Himalayan Journal vol.43
The Himalayan Journal
Vol.43

Publication year:
1987

Editor:
Soli S. Mehta
Index
  1. THE ASCENT OF KULA KANGRI FROM TIBET
    (PROF KAZUMASA HIRAI)
  2. EDITORIAL
  3. KANGCHENJUNGA CLIMBED IN WINTER
    (ANDRZEJ MACHNIK)
  4. GYACHUNGKANG, 1986
    (LT COL JEAN-CLAUDE MARMIER)
  5. THE OTHER SIDE OF THE MERA
    (MAL DUFF)
  6. DHAULAGIRI 1984-85
    (ADAM BILCZEWSKI)
  7. DHAULAGIRI I EAST FACE
    (STANE BELAK AND MARJAN KREGAR)
  8. FIRST ASCENT OF SULI TOP
    (RAMAKANT S. MAHADIK)
  9. AN INDO-FRENCH MOUNTAIN ROUND-UP
    (COLONEL BALWANT S. SANDHU)
  10. POLICEMEN IN KEDAR BAMAK
    (P. M. DAS)
  11. INDO -SWEDISH EXPEDITION TO MERU 1986
    (MANDIP SINGH SOIN)
  12. A VERY MODEST MOUNTAIN
    (EMLYN THOMAS)
  13. BASPA AND ROPA, 1986
    (M. H. CONTRACTOR)
  14. A NOTE ON KINNAUR
    (HARISH KAPADIA)
  15. MENTHOSA; ALMOST
    (ALOKE SURIN)
  16. SIA KANGRI, 1986
    (MAJOR K. V. CHERIAN)
  17. SASER KANGRI III 1986
    (S. P. CHAMOLI)
  18. THE SOSBUN GLACIER BASIN
    (LINDSAY GRIFFIN)
  19. 1986 BRITISH K2 EXPEDITION
    (DAVE WILKINSON)
  20. AN ATTEMPT ON GASHERBRUM III, 1985
    (GEOFF COHEN)
  21. EXPEDITIONS AND NOTES
  22. IN MEMORIAM
  23. BOOK REVIEWS
  24. CORRESPONDENCE
  25. CLUB PROCEEDINGS, 1986

KANGCHENJUNGA CLIMBED IN WINTER

ANDRZEJ MACHNIK

UNTIL 1985 Kangehenjunga was attempted only once in winters by a small 3-man team led by an American doctor Chris Chandler, from the north side. This ended in a complete disaster and Chandler died in the attempt.

We took the problem under serious consideration as early as the autumn of 1983 when from among the highest peaks of the world only Everest had been climbed in winter. We decided on Kangehenjunga but chose the less ambitious southwest face as a projected route of our attempt. Considering the troublesome approach march to the foot of the mountain, Kangehenjunga did not seem the most promising goal, anyway. The fate of the 1978 Polish expedition to Kangehenjunga South and Central Peaks that took as many as 44 days to cover the distance from Ham to base camp was well known to us. We could not expect probably anything better there in winter. The typical Polish shortage of hard currency1 was not going to make it easier for us either. To solve this problem we were seeking co-operation of American climbers but finally got only two of them: Casimir Lorentz from Rochester with his wife Alexandra. They managed to talk their friend Mike Skorupski from Britain into the project, and Jose Luiz Pauletto from Brazil and Marc Palten from West Berlin also joined us. The Polish part of the team consisted of 15 members, mostly strong Himalayan climbers.

The whole affair began fairly unfortunately: the ship carrying the expedition equipment from Gdynia to Bombay fell almost two months out of schedule and was expected in the port of destination only by the end of November. Considering the difficult approach march to Kangehenjunga and the worsening of weather conditions in the mountains during December, we couldn't afford to waste time, and staking everything on one card, we decided to split into two parties.

The first group consisting of the strongest climbers, equipped for a month of activity, was to start up the mountain as soon as possible.

The second group of five members had to pick up the expedition truck from the ship and chase the rest of the team as quick as possible.

Having only about 30% of our food and gear air-freighted to Delhi at the end of October, we had to fill big gaps in our funds. This work we managed to complete during two weeks we spent in Kathmandu, borrowing a considerable sum of money from a local business.

1. Alas, the shortage of hard currency is typical of almost all expeditions!-Ed.

Our approach caravan went unexpectedly well and was a real show of professional abilities of our Sirdar Ang Kami Sherpa - my old friend from Makalu west face and winter Manaslu expeditions. In 16 days from Ham we reached Ramser. There on 9 December, with only 10 porters left, we established our base camp. On 10 December a 4-man reconnaissance party, detached from the main body in Yamphudin (the highest village en route to Kangchenjunga from the south) and reached the place of the future advance base at 5000 m on the Yalung glacier. Thence we were following the 1955 British route by the southwest face.

The action was developing fast. On 16 December at 6200 m above the first icefall, Camp 1 had been established; on the 20th at 6600 m, above the second icefall, Camp 2. Considerable part of the route was fixed, the slopes hard and icy. On 22 December the second group with 70 loads (the first group had 100 loads) arrived at Ramser. On 25 December the weather broke severely. Three days of hard snowing and strong winds partly destroyed the base and camps, covering the glacier with a thick layer of snow, but this was soon to blow out.

At the end of December the weather improved and on 2 January Camp 3 (7400 m) on the Great Shelf was established, with Camp 4 (7800 m) the next day at the lower end of the summit couloir. At this point worsening of the weather swept all the climbers down to advance base, thus preventing us from an attempt on the summit.

On 7 January the final attack, without use of oxygen, had been launched and in the evening of 10 January Czok, Kukuczka, Piesecki, and Wielicki took places in the highest camp, with another five (Hajzer, Pankiewicz, Probulski, Skorupski and Wilczynski) preparing for the second bid at Camp 3. At 6.15 the next morning Kukuczka and Wielicki made for the top. Czok, feeling ill, decided to abandon the attempt and descend, accompanied by his partner Piesecki, The situation soon developed into unexpected tragedy: during the retreat Czok's condition worsened so rapidly that he completely collapsed, unable to move unsupported. Showing the symptoms of pulmonary oedema he had been carried down by Hajzer, Pankiewicz, Piesecki, Skorupski and Wilczynski. A message about Czok was received in advance base at 2.45 p.m. and the rescue team consisting of the doctor Robert Janik accompanied by Fligiel, Machnik and Terlikowski started hurriedly up, carrying oxygen cylinders with them. They continued climbing in the darkness while Wilczynski rushed down to meet them at Camp 1. They had no chance to arrive on time anyway. At 10.30 p.m. the same evening Andrzej Czok died at Camp 3. Knowing nothing about the tragedy developing below them Kukuczka and Wielicki reached the summit of Kangchenjunga, Wielicki at 1.30 p.m. and Kukuczka at 2.15 p.m. They returned for the night to Camp 4.

Czok's body has been buried the next day in the vicinity of Camp 3 in a crevasse. His death was a real shock for us --he was one of the best Himalayan climbers of the time with a reputation for strength and endurance. He had climbed Lhotse, the south pillar of Everest, west face of Makalu and Dhaulagiri in winter.

After the accident we abandoned further attempts on the summit. Evacuation of the camps and advance base took till 24 January. On 2 February we arrived back to Kathmandu.

The first winter ascent of Kangchenjunga was done in 32 days from Ramser, completely without use of oxygen and high altitude porters. The equipment was no different than that used in other seasons, the weather typical for the Himalayan winter - mostly sunny, with low temperatures, high winds sometimes breaking into fierce storms; but no danger of avalanches.

Members: Piotr Bednarczyk, Andrzej Czok, Grzegorz Fligiel, Artur Hajzer, Rober Janik, Zdzislaw KJszela, Julian Kubowicz, Jerzy Kukuczka, Andrzej Machnik (leader), Przemyslaw Piesecki, Boguslaw Probulski, Kjzysztof Pankiewicz, Zbigniew Terlikowski, Krzysztof Wielicki, Ludwik Wilcznski (all from Poland), Alexandra Lewis-Lorentz (Britain/USA), Casimir Lorentz (USA), Marc Palten (West Berlin), Jose Luiz Pauletto (Brazil) and Michael Skorupski (Britain).