WE, THE mountaineering club 'Tokyo-Arukou-Kai', organized a mountaineering expedition to Kedarnath Peak (6940 m) to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the founding of our club. Our expedition team, consisted - of seven Japanese members, Michiaki Hoshino (leader), Fumihiko Maeda, Kazuo Saito, Toshikazu Miura, Yoshio Takeuchi, Yuzuru Nishifuji, Kentaro Eguro. We could only attain the altitude of about 5800' m which is two-thirds of the whole height and were not able to get to the summit ridge. As there is no other party that attempted the south face of Kedarnath Peak, we introduce our report to you.
14 May, 1981, we, seven in all, got into the chartered bus with Chander Shekhar Pandey (liaison officer), and departed from New Delhi.
Rishikesh is on the border line between the mountains of the Himalaya and. the plains. Next day we started for.the upper Ganges valley. On the way we halted -at Srinagar, and took the route for Gauri Kund in the Chamoli district. It was a narrow path on the slope of a mountain, we were obliged to stay there for half a day owing to landslides on our return.
We stayed at a pilgrim's lodging in Gauri Kund. Next day the caravan for Kedarnath started. Actually there was only a two days journey to base camp, the shortness of the period to the approach is the characteristic of this area. On the other hand we were sorry we could not enjoy the pleasure of the caravan for long.
The distance between Gauri Kund and Kedarnath is about 14 km. We ascended the path hiring 34 porters and 4 mules. For about 6 hours we climbed up for Kedarnath temple in company with pilgrims either barefooted or riding on sedans or mules.
The altitude of Kedarnath is 3581 m, it is close to that of Mt. Fuji, the highest mountain in Japan. It is a temple town, there are shops, lodgings and a post-office around the temple. Sadhus are living in the outskirts. We installed tents in the garden of a tourist hotel. 17 May, next day, Kedarnath Peak which was covered with clouds the day before appeared for the first time. When we saw the actual peak, higherto we had seen it in photos only, we felt a strong desire to make an assault on its summit.
From the beginning we planned to install base camp on the site about one day's journey from the temple. When we climbed a moraine, we had to tread on the snow and the- steps of barefooted porters had become uncertain. Finally we decided to install base camp on the snowfield after having passed the moraine and advanced on the Chorabari Bamak for two hours. We gave extra tip to the porters so as to let them bring up the load. But it was impossible to carry up all our equipment from the temple in one day. The transportation of the equipment continued all through next day and base camp was well established.
Around Base Camp
The altitude of base camp was about 4000' m. We found a site for' base camp on the glacier at the foot of the 5041 m peak which is in front of Kedarnath Peak. All through May it was a snowfield, and in June it became the field of stones and rocks, and on the other side of a small moraine a stream flowed and flowers began to bloom on a grassland.
Looking up the Chorabari Bamak from base camp on the right side, we could see the ridge line of about 6000 m continuing from Kedarnath Peak to Bharte Khunta. The avalanche which fell directly under the ridge line fell as far as the glacier (4000 m) and its snow smoke approached base camp. On the left side, stood a series of mountains of the- height of about 5000 m. : The- tip of the glacier became a col and on the right side a rock ridge rose up to Bharte Khunta. One may enjoy a different kind of climbing on the ridge to Bharte Khunta from that of the south face of Kedarnath Peak.
Assault on Kedarnath Peak
Within one hour from base camp, we - got to advance base camp, the base of the hanging glacier (about 4200 m) and the starting point of the south face. It seemed proper to set up base camp there, but if the time of expedition had been earlier, it would have been difficult to use effectively the porters from Gauri Kund who were not so used to expedition parties.
From advance base camp, we clung to the centre of the hanging glacier, and went up to the right: and climbed the contact line with the 5041 m peak. As there were ' numerous- falling stones, avalanches and crevasses in the centre of the hanging glacier, it was too dangerous for us to use it as a route. The route taken by us had no particular problem except for an icefall (about 150 m) at the altitude of about 4600 m. We had to be very careful in afternoons or after snowfall, because avalanches which fell from the slope of the 5041 m peak gathered and passed through there. The place above there was a snowy face, and we suffered from the heat of sunrays during daytime on fine days.
We set up Camp 1 just on the site we finished climbing the hanging glacier at the altitude of about 4900 m on 30 May. It was on snowy serac on the borderline between the plateau and the hanging glacier. During three weeks while we stayed at Camp 1, the con dition was so changeable that slits were cut in on the snow under the tent.
17. Kedarnath peak south face on right and Bharte Khunta. Article 8
18. Camp 1 and the upper part of the south face of Kedarnath peak. Article 8
19. View from ABC. Chaturbhuj (6654 m) on centre left and Sudarshan Parbat on centre right. Photos: Mark Udall Article 9
20. 6000 ft NE face of Manda I from ABC.
In front of Camp 1, there was the plateau which needed about 45 minutes to traverse. On the plateau, we could see the summit ridge line of Kedarnath Peak, Upper Snow-Field, Middle Rock-Wall, Snow-Ridge, Triangular rock Wall. They ranged to a snow-wall underneath and constituted the core of the south face. On the plateau, there lay lumps of blocks fallen from the flank on the right side.
Kedarnath Peak 6940m South Face
Now we went up the snow-wall about 200 m high lo the Triangular Rock Wall, and then climbed the rock wall about 200 m. That time we climbed over the perpendicular rock wall by artificial climbing at the starting point, after that we climbed up to right and to left by utilizing a rock band. At first we thought of taking the snow- wall of the left side of the Triangular Hock Wall as our route, but it became the route of avalanches. Even our rock wall route was showered with snow smoke whenever avalanches from above fell on the left and right of us.
After the Triangular Rock Wall, we traversed the unstable snow wall and came up to the Snow-Ridge. After we finished climbing the rock wall, we went on for about 600 m and reached the site to install Camp 2 (580 m-13 June). It was under the right end of the Middle Rock Wall. Camp 2 was on the snow ridge which was covered with 30 cm of snow on an ice-ridge. We spent 4 days to make the space to set up a tent by ice cutting.
As for the further plan, we planned to go round the right side of the Middle Rock Wall and climb the snow-wall to the Upper Snow Field, and traverse it to the left and climb the left side of the Top Rock Wall and reach the ridge line and thus attack the summit from the left.
But at that time, our climbing plan was ten days behind schedule, and moreover the fact we could not use high altitude porters above the Triangular Rock Wall from the view point of techniques and safety became our burden. The snowfall which continued for two days and the approach of monsoon were enough reason to finish our mountaineering.
On 20 June, our equipment was carried down from Camp 1, and on the 21st all members gathered at base camp. On 28th we descended from base camp to Gauri Kund, and on 29th we got to Srinagar in rain on the same bus as the one we came here before.
Though we aimed at the south face of Kedarnath Peak, we returned without stepping on the Top Rock Wall, Upper Snow Field, Middle Rock Wall of the core of the south face. But looking back at the mountain, we thought it was the mountain we could climb, and that the mountains of this area were suitable for a swift attack of a small party.
A different kind of climbing can be experienced on the south face of Kedarnath Peak and the rock ridge of Bharte Khunta. It is our wish that we could come to Kedarnath again after gaining more power and experience.