dorja Sherpa and John Roskelley reached the top.

The spectacular profile of Gauri Shankar is prominent from the plains south of this part of the Himalayan chain - so prominent that local legends proclaim it the highest mountain in the world. As with other double headed mountains, such as Numbur, Gauri Shankar has deep religious significance both in the Hindu and Buddhist religions. Shamkar (the N. Summit) is the Hindu god Shiva married to the goddess Gauri (the S. Summit). The Buddhist Rolwaling Sherpas living, south of the mountain can see only the Southern Summit and call it Jomo Tseringma. Throughout Sherpa Buddhism, to as far away as Sikkim, Tseringma is considered the most holy mountain of the Sherpas.

1979 Autumn British Expedition

Ater the N. Summit had been climbed, the Nepalese rules about joint expeditions no longer applied and our original team was altered.

1.See H. J. Vol. XVII, p. 35.

H.J. Vol. XXV, p. 205.

H.J. Vol. XXVI, p. 87,

Photos 6-7

Dennis Gray dropped out of the expedition two months before departure (for personal reasons) and was replaced as leader by Peter Board- man. The final team consisted of Peter Boardman, John Barry (Director, National Centre for Mountain Activities), Tim Leach (a talented young alpinist and architectural student from Manchester), Guy Neithardt (a mountain guide and ski instructor from Leysin, Switzerland) and Pemba Lama (a Sherpa who had been on Everest with Boardman in 1975 as well as 7 other Himalayan expeditions).

We decided to mount a lightweight expedition taking a minimum of equipment. We wanted to include a Sherpa in our team, so that the spirit of the 'British-Nepalese' cooperative effort could be maintained. Pemba (whose father is a Lama) could help us by observing the various Buddhist rituals of incense and prayer flags at Base Camp and help us to climb the mountain in a manner as sensitive and respectful as possible to its religious significance.

A lightweight expedition, we hoped, would leave little mark on the mountain and also provide the adventurous uncertainty that is one of the appeals of mountaineering.

The border between Nepal and Chinese Tibet runs somewhere through the mountain and, naturally enough, the Nepalese authorities asked us to stay well south of this line in our attempt. We were allowed to choose either the South Ridge or the West Ridge of the South Summit - both which look very difficult. We chose to attempt the West Ridge because it is slightly shorter - a classic line of corniced ridge 4 km long.

The three British members flew to Kathmandu on 18 September. There we were ably assisted by Mike Cheney of the Sherpa Cooperative Trekking (P) Ltd. Guy Neithardt was delayed but we eventually left Kathmandu on the 28th. The approach march took 10 days, via Barahbhise, Charikot and Lamobagar. We hired 48 porters who carried our equipment to Base Camp (the same as the Spring American expedition, height 4900 m) which we reached on 8 October. The final 2 days involved a 3000 m height gain which we rushed in case bad weather and snow high up turned back our porters. Unfortunately, because of this Tim Leach failed to acclimatize during the first week at Base Camp and had to descend to a camp below the tree-line on 16 October. Fortunately, he subsequently acclimatized well and rejoined the climb, just as we were pulling the ropes up below Camp One on 28 October.

Between 10 and 18 October Boardman, Barry, Neithardt and Pemba Lama carried loads up to Advance Camp at 5300 m at the foot of the West Ridge in unpleasant weather. Advance Camp was stocked with 20 days' food for four people.

We then made a 'capsule' style of ascent. Without redescent for further provisions, we fixed our 17 ropes between camps, pulling up the ropes as we moved up and stringing them out again. Leach's rejoining the effort stretched the food supplies but increased the climbing strength. The climb took us 23 days. We were lightly equipped - 3 lightweight tents, 30 karabiners, 25 rock pegs and 15 ice screws.

The initial obstacle was a 300 m deep gap in the ridge below two steep rock and ice towers. On the top of the second tower we established Camp 1 (the 'Nid d'Aigle') at 5500 m on 24 October. The first stage of the West Ridge rises to a pointed summit at 6037 m. After complicated route finding and Grade III and IV rock and mixed climbing, Camp 2 ('Neuschwanstein') was perched apprehensively on the summit.

From Camp 2 on point 6037 m the West Ridge runs almost horizontally for a kilometre before rising again. Beyond Camp 2 the climbing was frequently nerve-racking - threading between large double cornices. We could usually manage to climb between 4 and 6 pitches a day. On 3 November Camp 3, 6100 m was established behind a distinctive 20 m high rock tower ('Fawlty Towers') just below where the ridge began to steepen again.

It was relief to climb stable mixed rock-and-ice pitches and to start gaining height again. However, strong winds were beginning to blow across the ridge their force increasing every day. At 10.30 a.m. on 5 November Barry had led a steep pitch, was clipping into his belay when anchor, when a sudden freak gust of wind knocked him off the ridge.

He had united from the climbing rope when it ran out, but fortunately was still clipped into the 8 mil. non stretch fixed line. He fell 60 m down the N. side before the rope arrested his fall - luckily the line snagged on the aręte before the fall came fully on to Board-man who was belaying. Barry fell over two steep rock barriers and broke his left wrist, damaged his laft knee and was mildly concussed. The other three members came up and lie was helped down to Camp 2. On 6 November after careful discussion and encouragement from Barry, it wasdecided to continue with the climb. Meanwhile, Barry waited at Camp 2 stoically refusing to eat our dwindling food supplies.

The ridge rose steeply to a height of 6500 m where another section of horizontal snow mushroomed and snow-pinnacled ridge started again. The dangers of this section were highlighted when a large cornice collapsed moments after Leach had stepped off it. We had pulled up ill ih. i..p« used below Camp 2 and by 7 November had refixed moil ol thrm for the fourth and last time.

On the morning of 8 November Boardman, Leach, Neithardt and Pemba Lama set out for the summit, carrying a stove but no bivouac equipment and hoping to reach the summit that day. We were over- optimistic. The South Summit rises out of a large snow plateau at 6800 m but to reach this plateau we had to cross a 30 m deep gash in the ridge and then climb a steep headwall of rock and water ice. During that day we climbed 9 pitches - the last three in darkness. However, it 7.30 p.m. the angle eased as we reached seracs just below the edge of the plateau and bivouacked. It was a windy, intensely cold night and nobody slept well - some not at all.

On 9 November we set out for the summit after a few sips of warm water (we had left our last two meals at Camp 2). Although numbed by an unpleasant night, it was an exhilarating change after 20 days on the narrow ridge below us to walk up the gently angled wide open slopes of the South Summit plateau and the weather was clear, despite occasional stinging spindrift.

We reached the summit at 9.00 a.m. and enjoyed fine views in all directions from Shisha Pangma to Everest. We stood 1 m below the topmost point, out of respect to Gauri and Tseringma and stayed there 15 minutes before the cold drove us down. In the early stages of the expedition we had contemplated the traverse along the ridge to the Northern Summit but Barry's accident, a lack of provisions, equipment and energy decided us against the idea - the traverse looked as if it would take 3 to 4 more days.

The descent of the route took three days and we had no food for the last two. Barry managed the long traverse and abseils without problems, but with some pain. Fortunately, there had been no heavy snowfalls whilst we were high on the route.

The walk out from Base Camp took 6 days and we arrived in Kath- mandu on 21 November and in Europe on the 25th.

The Northern and Eastern Tibetan sides of the mountain are at the moment out of bounds and might offer easier routes. There are certainly no straightforward ways up Gauri Shankar from the Nepa- lese side. The West Ridge is long and serious. We feel happy with the 'capsule' style of our ascent - it suited our own abilities, the route and the equipment we took with us and was an exciting adventure on a formidable and beautiful mountain.

Gauri Shankar On right: British - Nepalese route. On left: approximate American route. 											(Photo: P. Boardman)

Gauri Shankar On right: British - Nepalese route. On left: approximate American route. (Photo: P. Boardman)



Gauri Shanker: West ridge of South Summit.  												(Photo: P.   Boardman)

Gauri Shanker: West ridge of South Summit. (Photo: P. Boardman)