EXPEDITIONS AND NOTES
TANG KONGMA AND DROHMO, 1998
Climbing in Northeast Nepal DOUG SCOTT
DURING SEPTEMBER 1998 Roger Mear and myself set out to climb the Tang Kongma and south rib of Drohmo. We arrived at the yak pasture of Lhonak (4800 m) on 19 September after a short two-day walk in from the helipad at Ghunsa. We were accompanied by yaks and porters, carrying 23 loads and our three old friends, Shera Zangbu, Nawang Kasang and Janak Tamang, to help out at base camp and up to the foot of our mountain. They had walked in from the road head at Basantapur.
On 22 September we scrambled up the grass and scree to Pt. 6019 (as indicated on the Swiss Janak Himal map) from where we had useful views of Tang Kongma (6215 m) west ridge and a possible way up the mountain. On 25 September, accompanied by Shera Zangbu and Nawang Kasang, we established 'Rock Camp' (5200), situated in a little grassy hollow below a 40 m vertical rock face that can be seen from half-way down the Lhonak - Pang Pema path. It is just left of the central glacier moraine on the south side of Drohmo. The day after, the four of us set off from Rock Camp at 6.00 am for the NE ridge of Tang Kongma, as that route would give us good views of Drohmo.
We traversed around the intervening spur to the glacier valley draining the east side of Tang Kongma. After some difficulties descending the steep and loose valley side we gained the boulder strewn valley floor. After half an hour's walk we put on crampons and ascended the east glacier of Tang Kongma. We roped up on meeting deep fresh snow where the glacier levelled out and zigzagged around crevasses to reach the base of the NE ridge at the col overlooking Broken Glacier to the north. The snow on the ridge was stable and we made good progress on two ropes. Roger and myself climbed up the crest of the ridge and our two Sherpa friends climbed up a subsidiary crest 100 m left. We came together after 3 hours at a 6 metre ice step where we took a belay. Roger lead up to belay on an ice stake which we left for the return. By 1.00 p.m. we joined Shera and Nawang on the rocky summit where they had already built three large cairns. There was no sign of any one else having been here, although we knew that the Swiss had made the first ascent via the NE ridge in 1949. We descended the same way facing out making good time to arrive back at Rock Camp 12 hours after setting off.
Rain and snow continuously fell from 27 September to 2 October but that gave us a well-needed rest and time to savour our first climb. We walked up to Rock Camp on 1 October taking in a diversion to Pang Pema to check out the progress of a British (Nottingham) Kangchenjunga expedition.
On 3 October, with the help of Shera and Nawang, we established ourselves at the head of the south glacier at a point below the steep snow slopes leading up to the south rib of Drohmo. The next day, with low cloud and snow flurries blowing around, Roger and I decided to fix our four ropes up the deep avalanche-prone snow to the base of the rib. I had been here 6 months before with Lindsay Griffin and Skip Novak : unfortunately all the various factors necessary for a good climb were not in place - fitness, experience and weather - so it did not happen, but now everything was right.
On 5 October we began our climb ascending the ropes and taking the last two with us for what we hoped would be a four day push to the top. As there were only two of us, the food, fuel, cooking gear, rock and ice climbing equipment and the MacIntyre bivouac tent weighed-in heavy and so did the commitment, - to this prominent and elegant feature of the mountain.
Roger scrambled up over loose mixed ground and disappeared over to the left of the ridge line. Two hours later all the rope was out. Muffled shouts indicated I should move up to his traverse line at which point we had an altercation. I had expected to more or less go directly up a line of weakness on the crest of the buttress and not crossing three steep ribs with soft snow gullies in between plunging down to the glacier, now a thousand feet below. Roger brought the ensuing long range debate neatly to a close by suggesting that we should perhaps give up the climb! With that I, shouldered my rucksack and set off to traverse the 60m of atrocious snow and to connect again with Roger. My beaming partner was well pleased with himself for having lead such a difficult pitch. He was also pleased, as was I, that the climb could now continue. We both really needed this one. Already I was finding the hard pitch had stretched my mind and body, dusting away the cobwebs that had accumulated - it having been sometime since I had climbed hard pitches in the Himalaya.
The next three pitches went more or less straight up over steep red and rough granite (V) and into snow gullies (1V). The last pitch of the day brought me to a ledge and snow cone suitable for digging out a tent platform (6207m). Roger came up in the gloom as the Everest Group 75 miles away was bathed in orange light.
That next frosty morning under a cloudless sky we set off up the buttress climbing more snowed up rock to a belay point from where we could traverse right for 80 metres and a belay on loose blocks. The sun was now shining in over Tent Peak right onto our route making the next two pitches of snow covered steep ice (IV) a worrying lead for Roger. Eventually I lead on angling up left back to the crest of the buttress, placing tape runners on flakes of granite poking up out of the snow and ice. We were now above the prominent rock bands that are an obvious feature of the lower third of our route.
Roger lead the next four pitches up the snow arete to the left of the great overhung bulge of ice we dubbed 'the cauliflower'. Sound belays were hard to find under all the monsoon snow. It usually entailed considerable digging to find rock or good ice. We had intended to sleep on the gentle slopes above 'the cauliflower' but after a 20 metre probe Roger returned as the sun sank down beyond Everest and as the full moon came up over Kangchenjunga, we settled into our tent for the night pitched inside an icy grotto.
Another bright and frosty morning helped us make good progress up the steep snow arete, up a vertical and difficult band of rock (V) and then by midday walking over the top of the 'cauliflower' to the base of the right hand of two summit snow and ice ribs. The sun was blasting down inducing lethargy so we put the tent up and took the early afternoon off work in favour of a brew and a snooze. Thus refreshed we fixed our two ropes up steep ice and rock steps before descending to our third bivouac.
On 8 October we left our tent and set off up the ropes with light sacks. It was such a relief to be so liberated from the burden and to make good time up the ropes now with the end of our route in sight. There is usually a sting in the tail and here it was mushy snow and more dubious belays. The last two pitches were unprotected apart from me sitting in huge bucket steps dug out of the arete. Even after digging down 2 m the ice axes just disappeared into the unconsolidated snow. The snow was particularly soft on the west side of our rib and for some reason, never as pleasant as the NE ridge of Tang Kongma. At 2.30 p.m. I joined Roger at the top of the south rib of Drohmo. We were now on the long summit ridge of the mountain where clouds had been gathering, blown up by strong southerly winds. To the north we caught glimpses of the rounded peaks below Jannak and the Tibetan plateau beyond. The chances of climbing Drohmo from the north looked bleak, if not impossible, as so much soft snow lay above overhung ice cliffs.
We climbed up and along the summit ridge to the west and called it a day at 3.00 p.m. on top of a corniced peak overhanging the north face. We registered 6855 m on the altimeter. According to the latest map of Nepal produced by the Finns last year, the highest summit of Drohmo is at least half a mile away and at 6881 m, 26 m higher than where we were. Although we could not see it through the cloud we must assume it to be a fact, as the latest calculations should be the most trustworthy. We were well satisfied with the 28 pitches we had climbed from the glacier up the south pillar of our mountain. We climbed down and abseiled back to our last bivouac and next day reached the glacier after a total of 25 abseils. Nawang and Shera came up next day to share our obvious delight and to help us remove our two fixed ropes and the glacier camp down to base camp.
Roger, fit and faster from two months guiding in the Alps, and more youthful than I, had led the majority of the route. To compensate I had carried a bit more and took on the chores of cooking; but still I wish now I had led my share of the climb, I also feel uneasy that we had fixed those first four pitches taking away a little of the commitment. These are just personal regrets that every climber must have when he does not lead when he could and fixes rope when his courage fails him. Still the overall impressions of being up there with Roger remain good ones.
It was not a big thing in itself to spend those four days checking out a way up the south rib of Drohmo, to put the rest of life to one side, to engage rock and ice and a lot of monsoon snow, carried along by that urge for clarity that comes from total (near) commitment to this simple self-imposed task taking every pitch as it came not knowing how, but finding a way and a sense of well-being after each difficulty was passed. So it had done the trick, lifted my spirits as it always does when on a new route with just one or two other good friends and where the outcome remains uncertain to the end.
Summary : Climbs in the northeast Nepal by a two member British team in 1998. Two peaks were climbed; Tang Kongma (6215 m) on 26 September and Drohmo (6855 m) on 8 October.
SWISS LHOTSE EXPEDITION, 1998
ANDRE GEORGES Lhotse-Everest
LHOTSE AND EVEREST are situated at the end of the Khumbu valley; the two peaks are separated by the well known South Col, 8000 m. Routes to Lhotse and Everest are the same until about 7800 m, high up the west face of Lhotse.
Our small expedition established base camp at 5350 m and the next camp at 6500 m was our only high altitude camp. Situated in between both our camps were the famous Icefall and the Western Cwm.
We crossed the Icefall - that immense ice labyrinth - ten times, up and down, on a winding track between huge seracs. Alert at each step, listening carefully to the slightest noise, an eye fixed upon those overhanging ice towers. Indeed, one day a huge such tower came down only 10 m from our route: a narrow escape.
From our high altitude camp the west face of Lhotse rose 2000 m straight to the summit, mainly bare ice. We equipped ourselves with fixed ropes until the South Col. Climbing on bare ice requires additional effort and concentration.
A long, steep gully and a ridge gave access to the summit of Lhotse, 500 m above the South Col.
Our group arrived from Kathmandu in Lukla, by a small airplane. After five days of walking through the beautiful Khumbu valley, and blessed by bright weather, we established base camp at 5350 m on 19 April. Twelve yaks carried our loads until the camp.
After some quiet days in base camp, for acclimatisation we established our high altitude camp on 24 April, supplied with gas, food and climbing gear. Descent to base camp was on the same day.
On 29 April we were back in the high altitude camp. The next day we climbed the west face of Lhotse up to 7400 m. After a second night at 6500 m, in our high altitude camp, we returned to the base.
On 5th and 6th May we undertook our first attempt to reach the summit. But the heat during day-time was exhausting and we abandoned our attempt. After a few hours, rest in a Spanish tent at 7400 m we returned to base camp.
Everest base camp
In spring 1998 some 13 expeditions, totalling about 150 persons, were present in base camp. These commercial expeditions had the usual 'ammunition', with a lot of Sherpas and a lot of oxygen.
The Sherpas worked very hard, daily carrying heavy loads through the Icefall to establish well equipped camps at higher altitudes. They also played a major role in equipping the route through the Icefall with fixed ropes and ladders in order to facilitate the crossing of crevasses. Notwithstanding all that work and the availability of substantial financial means, the spring 1998 success rate on both summits was low. That might have been the result of the prevailing bad weather.
On an average, expeditions stayed two months in base camp. Our alpine-style expedition stayed only one month in base camp, where it was the last to arrive yet the first to reach the summit.
A full week of storm
Two Sherpas belonging to an American expedition stayed at 6500 m in their Camp 2, established next to our high altitude camp. On 10 May they informed base camp that the storm had destroyed all tents. Fortunately, the Sherpas themselves were unhurt.
We worried about the equipment kept in our high altitude camp. If such equipment was lost we would be left with just enough to equip only one climber.
Finally, on 12 May we could reach our high altitude camp and assess the material damage. Our tents were destroyed, but we managed to raise one shelter by using the remains of two tents. Luckily we were able to dig out most of our equipment. In order to protect our only tent against the wind we had to build a wall of big, solid blocks of snow.
The summit: 17 May, 11.30 a.m.
On 16 May Pierre-Alain Sierro, Christophe Berclaz and I left base camp at 5.30 a.m. Four hours later we reached our high altitude camp at 6500 m where we rested for eight hours, protecting our tent against the heat by putting our sleeping bags on top of it. Indeed, at the end of the Western Cwm the temperature during the day-time can rise far above 30 degrees centigrade.
Being three in one tent, our rest was certainly not optimum; to which situation our 'summit-excitement' also contributed. After having drunk as much liquid as possible and eaten a little we left our camp at 6.30 p.m. bound for adventure.
As Pierre-Alain was not feeling too well I advised him to stay in the tent. It was sad; two weeks ago he was in great shape, the first to reach 7400 m, happy to discover the fabulous surroundings of the Western Cwm. He tried; but soon had to abandon further progress. He reluctantly descended during the night to base camp groping his way through the Icefall, greatly disappointed.
Christophe climbed in a regular rhythm. But at about 7400 m his feet started getting numb; he struggled, tried for two hours to warm his feet, then continued to climb; but at 7700 m his feet started freezing again. He too had to abandon the attempt to reach Camp 3 of some other team, as soon as possible. In case of frost-bite time is of essence. By taking care, Christophe's feet were back to normal three days later.
The Basque climber Iniaki Ochoa attempted the summit of Lhotse the same day as our group. On 17 May, he and I were at about 8000 m at 4.00 a.m., having climbed all night, like robots, concentrating on our task, taking a little sip to drink and a small piece of chocolate from time to time.
At dawn we progressed through the 500 m high gully leading to the summit ridge. Iniaki did a great job finding the route. Then it was my turn to go ahead. The summit came nearer and nearer, and not much doubt was left about our success. But we moved very slowly.
All at once Iniaki shouted something to me, but I could not understand what he said. Total surprise: so near the summit and Iniaki abandoned the climb. The next day, far down, Iniaki gave me the explanation: he suddenly got nearly blind; but he did not want me to know what was going on for fear that I would stop, too. His descent was a courageous one. He could only vaguely distinguish the mountain, and he had frost-bitten feet; but he reached the safety of a camp after superhuman effort.
At 11.30 a.m. I reached the summit; motivation pushed me beyond
my physical strength. I sat down for a little rest and . fell asleep.
I woke up with a shock; realising that falling asleep at such altitude could be fatal.
Late afternoon I reached our high altitude camp. Man Am Rham climbed towards me and gave me a hot drink at the foot of the Lhotse face: a moment of intense happiness !
The next day we packed the tent and equipment and left for base camp. I climbed my seventh 8000 m peak from base camp, within the next 30 hours, which included the 9 hours of rest and the preparation in our camp at 6500 m.
Members : Andre George (leader), Pierre-Alain Sierro, and Christophe Berclaz.
Summary : Ascent of Lhotse (8511 m) by Swiss climber Andre Georges on 17 May 1998.
TINGCHEN KHANG, SIKKIM
Maj. M. N. R. PAWAR
TINGCHEN KHANG (6010 m) lies on the west side of the Prek Chu stream which in turn bubbles forth from the Onglathang glacier originating from the Gocha La pass in western Sikkim. To the uninitiated, the general appearance of the peak seems to be fairly inoffensive from the base camp at Thangsing. It gently rises along its west ridge, the steepness only increasing towards its summit. But this apparent benignancy is shattered the moment one starts climbing it. Nima Tashi, an experienced mountaineering instructor of the HMI and leader of an earlier failed attempt at the peak called it 'a formidable peak, a challenge even for the most experienced climber'. The most obvious west ridge route is thoroughly broken up by transverse chasms and huge boulders and is impassable. The northern side of the ridge is a sheer precipice followed by an extensive icefall with its attendant crevasses till the base of Pandim further north. The southwestern ridge likewise is unscaleable. Little is known of the eastern approaches which in any case, present great logistical difficulties. The south face of the northwestern ridge, though rocky and steep, is the only place where a route can be attempted. Even here, on attaining the top of the ridge line, one is faced at 5780 m with an awesome ice wall with hanging glaciers some 100 m high and almost a kilometre long guarding the summit. Once this major hurdle is overcome, the deceptive slope to the summit reveals itself to be highly broken up by immense crevasses. The summit itself is a cornice which has to be trod upon warily.
Thus, it is not surprising that in spite of its easy proximity and moderate height, the peak had remained unconquered despite several determined attempts having been made on it.
By 25 April the entire team congregated at the roadhead Yuksum. It was a vastly different Yuksum than the sleepy hamlet that I had bid farewell to barely four years ago at the conclusion of my last expedition to Kokthang. Now a posh three star hotel had came up and the place was chock-a-block with tourists. At Yuksum preparations for managing the enormous amount of stores into Yak and porter loads was already well advanced under the able guidance of Sub Kishor Rajak, an old war-horse, who had cheerfully given up the chance to scale the peak in order to provide an impeccable logistical support to the expedition. He was backed up by the combined efforts of twelve support members and the climbing team itself.
Taking cognisance of the fact that our British team members may require an extra measure of acclimatisation, I sent them off to Dzongri (4020 m) and back on a day's excursion from Bakhim on the 30th. I, along with the rest of the team members, moved up straight to Thangsing (3900 m) in a six and a half hour trek. There, on a beautiful flat pasture by the side of the gurgling Prek Chu and under the gaze of our objective, Tingchen Khang, we set up our tents which were to be our home for the next two weeks. The route to Thangsing passed through rhododendron forests which displayed myriad colours and the ethereal beauty of the surroundings was further enhanced by the occasional sightings of Monal and Blood Pheasants and of Snow Cocks and Snow Partridges in the upper reaches.
On 1 May, I, along with Sherpa Ram Rai and the team members reconnoitered possible sites for Camp 1. The site at 4570 m, chosen by the earlier expedition after following a stream east, on a col abutting the west ridge, was found to be adequate this time too and we returned to base camp after dumping a few tents and rations. Load ferrying started in earnest from 2 May onwards with all the team members including myself and the British carrying heavy loads. This toughened us up further and acclimatised us properly to face the rigours ahead. Simultaneously, efforts at route opening beyond Camp 1 continued apace. Owing to the difficult terrain with steep rock faces guarding the ridge line at the top, progress was exasperatingly slow. The most obvious route along the ridge line itself was soon given up owing to its extremely broken nature. A brief helicopter reconnaissance carried out on 4 May confirmed the impossibility of this route Further, it brought to light the fact that there were gaping crevasses in the higher reaches of the peak where we were expecting smooth snowfields based on examination of earlier photographs taken from base camp.
Finally, the team occupied Camp 1 on 5 May to be greeted there by the happy news that selected members of my team including Ram Rai had finally pierced a way through the steep rock flank of the northwest ridge to a small snowfield on the ridge itself. Though surrounded by crevasses on all sides, it gave us sufficient space to set up a few tents. A major obstacle which had thwarted earlier expeditions had been overcome.
6 May saw the weather suddenly turn morose with heavy snowfall and I took the opportunity to call it a much needed rest day. However, Nima Tashi, who had come up a day earlier, decided to check the route which had been opened and which had proved to be his nemesis during his earlier expedition. It met with his expectations and he congratulated us on a job well done.
On the 7th I and all the climbers, went up to the site of Camp 2 at about 5490 m with heavy loads. The route took us some three hours of back breaking labour and jumaring. Some ropes were fixed anew and loose pitons were hammered in. At Camp 2, I came face to face with our biggest obstacle, the ice wall at 5790 m in the form of a glacier hanging at an impossible angle, firmly blocking the approaches to the summit. However, closer observation through the swirling mist revealed a chink in this seemingly unscaleable fortress. A path, with grit and determination, could possibly be snaked up the Pinnacle - a spur of rock on the ridge jutting out like a tiger claw, which had been dismissed as too dangerous.
The 8th saw us set up Camp 2 and I planned out the strategy for the final assault. I selected four climbers of each nationality and accordingly, Lnk Roshan Sundas, Rfn Pradeep Tamang, Rfn Rohit Gurung, Capt. Ian Craddock, SSgt Grant Seaton, Sgt Mark James, Sgt Danniel White, a two Sherpas Ram Rai and Sonam Lepcha and I moved into Camp 2. Capt. Nick Copcutt, one of the most enthusiastic and indefatigable of the British team, developed altitude sickness and had to remain at Camp 1.
On the 9th we set off on the route already chalked out in our minds the previous day and after some manoeuvring to dodge the several crevasses which we encountered immediately after Camp 2, we reached the base of the Pinnacle in approximately three hours. My earlier apprehension of a bergschrund blocking the path proved to be unfounded and now followed the task of fixing ropes on the sheer rock and ice face. The beautiful sunny weather of the morning gave way to a howling blizzard and snow and ice from the higher reaches started showering upon us constantly. After being strung up on a rope over a near vertical rock and ice face for some two hours, I gave orders to withdraw for the day. We had by no means overcome the Pinnacle yet and the feasibility of the route beyond also remained foggy. But thought we'd see about that on the morrow.
The Summit Assault
10 May again dawned bright and clear and watching the amphitheatre of mountains around us, I felt their stern eyes on us puny men. But they seemed to wish us well and we set off. This time there were eight of us four Indians, two British and two Sherpas. The vertical face of the Pinnacle was again besieged and it took us a good six hours to breach its defences. In the process, Sgt Danniel White suffered a fracture in the ball of his thumb when a piece of falling ice hit him but he bravely carried on. Further, apart from the unexpected expenditure of time, we suffered another hiccup when we came upon an impassable crevasse at the top of the Pinnacle where it joined the col leading to the summit. Nothing could be done but to retrace our steps and try another route to the right. Luckily, this time we broke clear and found the summit, which till now was mostly hidden from view, enticingly near. The route to the summit was now clear although it took us another three hours of some steep snow and ice climbing as well as the crevasse jumping. Now another problem presented itself. We had a limited number of snow stakes and anticipating this, I had called up from base camp some twenty wooden sections of branches to improvise as snow stakes for fixing ropes. Now, in the upper reaches of the peak, we ran out of even these makeshift stakes and as a last desperate measure, with the summit tantalisingly near and the weather rapidly turning ugly, I ordered our ice axes to be affixed on the snow. Six of them were thus used, the last one on the summit itself, where the vagaries of the mountain weather and movement permitting, it will be found by some future expedition. The summit, which was a cornice, was climbed at 1335 hrs and a great feeling of pride and happiness flooded us all at having been where no man had ever trod before. Yet, for me it was tinged with sadness too - yet another magnificent edifice of nature had fallen to Man's ambition and efforts.
Soon a raging blizzard engulfed us and visibility came down to almost zero. It was a difficult march back to Camp 2. Some men who had removed their snow goggles to see better in the murky light suffered snow blindness and had to be confined to darkness for days afterwards. Two men narrowly missed being hit by lightning - so narrowly that they had felt their skins tingle with electrical charge. Some others took wrong turns in trying to locate fixed lines buried in the snow. However, all of us reached Camp 2 safely by 1600 hrs.
The weather unfortunately stayed uniformly bad the next day and keeping in mind the interest of safety of the team, I called off the expedition. A lot of equipment beyond Camp 2 could not be retrieved and had to be abandoned on the mountain face. We returned to the roadhead Yuksum by 16 May 1998.
Summary : The first ascent of Tingchen Khang (6010 m) in Sikkim, by Indo-British Territorial Army team. Summit was reached on 10 May 1998.
Members : Maj. M. N. R. Pawar (leader), N/Sub Tilak Khati, Lnk Roshan Sundas, Rfn Nagendra Rai, Lnk Nirmal Rai, Rfn Pradeep Tamang, Rfn Raj Kumar Tamang, Rfn Rohit Gurung, Capt. Ian Craddock, Capt. Nick Copcutt, SSGT Grant Seaton, SGT Mathew Collins, SGT Danniel White and SGT Mark James.
DUTCH SHISHA PANGMA EXPEDITION, 1998
IN THE TEAM were: Reinier Zuidhoff (leader), Hans Van Der Meulen, Wilco Van Rooijen, Cas Van De Gevel, Thierry Schmitter (France), Marko Prezelj (Slovenia).
Our plan was to climb new route on the S face (Prezelj - Schmitter) and repeat one of the established routes on the S face. We wanted to act independently from the base camp. We reached Kathmandu on 29 March. Just before our arrival the weather was bad and the mountains were covered with lot of new snow. The road from Zangmu to Nyalam was blocked at several places due to avalanches.
On 8 April we reached Nyalam, starting point for three to four day trek to base camp for S face of Shisha Pangma. On 9 April we went ahead with local yakmen to check the conditions in the approach valley. After two hour's walk there was half to one metre snow on the trek. They found it impossible for the yaks to leave Nyalam. After asking for porters, the Chinese LO told us that we should pay 1000 juan insurance for each porter. That was not acceptable to us and they offered us the transportation to the north side of the mountain where normal route goes. With Thierry we decided to act as 'alpine' as possible. It was not accurate exchange for the S face because we had no information about the N side and we were first to reach the BC, on 16 April.
After fast acclimatisation on the east ridge from the glacier up to 6500 m, we decided to climb the first mountain on the west side of Shisha Pangma. On 20 April we came over the glacier under the E face of Porong Ri. We slept in the tent and left it in the morning of the 21st to climb the face. In six hours we climbed a route on the E face to the NE ridge, which we continued last 150 m to the E summit of Porong Ri. I reached the summit (7300 m) in very strong wind and Thierry turned back 50 m below the summit. We descended over NE ridge where we found some fixed ropes all the way to the tent and futher to BC the same day.
The 1000 m high route was icy in character with one short rock section. In the upper part was a lot of hard ice (not so steep - up to 60 degrees) covered with dry snow. We think that the difficulty of the route is around the Austrian route in Les Courtes.
After six days of rest in unstabile weather with strong winds, on 28 April we left BC for the next climb. This time we had little more ambitious plan: climb to the 7332 m high summit (without name) in the foreground of Shisha Pangma and continue up to the summit of Shisha Pangma. We started at six in the morning from BC and after 13 hours we put up tent at around 7000 m on the ridge. The whole day there were strong winds with snowdrifts. On the first part of the route there was one section with powder snow no steep rocks, the rest was not so difficult - mostly snow and ice with short mixed sections. But it was more difficult than we had expected because of powder snow on ice and rocks and constant wind.
On 29 April we continued the climb over N ridge to the summit (7332 m) which we reached in strong winds at two o'clock in the afternoon. We descended to the other side on the big plateau (7100 m) from where normal route to Shisha Pangma goes. We put up a tent and decided to take one day's rest to dry our clothes for fast ascent over normal route to Shisha Pangma the day after (the north face looked too icy with dry snow on it).
The rest day was really nice with almost no wind and clouds so we expected similar weather the next day. But the night was very windy and at six o'clock in the morning it began to snow heavily - we snow at 7100 m. That forced us down the normal route because we were afraid of too deep snow on normal route which we didn't know about. At the beginning it really looked like that there will be a plenty of snowfall in short time, but after two hours it stoped to snow and at 11 o'clock the sky was quite clear. By then we were already at Camp 1, so we continued to BC.
That was end of my activities on the mountains. After reaching BC I caught cold with high temperature. Medicines made me so weak that I had no energy and motivation for normal (ski) route attempt.
On 6 May Reinier and Hans reached central summit with one Spaniard and two South Tyroleans in perfect weather. The weather was quite bad most of the time during my stay in BC. We (Hans, Reinier and myself) left BC on 13 May. Wilco, Cas and Thierry stayed there for one more attempt on normal route. As I was informed by Thierry they all reached the summit and the weather was much better in the second part of May, and also most of the members from many other expeditions also reached the summit.
I think that we made good of our 'alpine' approach to the mountains around Shisha Pangma despite that fact that we didn't reach the summit of this 'siege mountain' in our first alpine push.
We were the only team to do something else than normal route from the crowd of more than 100 'climbers' in BC of Shisha Pangma this season. When we were talking with some 'conquerors' they were surprised that we had no strong wish for the summit itself Some of them even didn't know that there were some other mountains than Shisha Pangma around! For me this was a complete new experience and I think that normal route to Shisha Pangma is totally commercialised as you can even buy whole camps from the expeditions which are leaving base camp.
Summary : Ascents around Shisha Pangma by an European expedition in April-May 1998.
INTERNATIONAL KANGCHENJUNGA EXPEDITION, 1998
THE ROOF OF OUR MESS TENT split during a huge thunderstorm on our first night out on the trail, luckily we were able to find a tailor to repair it in Dhoban. Our porters went on strike, demanding more money in Dhoban. We refused to pay more and had to hire more porters in Mitlung. In Kyap la our liaison officer had enough walking and elected to return to Kathmandu; we were not really sorry to see him go. In Ghunsa, all porters, except a few friends of our cook who travelled with us from Kathmandu, left and we were forced to spend a rest day in Ghunsa and hire local porters at double the low altitude rate. It was quite a relief to finally reach base camp !
The team gradually made its way up the moutain, establishing fixed camps up to Camp 2, where we dug a snow cave, with temporary acclimatisation camps in between. Everyone chose their own pace for acclimatisation. Paul was unlucky enough to suffer pulmonary and cerebral oedema but was able to return to climb after recovering at lower altitude.
Once the Ice Building and Rock Band were fixed, Gary and Ginette made the first summit attempt in late April but were turned back by unstable snow just above the Rock Band. They made a temporary Camp 2 at 7100 m, but being unable to push on further they cached the tent, stove etc. at the top of the Rock Band before returning to base camp.
In early May Paul decided to go home early mainly because Kangchenjunga was more serious than he had anticipated. The remaining five climbed together on a second summit bid but were forced down at 7700 m by deep powder snow above the Rock Band. Temporary camps were pitched at 7400 m and 7600 m, the rate of ascent being so slow because of wading through thigh deep powder. At the top camp numerous slab avalanches hit the tents in the early hours of the morning, but after striking camp the team pressed on in the hope that snow conditions on the upper plateau would be better. We reached 7700 m with no improvement in snow conditions and elected to retreat, as it was unlikely that we would have enough energy to summit in those conditions. We returned to base camp for 5 day's rest.
On our final summit bid there was near disaster on returning from base camp to Camp 1 when we found that one of our tents was missing. After much searching we found it, still upright, down a crevasse about 400 m from camp. It appeared that it had been blown down the glacier by the wind blast created by a large avalanche in the Ice Building. The following night at Camp 2 there were numerous spindrift avalanches coming down the Rock Band and blocking the entrance to the cave. We had to get up and dig out three times in the night to avoid being snowed-in and suffocating. Above the Rock Band we made good progress pitching camps, alpine style at 7400 m and 7800 m as snow conditions were much improved after high winds had scoured the upper mountain.
On summit day we set off together between 4.30 and 5.00 a.m. Jonathan and Chris were in front, followed by Tim, with Gary and Ginette bringing up the rear. At 12.15 p.m. having reached a height of 8450 m Gary was exhausted and concerned that he would be unable to get down before nightfall if he continued. He turned around and Ginette continued on up meeting Jonathan just below the summit ridge; he had summitted at 12 noon. Chris and Tim reached the summit at 12.15 and 12.45 p.m. respectively and passed Ginette on the summit ridge. Ginette summitted alone at 2.20 p.m. Descent was exhausting but uneventful except that Ginette and Gary had to spend a night camped on the glacier only an hour from base camp when white-out conditions prevented them finding their way back ; at least it was only dahi bhaat for dinner !
There was just one other team on the north face of Kangchenjunga this season; a Japanese group of 10 climbers. Sadly two of their members died while descending from the summit and three suffered severe frostbite. We passed the bodies of the dead Japanese on the day we went for the summit, this was the first we knew of the tragedy as they were climbing a different route and we had no radio contact with their team.
Members : Gary Pfisterer, Ginette Harrison, Jonathan Pratt, Chris Shaw, Paul Malo and Tim Horvath.
Summary : An international expedition climbed Kangchenjunga via the north face on 18 May 1998.
SAIPAL EXPEDITION, 1998
THREE MEMBERS left Kathmandu with one cook, one kitchen boy, two local kitchen boys, a liaison officer and 22 local porters in buses on 25 August. We went west towards the Terai heights and arrived at Surket on 26 August. On 27th, we went from Surket to Dailekh, a large town, where many people came and went, and streets were clean. Past Dailekh, we went into the quiet mountains. The route bifurcates from Nagma. One branch goes towards the Tila river and the other towards the Sinja khola. We took the latter. In this beautiful valley, houses have Tibetan style flat roofs, which revealed that the Hindu culture blended into the Tibetan. At the Sinja khola, the trekking routes between Jumla and the Rara river meet. We went over the Ghurchi pass (3488 m) and arrived at Gumgari on 5 September. From Gumgari, we descended along the Mugu Karnali river. Going over the Surkot pass (2480 m), we crossed the Humla Karnali river. We went over the steep Metha pass (3345 m), and on the 9th we started to follow the Humla Karnali river again.
We arrived at Simikot on the 10th.
On the 12th, ascending along the Humla Karnali river to Chungsa, we went to Khawa Lungba. Having passed Chala, the last village, we entered the Kairang khola. We established BC on the moraine at the of the North Saipal glacier (4200 m) the 14th.
We climbed along the right side of the North Saipal glacier on 17 September. On the way, we went into the central moraine of the glacier, and then set up C1 (A.B.C.) (5800 m). The Saipal North face is a wall like a folding screen with northeast and west ridges. Both ridges fall down to a col and into an icefall, and then continue to go towards the North Saipal glacier. On the 20th, we attempted to climb the left side of an icefall band running from the col situated below the west ridge and Firnkoph (6736 m), but changed our mind at about 5000 m, because of possibilities of avalanches and stonefall.
On the 28th, we went by the other route, towards the northeast ridge. Going through the icefall band, we reached a widespread plateau. To climb to the terminus of the northeast ridge, we went to the band again. The spur running from the ridge was very steep, thus we felt it might be difficult to climb it using our 8 mm fixed ropes. Moreover, this route was very long and we had only one tent with us. Therefore, we gave up that idea.
On the 29th, we started to climb the icefall band running from the col of the west ridge and Firnkoph. But this time, we climbed to the right of it. We managed to pass through the band. We stayed at C1. On the 4th, we climbed the icefall band again and went to a plateau above it. We established C2 (summit camp) on the col.
At 3 a.m. on the 5th, we started of for the summit. There was a strong wind from southwest. All three of us members, were climbing the west ridge, which was a steep ice wall, using ropes continuously. On the way, this ridge changed and became wide and gentle as far as the foot of the summit. We discussed how we ought to approach it's foot. We attempted to climb a rock band towards the summit, but were stuck at the end of the band, because both the southwest and west sides of it were sheer precipice. Because the wind was strong and it
had taken us a long time, we had to return to C2. On the way one of us had a problem with vision, but all of us reached safely.
On the 6th, we took rest at C2. On the 7th, two of us started to climb at 3 a.m. The wind was strong. We could keep to the previous route and therefore climbed more rapidly. We had some difficulty at the point where we had returned but managed to find the route which continued to a knife-ridge running towards the summit. At 12.19 a.m. we reached the summit. On the summit, we enjoyed a splendid view of the mountains in western Nepal and Tibet, including remarkable Naimonani (7728 m). At 6 p.m. we reached C2.
On 10 October, we started from B.C. towards Simikot with five local porters. On the 12th, we arrived at Simikot. On the 13th and 14th, we flew to Nepalgunj by plane and on 15 th arrived at Kathmandu by bus.
Members : Nozawai Ayumi (leader), Iwazaki Hiroshi, and Furuya Tomoyuki.
Summary : An ascent of Saipal (7031 m) in west Nepal by a three member Japanese team on 7 October 1998.
THE EXPEDITION consisted of seven Japanese members, two climbing-guides, two-kitchen staff and one helper. From the very beginning, our expedition was plagued by heavy rain day after day. The chances of our success were dependent upon the vagaries of the monsoon.
After a detour via Manali we arrived in Thangi (2766 m) on 31 August. Lambar, which was only 3 hours away from Thangi, became our camping ground on 2 September. The donkeys made trips twice back and forth on the same day. Two days after leaving Thangi we reached Shurtingting (3450 m), the wide open area where two streams meet, Tirung gad from Charang and another from Lalanti Dogri. A narrow path led to a small valley on our right, and thence to Charang.
Lalanti Dogri was up this valley. For donkeys' sake, our base camp was established at Zoni Dogri (4070 m). O. Miura and T. Tominaga found a stream near the side of Lalanti Dogri. However, even from its narrowest point, we could not have crossed it. We examined every possibility in detail, then re-scheduled the following day's manoeuvres from the base camp.
Two parties left for route finding : one along the ridge above our BC while another traced the small path to Lalanti Dogri. T. Tominaga, Y. Miyasaka and Nanak C. Soni sought a way to Camp 1 soon after dawn. It was perhaps the same route that the ITBP took in 1977. After receiving reports from the two parties, we chalked out a provisional route to Camp 1. The right bank of the small stream seemed the only way to Camp 1, with a detour up the middle shoulder-ridge between Lalanti Dogri and Zoni Dogri. We crossed a narrow gorge, and reached the stream where we could set up Camp 1 (4750 m). We had a look at the stream below us. It appeared to lead to a wide glacier moraine (5000 m-5400 m) which could provide us with a safe site (to be Camp 2 later).
O. Miura and Pasang Bodh stayed at Camp 1 which was established by the them. All day there was a light drizzle. T. Imai (leader) was forced to stay at BC because of a backache. The pain did not subside until the end of our expedition.
After many days a bright sky. Our working party intended to set up Camp 2 (5750 m) (to be Camp 3 later) on the col of the east ridge from Phawararang. The way to the peak now became very difficult. A massive, dominating wall faced the glacier moraine, which had to be tackled in order to get to the summit of Phawararang.
O. Miura and Pasang Bodh found weak points in the wall that led to the upper part of the ridge and to the ridge leading to the summit. The party finally reached a camp-site on the col after leaving lengths of fixed rope behind and then quickly surveyed the ground and returned to Camp 1. The other members ferried loads to a deposit point (5350 m) in the glacier moraine. The oldest member, M. Matsushima (63) also helped out.
After a day of rest we started on a nice and sunny day. O. Miura, T. Tominaga and Pasang Bodh formed the working team. The route to
Camp 2 (to be 3 later) was roughly decided the previous day. The way between the moraine and the col was more dangerous than we expected. It was covered with innumerable loose rocks with sharp edges. This made us reconsider setting up Camp 2 before lifting the heavy stuff up on to the col. So what we did was to build Camp 2 on the glacier moraine (5350 m) and on the col we set up Camp 3 with only a small tent. The working team stayed that night at Camp 2 ready to attempt the peak on the following day.
Next stage began after the Camp 3. The working team reached the col early in the morning and then stopped on the way to a junction point (6000 m). On the moraine the walkie-talkie opened up a conversation between them and the working team on the junction peak. 'We are short of fixed ropes, pick up some from Camp 1, OK ? ', said O. Miura in a shallow voice. He was breathing heavily.
Camp 1: K. Oniki and Y. Miyasaka with small loads on their backs continued climbing by fixed rope to the col for acclimatisation. Taking maximum care through the dangerous route to Camp 3, the party reached the col almost at the same time as the working team returned to the tent. 'We made it', O. Miura said excitedly. He had been on the summit of Phawarang (6349 m) at 1530 hrs, with Pasang Bodh. It was unbelievable that we'd had success so soon ! The next summit team of three stayed at Camp 3 that night.
For a second attempt, M. Matsushima, K. Oniki, Y. Miyasaka and Nanak C. Soni left the moraine (Camp 2) at 6.30 in the morning. The sky was clear, a gentle breeze played around and the fair weather was likely to sustain itself all day long. On the col the two parties met and O. Miura decided to climb down as the first reporter of our success to the base camp. Shortly after O. Miura left for BC, the team of M. Matsushima, K. Oniki, Y. Miyasaka and Nanak C. Soni set out for another success supported by T. Tominaga. The route to the junction peak was covered by unsound rocks with sharp edges. Slowly they traced the snow-covered ridge that run towards the summit. By using crampons, they inched upwards. The snow ridge narrowed and the party finally took last few steps on the summit rock and achieved the second success at 1.50 p.m. The peak itself was a small rock only two or three square metres wide. About a hundred metres away from our peak there was another peak which looked almost the same height. The peaks were separated by a steep and deep gap in between them. After an hour's stay on the summit, the party carefully climbed down
taking off the fixed ropes and pitons as they descended. Camp 3 was cleared and the site cleaned. All equipment was lowered to Camp 2 that day. ITBP'S small flag was found near the rock on the peak which meant our success had followed theirs.
Summary: Ascent of Phawrarang (6349 m) in the Tirung valley, Kinnaur by a Japanese expedition. The summit was reached on 12 and 13 September 1997.
THE FIRST ASCENT OF THUGJE
A hidden white peak in brown rocky mountains in the Rupshu MASATO OKI
SINCE 1995, first ascents of several peaks in the Rupshu, Ladakh have been made. The highest peak of this area, Lungsar Kangri (6666 m) was climbed in the summer of 1995 by an Indian team led by Harish Kapadia1
. It also climbed Lapgo (6405 m) (first ascent) and Chamser Khangri (6622 m) (second ascent). In the same year, the Ashikaga Institute of Technology Alpine Club of Japan climbed an unnamed peak which was located west of Tso Moriri and named it Sara Shuwa (6238 m)2,3
. I was the leader of the party. Unnamed peak (c.6000 m) west of Tso Moriri Lake was climbed by a Swiss team (Guy Ducrey)4
In 1996, Chhamer Kangri was climbed by three Indian parties : One from West Bengal (Ms.Purnina Sarein), Bengal Climbing Club (Ranatosh Majundar) and I.P.C.L, Baroda (R. Z. Rana)5
. A team from Baroda climbed Lungser Kangri (second ascent). The unnamed peak (c. 6279 m) which is located about 1 km north of Sara Shuwa was climbed (first ascent) by an Austrian party (Gertrude R. Olmuller)6
In 1997, Chalung (Kula) (6546 m) (first ascent) was climbed by the Japanese Alpine Club-Tokai Branch, led by Tsuneo Suzuki7
and Pologongka (6632 m) (first ascent) was made by a British team (M. J. Ratty)8
. They tried to climb Chakula (6529 m) which is located north of Mahe bridge Check Post but did not reach the summit. The Italians (Arturo Bergamaschi) made the second ascent of Sara Shuwa by a route different from the Japanese one9
On 12 August 1998, the Yamagata University Kobold Alpine Club of Japan (Eiji Kamei) climbed Mentok I (6340 m) located southwest of Tso Moriri. These mountains were explored by an Indian party in 1984 and 1993. They climbed Mentok II (6172 m) (first ascent). Their excellent articles in the Himalayan Journal101112
paved the way for other climbers to follow.
In 1987, the unnamed peak (6428 m) far southeast of Tso Moriri and near Chumar was climbed by Indian Tibet Border Police party (P. K. Dhasmana)13
Even though several parties climbed in the Rupshu as described above there are still many virgin peaks there. Based upon the reports of the climbing and surveying done by these parties more geographical information was collected and my sketch map revised.
Our Chukyo Alpine Club (CAC) was founded about 60 years ago in Nagoya in the central Japan. For one of the memorial events of its 60th anniversary celebrations, an Indian Himalayan mountaineering expedition was organised by its veteran climbers including founders of the CAC. Motto of the CAC is 'Exploring the unknown as pioneers. So the CAC decided to climb a virgin peak in the Rupshu. Besides, the area is such that even the aged members can easily reach till base camp, driving vehicles upto the foot of the peaks.
Reconnaissance of Pologongka Pass (4940 m) area was carried out in the end of December 1997 and a climbing route found. As the result of survey, the CAC decided to climb Thugje from its south side. However, the party could not see the highest point of Thugje. Thugje is certainly a hidden peak in the Rupshu. In the summer of 1998, the CAC party made the first ascent of Thugje (6148 m) on 14 and 15 August. Thugje is located northwest of Tso Moriri. The party comprised 11 Japanese climbing members whose average age was 58 years. The base camp (4600 m) was established on 8 August 1998 on the right bank of a small stream, Pologongka Phu, about 5 km west of Pologongka Pass. All luggage and food was transported by vehicles up to the base camp from New Delhi via Leh, Upshi, Chumathang, Mahe and Sumdo with the support of a travel agent.
Reconnaissance of the route to Camp 1 (5400 m) was carried out via the southern slope of the main ridge and Camp 1 was established at 5400 m. Camp 1 was on a moraine on the main ridge and there was a small stream nearby. From the base camp to Camp 1 took about four hours without luggage. All luggage and food were ferried up by some members, 2 high altitude supporters, 2 ponies and 2 local porters.
From Camp 1, the climbing route to the main ridge was taken via a huge 40-60 degree rock slope. On the final part of the route to the main ridge, an approx 100 m long rope was fixed on the snow slope. From the end of the fixed rope to the summit of Thugje the climbing route was of a snow and rock ridge. Fortunately, the summit ridge was not so steep nor so long.
On 14 August, at 11:45 a.m., 6 Japanese, Akira Ito (58) (climbing leader), Masayuki Muto (57) (deputy leader), Katsumi Hishidda (60), Tsutomu Nomura (62), Norio Hamada (23) and Masato Oki(63) (leader), and 3 Indians, liaison officer Sorab Gandhi (45), climbing guide Arun Roy Chowdhury (29) and high altitude supporters, Lakhpa Sangey and Passang Tenzing reached the summit from Camp 1.
On 15th August, 4 Japanese, Genichi Ozaki (63), Soji Harada (66), Susumu Takeda (60) and Norio Hamada (second time), A. R. Chowdhury (second time) and 2 high altitude supporters climbed Thugje from Camp 1 by the same route. Akira Kajita (64) (general leader) and Haruo Tsuchiya (61) did not reach the summit due to illness.
On 18th August, all luggage was carried down from Camp 1 to the base camp. That morning some members reached a col (c.5800 m) on an unnamed peak (c.6000 m) on the east ridge of Thugje for a photography session.
During the 18 days of climbing, 10 other members enjoyed trekking around Leh, Tso Moriri (4300 m) and base camp.
Summary: Japanese Southeast Ladakh Expedition, 1998. The first ascent of Thugje (6148 m). The peak was climbed on 14 and 15 August 1998.
Period : From 26 July 1998 to 29 August 1998 Sponsored by : The Chukyo Alpine Club, Nagoya, Japan References
- Kapadia Harish : Nangpas are Flying Changpas are Smiling, Climbing and Trekking in the Southeast Ladakh, H.J. Vol. 52, pp. 81-91, 1996
- Oki Masato : Sara Shuwa, H.J. Vol. 52, pp. 259-260, 1996
- Oki Masato: Sara Shuwa, Indian Mountaineer, No. 32, pp. 117-118, 1997
- Ducrey Guy : An Unnamed 5000 m Peak in Ladakh, Indian Mountaineer, No. 32, pp. 119-120, 1996
- Himalayan Club Newsletter, No. 50, p. 58, 1997
- Gertrude R.Olmuller:Himalayan Club Newsletter, p. 60, 1997
- Tsuneo Suzuki : The First Aseny of Kula, H.J. Vol. 54, pp. 233-237, 1998
- Michael John Ratty: Roadside Rupsh, H.J. Vol. 54, pp. 86-91, 1998
- Himalayan Club Newsletter, p. 51, p. 14, 1998
- Sabharwal Alka : Living in Rupshu, An Anthropological Sojourn, H.J. Vol. 52, pp. 82-101, 1996
- Romesh Bhattacharjee : In Remote Southeast Ladakh, H.J. Vol. 41, pp. 82-89, 1983-84
- Romesh Bhattacharjee : Back to Rupshu, H.J. Vol. 50, pp. 125-143, 1994
- P. K. Dhasmana : H.J. Vol. 45, p. 147, 1987-88.
CZECH CLIMBERS ON GLACIER DOME, 1998
THIS IDEA WAS BORN during the New Year's party in the High Tatras, when I was drinking a noggins of rum with Vladimir. We started to think about a downhill race somewhere in the Himalaya. We thought that the best would be some mountain seven thousand metres high. First we wanted to choose the Karakoram in Pakistan, but then Jiri Novak (chairman of the Czech Mountaineering Federation) recommended to us Glacier Dome in the region of Annapurna, Nepal. We are very grateful for everything that Jiri has done for us during the preparation of this expedition.
After 18 months of hectic preparations, this expedition was almost cancelled, first owing to financial problems and then due to personal ones. Finally there were four of us left - V. Smrz, V. Prielozny, J. Peterek and me. Because I was the leader of this expedition, I travelled to Kathmandu with Jiri one week earlier than the rest. Jiri was a leader of another expedition - Annapurna IV.
The others came on 17 September. Then we finally moved to the mountains. We travelled by bus from Kathmandu to Pokhara, where we had to meet with our liaison officer. Two days later we flew by a chartered flight to Jomsom. Here the liaison officer announced that he was not continuing with us.
On 21 September we started for base camp with our cook Dili and Sirdar Niru. We had also eight porters and eight mules. After three days we moved across the saddle Messokanto (5400 m) to the base camp (5000 m), which was set up on 23 September, close to a lake, with Tilicho lake nearby. Here we acclimatised because we had to carry down the stuff, which the mules had left 300 m above our camp. It made us do 4 km there and back with a load of 40 kg each per trip. Great job. It was also snowing on those days. Four days later everything
was ready and we started to build up supplies to take to our mountain, which was 8 km away from the base camp.
On a foothill on its north side we set up Camp 1 (5600 m).
On 1 October we set up a second camp at 6300 m. The camp stood on a slope of 450
. Because the weather was getting worse in the afternoon and there were small avalanches we had to fasten our camp with ropes and hooks. Then we returned to the first camp. Josef was already waiting there. That night was misty and I went down in diffused light to the base camp. I reached there after eight hours. Two days later, the weather changed for the better. The higher camp didn't transmit much news to us. We got to know that the second camp was smashed by an avalanche and that climbers had kept going up. In the meantime Vladimir and I were preparing ourselves for the downhill race on the northeast side. On 5 October we packed up everything. The weather was perfect and our Nepali friends wished us good luck.
It was very hot on the glacier during the day. But there was nothing we could do about it. In the evening we cooked in the first camp. After a chilly night we went on skis across the glacier under a little saddle. Here began the northeast face. On the way we saw our friends going down to the first camp by the north side. Yesterday we could not understand their transmitting because of the condition of the battery, but now we saw that they were alive. That was the most important thing. Under the saddle we took off our skis and put them on our backpacks. With these backpacks, which now weighed over 20 kg, we started to climb up. The surface was icy. In the evening we pitched a tent. The altitude was 6200 m. In the morning the weather was beautiful. We climbed icy slopes, and went around ice towers to 6700 m. Here was our last bivouac. I didn't sleep that night. It was freezing and the wind was blowing and the canvas was flapping hard. The next morning we started for the summit. We took only our skis and the most essential stuff. Fifteen steps and then a break. On the way we were looking for a good surface for the downhill race. The summit was getting closer. Around noon we reached there. The weather was perfect; we congratulated each other, took pictures and one hour later we started downhill race. There was perhaps all kinds of snow. And the depth under us! On the way down we stopped on the last bivouac, packed up everything and then continued to the first camp. We didn't enjoy skiing as much as we wanted to, because our legs hurt a lot. We reached the first camp around 3 p.m. Here Lada was waiting for us. He made us some soup. It was 8 October and we were happy and gratified.
Lada spoke of their attempt on the summit. They had overcome a major part of the face but had not been successful. Josef was not feeling well and that's why he was relaxing in the base camp. Lada was getting ready for another attempt, which had to be done that night. He started at 5 a.m. and contacted us every two hours. The radio was an imaginary rope between him and us. We set our alarm-clock and went to sleep. Lada was doing well and at about 8 a.m. he reached the summit. He came down the way we had come. Five hours later he was back. He was tired but OK. After dinner he went to sleep. In the morning we packed up the first camp, and moved to an inter-camp. Then we went to the base camp. On the way we met Josef, who wanted to climb up alone. Lada didn't agree to that but I did. Thanks to this decision I later felt like an idiot.
At the base camp we met our Nepali friends. We celebrated our success with Balantines whisky. Over the mext two days we were very nervous. We were trying to keep track of Josef's attempt on the summit. He didn't contact us until the third day. It was 6 a.m. He had not been successful. The same day we met him in the intercamp. We didn't welcome him too cheerfully, but the main thing was, he was alive. Then we cleared up the inter-camp.
It was time to leave. I went with Sirdar to Manang to sell some left over food. We also left our first-aid box as a present to the local ambulance. On the way back we arranged some female porters, because the men were celebrating the feast of brothers and sisters. On 16 October we packed up the base camp. Through Manang, Pisang and Chame we went down to Basishare. It was a very nice track. Nature was so beautiful here. My knees, blisters and back hurt. From Basishar we took a bus to Kathmandu.
What else is there to say? I'm very surprised that everything happened the way we wanted it to. Even the money wasn't any problem after all.
Members : Robin Baum (leader), Vladimir Smrz, Lada Prielozny, Josef Peterek
Summary : Three Members of Czech team reached the summit of Glacier Dome (7202 m) on 8 October 1998. Two members descended the peak on skis (2200 m of height difference).
SOLDIERS ON SNOW
Lt. Gen. (Retd.) R. V. KULKARNI
THE HIMALAYA (admired for different reasons) have attracted people from every walk of life, for centuries gone by depending on the perceptions and interests.
For environmentalists and nature lovers, the Himalaya are nature's creation of awe inspiring beauty and grandeur. Each season reveals different panoramas, beyond the scope of imagination. The environmentalists look at every tresspass in the region, whether by adventure seekers or mountaineers, as an intrusion in the sublime environment. Garbage left behind by humans is obviously a matter of concern, causing slow decay and degeneration. Freebooters, soldiers and the like are indeed looked at with disdain, as destroyers of nature.
The Karakorams with the biggest cluster of first magnitude peaks and most heavily glaciated terrain outside the polar region are much more tempting, since they are inaccessible and forbidden in parts. Those fortunate who have explored and undertaken expeditions in this region would like to recount every day spent there, every peak and height climbed, every glacier traversed, every crevasse crossed, with feelings of agony and ectasy.
The Indian Army stands committed to active operations of high intensity in the most heavily glaciated terrain of the Siachen glacier and the Saltoro range which are the centre of focus in the Eastern Karakorams since 1984.
The Siachen war started on 13 April 1984 and four days later, the first Indian soldier died on the glacier. Today after almost 15 years it has been a very long cruel and expensive war. To date around 600 soldiers have died and at least 10,000 soldiers have either been wounded or have suffered environmental injuries, particularly due to high altitude. These figures are only of the Indian side.
Soldiers are posted in 108 posts located on heights from 4570 m to 6750 m. They occupy all the posts above 6000 m throughout the winter when temperatures drop below 400
C and blizzards rage over 100 km per hour. It takes upto 20 days of high altitude trekking amongst crevasses and ice walls to reach farthest posts. The highest post, Bana Post stands at 6750 m. To reach some of the posts soldiers have to jumar up ropes for almost 600 m, pass through ice tunnels and climb with crampons. Many times the posts are supplied in the middle of the night. Many mountaineers may not even dream of doing this. The Siachen war has changed many accepted norms for high altitude stay and climbing.
The soldiers deployed on the Siachen on a six month 'routine posting' are ordinary mortals, not trained mountaineers in the normal sense. They go through an intensive three week training in ice craft before their induction on the glacier. This is their only introduction to the craft of mountaineering, something which the best climbers take a lifetime to achieve. No battalion returns without casualties and those who return alive are medically believed to have lost a 5 year life expectancy due to a continuous stay at such altitudes. The effects of high altitude climbing on mountaineers are well studied. The same effects here are enlarged by the prolonged tenure.
The daily costs of maintaining troops on the glacier is a staggering Rs. 4.8 crore (at present rates US $ 1.14 million per day). The bulk of the cost goes into air dropping by aircraft and helicopters, rations, equipment (best available mountaineering gear in the world), guns and other materials as well as evacuating casualties. If the dream of peace on the Siachen is realised, the saving in cost, both human and material can do wonders to the economies of India and Pakistan. As far the g