MUKUT PARVAT EAST
IN 1998 THE SEOUL ALPINE Federation Rescue Party Mukut Parvat AEast Expedition recorded a first ascent in the Indian Himalaya. Two members of The expedition was in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Korean government and of the Indian independence. Despite financial constraints and a fallout with the Indian members (it was originally a joint venture), two of its members, Kisung Park and Dong-shin Park climbed Mukut Parvat East on 30 August 1998 at 1715 hrs. The route was via the south face and the east face.
Korean and Indian Independence day! Today is the 50th anniversary of the establishment of Korean government and Indian Independence. We made a plan to stand on the summit on this day for celebrating the anniversary. The base camp (5300 m), however, was set up only today, a bit too late.
We have had to solve so many problems from our arrival at Delhi (31 July) to our reaching the BC (13 August). Our schedule was delayed by some days due to the withdrawal by Indian members, roadblocks by avalanches during the approach march, delayed permission to enter the border area by the army, conflicts between the Indian and Nepalese porters and so on.
In the morning, it was snowing and cold. It was a sign that the weather would change for the better. I ordered six members, the liaison officer, the cook and the kitchen boy to turn back to the Kamet BC, because of altitude sickness. Sung-boon Jeong just managed to reach BC with the help of porters. He had a terrible stomachache. I sincerely hoped that he would be better tomorrow.
I left BC with Ki-sung to find a site for C1 (5800 m). It was not easy to find one because of heavy cloud and mist. A sudden avalanche occurred towards Kamet (7756 m). There seemed to be one every 30 minutes. The horrible sound was enough to make me scared. I was very frightened by a particular avalanche that occurred right before me.
Colour plates 8-9
There was frost on the tent. The sky was very clear. We could see the magnificent shape of Mukut Parvat Main and Kamet. It was really wonderful. Clouds passing under the mountains were making the landscape look lovely.
From today, we decided to call the Camp at the foot of Kamet BC and Camp 1 was named ABC (5300 m). I left for BC to check the members' condition. The members were in good condition, but the liaison officer, cook and kitchen boy were suffering from altitude sickness. I paid the later two Rs. 4,000 for travelling expenses and sent them back to Delhi. They had no skills in cooking in any case.
There was a tent and some food at BC. But it was not enough for all to stay. So all the members except the liaison officer left for ABC. It was tiring to walk in the rain without food.
All members gathered at ABC. I was very happy to know that everyone was in good condition. We decided to divide the team into two small parties led by Namil Kim and Woo Suk Seo, for tomorrow.
It was clear. Six members were going to fix ropes until C2 (6400 m). We had already selected our route on the face. We were going to climb the south face and set up C2 on the shoulder. Then we would go forward to the summit through the east face. A narrow couloir of the south face that was suggested by Nam-il and Woo-suk had possibilities of avalanches. So I chose the apparently safer middle route between the snowfield and the rocky area. We will do some real climbing tomorrow.
The weather changed, unlike yesterday. It snowed all day long. Doug- shin, Ho-sun, Lun-soo and Hyunjung started to move up to C2 with 100 m of ropes each. The snowfield was very deep . It was impossible to set up snowbars on the slope. So we had to use screws for protection. It took a lot of time to set them up. After setting and up fixing 350 m of rope, we climbed down to C1.
It was not cold even though it was snowing because of absence of wind. At noon, a huge rock fell near our camp but nothing was damaged. A lot of stones were falling very often from the face of Mukut Parvat Main and Kamet to the glacier.
Dong-shin and Ho-sun led the party. The soft snow that filled our crampons was annoying. At noon, an avalanche overtook Fun-soo, and the rope tied to him was almost cut. Fortunately, he was able to hang on to the face. It was a critical moment. But we continued to climb and set up 400 m of rope.
Visitors came to BC from Seoul. I heard a radio message that Bung- wan Jang (Chief, Seoul Alpine Federation Rescue Party), Dong-wook Lee, Sang-sup Shin and Joong-ho Cho had come to BC in order to encourage us.
All members came to ABC to greet the visitors and take rest. The news from Seoul and letters from members' families made us cheerful. The weather condition was also nice.
We shot a video tape for our families that will be carried by Jang. The visitors had to go back to Badrinath today. When we said good-bye, it brought tears to my eyes. Then we came back to C1, ready to climb.
We started to climb again. Ki-sung and Hyun-jung were to set up C2. There were no difficulties on the route, but deep snow and frequent hidden crevasses were making the route harder than expected. We strained on the 70 degree slope, but still it was easier than expected. And the overhanging roof on the slope was not dropping any rocks and snow.
A storm started at 4 p.m. The temperature was dropping and wind was very strong. I instructed our members to descend. They had fixed ropes up to 100 m short of C2. We will be able to construct C2 tomorrow early in the morning I have planned a summit climb the day after tomorrow.
I climbed 700 m with a pair of jumars. We set up rope on the remaining 100 m to C2. It was very small and slanting site. We started to cut into the slope, but inside the slope was blue ice. We could flatten only 0.5 square metre, even though we had cut the slope for 30 minutes. I asked Eun-soo to find another site on the upper slope.
A snowstorm started at 3.30 p.m. Whirlwinds that formed from the Indian and Tibetan sides came hard upon us. Our activities were almost halted by the wind.
We climbed 50 m of rock face to find a campsite. On the face, we found a flat snowfield for setting up a camp. The only problem was that the winds were strong. I was worried that winds might blow away the tents.
At 7 p.m. the winds stopped miraculously and I could see some stars in the sky. We will be attempting the summit tomorrow as planned. I radioed to Nam-il at C1 to wake me up at 3 a.m. I had some difficulty in breathing.
I could not wake up myself even though I heard a radio call from C1 at 3 a.m. I managed to wake up at 5 a.m. and ate a pumpkin stew served by Ki-sung. The climbing party was of 5 members; Fun-soo, Ho-sun, Hyun-jang, Ki-sung and myself. Eun-soo started to lead the party at 6.30 a.m. It was very clear and not a cloud was seen. The route to the summit seemed to be very hard. It was a steep snowfield. The height of the wall was about 730 m. Average gradient was 75 degrees.
There was a rocky saddle near the summit area. Past it, the summit was covered a with cornice. 20 cm of powder snow covered the face but underneath it was blue ice.
We had to thrust our axes on the ice after blowing away the surface snow. It was not an easy job. We had climbed just 400m till noon. At that time, weather was good and a butterfly was seen flying in the sky. I was suspicious about how long it would last. By 4 p.m. we fixed 800 m more of ropes.
A cold storm came again. We were not able to climb any more. When we were preparing to descend to camp, I was able to see the summit for a moment. I felt a strong desire to be on it. I turned back to wards it and we climbed another 100 m. But the weather didn't permit us to go on. The storm and the hard snow was making things too dangerous. We returned to C2 where Nam-il was waiting for us.
The second party, Nam-il, Woo-suk and Dong-shin, came up to C2. The first party was already there. C2 could not accommodate all members. So, Nam-il, Woo-suk and I went back to C1, and Ki-sung, Eun-soo, Dong- shin, Ho-sun and Hyun-jung stayed in C2.
The following day Ki-sung and Hyun-jung also came back to C1. At 11 a.m. Tae-hoon and Jin started to go up to C2 to get some photos, but they were troubled by altitude sickness. So, Dong-shin went down to do the needful and then returned to C2.
For the second attempt the party comprised 4 members : Dong-shin, Ho-sun, Tae-hoon and Ki-sung. I woke them up with the radio alarm at 5 a.m. It was very cold. I heard some terrible sounds under the glacier. It made me nervous. Frequent avalanches still occurred from Mukut Parvat Main and Kamet.
The party started to climb at 7 a.m. They went up the 400 m of fixed rope. Then they climbed with a 100 m rope. I asked Tae-hoon and Ho- sun, who were in poor condition, to return to C2.
At 4 p.m. I could hear that they had reached the rocky saddle under the summit. Ki-sung made an effort to step on solid ice 5 metres before the saddle. I judged that it was very dangerous so I ordered him to set an ice screw to belay Dong-shin. The radio was silent for a long time. Everyone in camp was also silent.
I was able to hear a radio call 30 minutes later. Dong-shin was leading Ki-sung. They had left the rocky saddle, the glorious summit would be ours. But the information that there remained 40 m of climb after the saddle left me a little disappointed. 5 p.m. Finally, Dong-shin stepped on the summit. Ki-sung joined him. 15 minutes later. I asked them to take photos and video from every side and then return to camp.
A raven (I believe that it is a sign of luck in India) made a circular flight over C2 and went to Mukut Parvat Main. There were avalanches on Mukut Parvat Main and Kamet. But the sound did not scare me any more! It seemed to be like a gun salute.
We named this route 'Running again Korean'. I imagined a cheerful return march to Delhi. I dreamed that we'd be welcomed by a gentle breeze, a green field with yellow mountain dandelions, blue violets and numerous wild flowers.
The first ascent of Mukut Parvat East (7130 m) by a Korean team on 30 August 1998.