KHARCHAKUND (6612 m — 21,695 it) AND KIRTI STAMBH (6270 m — 20,570 ft) are to the south of the Gangotri glacier in the western Garhwal Himalaya. The expedition planned to make the second ascent of Kharchakund by the previously unclimbed north ridge. Kharchakund had previously been climbed by a Japanese team from the SW in 1980.
Research into the Kharchakund region brought Kirti Stambh to the team's attention. Kirti Stambh is approximately 12 km NW of Kharchakund and appeared from the SFAR 1 : 150,000 map to be an easier proposition than Kharchakund, although no photographs of Kirti Stambh could be found. The expedition booked Kirti Stambh with a view to acclimating on its apparently easier terrain and coming to terms with the scale of the mountains. The plan was to climb Kirti Stambh by its NE face.
The team reached base camp at Tapovan below the north face of Shivling on 1 October 1982. They had travelled from Delhi to Lanka (the roadhead village in the Bhagirathi valley) during 27/28 September, then using 17 porters completed the walk-in via Gangotri in three days.
Kirti Stambh proved to be a considerably more illusive summit to reach than expected. Only on the third attempt was it successfully climbed. An intricate route was made up terrain which offered climbing on both rock and ice. Climbing involved ice of Scottish Grade IV in difficulty, and rock of Alpine Grade IV. There were bergschrund difficulties and the rock, which was heavily mica-bearing and slabby in nature, was not an ideal base for snow. The NE face was seen on one occasion to have suffered five major wind slab avalanches and the heavily seraced face was for the most part a dangerous proposition. Despite this, on the first attempt on 4/5 October, McGlashan and Allen found an inherently safe route avoiding the major objective dangers.
This initial attempt to climb Kirti Stambh fell short of the summit at 6000 m (19,700 ft). The climbers had bivouacked at 5180 m (17,000 ft) on 4 October.
Dhaulagiri I, the apanese ascent pear Route (N face), 1982.
Judging that they could scale the face then reach the summit and back in one day of fine weather, they had opted for a light-weight rapid ascent leaving bivouac gear, stove and some food behind. A build-up of afternoon cloud which threatened to break prompted a prudent withdrawal from the mountain. Carrying insufficient food and paraffin for a further two-day sortie they returned to advanced base camp at 4600 m (15,000 ft) behind a moraine skirt on the south slopes of Shivling.
A second attempt was mounted by Lindsay and McCullough on 7-8 October whilst their companions set up the advanced base camps for an attempt on the north ridge of Kharchakund. Lindsay and McCullough reached 5425 m (17,800 ft) before making their first bivouac. Unfortunately, when 8 October dawned, McCullough was suffering from altitude sickness and a return to a lower altitude was necessary.
It was not until after attempting the north ridge of Kharchakund that the climbers returned to Kirti Stambh on 18 October. McCullough, still suffering from the effects of altitude sickness, was restricting himself to the Gangotri glacier level around base camp. The other three climbers bivouacked in the shelter of a small rock cliff at 5425 m (17,800 ft), a site used earlier by Lindsay and McCullough. The next morning was fine. McGlashan and Allen set out with Lindsay breaking trail. Having traversed out from the shelter of the cliff and ascended a snow ramp to join a gully at 18,000 ft where tragedy struck. Lindsay was hit by a wind slab* avalanche, funnelled down the chute from snow-slopes out of sight above. By dint of rolling diagonally down towards the gully wall; he extricated himself from the snow before it poured over an ice-slope and onto boulders 300 ft below. He suffered bruising and shock and retreated to base accompanied by McGlashan.
Allen, after some deliberation, continued alone confident that he could safely negotiate the rock traverse and steep ice-pitches solo having previously climbed these difficulties with McGlashan. From their previous high point they could see no problems save a possible cornice leading onto the summit snowfield and _possibly bergschrund difficulties on the final slopes. Bergschrunds were Allen's greatest concern.
He reached the col between a peak 6254 m east of Kirti Stambh and the summit of Kirti Stambh on the evening of 19 October. A very uncomfortable bivouac was spent by some rocks near the col.
The 20 October dawned fine and after negotiating the bergschrund difficulties on the summit snowfield, Allen reached the summit of Kirti Stambh at 9.20 a.m. He took a complete panorama of photographs and also a few shots of the Indian flag which had been presented to the team by the liaison officer, Ved Kumar.
That day Allen returned to advanced base, then onto Tapovan the following morning, 21 October, appointed as the day for arrival of porters at base ready for the walk-out.
22 October saw a turn in the weather and as the team walked-out to Gangotri they were kicking through the leaf-strewn path at Chirbas, pleased to be parting before the onset of winter.
An advanced camp on the NE slopes of Kedar Dome was established as an intermediate camp en route to Kharchakund. It was tucked in behind a lateral maraine flanking the Gangotri glacier. From this camp at 4725 m (15,500 ft) supplies were ferried across the tortuous terrain of the Ghanohim Bamak to the Kharchakund base camp at the foot of the north ridge, 4800 m (15,800 ft).
Kharchakund 21760 ft
From the foot of the ridge, McGlashan and Allen set out on 13 October to attempt to climb Kharchakund north ridge. They had spent the afternoon of the 12th reconnoitring the ridge from its northeastern aspect. Allen had espied a gully leading onto the ridge from that side, avoiding the powder-snow-covered slabs at the foot of the north ridge proper.
By the evening of the 13th, after slow progress in the unconsolidated snow of the gully, and some tricky climbing above, they made their first bivouac in the safety below some rock cliffs. A thunderstorm broke early in the afternoon and persisted late into the evening.
16. The southeast ridge of Shivling from kirti glacier Article 12 Photo : Jim fotheringham
17. Jim Fotheringham on the crux pitch of the southeast ridge of Shivling. Article 12 Photo : Chris Bonington
18. Fore-shortened view of Kirti Stambh NE face. Article 12 Photo : Roy Lindsay
However, 14 October dawned fine. Their progress was even slower than the previous day as the climbing became more difficult; mostly Alpine Grade TD. Unconsolidated snow continued and only a vertical interval of about 600 ft of climbing was achieved before the two climbers were forced to find a bivouac for their second night. The , climbing had involved much difficulty in route finding and several blind alleys had been followed in search of progress. A steep shelf below a small cliff offered shelter that night.
They had anticipated and planned on a five-day ascent, and when they started their third day on the north ridge they were 1600 ft above advanced base camp with the summit 4300 ft above them.
After traversing out of their eyrie bivouac perch, they crossed left over the shoulder of the ridge and into a snow couloir. This they climbed in two pitches. A rock wall now barred their way and it was surmounted by a difficult slabby rib involving an ED pitch and some time-consuming sack-hauling. Snagged ropes and jammed rucksacks took up valuable time. The third day's climbing was completed with some clever route finding via a shelf overlooking a great gully on the left, and this brought Allen and McGlashan to the 18,000 ft level, only 600 ft above their previous night's bivouac.
To this point they had completed about 2200 ft of the 5900 ft ridge in three days' climbing. They considered the route ahead.
They were now faced with a traverse of three rock and ice-pinnacles which they estimated would take a full day's climbing and would gain them very little altitude. Following this was an ice-wall threatened by seracs on the left, then an ice-arete which would lead, they thought, to the base of the great north tower. Unseen to them was a further rock pinnacle involving a short descent before the north tower, which Lindsay could see as he followed their progress from a vantage point on the Gangotri glacier.
It was thought that the Great North Tower could be turned on its left on the steep snow slopes. At this stage in the climbing and in view of the climbing difficulties, hampered by the unconsolidated powder snow overlying the slabby rock, the two climbers anticipated perhaps three further days of climbing to reach the col behind the Great North Tower. Above this the summit snowfield with its ice-falls and visible bergschrund difficulties might take a day's climbing. At 2.30 p.m. on 15 October they decided to retreat, agreeing that the difficulties were too great to allow them to complete an * ascent of the north ridge within the period which their food and paraffin would last.
The north ridge was considerably more difficult than any of us had anticipated.
The two climbers abseiled down the ridge not reaching advanced base until the 16 October, forcing a third bivouac and suffering the loss of a climbing rope which irretrievably jammed during the descent.
There was insufficient time to mount a second attempt on the north ridge of Kharchakund.
Members: Roy F. Lindsay (leader), Rick F. Allen (deputy leader), Ernie McGlashan, Malcolm McCullough, Beverley Hurwood.