EXPEDITIONS AND NOTES
DURING THE summer of 1984 I had the opportunity of visiting the beautiful country of Bhutan and trekking extensively. In the available mountaineering literature little is known of the high peaks of Bhutan. Most of the Himalayan peaks in Bhutan have approximate heights, some are even unnamed, and even those named are spelt differently in different publications. With the assistance of Bhutan Tourism Corporation I have attempted to work out a comprehensive list of mountain peaks with most acceptable spellings.
Unlike many other parts of the Himalaya, no detailed survey records of the Bhutan Himalaya are available except description of a few places visited by officers on political or military missions. According to old records a few political officers based in Sikkim notably Claude White, visited the Bhutan Himalaya towards the end of the last and beginning of the present century. However, with the exception of 7315 m high Jomolhari (Chomolhari), which was climbed by Spencer Chapman and Pasang Dawa Lama on 21 May 1937 and the Kula Kangri group (7554 m), which was seen
at close quarters, none of the other high mountains was reconnoitred. Jomolhari was climbed for the second time in 1970 by a joint Royal Bhutan Army and Indian Army Expedition,
Jitchu Drake (6793 m), another peak in the Jomolhari group, was climbed by five members of the Himalayan Association of Japan on 20 May 1984.
Jomolhari is a sacred mountain to both Bhutanese and Tibetans and stands on the boundary as a sentinel. On the western slopes of Jomolhari lies the Chumbi valley which, through the easy Tang la (15,219 ft), provides the main route to Gyantse and Lhasa used by the Younghusband mission in 1903 and by the successive Everest expeditions between the two world wars.
The Bhutan Himalaya contain about 18 peaks over 7000 m and most of these are extremely difficult and dangerous to climb, and thus provide a great challenge to mountaineers. Each peak is likely to defy a few attempts before yielding.
After undertaking sample treks in various parts of Bhutan, I can say that Bhutan compares favourably with the best trekking areas in the Himalaya. It has not only the image, but, in fact, is 'the last Shangrila' where the Lamaist Buddhist traditions and culture have been faithfully preserved over the centuries. The landscape of Bhutan, the unique architecture still remains in forms evolved centuries ago, miles and miles of unhabited terrain-in sharp contrast to crowded trekking trails in the neighbouring countries, the impressive and colourful Dzongs, the beautiful people and their dresses-all blending in perfect harmony with each other. There are a number of local festivals throughout the year at different locations. These are not only very colourful and interesting but absolutely authentic and have not so far been affected by tourism. Bhutan is rich in flora and fauna especially flora. I have seen more rhododendrons and primulas in Bhutan than in any other Himalayan region. Having remained closed to the outside world for centuries till recently, Bhutan is regarded as a rare destination about which an average tourist, who has heard only a little about Bhutan, conjures up some mysterious notions.
The popular treks are Paro to Jomolhari, to Lingshi, Laya and Gasa, Lunana, Bumthang to Ygyenchoeling, Bumthang to Lunana to Rukubji, Bumthang to Hot Spring via Tang valley, Bumthang Lhuntse via Rudung la, Bumthang-Lhuntse via Khenpa Lung, Bumthang-Tashi Yangtsi via Paksan Lung, Bumthang to Tashi-gang trek, Tashigang-Merak-Sakteng, Tashigang-Sakteng-Tashi-gang.
As for mountaineering, the Royal Government of Bhutan opened their doors to foreign expeditions, strictly on commercial basis, from 1983. Prior to this only a handful of teams on very special considerations, notably Spencer Chapman's team in 1937 and an Indian Army team, led by Col N. Kumar in 1970 (jointly with the Royal Bhutan Army) were allowed. Both these teams attempted Jomolhari from the south and were successful.
The Bhutan Himalaya have never been surveyed thoroughly. The great Trignometrical Survey of the Himalaya during 1845-1868 did not cover Bhutan, Even the individual accounts of exploration are few and rare. One old account of early observations is that of F. Williamson, the Political Officer in Sikkim, in 1933. He travelled from Paro to Bumthang, and then ascended the Chamkhar Chu northwards, crossing Mon la and Kar Chung la (17,442 ft) from where he got close views of Kula Kangri (7554 m).
The Manas Wildlife Sanctuary, comprising the area around Manas river in southern Bhutan and northern Assam, is one of the most fascinating tiger reserves of the sub-continent. The Sanctuary is set amidst a scenery of superb magnificence, created by river Manas. The rain forests are rich in a rare species of apes, the golden langur, the one-horned rhinoceros, hogdeer, wild bears, tigers, elephants and wild buffaloes. For the ornithologist the sanctuary offers pelicans, peacocks, large cormorants, white capped red starts and the great pied hornbills. Manas, it was once remarked, is what the earth looked like before the arrival of man, a jewel encrusted on land reflecting nature's varied and brilliant hues.
In Bhutan, as in the rest of Himalaya, the geology is highly eventful and equally complex due to the intricately folded, faulted and tectonised nature of the rocks which have rendered the task of working out the precise stratigraphy and structure of the area extremely difficult. This has been further accentuated by the absence of fossils in a majority of rocks. Analysis of the various structural elements contained in them reveal that these rocks have been subjected to at least three cycles of folding and as many as five stupendous mountain building movements during different periods of earth's history. The rocks, from the foothill region in the south to the Greater Himalayan range in the north, lie in stacks arranged one over the other, generally dipping towards north. These rocks, which range in age from Pre-Cambrian (older than 600 million years) to recent, when described from south to north, form the tectonic succession of the area.
With these attractions Bhutan will be a trekkers' and mountaineers' paradise in future.
A Tentative List of Principal Peaks in the Bhutan Himalaya
|Name Height in metres Group In some maps
(Local name Jomo)
||Table Mountain (Zogophu Gang)
Peaks in Bhutan. Jitchu Drake, Jomolahri from south and southwest. (Photos: Cant M. S. Kohli)
GUNNERS EXPEDITION TO LAMA ANGDEN
Lt Col KULDIP SINGH
THE LAMA ANGDEN peak is situated approximately 50 km northwest of Gangtok in Sikkim. This magnificent peak is surrounded on all sides by glaciers, whose last 800 ft is a steep vertical wall and the top has got just 12-14" of space, which is constantly swept by winds of nearly 80 km per hour. Locals of Lachen call it Langyalpo which means 'King of the Village'.1
It was the last week of April, we were ready to move. A separate road head party loaded in unit vehicles with the entire stores, left Gangtok on 25 April to establish camp at Lachen. We managed to find a porter who knew the location of camp and we started ferrying the stores till the base camp from 29 April onwards. The route between the road head and base camp was hazardous and the last 3 km of the route was made by hacking a way through the thick rhododendron bushes on a gradient of nearly 60 to 70 degrees. The base camp was stocked for 30 days by 4 May.
We were not certain where to establish Camp 1. After search, a flat piece of ground covered with fresh snow at a height of 14,200 ft was selected to be the Camp 1 and food stuff and clothing
required was dumped there by a number of ferries over a period of three days. I moved with the climbing team on 7 May. 1 had planned to carry out reconnaissance for Camp 2 the same day but due to heavy snowfall and extremely bad weather, we could not make much headway and had to return to Camp 1. Further probing for Camp 2 started on 9 May. We were to negotiate a huge buttress which was a large number of overhanging rocks before establishing Camp 2. In spite of the best efforts and the risks taken we could not cross it because unless the whole rock was visible a suitable route to negotiate it could not be decided.
1. The name Lama Angden is retained here as compared to the usual Lama Anden.-Ed.
On 10 May the team led by Capt S. Kanal while negotiating the lower heights of the buttress from the north found a 'V shaped rock with frozen ice in it. Sixth sense dictated that there might be a route through the rock. It took him 2 hours to reach the 'V shaped ice with the help of rope and ladder and they managed to cut a hole through this icy rock and found on the other side a sheer icefall of approximately 100 ft. About 30 yards from that hole was an overhanging rock which gave excellent protection and it was decided to establish Camp 2 there. He advanced forward with his team for another 2 hours, climbing up and down, to reach the glacier behind the buttress.
The night had fallen and with restricted visibility it was impossible to negotiate the glacier full of crevasses and the team returned to Camp 2, fully frozen and soaked in snow. If they had the choice they would not have pitched the tents and gone to sleep in the gaps of rocks. The whole team managed to capture 2-3 hours rest before they set out again in the morning for searching the final route for the assault on the summit.
After 5 hours of walking through snow they reached the general location of the base of Lama Angden in the middle of the glacier.
This was much to the north. From this place it was not possible to climb onto the saddle. From there we had initially planned to scale the peak, hence Kanal decided to negotiate the glacier and traverse left to find an easier route to the saddle. The assault team started traversing left on the glacier which had predominantly soft snow, at places even chest deep. It was a difficult walk due to many hidden crevasses which had to be located and then either by-passed or crossed with the help of rope bridge. It took nearly four hours to reach the saddle after traversing left on the glacier, and then climbing up steeply. The peak appeared to be close now, but it was not so. Due to the extremely bad visibility further progress by this party could not be made. Ultimately they had to return to Camp 2 at approximately 10 p.m. To their utter dismay they found no sign of Camp 2. It was completely buried by a snow-slide which had come in their absence. The food stuff had been swept away and the tents were badly torn. It took quite some time to retrieve the stuff and re-establish Camp 2 with aching muscles, empty stomachs and with bodies dehydrated.
On 12 May Kanal along with Naik Radhakrishnan, Naik Sukhdev and radio operator Mohan Pawar left Camp 2 at 3 a.m. for the summit. After five hours they reached the glacier and negotiated it without much difficulty since the weather was favourable and there was sufficient visibility. Now this team had to face the real problems before they could attempt the peak. The right shoulder of Lama Angden feature from a distance seemed an easy proposition but actually it had all the adversities for the acid test of a mountaineer. This was the time for avalanches, but for the team there was no turning back and they pressed their advance through an avalanche prone vertical nala covered with approximately 4 ft of soft snow. They had no choice but to go through with utmost caution. While they were negotiating the last nala the entire team came under an avalanche. Fortunately, it was of heaps of soft snow and the entire team nicely anchored themselves and the avalanche passed over their heads. It took quite some time for them to reorganise themselves for further advance. The peak was still far and before that was the vertical face of Lama Angden of approximately 300 ft. There were now only sixty feet left to the peak and still there was no sign of the weather opening up. With no hope of the weather clearing up the team reached the summit one by one, anchoringl themselves to the ropes tied with rock pitons. The altimeter carried read 5868 m on top of the summit,, as compared to the map which reads 5828 m.
SHARTSE EXPEDITION, 1984
YONG HO LEE
WE ARE THE members of K.A.G.A. (Korean Alpine Guide Association) which was established for the first time in Korea by the professional climbers in 1983. In 1983, we went on a winter expedition to the Tilicho Peak, which we could conquer successfully. Upon arriving home from the expedition, another plan of a spring expedition for Nuptse West and Shartse was waiting for us and we had to leave home again without taking enough rest.
It was a little late for spring climbing, but we started on 20 March, 1984. All the members who joined this expedition were the best trained climbers.
We hurried the caravan as we had wasted too many days in Kathmandu. Some of us were well acclimatised and could arrive at BC (5350 m) on 13 April through Namche Bazar, Pheriche, Chukung and rest of the members arrived on 15 April. On 17 April, at last we started climbing Shartse.
Passing under the walls of Lhotse Shar and Peak 38 without any difficulty we set up Camp 1 (5600 m) on 19 April.
From Camp 1 route is steep. We kept climbing zigzag to avoid the avalanches. Traversing to the Chopolu side we set up Camp 2 (6100 m) on 26 April. We had spent more days than we expected to get there. We had to hurry up as we did not have enough time left. We all worked hard and hard and two days later we, at last, could start attacking the blue ice-face which is almost vertical. Using fixed-rope of 300 m we climbed the vertical wall and set up Camp 3 (6450 m) on the main ridge of Shartse on 29 April. Camp 3 was not in good position as the severe wind from both sides hit together there and the camp was not set up safely on the knife-ridge. Next day we climbed up the ridge and set up Camp 4 (6600 m) on the rock-ridge that seemed rather flat.
SHARTSE CLIMBING ROUTE
This camp was not good enough also to attack the peak. We climbed up again and set up Camp 5 (6950 m) on 3 May. We thought Camp 5 would be the last camp. At that time two of us were in bad health and were left in Camp 4. In the evening of 3 May we eight members talked to each other and decided to attack next day though it seemed rather difficult to succeed. On 4 May we began. The slope was really steep. We worked hard. Unfortunately the woman climber was exhausted, she could hardly move a step by herself. Still worse another climber, Kwak's fall was big enough to force us to go back to Camp 5.
At Camp 5 we again talked over and decided to select only three climbers to attack the peak and the rest of the team to go down. Names of the three climbers were Dae Pyo Yoon, Hyo Kyun Kwak and a Sherpa Nima Wangchu. On 5 May, leaving three climbers in Camp 5, rest of the team went back to BC.
On 8 May three members did their very best and set up Camp 6 (7050 m). They were very tired but there was nothing to think about except success. Next day they bivouacked at 7250 m. On 8May they tried the last attempt for the top. At 11 a.m. they at last conquered Shartse. Wind was blowing severely and it was very foggy around. After a while they got back to Camp 5. On
8May we all could meet together at BC.
Sharstse was first climbed in 1974 by The Aus trio-German Expedition led by Kurt Diemberger. See H.J. Vol. XXXIII, p. 207.--Ed.
AUSTRALIAN ANNAPURNA II EXPEDITION, 1983
THE SOUTH FACE of Annapurna II can be seen from Pokhara in the foothills and is one of the most enticing routes in the Annapurna range. The summit pyramid rises high above the surrounding peaks; it's black rock holds no snow, and an elegant spur leads up towards the summit. The mountain's southern barriers are formidable, and there were four unsuccessful expeditions before the Australian attempt, all using the approach up the gorge of the Modi Khola.
The walk into base camp is short by Himalayan standards, but hard going (four days). Base camp was, also by Himalayan standards, very low, at 2600 m. Our plan was to carry all our food and equipment from this low base to advance base at 4700 m which in August was not far below the snowline. From base camp the route climbed very steep thickly vegetated walls by a circuitous route necessitating the use of about 250 m of fixed rope in five different places. Lower down our trail had to be cut through the thick growth. We had to have two intermediate camps between base and advance base and it was obvious that previous expeditions had also used them, judging by the rubbish left behind. We finally established advance base on 29 August. It was fringed on three sides by very active and spectacular icefalls, and nestled on a small fold on the steep grassy slopes of the upper gorge. It was the perfect place to have a climbing base, at least before the autumn snow came.
Alpine style climbs on big mountains can work very well but you have to be well acclimatized. Our route was long and we needed at least two camps before going for the summit. We thought that opening the route to our highest camp and stocking them with food and fuel would suffice to acclimatize us. Together with the help of a few storms, which kept us camp-bound, it did.
Above a small glacier the route from advance base climbed a three hundred metre cliff via ramps and gullies. It then followed the top of the cliff which sloped upwards to the east finally turning into the south spur of Annapurna II. A glacier emptied over the lower end of the cliff, but initially the route was clear of any icefall. The safety of the route was evident in the fact that the ropes from previous expeditions seemed to be all in place. At the foot of the south spur we placed Camp 1 which we nicknamed Hotel Annapurna because of the large ice-cave we built in an icy crevasse.
We had two options to get to the col on the south spur below the main summit pyramid, where we intended placing our next camp. The harder routes went straight up the icy crest of the spur. The easier but more avalanche-prone route was up the snow and icefields immediately to the east of the spur. In a total of four trips, we used both routes but opted for the easier route whenever the right conditions occurred. Getting on to the easier route involved a 50 m abseil down a cliff. It was here that our first accident occurred. Lincoln Hall pulled half a tonne of rock down on himself while descending a badly placed rope. He suffered a broken metatarsal and bad bruising, his helmet was cracked in half. We established Camp 2 (c. 6500 m) on the col on 16 Sep tember and when a particularly large storm seemed to have started, we retreated to advance base for a rest before the final alpine style push. We descended none too early. The snow was the heaviest any of us had seen and our route was very avalanche prone at times of heavy snowfall. Tim Macartney-Snape was caught in a slab avalanche but managed to escape it before it disintegrated and plunged over a 500 m cliff.
Lower down conditions had changed considerably. Massive movement had occurred in the glacier above the cliff and we now found that our route was heavily prone to major icefali. Ropes we had left in place had been swept away. We barely had enough rope to make the descent. Whilst Tim Macartney-Snape was selling up the descent, Lincoln Hall was hit on the thigh by a block of ice almost immobilizing it and causing him to need a lot of help to descend.
After a prolonged stay at advance base due to a five day storm, and the necessary time to allow the snow to settle, all seven of us ascended to the col again. At Hotel Annapurna we had to dig two feet to find the top of a tent that had been left pitched. The going was extremely arduous. From the col Lobsang Tenzing, Narayan Shresta and Mike Groom helped carry food and fuel for the other four to the end of the snow before the final rock pyramid at about 7000 m. From there they returned to base camp and left the other four to dig a snow-cave.
An attempt was made on the summit the next day, however, a retreat was made in the face of bad weather and the lack of any bivouac sites. After having got to about 7400 m, we found the rock to be atrocious for climbing. It was friable with downward sloping strata, having very few places for protection.
For the next five days strong and bitterly cold winds lashed the mountain. We feared the winter winds had come early but felt very lucky to have the shelter of the snow-cave which we enlarged.
After having made the decision to wait only one more day for the wind to stop, it died down overnight, and on 6 October with the lights of Pokhara twinkling far below, we set off at 6 a.m. The going was good until we were forced off snowy leads and on to the rock. We were carrying full bivouac gear and moving on the rotten rock was painfully slow. For seven hours we traversed upwards and across five pitches to a slanting chimney that led back on to the spur at the edge of the face. The last light of day saw us settling into two small ledges dug out of the snow-filled chimney just wide enough for two of us to sit side by side. On 7 October we had a late start and set about climbing the steep very loose crux of the climb, a 100 m corner. Greg Mortimer led the most difficult pitch, finishing it late in the day. It was still a fair distance to the summit so we retreated to the bivvy ledges for an other night. 150 km to the east Kathmandu glowed in the dark of a perfect but windy night. In the morning with the summit almost certainly in our grasp, we left early. Above the corner, rock gave way to soft snow which led to the summit. Everyone had reached the summit by 1.30 p.m. We saw the Korean expedition on the west ridge. We did not envy them traversing the very avalanche-prone slopes. The descent was fairly straightforward to start with. 400 m of abseiling and a further 500 m down climbing snow saw us back at our snow-cave. It was 9 p.m., lightning flashed around us, and our bodies buzzed with static.
The next day we could only descend to the col, the need to eat and drink and sleep overcoming our desire to get down. That night a blizzard set in. Below us was a 2000 m descent over 3 km of avalanche-prone slopes. We had little fuel and food and felt an urgent need to descend. We struggled for three days to reach a deserted advance base camp with little, then no, food and liquid. The snow was frustratingly deep. Almost every step was done
with the dreaded expectancy of setting off an avalanche, but we made it.
We successfully cleared from the mountain most of our equipment and left advance base as free of rubbish as possible. A one-metre snowfall made it hard to find everything that may have been left around camp. Our porters had arrived on time whilst we were sitting out the wind in the snow-cave, so our Sherpas had wisely evacuated most of the gear down to the valley. We had a memorable reunion with our Sherpas half way down the steep vegetated slopes of the gorge. They gave us roasted corn and mail from home including a telex saying that we had been reported as missing by the press. Down in the jungle settlement of Hoggar we spent a day in Paradise being looked after with incredible hospitality Local people had believed us dead and on meeting us, thanked us profusely for having climbed the mountain. We found it interesting that the mountain was in better condition during August and early September than later, at least below 7000 m. Higher up it looked to be the case as well. Because of the nature of the approach, attempting the route in spring could be very dangerous. Rain, mud and leeches are infintely preferable to avalanches.
: L. Hall, A. Henderson, Tim Macartney-Snape, G. Mortimer and M. Groom.
Annapurna II South Spur. Route of ascent. ( Photo: Dr Jim Duff)
British Southeast Pillar Expedition, 1983
Preparation: 22-28 August
THE TEAM arrived in Kathmandu on the afternoon of 22 August after a long flight from London via Dhaka.
During the following days the formalities required by the Ministry of Tourism were completed. At the same time food and equipment was purchased. Local food was required to supplement that brought from Britain and equipment to replace a sac missing by the airline.
The Walk-in: 29 August-5 September
On 29 August the team travelled with all its equipment in a truck loaned from 'Encounter Overland' to Pokhara, 200 km to the east of Kathmandu. From here the walk-in started. This took 7 days over difficult terrain, dense forest and rocky alpine pastures. The last day involved climbing over a 4100 m pass which gave access to the upper Seti Khola valley in which base camp was established. Base camp (BC) was at an altitude of 3200 m.
Monsoon conditions continued throughout the walk-in making progress difficult for both the climbers and porters.
Advance Base Camp: 6-26 September
The advance base camp (ABC) was established on 8 September. This camp was situated on a plateau just beneath the SE Pillar of the mountain at an altitude of 4200 m.
Up until 11 September the climbers carried loads up to ABC. It was anticipated that once ABC was stocked acclimatization on the east ridge could commence, however the monsoon conditions still persisted and so had to be curtailed until the end on the 26th,
Acclimatization: 27 September-1 October
This took the form of climbing on the east ridge. At an altitude of 6100 m a snow-hole was dug on the ridge (29th) after climbing easy snow slopes. The next day the climbers continued along the ridge, negotiating a rock step and corniced aretes.
After a few hours of this climbing it was decided to descend to ABC; first leaving a dump of food and equipment.
A second acclimatization climb was then planned with the intention of continuing on the steep section of the east ridge, With the prospect of assessing the descent route.
Second Acclimatization Climb, and Attempt on the Summit via the East Ridge:
On the 6th the team returned to the dump of equipment on the ridge and continued to where the ridge steepens and merges into a 1000 m face. A second snow-hole was dug here.
Trevor Pilling and Robert Uttley decided to make an attempt to climb the mountain via the east ridge route, while Jon Tinker and Nick Kekus would return to ABC in order to prepare an attempt on the SE Pillar proper.
Tinker and Kekus descended on the 8th while Pilling and Uttley continued onto the steep face.
That evening the weather turned for the worse, Pilling and Uttley established themselves on a small bivouac ledge at approximately 6300 m. It started snowing very heavily and strong winds picked up, these conditions continued without relenting for 5 days.
In the meantime Tinker and Kekus descended to base camp calling off any attempt on the SE Pillar. On the morning of the 10th the pair on the east ridge attempted to descend. They managed to descend 100 m finding a natural ice-cave in which to shelter from the appalling conditions.
It was visibly obvious to Pilling that Uttley was not well, he had chest pains and a bad cough. Uttley's condition quickly deteriorated and so on the morning of the 12th Pilling tried in vain to prepare Uttley for descent, he was too weak and at times delirious.
Again on the 13th he tried to no avail.
Pilling realised the only way to get Rob down was with the help of more people. He descended to ABC in very dangerous snow conditions and had to spend a further night, out on the glacier before Tinker and Kekus met him on the glacier. He was tired both physically and mentally.
Rescue and Evacuation: 14-20 October
Trevor Pilling was too fatigued to help in any possible rescue and so went to base camp to recuperate. Tinker and Kekus prepared for a rescue attempt, however in view of the dangerous conditions on the east ridge at that time it was decided to climb via a direct line to Uttley. This was a dangerous route but meant Uttley could be lowered down more easily.
The weather conditions continued poor and many avalanches swept the proposed line of ascent.
On the 18th the situation proved hopeless and the team abandoned for base camp.
Due to heavy snowfall on the walk-out porters couldn't/ wouldn't come to base camp. Loads had to be carried for 6 days, ferrying equipment to below the snow line.
The team reached Pokhara on the 25th and travelled to Kath-mandu on the 26th notifying the authorities the same day.
The team flew into London on the 31st.
MANASLU WINTER EXPEDITION, 1983-1984
THE EXPEDITION arrived at the 13,500 ft high base camp on 19 December, 1983, after two weeks of walking up the beautiful Buri Gandaki gorge. Base camp commanded a spectacular position on the south-facing slope overlooking the Manaslu glacier. Tents had to be sited on platforms dug into the hillside, but the most important structure was an old stone yak herders' shelter which we converted into an insulated meeting and eating place complete with fireplace.
The route crossed beneath the glacier snout and up snow-covered moraine to a place we termed 'equipment dump* at 16,000 ft. The route to Naiki Col and our Camp 1 at 18,300 ft was a straightforward glacier made somewhat arduous by two feet of recently fallen snow. By 25 November we had dug an ice-cave at Camp 1 and were ready to begin the real climbing by the start of the winter season on 1 December.
From this point we worked in two teams; one resting while the other pushed the route out. Alan and Adrian Burgess worked with three Sherpas while Trevor Jones and Gordon Smith worked with the other three Sherpas.
The route to Camp 2 at 21,500 ft had to wind its way through small icefalls and across one quite dangerous 100 yard gully where large ice-blocks were a reminder not to linger. The position of this camp was reached on 7 December and three days later an ice-cave had been dug and stocked with some food and propane gas for cooking. On 12 December, Alan and Adrians team carried fixed rope and climbing gear up to 22,500 ft. We had decided not to place a camp hereabouts because the wind had eroded away any possibility of digging a cave and a tent would have had a limited life in the exposed position. Rather, we opted for one final camp at 24,500 ft which could be placed at the time of the summit attempt. On 16 December, Gordon and Trevor had reached the high point but no farther. Winds hampered their progress and so they descended unexpectedly to base camp. Immediately, Alan and Adrian set back up the mountain and after a four day storm at Camp 2 once more made an attempt to reach Camp 3. After two hours they reached the high point but the three Sherpas were complaining of freezing feet. The temperature was below - 30 °C and the winds were gusting to well over 100 mph sometimes lifting the lighter Sherpas off their feet. They returned to Camp 2 while the Twins continued to scout out a route above, At 23,300 ft they too decided that not much could be done in those conditions and it would need a calmer day to establish Camp 3. Back at the Camp 2 ice-cave they conferred over the radio with the other three members who were at base camp. Tales of sickness and fatigue assured the Twins that no replacement climbers were forthcoming. After a lot of debating as to the possibility of success with no other westerners participating, the expedition was abandoned on 22 December, 1983.
Some Considerations on Himalayan Winter Climbing
1. The strongest winds generally come from the west and south, therefore route selection and aspect is worth considering because jet-stream winds can stop movement on the mountain altogether.
2. The height of the mountain is more critical in winter because the winds are worst above 21,000 ft and a disproportionately higher success rate can be found on mountains of around this height.
3. Routes passing nearby or through cols are much more windy and can funnel winds around onto slopes which normally would be considered to be in the lee of the mountains.
4. 4.When the wind direction changes from SW to the north there is often one day of good, calm weather but the northerly winds never seem to last for many days.
5.Although occasional snowstorms can occur in early December they are rarely very heavy and the first 3 weeks of December are normally the best for climbing. However, if there is an early snowstorm it can hinder (i.e. put up the price) of getting to base camp.
6.November weather is normally sunny and dry and the Nepa-lese government does not seem to mind expeditions preparing a Camp 1 (the higher the better) before 1 December providing no-one occupies it-and even this may depend upon the liaison officer who may be looking forward to the New Year in Kathmandu.
7.When requiring porters to take the expedition to base camp beware of the Tihar Festival around the beginning of November (changing a little each year). It is like trying to coax a westerner to work at Christmas,
8. Because expeditions are better completed before 24 December
there is not a lot of time to acclimatize while on the mountain and previous acclimatization is advisable; possibly on a near* by trekking peak.
9, When getting porters for the return journey, consider that a
heavy snowfall might trap the expedition if a high pass has
to be crossed, e.g. returning from Makalu.
10.Ice-caves are best used when making camps on the mountain. Only very strong tents will resist the winds above 21,000 ft and living in them can be worse than miserable.
11.One-piece down suits are the best form of outer clothing in very windy conditions.
12.The short, cold days of winter seem to make the climbing much more tiring than at other times of the year.
13.Chistmas is a time when most people like to be with their families and so climbers have to be very highly motivated.
14.Climbing Sherpas find it more difficult to rationalize extreme winds and for this reason are better when climbing below the windy zones than actually climbing in them. Combined with the fact that for them frostbite is more likely to lead; to amputation, they are hesitant to commit themselves to long days in the wind.
CHOBUJE EXPEDITION, 1983
SEVERAL THINGS have changed since I first visited Nepal in 1974. Tourists crowd into Kathmandu from where they visit other parts of the country. Five different expedition groups may now go through a small village in one day whereas many years ago people would have been lucky to see one expedition per year. But the people have stayed the same with the happy smile just as they were many years ago and of course nothing has changed in the beauty of landscape. Also the troubles with the officials have remained the same. It takes about a week just to get but of Kathmandu. It was not any easier now than five years ago when I took part in the expedition to Annapurna I. It is one of the most rewarding moments for the leader of an expedition when the group finally move out of Kathmandu towards the mountains. All worries and troubles with the organization and luggage ,and. customs are now over.
Our aim for this year was Chobuje. The Sherpas call it 'Kangare' which means in English 'the hatchet'.
Even back in Austria we have spent many hours looking over cards and pictures of this mountain considering from which side we should climb this beautiful peak. Finally we decided to cross this mountain from the south to the north. We want to climb this beautiful mountain as we were dreaming of a great alpinistic deed. Some of us are old experienced mountaineers, some young climbers. It should be a good mixture for this enterprise.
It takes us six unforgettable days to cross through the deep valleys of Nepal. Following Bhote Kosi up to Chimigaun we finally reached the first village, in Rolwaling. Every moment is with new exciting impressions, new adventures. We have enough time to get into contact with the people of this country and one thing that always fascinates me is their joyful and carefree attitude. Even after a full day carrying heavy loads the Sherpas suddenly start to dance and dance sometimes to the early hours of the morning. They are happy then.
From Na, last village of the Sherpas, (4200 m), it was only a short two hours for BC which we erected at 4500 m directly south of Chobuje.
There we placed our tents. We, that is Pfeifer Karl, Pletschko Oswald, Gritzner Karl, Gritzner Ernst, Dr Alf Paul, Ehrengruber Manfred, Varch Siegfried and Udo Ertl. We have been seeing this very impressive south wall of Chobuje already for the last three days of our trip. This mountain deserves its name 'hatchet'. It is steep from all parts. We are very anxious and thirst for action to climb this mountain. We spend two days to find the right routes for climbing and descending this mountain. Our final decision is to start from the north side. We build our first camp in the middle of the Ripimoschar glacier. We are only a few kilometres away from the forbidden Tibetan border. All around us is a wonderful scenery of peaks, most of them more than 6000 m high. During our first days there finally arrives the luggage which should have been there already, 80 kg of bread from the company Legat, some 30 kg of Carinthian bacon, both from our home-country, both things have been proven very successful in many of our expeditions. It takes the eight of us two days to carry food and supplies into Camp 1. It is enough luggage we have to carry. We all want to climb the peak. The approach is burdensome. First we go along meadows that reach up to nearly 5000 m in this area, then we follow the moraines of the glacier to our Camp 1. Ahead of us is the north part of Chobuje.
Two enormous ice-blocks block our route. On the left side to get into easier terrain would be possible but this route is under steady gunfire. We decide to try to approach this mountain from the right side. Ossi, Chico and Siegi start for the way to Camp 2. The rest of the group will be busy carrying the supplies.
Early in the morning we got the contact. The first group starts with the work to secure our back. Pfeifer Karl also goes into Camp 1 to aid the first group. This first group works its way through deep snow up until a rock. The ascent is very difficult. The rock is fully plastered with ice. The securities will be anchored into the ice with special drills, and wooden wedges. This technique has first been tried on the Fang and has proven to be very successful. The wooden wedges freeze into the ice and they will not come loose as it is often the case with aluminium screws. 6 p.m. we have contact again by wireless radio. Udo now moves from Camp 1 back to BC. It is dark already and he hasn't reached the base camp. We hasten to meet him. We find him half way 'between the base camp and Camp 1. He had forgotten his torch and it is difficult for him to see in the darkness now. In the dark we move back to the base camp and I really have to admire the sureness with which our Sherpa finds his way through the rocks.
The next day we still missed some of our supplies. So Karli and 1 carry our personal supplies and, the rest of the food up to Camp 1. Today Siegi, Ossi and Chico have chosen a place for Camp 2 and they erect their tent there. They have fixed about 400 m of ropes enroute to shorten the time between Camp 1 and 2. They have been climbing for more than nine hours that day and they had to fight the way through deep snow up to Camp 2. That rock was specially difficult to climb. Full of ice and covered with snow. The monsoon has lasted longer this year than in last years. Therefore knee deep snow is on the steep slopes that have to be crossed to reach Camp 2.
9 October 1983
Karli, Pauli, Udo and I are all now in Camp 1. We all watch how our advance group tries to reach the peak. They try three different ways. Each time the deep snow makes an advance impossible. They finally reach an altitude of about 6150 m, but then they return to Camp 1 and move on to the base for some rest and recovery. The next day we go to Camp 2 to look for different way to the peak. Ossi has told me that most of the difficulties should be behind us and that all eight could make the attack on the peak together. For hours and hours we fight our way through the snow to the camp. We carry heavy loads that could not be brought up there without ropes. We, that is Karli with Karl, Udo and I. Nothing can be seen from the tracks of our friends, from the .previous day. Late in the evening we reach Camp 2 and erect another tent into the flank directly under a rock spur. A rock spur that finally leads all the way up to the peak. There isn't much room in Camp 2; actually there is very little left besides the room that we need for the tents. We are all very excited. Now we got everything we need into Camp 2-bacon and bread, soup and Mountain House, the food that can be carried so easily. The next day starts with bad weather. Kaiii has kidney-ache and he wants to go down to the base camp. We agreed that in this rather dangerous area nobody should ever do anything on his own. After some debate the task to go down with him is given to me. In the early morning we say good bye to our camp comrades. We are planning to go down and come
back the day after with Ossi, Siegi and Chico. Then we want to carry on. Our descent now begins. We do not find the tracks any more that we had made while coming up. We got lost. About 500 m above our Camp 1 we suddenly find ourselves in front of a wall-a wall which stops our way. We do not have any hooks with us and we suddenly are in real trouble. I fire a rocket because I supposed that the others have already advanced from the base camp into Camp 1. No answer. Obviously our comrades are not in Camp 1 yet. We must go back. The snow is now so high that we sink into it right to our bellies. Just before the last light disappears we find the securities and thus get out of the wall. We are more than happy but it's a very short happiness. We cannot find Camp 1 anymore. Now we have to go back to the base camp. But that would mean climbing during the night in the moraine and that is not easy at all. We spend about three hours under a large stone but the wetness and the cold make us move on. We are lucky again. Finally we reach the meadows and some cover that has been made by the Sherpas. We build a small fire and about seven in the morning we finally reach the base camp.
In the meanwhile the first group was just getting ready to climb up to Camp 1. The time that we have considered necessary to climb this mountain has vanished. We must extend our stay another two days and these two days try our last attack at this mountain.
Weather has changed, it's beautiful again and we are full of high hopes. On 13 October my brother and I go up to Camp 1 again. While we go up we can see Ossi and his friends moving towards Camp 2. They advance slowly. There must be a lot of snow-up there. At 5 p.m. we get wireless contact with Ossi. They have reached Camp 2. It has been disturbed by an avalanche and the two friends that we have left in Camp 2 are dead. Tears fill our eyes. We have paid the highest price which an expedition can pay. We have paid with the death of our friends. Ossi, Siegi and Chico descend. We wait for them in Camp 1, It is already dark when I see lamps on their helmets moving, towards me. We all stay together and cannot understand why fate has been so rough to us. During the night Siegi, Karli and I go down to the base camp and tell the liaison officer this sad news.
Next day Paul! and Siegi climb again into Camp 2 to prepare an honourable grave for our dead friends. When we return to Camp 1 the rest of the crew gets together again. One sad long look to the peak and then we turn back. We turn back from a mountain which we wanted to climb so much and which had met us with a flat refusal.
After we had prepared the memorial for our dead friends in base camp we left it on 17 October.
There remain two tombs and the prayer-flags which were blowing in the wind during our stay to make the gods gracious. They were not to be so.
But I am sure that a young crew will continue this way for which Udo and Karl have died. And this young crew will reach the peak,
CHUREN HIMAL (7371 m)
Irish Nepalese Hivialayan Expedition, 1984
THE OBJECT of the expedition was to scale Churen Himal by the previously unclimbed southwest face which is some 3000 m in vertical height. The route chosen was a spur on the right hand side of the face leading to the south ridge at approx 7000 m. The south ridge would then be followed to the top.
At the) start of the expedition we believed this route to be unattempted as well as unclimbed. However we discovered that the October 1933 German expedition had switched their attentions from, their planned south ridge (because of steep, rotten rock) to the SW face. They had chosen a different route on the first half of the spur (5000f m-6300 m), but thereafter the two routes coincided. Unfortunately, the German expedition ended tragically. After reaching a high point of 6900 m they were forced by bad weather to return to their Camp 3 at approx. 6300 m. Here they were struck by avalanche, two members were killed and four of the remainder later evacuated by helicopter from base camp.
We too were unsuccessful, though thankfully without injury. After reaching a high point of 6600 m we were forced back by stonefall and bad conditions. Bad weather prevented further attempts.
The route from Pokhara proceeded from Naudanda to the ridge-top village of Karkinetta from where we got a fine early morning view of the Himalaya from Dhaulagiri to Everest. After that, it was down into the Kali Gandaki from Kusma to Beni. Here we branched off up the Mayangdi river and, after Darbang, started gaining height rapidly. A high col, around 3500 m, brought us into the Dhola river valley and the village of Gurjakhani, the last before base camp, still three days away.
Here we had the unpleasant surprise of discovering the trekking map we had been using 'Jomosom to Jumla and Surkhet' in the Mandala series, was badly out in that it showed the river system from the Churen Himal, Putha Hiunchuli valley draining to the east, the direction of our approach. In actual fact, it drains to the west and we had a 4000 m ridge to cross before reaching it, Frustratingly enough, we found on our return to Kathmandu that an alternative map in the same series 'Pokhara to Dhorpatan^ Tansen Circuit' is accurate.
However, notwithstanding these difficulties we established base camp on the 18 April, at 4100 m, on the true left bank of the Kaphe Khola, directly below the SW face of Churen Himal.
Throughout the walk-in the weather had been very mixed, with frequent afternoon thunderstorms. These continued, and in the period 20-28 April it snowed every day to a greater or lesser extent. On the 21st we had to abandon a carry up to the site of our advance base camp and on the 22nd, 24th and 25th were confined to base camp.
During this period though we managed to establish an advance base camp on glacial moraines at 5000 m, at the foot of the spur we were to attempt, about 3 to 4 hours walk up a stone covered glacier from BC.
Despite the continuing unsettled weather we moved up to ABC on the 26th and after one further very heavy snowfall that night the weather improved, and was generally good for the next nine days-27 April-5 May.
From ABC we were to follow a line up the highest point of the initial rock buttress running from 5000 m-6000 m. This was the only section that was not threatened by seracs on the edge of the upper snowfield, although it contained about double the height of difficult rock climbing compared with other possible routes. The German route had followed a smaller rock buttress to our left and then threaded a way through the glacier to the snow-field.
Between 27 April and 1 May we established a route through the buttress. The climbing was too difficult for us to consider alpine style on this section, so we fixed ropes on the hard pitches and ferried our gear onto the upper snowfield. In all we climbed about twenty difficult pitches, mostly on mixed ground as a result of the recent snowfalls. The rock was nowhere good, but sufficiently solid to find belays with difficulty.
At 6000 m, on the edge of the upper snowfield we established a camp from which we hope to make an alpine style ascent on the summit.
On 3 May we climbed the rock buttress carrying our personal gear, brought up most of our ropes, and occupied this camp. The weather remained fair but the strong sun had an adverse effect on both the snowfield and the upper spur. The snowfield was soft and sugary, with an insufficient crust to bear one's weight. The icefield forming the first half of the upper spur was bare and glistening, promising hard climbing. Nights were characterized by very strong winds that made sleep difficult, was taking its toll on the tents, and made movement outside hazardous.
On the 4th we set off at first light for the upper spur, carrying climbing gear and loads of food and ropes. Our intention was to climb the icefield and fix the ropes on the upper rock, thus facilitating our climb to the ridge the following day. However, the intervening snowfield proved to be a veritable maze of both hidden and uncrossable crevasses, and completely of that unconsolidated snow in which we sank up to our calves. Despite being a short distance directly, our enforced deviations to avoid seracs and crevasses made progress very slow, and it was not until afternoon that we reached the bottom of the icefield at about 6300 m.
Just below this we had discovered the grisly remains of the German Camp 3, precariously sited between two large crevasses and beneath a serac. The two bodies were amid the tattered shreds of their tents and equipment and were a sobering sight.
We continued onto the icefield but quickly realized that conditions were atrocious. The ice was bare and brittle, shattering off in, large crystalline sheets at the slightest touch, with often a stream of melt water running behind the outer layer.
The sun hits the upper face at 10.00 a.m and soon after the stonefall starts. The whole of the icefield is threatened, the base ice being peppered with stones. We had one direct hit, luckily not serious, and several near misses. We climbed leftwards towards the rocky crest of the spur in the hope of encountering better and safer conditions, but on reaching it, at 6600 m it proved to offer no such alternative. It too was under threat from stone fall and there seemed no possibility of shelter. It was easy angled, perhaps 45°/50°, but extremely loose and would present slow and awkward climbing. The icefield offered the best of the two alternatives and it was too unjustifiably dangerous in its present condition.
We returned to our camp leaving ropes in place up the icefield, and at particularly difficult crevasse and serac crossings in the snowfield.
That night gale force winds made sleep impossible and damaged one of the tents. The storm lasted until about 8.00 a.m., ruling out an early start, and we decided progress that day was impossible. We discussed the practicalities of continuing the attempt, in the end we decided that given the present condition of the upper face, it was too dangerous to justify continuing. We reckoned it needed good consolidated snow to render it safe, and if caught above the icefield by bad weather we would have had great difficulty in retreating across what would be avalanche prone slopes. The sobering reminder of the German camp and the sheer scale of the mountain^ were further factors that no doubt influenced our decision, and the added threat of bad weather building up in the west swung the balance.
We returned down the rock buttress, a slow process requiring much care as the retreating snows had left much loose rock in evidence. Eventually though, we reached our advance base and next morning, base camp. By then our good weather was at an end, and after a violent thunderstorm on the afternoon of 6 May it snowed heavily for three days. Brief partings in the clouds showed a face plastered with new snow. By then we had no doubts that we had made the right decision.
Dawson Stelfox (leader), Phillip Holmes, Martin Manson and Malcolm McNaught.
Ascents of Chwen Himal
Besides several attempts during the last two decades there were the following ascents:
1st Ascent: Japanese expedition in the post-monsoon 1971-a team of 6 members climbed the Central and West summits via the 3 flank (6 high camps, 900 m fixed ropes).
AAJ 1972, H.J, Vol. XXXI p. 174.
2nd Ascent: Japanese expedition in the pre-monsoon season 1975 -a team of 10 members climbed the west summit via the west ridge with 4 high camps.
3rd Ascent: This was the second ascent of the west ridge, done by a Japanese expedition in the post-monsoon season 1975, 6 members, 4 high camps. AAJ 1976.
For attempts see H.J. Vol. XXIV, p. 166, Vol. XXXIV, p. 152.
KANG GURU: TWO DAY ASCENT (WINTER)
Route on SW face of Churen Himal. German expedition 1983 and British 1984. (Photo: Dr Hagg)
I LEFT BC at 7 a.m. on 17 December 1983 in the extremely cold weather. I walked to Camp 1 on the track and through the moraine, and reached there at 10.30 a.m. Putting climbing irons, I started for Camp 2 with food and fuel for two days. I kept three pictures of the leader's late climbing mate in the pocket of the feather clothes. On the way, to gain time I pass through the stone walls, though they were not familiar to me.
Soon the weather became worse quickly, a little snow began falling and at last it changed into wind and snow, when I went up the last steep snow-wall. At 1.40 p.m. I arrived at Camp 2 where I took a rest over tea. I decided to remain there till it would stop snowing, but at 3.00 p.m. I could not wait any longer. I climbed the ice-wall, cleared the horizontal wall and reached the moraine. Then it stopped snowing. I moved from the ridge to the snowfield leading to the south wall of Kang Guru. It was terribly silent there.
'How long have I walked ?', I said to myself. 'I do not feel tired at air. At that time, 'Ah!' I uttered a soundless cry. Suddenly my body fell into the dark world, and I did not know what happened. I felt I was falling for a fairly long time, but I was not seized with fear of death. I fell two metres into the crevasse. If I had fallen badly, I would have been confined in the ice-world. It struck terror into my heart. I was beside myself. Anyway,