EXPEDITIONS AND NOTES
BRITISH MAKALU EXPEDITION, 1988
THIS MAINLY BRITISH expedition set off walking up to Makalu from Hille on 17 August. A support trek of 16 trekkers walked in from the air strip at Tumlingtar with trek leader Andy Norris. The 13 day walk-in was made more difficult than usual because of an extraordinarily heavy monsoon which subsequently flooded three quarters of Bangladesh. Three days after leaving Tumlingtar the earthquake was felt which killed over 800 people in the south of Nepal. The trekkers and the team members and support climbers all arrived at base camp (BC) by 29 August.
The team members were Greg Child (Australian), Terry Mooney (Irish), ShaVu Prabhu and Praful Mistry (Indian), Rick Allen, Andy Parkin, Mark Miller, Sean Smith, Simon Yates, Alan Hinkes and myself, (all British).
Trekkers and acclimatization
Advance base camp (ABC) was established at 5500 m on 1 September and on 3 September the expedition members and eight trekkers reached the summit of Pt. 6170 m just above ABC. The trekking group returned to BC where one of the trekkers' cooks Bomb Bhadur, had suddenly died of pulmonary oedema in the night. The death of a very popular, hard working lad of nineteen was felt by the whole team especially by the trekkers who had got to know him so well. Pt. 6170 m became a rather pointless place for sometime afterwards. The trekking group arrived back safely in Kathmandu by the 12 September.
The majority of the members set off to acclimatize up to the Makalu la (7400 m). Others went further north, Sharu, Terry and myself going round to Pt. 6550 m, Alan and Liz to Pt. 6250 m, Andy and Laurence up the upper Barun glacier and Rick and Alison to Pt. 6140 m.
The west face of Makalu was the main objective of the expedition but it was totally out of condition. A German-Swiss group had permission for the same route at the same time. They also left it for another year.
The Roger Baxter-Jones couloir was our secondary objective but after heavy snowfalls in mid-September this too was out of condition being very prone to slab avalanche.
Mark, Sean and Rick reached the Makalu la on 16 September in dangerous conditions. Subsequently, Sharu, myself, Andy and Greg went out and slept at the la.
Attempt at the summit
Rick and Alan left the camp at 7000 m and climbed straight up to the west of the R.B-J. couloir and slept the night on the north side of the divide. Next day, the 30 September they went down and across to camp with the Spanish team at 7780 m on the original route. The following morning they were away early (4.30 a.m.) following the Spanish climbers. The Spanish retired due to conditions and some frostbite. Alan and Rick continued up to 8100 m. Al was dubious about continuing. Rick pushed on until he avalanched past Alan who had let go of the rope, he had a poor belay. Rick went down 500 m over snow and rock. His head was badly lacerated. Al managed to get him down to the Makalu la. The Spanish and Polish climbers then gave a lot of support and assistance during the night. Pepe, the doctor/leader of the Spanish, came up from 7000 m and with Sherpas and others brought Rick down to 7000 m.
Greg and myself reached Rick there, after coming up directly from ABC. We were then able to get Rick down to ABC the next day. On the 5 October Rick reached BC where Kerstein put about 30 stitches into his head. We thought it prudent to evacuate him by helicopter. He flew away to Kathmandu with wife Alison (they were on honeymoon) and a frost-bitten Spanish climber on the 7 October. Rick luckily made a complete recovery from his head injuries but spent a week in hospital with malaria !
After this event we all walked out.
It might be of interest for Himalayan climbers to note that the government of Nepal will now allow as many teams as apply properly to climb any route despite that it may already have been booked. There was at one time this autumn some fifty climbers from ten countries all climbing towards the Makalu la. Such is the obsession for 8000 m summits.
1988 INTERNATIONAL KANGCHENJUNGA EXPEDITION
KANGCHENJUNGA'S north face rises two vertical miles in one sweep of overlapping cliffs, rock faces and hanging glaciers. It is a masterpiece of nature's architecture, designed to discourage climbers from attempting to reach the summit from this side. Although technically possible routes exist, every conceivable line at some point is exposed to serious rockfall, falling ice or avalanches. Any route from the north demands a careful look at trade-offs : logistical feasibility versus acceptable risk. When a British expedition made the first ascent in 1979, their accomplishment was clearly recognized as one of the most difficult and respected mountaineering challenges on an 8000 m peak.
In 1984 I applied to Nepal's Ministry of Tourism for a permit in 1988. I was looking for the extreme challenge that an ultralight team would confront on a large, technical Himalayan peak. This was emphasized the following year, 1985, when two American expeditions failed on the north ridge. In addition to the immense difficulties on the peak, both attempts were plagued by cerebral oedema. One climber died, a second suffered severe amputations from frostbite and a third was barely rescued through the tremendous efforts of his teammates.
In 1986, I began the lengthy process of fund raising and organization. My teammates were outstanding individuals. Austrian Peter Habeler and Spanish Basque Martin Zabaleta had made Himalayan climbing a focal point of their lives. Like me, each of them had climbed Everest and had returned to the Himalaya numerous times to seek out new challenges and improve his skills. Our collective Himalayan experience played a key role in our success and ultimate survival on Kangchenjunga. Dr Howard Donner, a physician well versed in high-altitude medicine, agreed Jo be our expedition doctor. I asked Lhakpa Dbrje Sherpa to be our Sirdar. Lhakpa was a man with whom I had shared many of my earlier Himalayan experiences. A tight bond of friendship and trust had grown between us during two expeditions together : Baruntse in 1980 and Makalu in 1984. We decided to include two high-altitude Sherpas in our team, in addition to a Sherpa cook and mailrunner. I felt comfortable knowing that Lhakpa would be choosing the Sherpa members of the team. This critical selection is often not made carefully.
Ours was not the only expedition to Kangchenjunga in the 1988 pre-monsoon season. A Spanish Basque team had permission to try a similar route to ours and a 21-member Indian expedition was on the opposite southwest face. We had been in contact with the Basques and looked forward to sharing the north face with them; several had climbed with Martin and me on other expeditions.
Our 15-day approach to base camp went smoothly. As the approach to this area had been closed to all but climbing expeditions, the encroachment of Western civilization had been minimal and the villages were unchanged by modern tourism.
We established base camp on 3 April at Pang Pema, a tranquil, pastoral field alongside the Kangchenjunga glacier. Over the next three weeks, the weather permitted only three constructive trips beyond this 5000 m camp. During short good-weather spells, we placed Cl and C2 at 5800 and 6400 m. Towards the end of April, a ferocious storm confined us to base camp for six days. Late on the 26th, the weather finally cleared. Peter, Martin and I, accompanied by Nima and Dawa, our two Sherpa companions, set out for Cl early the next morning. We wondered how long the good weather would last. On the 28th, we climbed through the dangerous ice-cliffs and continued to C2. With the help of the Basques, who came up a day behind us, we spent 29 and 30 April climbing and fixing 300 m of 7 mm rope on the steep ice-and-rock flanks leading to the north ridge.
On 1 May, we carried all our equipment for the next five days. We climbed and fixed the remaining 200 m face and continued, unroped, up the exposed north ridge to sleep at 7150 m. The next day, we fixed a final 100 m through the rock step at 7300 m and carried on to 7450 m on the huge plateau below the summit pyramid. Nima and Dawa then descended to C2 the same afternoon. That night there were signs that the good weather was ending. The winds that had been coming steadily from the east began to blow again from the southwest.
Nevertheless, at 4 a.m. on 3 May, we left for the summit in frigid darkness. We reached the rock walls of the vast summit cone as dawn was breaking. Though together at first, each of us now climbed alone in a private world of struggle. I went through a tremendous range of emotions. At times 1 found myself elated to be so near the summit of such a huge mountain. Then I became utterly discouraged at the situation in front of me. I was frightened by the steepness, by the intense cold drilling into me and, most of all, by the descent that would have to follow. There seemed to be so many places that I could make a fatal mistake. Waves of anxiety swept over me. I could only break away from them when I pushed on with the intense activity of climbing. I passed a tattered, frozen-in rope that the 1980 Japanese expedition must have placed over the short rock steps. I recalled their placing 250 m of line through the gully to safeguard their descent. I felt insecure and exposed. After the rock step I stopped and removed the 20 m coil of 6 mm line I had been carrying. It seemed absurd to lug it further as Martin and Peter were both above me. 1 did the same with my one spare mitten. I wanted to leave behind every ounce I could. Only water, a small piece of sausage and my short ice axe remained in my rucksack.
Peter called upon all his strength and set a fantastic pace. He reached the summit at 9.30 a.m. Martin and 1 were still four-and-a-half hours away. As we feared, at 10 a.m. snow began to fall and visibility dwindled. We crossed paths with Peter at 10.30 a.m. while the snow fell steadily. All three of us discussed options on the steep ramps of snow. Ahora o nunca! we decided. Now or never! It was unlikely that Martin and I would ever be this close again.
We climbed the final, delicate 100 m of the west ridge in the growing storm. There was no view at all. The terrain was steep and unforgiving. We followed endless traverses around granite buttresses, up 50° snow-slopes and into windy corners. The blowing snow nearly blinded us as it built up inside our goggles. At 2 p.m., I climbed over a broken, blocky step to the summit, too cojd to feel elation. 1 took ten quick photographs at different apertures as Martin came up the last several meters. After 30 seconds, we started down. A half-buried oxygen bottle a few meters from the top reminded me of what I needed most.
We were desperate to get out of the wind that tore across from the south. As soon as we dropped below the ridge and onto the north face, I asked Martin to stop and help warm my feet. Then we continued on. The descent from the summit to our tent at 7450 m took us seven hours in the heavily falling snow. At 9 p.m., we caught sight of the lit-up dome of the tent through the swirling winds. In a few minutes we were pulling off our frozen boots between bouts of hacking coughs. Peter radioed to base camp of our arrival and helped us prepare a hot drink. The relief we felt was indescribable, but it was not to last long. All night it kept on snowing.
Nearly a meter of snow had fallen by the next morning when we resumed the descent. Laden with gear from the camp, we plowed across the broad, exhausting plateau. Where were the fixed ropes off the edge of the plateau ? How could we get our bearings in the sea of white ?
We were stunned when we got to the site of C3. Not a trace of tents, supplies, fuel; food! All had been swept away by avalanches. Too exhausted to countinue, we waited out the night in the tent and sleeping bags we had carried down. Since setting off for the summit, we had hardly eaten a morsel. How much longer could we go on without fuel ? Violent coughing spells doubled us up as we counted the hours until dawn.
At 6 a.m., leaving everything but film and cameras, we began the treacherous and terrifying descent over the snow-caked slabs of the north ridge. Traversing and down-climbing, we wove our way through unstable windslabs. Doubt and uncertainty dogged every step. We were at the mercy of the gods. We were asking too much.
After an eternity, we reached the fixed ropes leading down the icy flanks towards C2. Below them, we had to fight our way across hundreds of meters of knee-deep snow before the next blow. The well-stocked tents of C2 had also been swept away! Without recourse, we struggled down the dangerous slopes towards Cl. On the glacier at 6000 m we managed only short distances before collapsing in the snow to regain strength. This was the most gruelling test of endurance any of us had ever experienced.
Lhakpa met us just above Cl with water and the news that Nima and Dawa had been seriously injured when their tent at C2 had been swept 300 m down the face by two consecutive snow slides on the night of 3 May. Though they had survived the fall, they spent twelve hours fighting their way down without equipment, both with broken ribs. Dawa had suffered so severe a concussion that he had no realization that he was on a mountain and believed he was in a lowland village. He had not eaten or drunk substantially in forty hours. They were still in Cl unable to gather the strength to return to base camp.
On 6 May, nine days after setting off, a weak and battered crew staggered into the cheering voices and comforting hugs of friends in base camp. The Basques had seen the storm coming on 3 May as they neared their final bivouac at 7450 m and had descended to safety the same day. Although they made two further attempts, neither they nor the Indian expedition on the southwest side managed to reach the summit. Tragically, the deputy leader of the Indians died, supporting a bid for the top in late May.
We came away from our success with humility coupled with deep satisfaction. In an endeavour where boldness and commitment are sometimes highly rewarded, we asked ourselves, to what extent could the hazards be ultimately controlled ? How fine can we draw the line between achievement and risk ? We must take a careful look at what motivates an individual when climbing a large mountain with a small, self-reliant team. Though willing to take risks, we must also be capable of turning back empty-handed. This commitment to self-discipline is, perhaps, the most difficult of all to sustain. It is towards this goal we continue to strive.
: Kangchenjunga Hirtial, Nepal.
: Kangchenjunga (8586 m) via the north face; summit reached on 3 May 1988 (Buhler, Habeler, Zabaleta).
Carlos Buhler, Dr Howard Donner (Americans); Peter Habeler (Austrian) and Martin Zabaleta (Spanish Basque) with Lhakpa Dorje (Sirdar), Dawa Nuru, and Ang Nima (High Altitude Sherpas).
The route on the northridge of Kangchenjunga. (Carlos Buhler)
Steep ice face at 6700 m leading to north ridge of Kangchenjunga.
THE 1988 AUSTRALIAN BARUNTSE EXPEDITION
'THE 1988 AUSTRALIAN Baruntse Expedition was a great 1 adventure in the classic sense, with a long march to base camp, a dose of exploratory trekking in some very rugged and remote terrain, and some interesting climbing on Baruntse (7129 m) itself.
The ten-man team from Canberra, Australia, left Kathmandu on 27 March 1988, travelled by bus to the village of Chatra near the Indian border, and from there began the 25-day march across nearly the entire width of Nepal to base camp in the upper Hongu valley.
Five of the 10 members, including leader John Finnigan, were members of the 1978 Australian National University Mountaineering Club Expedition that climbed Dunagiri in the Garhwal Himalaya. The other four Dunagiri climbers were John Armstrong, Ken Baldwin, Ken Bell, and Theo Hooy.
Charles Barton, Tom Barcham, Peter Lane, Will Steffen, and American Peter Hodge comprised the rest of the team. Barcham has had a longstanding interest in Baruntse as, until last-minute New Zealand Alpine Club politics intervened, he was a member of Sir Edmund Hillary's 1954 New Zealand Expedition that first climbed Baruntse.
The early stages of the trek were hot, dusty marches along the Sun Kosi and Arun valleys, followed by a climb to Bhojpur and a week-long ramble across ridge-tops to the Salpa la. After a descent to the Bung/Gudel area, it was decided to push up the Hongu valley above Cheskham before crossing over to the Hinku.
This trackless route, up very steep bluffs towards a pass near the Panch Pokhari, is seldom, if ever, used by trekkers and required compass-and-map navigational skills to negotiate. A sudden, vicious afternoon snowstorm complicated the pass crossing and forced a camp just below the pass. Due to the very harsh conditions, many of the porters nearly left the expedition at this point.
However, the next morning was clear and calm, the porters decided to remain, and the long descent to the Hinku valley on the other side of the pass was completed without incident. At the head of the Hinku lay the Mera la, the last obstacle before base camp in the upper Hongu valley.
The expedition nearly came undone at Khare, just below the Mera la, as a variety of reasons convinced the majority of porters to quit. It took five days for the remaining porters to shuttle loads across the pass, often in windy, snowy conditions.
A shuttle system was then used to ferry loads up the Hongu valley, and base camp was finally established at 5200 m on 21 April. Base camp was too distant to mount a reasonable attempt on Baruntse, so the team immediately started moving most of the gear and supplies up to Cl, along the Hongu glacier at 5400 m and within striking distance of the west col.
On 24 April the quartet of Finnigan, Hodge, Baldwin, and Hooy set out from Cl to establish the route up the Hongu glacier and to fix 200 m of rope up the steep headwall to the col. Meanwhile the rest of the team continued to carry loads from base camp to Cl.
With the route to the col fixed on 25 April, C2 was established shortly thereafter at 6150 m on the west col. C2 was a most spectacular place, as to the west the icy spike of Ama Dablam dominated the ring of peaks that surrounded the upper Hongu basin while to the east the massive west face of Makalu hung over the broad Barun plateau.
The route from C2 lay across the Barun plateau and then up a broad snow slope to a col between a subsidiary snow peak (Peak 6730 m) and the southeast ridge of Baruntse. Baldwin and Lane, with support from Hooy and Bell and two staff members, Ongchu Lama and Bir Bahadur Tamang, forged this segment of the route and set up C3 (6400 m) beneath Peak 6730 m. Then Baldwin and Lane climbed to the col, fixed a rope over a bergschrund, and thus opened the way to the upper sections of the southeast ridge.
Bad weather intervened and the assault on Baruntse was interrupted for several days as southerly winds and heavy snowfalls put the mountain out of condition. Until then the weather had been predictable, with light-to-moderate westerly winds, clear mornings, and cloudy, snowy afternoons. The afternoon snows were, however, generally light and didn't hamper progress on the mountain.
On 5 May Finnigan, and Stiffen set out from Cl to push the route further up the mountain, establish C4 high on the southeast ridge, and then go for the summit. Hodge, suffering from a mild stomach complaint, joined the trio a day later at C2.
The well-travelled route between Cl and the base of the west col headwall was often done on skis. Although the upper Hongu glacier had few, and easily discernible, crevasses, the use of skis diminished further the chance of falling into a hidden slot. Also, the ski descents, after a hard carry to C2, were fast and exhilarating, and afforded a rapid passage through the one segment of the route threatened by ice-cliffs above. By mid May, however, much of the snow cover on the moraines near Cl had disappeared and the snow on the glacier surface began to stick to the skins, so skiing became a less attractive mode of transport.
On 7 May Finnigan, Hodge, Hooy and Steffen moved to C3, the relatively easy day marred by difficulties with hidden crevasses. The route between C2 and C3, although very easy technically, was made serious by the large number of hidden slots and dubious snow-bridges.
Above its col with Peak 6730 m. the southeast ridge steepened and the snow became very soft. The carry from C3 was exhausting, but the four climbers still reached their goal, a group of huge seracs that marked the beginning of the more gently inclined summit ridge. They dug a snow cave, C4 (6850 m), at the base of the serac.
Baruntse' s summit ridge was far more broken and convoluted than the team had expected from previous climbing accounts and photographs. It consisted of segments of badly corniced, knife-edges interrupted by jumbles of seracs and crevasses. At one point a large serac had disappeared and left a gaping hole in the ridge.
The first obstacle was a series of three large shell-shaped seracs dubbed the 'Opera House', as in profile they resembled Sydney's famous landmark. The summit party spent a day enlarging their cave at the base of the Opera House, and on 10 May set out for Baruntse's summit (7129 m).
It was an unusually clear and calm day. Kangchenjunga was easily visible over 100 km to the east, and, even by mid-morning, there was a relatively light build-up of cloud from the south.
The four climbers turned the Opera House by traversing on its western flanks, often forced low by long crevasses emanating from between the individual shells. The snow was firm and the climbing relatively straightforward.
Beyond the Opera House the ridge narrowed and sharpened, and the climbers were barred from the crest by menacing cornices that overhung on the east. The traverse low on the ribbon of snow between the ridge crest and the top of Baruntse's rocky west face became very steep and more difficult as the snow conditions deteriorated.
About 200 m beyond the top serac of the Opera House and only about 100 vertical metres below the summit, the climbers met a steep kink in the ridge covered with unconsolidated snow. With Hodge in the lead, they tried for three hours to force a safe passage around the 20 m high headwall. But the snow was too soft to support the weight ot a climber, and when it appeared that further attempts might trigger an avalanche down the west face, the summit attempt was abandoned and the climbers returned to C4.
On the summit attempt several segments of fixed rope from previous expeditions were found amongst the seracs of the Opera House. These bits of rope were in totally illogical positions for climbing purposes, so it is apparent that the character of Baruntse's summit ridge can change significantly from year to year.
Three days later Baldwin, Lane, Ongchu and Bir Bahadur made a second summit attempt but were stopped at the same point. A final attempt later in May by Hodge and Hooy was stopped lower on the mountain by heavy pre-monsoon snowfalls and turned into an equipment-clearing excursion.
In keeping with the adventurous nature of the expedition, the team split into two parties for the return to Lukla. One group, consisting of Barton, Baldwin, Hodge, and Hooy, trekked from Cl across the Hongu glacier and Panch Pokhari to the Amphu Lapcha, while the remainder retreated down the Hongu valley and across the Mera la.
The Amphu Lapcha party, after crossing that spectacular pass, then went up to the Everest base camp to visit colleagues from the Australian Bicentennial Everest Expedition before descending to Lukla via the well-worn path through Lobuje, Pheriche, Dingboche, and Namche Bazaar. They thus completed a trek which began near the India-Nepal border and came within a stone's throw of Tibet.
Although the expedition failed in its major objective of climbing Baruntse, it was nevertheless a most successful trip. Six members climbed to within 100 vertical metres of the summit, and all 10 members set personal altitude records. Most of all, it was a marvellous 10 weeks trekking and climbing in remote areas of eastern Nepal.
C 2 on the west col. Baruntse in background. (Will Steffen)
CHOLATSE FROM THE WEST, 1988
IN 1986 I LED a trekking group through Khumbu's Gokyo valley, where numerous trekkers marvel at the west face of Cholatse (6440 m), also called Jobo Labsthan. Although small by Himalayan standards, the 1100 m face looked like it would offer challenging climbing suitable for a small group to go aloine-style. Also, the modest elevation would allow a team to enjoy the beautiful weather typical of late October, without getting them up into the zone of shrieking winds.
In 1988 I returned with three partners, Tom Walter, Greg Collins and Robert Staveley - Parker (S. P.). With S. P.'s wife Sue and 3 Sherpa staff, on 3 October, we established a base camp at 4720 m below the west face of Cholatse. Immediately a snowstorm buried us, but that would be the last hint of bad weather. Four days later the four of us set out for a prominent rib just right of center on the face. We spent a few hours working across the heavily crevassed glacier below the mountain, with a passage on the glacier's west edge providing key access. Then we dug a safe if drippy bivouac below an ice wall at the right edge of the rib's lower rock walls.
The next morn we made good time on the steepening snow, rock and ice, and by early afternoon we reached a bivouac at nearly 5800 m. Unfortunately S. P was nauseous and vomiting, so the next day we just fixed a couple of pitches. By the morning after, 11 October, he was stable but not strong enough to climb. Tom, Greg and I started for the summit, confident that without bivvy gear we would be able to get there and back. About 10 pitches of steep ice and rotten snow brought us along the rib to a high basin. Here we left a rope and some hardware, and we trudged up through deep snow to what we thought would be the final steep pitch to the top.
Tom led that pitch, but when we joined him among the summit ridge gargoyles we saw that reaching the true high point would probably require a couple more technical pitches, with involved rappels to retreat. The western sun was warming on Everest; with only one rope we figured we'd use all the day-light remaining getting to the summit and back along the ridge, and thus we would have to bivouac high. We were tired and not fully acclimatized, and without gear we knew a bivvy would threaten our lives. Though we knew there'd be time to try again, we descended in frustration. Tom and I would later find out that the summit had actually been out of sight but much closer than we suspected; a 15-minute hike and a short steep pitch would have gotten us there.
As we rested back at base camp, Tom announced he wanted to try the northwest ridge. This ridge drapes off Cholatse's summit in a long, spiny stegosaur, rock and snow for the lower third, ice and snow above. I was reluctant, considering how we'd apparently underestimated the less difficult west rib. But after five days of eating and reclining I felt spry enough to give it a try. On 16 October the two of us hiked and scrambled to a bivvy at the col at the very end of the ridge (5500 m).
We awoke to frosty fog, and started up the narrow spine on rock that varied from very rotten to occasionally firm. Mixed in we struggled with loose, powdery snow. At about 5800 m we luckily came to a small perch that provided a panoramic bivouac. By the next afternoon we left the last of the rock and started enjoying ourselves on 55-70° snow and ice, and just before dark we reached a gradual slope at a bit over 6100 m. The next morning we zoomed up a few more enjoyable ice leads to a frightening surprise; the final section of the stegosaur curved upward in a knife-edged series of nightmarish powder-snow mushrooms. With no anchors possible, we tried to climb on the side of the ridge opposite the belayer as much as possible. Step by step, stroke by swimming stroke, we made our tenuous way. Eventually Tom led through a pitch of vertical to overhanging ice, and then I swam through two final roofs of fluff to then flop onto the summit plateau at dusk.
The next day, 20 October, we slept in before climbing our 37th pitch to the summit. Under continuing blue skies, we rappelled our west rib route to reach basecamp on the 21st. For Tom and I, our date with Cholatse was complete; we'd found adventure on unclimbed ground, and the exhilaration of the Himalaya was as wonderful as we'd ever known.
Greg and S. P., however, still had a summit to reach, and on the 22nd they started back up the west rib. The pair practically flew up to 6050 m, but S. P. again came to nausea and vomiting, and they descended.
Cholatse from the west. NW ridge is left skyline, the west rib is right of centre, starting from right of rock cliffs. (Andy Selters)
On the final pitches of NW ridge of Cholatse. (Andy Selters)
EVEREST EXPEDITION, 1989
SOON AFTER OUR planned expedition to the north side of the mountain had to be cancelled because of the riots in Tibet, I succeeded in getting a permit in Kathmandu for climbing Everest from its south side.
At the briefing at the Ministry of Tourism we agreed upon our expedition taking place in the period between 1 May to 1 June 1989. The expedition was to be undertaken in Alpine-style, without help of high altitude Sherpas and without bottled oxygen, via the South Col route. On 22 April we finally started - with more than 2 weeks delay. We flew from Kathmandu (1300 m) to Lukla (2860 m). There I met the famous climber Hans Kammerlander. He was on his way to Lhotse south face with the European expedition of Reinhold Messner.
In Lukla our team is prepared for the route to Everest base camp-a distance of about 84 km. The original number of 10 Austrian climbers had been reduced to a minimum of 2 Sahibs. For my wife Gabriele, who was to arrive from Munich on l*May, a reliable porter was chosen. Heavily loaded, we left Lukla on 23 April and 5 days later we reached Everest base camp at 5350 m. Several other expeditions to Everest and Lhotse had set up their tents there some weeks before in order to get acclimatized to the altitude-an absolute necessity for climbing the highest mountain.
The highest point so far reached by other teams was C3 at 7300 m. On 30 April my partner, Kurt Stuwe, sets out for Cl. 5 years ago Kurt and I had been successful on a difficult route on Mount St. Elias, Alaska. We had not seen each other since then, obviously things had changed a1 lot in the meantime and our former partnership did not work any more. Since we were only two climbers in our expedition I saw our best chances to reach summit in good teamwork, more so in bad weather conditions. But Kurt could not be persuaded - he wanted to try a solo-ascent. I had not known about his plans before and so I am faced with a completely new situation: most of my equipment (belay-devices) and my tactics for ascent have become superfluous!
One day later, on 1 May (validity of permit), I began my ascent through Khumbu icefall at 5 o'clock in the morning. This icefall was well known to me from many expedition reports and personal accounts. Like a huge waterfall the ice was cascading down from the Western Cwm to the glacier near base camp, 700 m below. The ice was moving forward 1 m per day. The upper third of the icefall was especially dangerous. It was in this section that a nearly fatal accident happened to me : one ladder suddenly gave way. With my crampons on I lost balance and fell into a deep crevasse. Thank heavens for the fixed rope, on which I had secured myself before crossing the crevasse, I could stop my fall and climb out of the crevasse on the opposite wall. Slowly I reached Cl (6050 m), right above Khumbu icefall. Here I set up my tent and fall asleep completely exhausted . The next day I got my equipment, which I had deposited in Khumbu icefall, and after a short rest I made my way to C2 (6500 m). Behind Cl several giant crevasses are to be negotiated before one reached the actual Western Cwm. The view is fantastic : to "the right Nuptse face, nearly vertical, is gleaming in the sunlight, with Lhotse and Everest towering behind and the dark rock of Geneva Spur coming down from South Col. From here the route could be seen very clearly, C2 was situated on a moraine near the end of the valley. On 5 May I am informed on the radio that my wife has arrived at base camp. I am glad she could walk in from Lukla in such a short time, and I descend to base camp right away next morning.
I start my next ascent on 10 May-in one day I climbed up to C2 and after that up to C3 at 7300 m. On my further ascent I had to stop and turn back near C4 because weather conditions were worsening. I spent one more night at C3 and then descend to base camp due to enormous clouds approching Everest. Kurt Stuwe, whom I did not meet while ascending, gave information on the radio about his summit attempt. In C2 he had joined Jay Sieger, a climber from Alaska-his solo attempt seemed not so important any more. For the nights he spent at South Col (C4) as well as for his further ascent to the summit, "Kurt Stuwe had used oxygen and a mask of the Yugoslav team, thus causing some excitement at base camp. Since I was the leader of the expedition the Yugoslavs claimed compensation from me (a mask had been lost at C4), I deny any claims because Kurt and I had agreed on an ascent in Alpine-style, and I had not been informed about what was going on at C4. Kurt Stuwe later confirmed the statements of the Yugoslavs, having used oxygen and mask of a Yugoslav climber who had died near South Col. Kurt reached 8650 m on Everest and returned to base camp on 21 May together with Jay Sieger.
In the meantime I had made up my mind to have a quick attempt at the summit if the weather improves, since the necessary acclimatization seems to be accomplished. But earlier than in the years before, the monsoon set in with heavy snowfall. The enormous clouds I had seen from C3 had been a sign of the coming of monsoon.
Some Polish climbers who took a chance at summit at that time, did not come back ! ! On their way down they were buried by an avalanche and the survivors could not be evacuated because the weather was so bad.
On 22 May I had our base camp cleared. In 3 days we walked out 84 km to Lukla-our expedition came to an end.
THE AUSTRALIAN BI-CENTENNIAL EVEREST EXPEDITION
MAJOR ZAC ZAHARIAS
THE EXPEDITION, (The Australian Bi-Centennial Everest Expedition) via the South Col route was a notable success, not only placing three members on the summit but also making the first ascent on the Nepalese side without the use of any Sherpas above base camp. The expedition was led by Austen Brookes and consisted of 27 members, eighteen of which were climbers.
The team arrived at base camp on 12 March after leaving Jiri on 24 February 1988. Working in four teams led by Majors Peter Lambert, Zac Zaharias, Pat Cullinan and Michael Rheinberger, the expedition moved into the icefall on 16 March. For the next eleven days, the teams worked tirelessly placing 30 ladders and fixing 4 km of rope. Cl was finally located at the lip of the icefall at 6000 m on 26 March and C2 at the base of the SW Face at 63OO»m on 29 March. By this stage the large tri-nation expedition had arrived and was making its presence felt on the mountain, pushing up to C2 on our route in rapid time. An agreement had been reached at base camp that as we had fixed the route, the tri-nation expedition would maintain it. Over the next month, we laboured as 'White Sherpas' ferrying 1200 kg of stores to C2 from base camp. The Lhotse Face to C3 at 7400 m was fixed and the camp established on 16 April. From here the going got tough. The tri-nation expedition with its seemingly limitless resources passed our expedition, fixing rope to the Geneva Spur. We made a number of attempts to carry to the South Col with heavy loads but soon learned that we were not Sherpas. The Sherpas seemed to be able to carry from C2 to South Col and back in a day whereas we needed twice the time with lighter loads. Eventually we succeeded with the first of 11 loads to the Col on 5 May, the day the tri-nation team summited. On 14 May, after the strong winds had subsided, the first team consisting of Zaharias, Lambert, Captain Jim Van Gelder, and Bruce Farmer established C4 on the Col. On 16th the team left for the summit at 1.30 a. m. but was forced to turn back at 8550 m due to deep and unsafe snow conditions. The next team consisting of Cullinan, Paul Baype, Rheinberger, Major Jum Truscott, Captain Terry McCullagh and Dr Chris Curry moved up to the Col on 19th and 20th. Strong winds kept them tent-bound and by the 24th, only Bayne and Cullinan were still left on the Col. They left the Col for their summit bid at 10.30 p.m. on the 24th, with Bayne reaching the summit at 12.30 p.m. on the 25th and Cullinan 2 hours later, both running out of oxygen on the summit. Bayne returned to C4 on the South Col by 6 p.m. and Cullinan at 11 p.m. Cullinan was physically exhausted and could hardly move. With no news at base camp, a rescue bid was mounted by Jon Muir and Curry, however on the 27th they crossed paths near the Geneva Spur as Bayne and Cullinan were descending. They had spent what is believed to be a record of 9 days above 8000 m (with some oxygen). The next day Muir reached the summit, with oxygen, and Curry failed by 100 m due to a faulty regulator on the salvaged Japanese oxygen system he was using.
The ascent without Sherpas needs to be qualified in that the tri - nation contributed by fixing the route between C3 and the Geneva Spur as well as the icefall maintenance, however it is still notable for being the first non-Sherpa ascent with the bulk of the climbing, carrying as well as the route through the icefall being done by Westerners. 15 members reached the South Col and eight climbed above 8000 m, it was a significant achievement.
ANGLO-ICELANDIC PUMORI EXPEDITION, 1988
ON 2 OCTOBER the 4-men expedition established the base camp (5300 m)-below a glacial lake west of Kala Pather. During the next twelve days we placed (and carried loads to) a high camp on the upper Changri Shar glacier and fixed some ropes on steep mixed ground on the west face.
During this period Jon Geirsson had been suffering from severe chest pains and, on the 14th, following the advice of the doctor at Pheriche HRA post, he left base camp to return home. Steve Aisthorpe had also begun to suffer from a gastric flu and on the 16th descended to Pheriche to consult the doctor there. As the doctor suggested that it would be a week before he might recover, he sent a message back to base camp suggesting that the remaining two members (Thorsteinn Gudjonsson and Kristinn Runarsson) should feel free to make a summit attempt without him.
On receiving this message on the morning of 17 October, Thorsteinn and Kristinn left base camp to make a summit attempt. On the 18th base camp staff watched the two climbers through a telephoto lens -making steady progress an steep ice above the fixed ropes - until, at 2 p.m., they disappeared from view behind a serac. They were never seen to reappear above the serac.
Steve arrived back in the base camp on the morning of the 19th and, expecting to see Thorsteinn and Kristinn appear on the SW ridge and climb to the summit, watched the upper west faqe and SW ridge all day. Worried that his two friends had not appeared, Steve left base camp on 20 October at 4.30 a.m., climbed to the high camp and searched the glacier/scanned the face. He neither saw nor found any trace of the two climbers. On the afternoon of the 20th a message was sent to our agents in Kathmandu, via the police post in Namche Bazar, requesting a helicopter. On 21st Steve, once again, searched the glacier and the high camp area. During the 22nd and 23rd he waited expectantly in Gorakshep for a helicopter.
Eventually, on 24th, a helicopter arrived and searched the mountain up to 6000 m. Nothing was seen. Another helicopter search was made on 31st, but again revealed nothing. Steve eventually left Nepal in early November assuming that Thorsteinn and Kristinn had died before reaching the summit and that their bodies lay in a crevasse below the west face.
In early December 1988, Jeff WilliaVns, leader of the Australian Pumori Expedition, contacted the parents of Kristinn Runarsson and stated that he had definitely seen the two climbers approaching the summit during the early afternoon of 19 October. The only explanation for this seems to be that the two missing climbers stopped for some time behind the serac before climbing on during the night of the 18th. It can only be assumed that Thorsteinn and Kristinn reached the summit of Pumori on 19 October - via a new route on the west face. They had originally planned to descend via the same route, but where their bodies now lay is a mystery. Any suggestions would be pure conjecture.
Neither man was a stranger to high mountains. Thorsteinn and Kristinn were Iceland's leading exponents of Himalayan climbing and made many friends during their travels. Their open, easy-going personalities were a breath of fresh air to all who met them. Many mountaineers around the world will have warm memories of these two warm characters.
THE ASCENT OF TILITSO
(Translated from French by Deepak M. Shah)
BUT WHY THE HELL go there?' a friend asked me 'before the departure. 'The Himalaya is high, it is far, it is cold, and then, there's a lot of risk,' he added. He talked' of these high mountains which are not in the dimensions of man; where man - very small - can do nothing but fade out. Well, then why?
I asked myself this question many times. During the 12 hour flight between Paris and Kathmandu, I thought about it. Perhaps because this third expedition was also the last one.
Yes, there are the Alps. The closest, the most beautiful and still secret when one goes away from Chamonix to rediscover certain routes taken by the English expeditions of the last century. We have crossed their routes, known moments of intense joy for succeeding in whatever we have dared to do. Also, we have shared other rare moments. However, the enthusiasm is still there. It will remain as long as there are things to discover. But the risk, the spirit of adventure and often an accident; makes one look for the joy of the Alps. . . elsewhere.
Well, we leave. Some people return disgusted at everything. But if one is lucky to taste the joys of a victory; one thinks only of returning to find the part of oneself that remains behind.
The people of this place are totally different and usually stronger. Many people say that without them the expedition loses a lot of its interest. Among these are the porters and the Sherpas with whom we are going to live for six weeks.
Tilitso (7134 m)
Near Annapurna, 'Tilitso is a superb mountain in the confines of the high plateau of Tibet' . The person who says this is a connoisseur. The expedition of Maurice Herzog, before the conquest of the first 8000 m peak, stumbled upon a peak which gave access to Annapurna. This peak was none other than Tilitso.
We realise that Tilitso is more difficult than expected. All Himalayan summits become very difficult after a relatively simple beginning. For our climb, we were told to take 600 m of rope. We took 1000 m. But even then, I had to secretely add 200 m more later on.
We reach 500 m of flat rocks on the other side of the Tilitso lake. This stretch of rocks is near the middle of the climb. Cl is pitched at 5850 m. From here, we see Manaslu and Mustang.
But ahead of us, lies 50 m of hard ice. A very difficult passage. We cross this path with great care. C2 is installed at 6250 m.
Above us, 900 m left to reach the summit. Simple but long. We stay at 6000 m for a day of rest and recouperation and then begin again.
On the evening of 22 April, we are two of us with a Sherpa at the last camp. Two members gave us friendly advice over the walkie-talkie. I asked them to keep in touch with us at every half hour after 10 a.m. the next morning. So, we will not feel lonely.
We wake up at four. It is not very cold; this is not a good sign ! For one hour, the climb is easy and we are progressing fast. But then our ropes are finished. There is just 300 m left. My companion, Roger started climbing without rope. I knew that I could climb this difficult terrain without rope but I would injure myself. I decide not to continue as my friend reaches the summit above my head for a victory for our team.
Despite his extraordinary physical and technical skills, Roger will find it very difficult to return from the summit. A storm has set in; it is snowing and one cannot see beyond 10 m. At C2, I wait for him. I hugged him on return, happier to know that he is alive than to ask him if he enjoyed himself on the top.
Yes, really Tilitso was a beautiful enterprise and a superb mountain.
KUSUM KANGURU EXPEDITION
Kusum Kanguru (6367 m) NICK MASON
AT 7.15 A.M. ON 23 OCTOBER 1988, three British climbers and four Sherpa's stood on the summit of Kusum Kanguru having just made the first ascent of the east face. The climbers were, Nick Mason (leader), John Diplock and Julian Holmes, the four Sherpas were, Ang Jangbo (Sirdar), Kami Tshering, Dawa Nuru and Lhakpa Dorjee. The climbing was up to VS/HVS on very loose rock and typical grade four Scottish ice-climbing. A mixed route similar in complexity to that of the north wall of the Eiger. The most serious problem was the rock-fall which started around 9 a.m. each day after the sun had been on the face for a couple of hours. One of the Sherpas was hit in the face by rock, but fortunately it only broke his goggles and caused a small cut by his right eye.
Our base camp was in the Hinku valley at 4270 m and in sight of the east face of Kusum Kanguru. We established Cl (4880 m) just below the Lungsamba glacier on 10 October. The route from Cl to C2 involved crossing a large boulder-field and an ice-ramp with some stone-fall. The Lungsamba glacier was complex and we crossed three large crevasses before establishing C2 at 5790 m on 14 October. Approximately 150 m of fixed rope was used between Cl and C2.
The support group was quite incredible. They kept up a continuous supply line and the climbing team was able to concentrate on the east face. There were two principal features on the wall. One was a prominent rock buttress, the other being a large rock/ice ramp near the top of the wall. Fixed rope was used and we put 760 m between C2 and C3. The point of no return was on the fifth day on the face when the three climbers decided to bivvi at 6095 m rather than go all the way back down the fixed ropes to C2. The temperature dropped to -37°C and we had some frostbite, but otherwise we suffered no further injuries. C3 was established on a small col at 6220 m on 22 October. We left C3 at 5 a.m. on the 23rd. The final 150 to 200 m were on steep, soft snow which presented little problems and the summit was reached at 7.15 a.m.
The expedition, had a new system of solar energy to provide all their power needs at base camp and at all the upper camps. All the solar equipment worked credibly well and proved to be a real alternative source of power.
NORTH FACE OF CHO OYU, 1988
THE GOAL OF OUR expedition was to climb the north face of Cho Oyu (8201 m) from the Tibetan side. The north face had not been climbed before and access to it was not known.
We were the first to climb the most natural line on the north face of Cho Oyu. The line is mixed (ice, snow, rock) and 2000 m high. The foot of the wall is starting at 6200 m with an exit to the summit. Besides the straight line, some members of the expedition also climbed a side variant. Expedition was led by Roman Robas with 7 members.
5 October, 1988: Expedition left Yugoslavia to reach Tibet in China via Nepal.
17 October: Established the base camp on the Palung glacier moraine (5350 m).
21 October: Cl (5850 m) made on the Palung glacier.
23 October: C2 (6200 m) placed at the foot of the wall. Between 23rd and 30th we climbed the face upto 7200 m (C3). The ropes were fixed during this period.
30 October: C3 (7200 m) established.
3 November: C4 (7550 m) established.
2 November: Dr Iztok Tomazin climbed our straight main line (solo) from C3, to the summit. Descended by the normal route and reached the base camp the following day.
5 November: Viki Groselj and Joze Rozman climbed the variant to the summit. Descended by the same direction.
8 November: Rado Nadvesnik and Marko Prezelj climbed directly to the summit by the main line. Descended by the variant.
9 November: Blaz Jereb and Roman Robas climbed the variant to the summit. Descended by the same route.
From C3 to the summit there were no fixed ropes. The directions and the difficulties are described in the sketch. The climbing was done without aid of oxygen. Main climbing problems faced were wind, extremely low temperatures and a hanging serac at 7200 m.
Climbing the north face of Cho Oyu. (Roman Robas)
THE 'SLOVENE BUTTRESS' ON SHISHA PANGMA
ON THE RECONNAISSANCE in 1983 Tone Skarja (leader) and myself made the first ascent of the Ice Tooth. Since then I've considered Nyanang Ri to be the most convenient peak for acclimatization before the ascent of the SW face of Shisha Pangma (8046 m). The peak is close to the base camp, its altitude is appropriate (7071 m) and it hasn't been climbed yet. That is how it remained until our arrival to the base, on 7 October, 1989.
On 10 October our group left the base camp : Stane Belak, Filip Bence, Pavle Kozjek and myself. Our first bivouac was at the bottom of the face, on the top of a rocky island (6200 m). The next day we climbed the SW face to the last big notch in the NW ridge of Nyanang Ri where we pitched our second bivouac (6850 m). There was some snow in the afternoon and at night. On 12 October we reached the summit by the western ridge in fine weather. Only the first 150 m above the notch gave us some difficulties. We descended to the base camp on the same day by the same route.
After three days rest, on 16 October, Pavle Kozjek and myself moved to ABC (5600 m). We left the camp at midnight. After three hours walk across a broken glacier we entered the face at the height of 5900 m. A steep gully led us to the large icefield of the lower part of the face. Soon a strong wind began to blow which had mercy for us only on the second day. There was a snow-stream mixed with stones in the gully where the icefields passed into the upper distinctive buttress. The climb was therefore too dangerous and so we climbed round the gully on the left side and found our first difficulties in the rock.
At the bottom of the buttress, at 7200 m was our first bivouac site. A thin layer of ice and snow made digging very difficult and we could only dig a narrow platform which sufficed for half a tent only. So we spent the night roped in a half-sitting position.
Just behind the tent the face rose steeply. We mostly climbed iced-gullies, often interrupted by rocky sections and traverses which took us a lot of time. We left the area of the buttress' edge at the bottom of a typical black tower. We crossed far to the left where we pitched our second bivouac on a gentle sloped snowfield (7700 m).
On the next day, 19 October, we climbed into the gullies leading out of the face. But the face didn't give up all the way to the summit. We climbed the last rocky parts 50 m below it. The route ends on the summit ridge close to the summit. We reached it at 1 p.m., Chinese time.
The 'Slovene Buttress' route of Shisha Pangma on left. The route of descent on the right.
We descended to the col (6750 m) between Pungpa Ri and Shisha Pangma until night and there we pitched our bivouac tent for the last time. We met party of Bence and Groselj who were headed for the summit.
On 20 October we descended to the area of British descent route of 1982 to ABC.
It took us 30 hours to the complete climb, in a pure alpine-style. The new route, 'Slovene buttress', is 2150 m high, grade IV-V, 50° - 65°.
1st Ascent of Nyanang Ri (7071 m).
1st Ascent of Shisha Pangma via SW Pillar (2150 m, IV-V, 55° - 65°, alpine-style, New Route).
Partly New Route and 1st repeat via British descent route of 1982.
Tone Skarja and Andrej Stremfelj made first ascent on Kang Ri (Ice tooth 6200 m), SW face, 400 m, when they made reconnaissance on 28
Nyanang Ri (7071 m.) 1989 Yugoslav route. (A. Stremfelj)
The 'Slovene Buttress route, 1989 on Shisha Pangma. (A. Stremfelj)
A VIRGIN SUMMIT IN GANGOTRI
JOSEP LLUIS SASOT
'Parvati Peak' (5989 m)
TAPOVAN IS A beautiful base camp with grass and water! Some friends, who had been there on previous occasions, had told us about it, but this year unusually heavy and continuous snowfall had turned our base camp into a torture from the start. In the approach we were already stuck for two days at only 3800 m at Bhujbasa due to the snow-drifts which greatly hindered the progress of our porters. Although our spirits fell when we reached Tapovan and saw so much snow, we soon convinced ourselves that the situation would change.
The days went by, and every morning we had to remove the snow which had fallen during the night and threatened to cover our tents. The nights were cold, but during the day the temperatures were high - this made progress very difficult, and we often sunk into the snow up to our knees. Even with this drawback we were achieving our first objective, which was to acclimatize. However, the snow continued to be very unstable, and we saw that our main objective, Shivling, was slipping through our fingers. It was obvious that we would not have enough time to attack the mountain. It was then that our LO Harish, pointed to a mountain which rose above Tapovan opposite Shivling, and he told us that it was 5989 m high. This was shown on the maps, but had no name since it was a peak which had never been climbed. After the initial surprise we reacted and thought - why not have a go ? The altitude was good and the route was logical and the slope would allow us to <iscend very quickly.
We decided to make the ascent at night to avoid the soft snow and possible avalanches. There was a full moon and another member of the expedition and I left the 4400 m base camp at about 7 p.m.
Crossing the glacier which separated us from the southwest face which we had chosen to climb was arduous, because the sun had gone down but the snow had still not hardened. Fortunately, on arriving at the initial ramps of the entrance wall, night had fallen and the snow had hardened. When we put on crampons the sky was totally clear and when the full moon came out it was not necessary to use our head torches.
Note: For a sketch-map see Article 8 in this issue. Also see Panorama A in this issue. - Ed.
'Parvati Peak' (5989 m) northeast of Shivling (Gangotri glacier). Route of first ascent. (J.L. Sasot)
For this ascent the only extra weight in our back-packs were a few chocolates and a gas stove to melt snow every three hours in order to avoid exhaustion. Progress was very rapid, thanks to the hard snow, and the 45°, and later 50° slope was very comfortable. The first stop to melt snow made us realize how cold it was, and made us move about frantically while we kept our eyes on the propane flame.
The hours went by and we reached a rock face which was slightly above the half-way point of the face. We took refuge from the wind for a while in a small bergschrund. With our boots inside the back-packs, to fight the cold we started to melt snow again. On leaving these rocks towards the right, the slope became steeper, which worried us because we had to descend by the same route and we were not carrying ropes. The moon had now disappeared and we went forward using the torches. We noticed that we were quite high by comparing our situation with the summits of Bhagirathi group. Several hours went by and the slope did not ease below 60°. Suddenly we saw the edge 50 m away, but the slope steepened to 65°, and we took all precautions due to the state of the wind-blown snow which covered the approach to the edge.
After melting a little snow we killed time until dawn began to break. Time passed very slowly due to the intense cold, which meant that the propane did not work as well as we would have wished. With the first light, we attacked the edge which led to the summit and began to enjoy an incredible view after the hours of darkness.
At about 7.30 a.m. we hugged each other at the summit. Shivling, which had been impossible, stood opposite us. We thought of the friend waiting for us below and wished he could have been here with us. But we were happy with this short but beautiful experience on this mountain, which was later named 'Parvati Peak'. A virgin mountain in Gangotri !
Members: Jose Condrado Lopez Xavi Metal Gonzalez, Josep Lluis Sasot.
Shivling (left) and Shivling West, looking back from summit ridge of 'Parvati Peak'. (J. L. Sasot)
Summary: 24 April 1989: Journey from Barcelona to Delhi.
27 April 1989 : Journey from Delhi to Gangotri, approach walk.
2 May 1989 : Arrival at base camp.
21 May 1989: Ascent of 'Parvati Peak', 5989 m.
THE 1989 BRITISH MERU EAST RIDGE EXPEDITION
THE EAST RIDGE of Meru (6672 m) is a truly striking line forming, to me at least, the most obvious route to Meru's main summit. It is therefore surprising that only two previous attempts had been made on the ridge. The first was in 1985 by a British team led by John Jones. The second was in 1988 by a Japanese team. Both reached the base of the rock band at 6300 m before retreating drained by the ground below and unable to get to grips with the technicalities of the steep rock.
In late 1988 inspired by talks with John Jones I booked the ridge for September-October 1989. The team consisted of nine with five climbers and four in support. The climbers were myself, Paul Bale, Richard Spillett, Stephen Thompson and Gavin Thomas (leader) with David Cosford, Richard Luff, Ian Brown, Felicity Brown in support.
1. See H.J. Vol. 39. p. 185, and Vol. 43, p. 51.
For a sketch-map of the area see Article 8 in this issue. - Ed.
In due course the team eventually assembled at Tapovan base camp (4463 m) on 3 September, accompanied by our liaison officer, the excellent Ashwani Sood. The approach had been eventful with a series of delayed freight, a general strike and numerous land slides which just failed to stop us. Dave and Ian had also undergone an odyssey when, finding ourselves short of money in Uttarkashi. they had to head back down the road trying to find a bank that would change their Amex travellers cheques. This wild trip took them three days ending in Dehru Dun. The return was fraught with difficulty, mainly land slides. At one point they had to walk 40 km to circumvent an area of collapsed road.
But nevertheless base camp was established on 3 September in fine weather. Good conditions continued for a further seven days allowing firstly a 'dump' camp (christened the 'Green Man) to be established on the Meru glacier at 5000 m on the 5th. On the 8th Paul and Stephen reached the Meru col (5700 m) via some very serious serac slopes and dug a snow hole which was enlarged by myself, Gavin and Richard S. the next day. A tent was also added.
The weather turned on the 10th and a retreat to