First Ascent of Chamsen (7017 m) & the first crossing of the Sakang Col. (6150 m)

The Indian British Exploration Expedition (IBEX) report

30 August 2013

The aim of the expedition was to explore unclimbed peaks of the Saser Group, located in the Nubra valley of the East Karakoram range, particularly Plateau Peak (7300 m) and Chamsen (7017 m). The team members were Divyesh Muni, Vineeta Muni, Andy Parkin, Susan Jensen and Victor Saunders. There was a support team of six Sherpas (Samgyal, Mingma, Ang Dorji, Chedar, Dawa and Karma), three kitchen staff (Chattup, Sonam, Kami) and a runner, Ramesh. The Liaison Officer was Hav./AEC Raj Kumar.

The expedition was in the field from 22nd July to 29th August 2013. The plan involved the first crossing of Sakang Col (6150 m) as a means of access to Chamsen Peak and the west side of Plateau Peak, from the North Shukpa Kunchang Glacier. Sakang Col was crossed on 10th August after a long period of reconnaissance and several attempts.

The Col proved to be the key to the expedition, and involved steep climbing and exposure to rock fall during the heat of the day. Nearly 1000 m. of rope was fixed to secure the route across the Col. to facilitate the safe return of the team and the movement of members and Sherpas with heavy loads. The entire supply of food and equipment was lowered from the Col using a zip line devised from the fixed ropes. On crossing the Col, the team found itself in a valley between Saser Kangri II and Saser Kangri III, both 7000 m peaks with high faces and seracs overhanging the valley.

The next few days were spent exploring approaches to Chamsen Peak from Chamsen Base Camp (c. 5600 m). On 14th August the British members were planning to re-cross the Sakang Col for re-supply. They were camped on the North Shukpa Kunchang Glacier about 1.5 km from Saser Kangri II when at 10pm a massive avalanche swept the north face of Saser Kangri II. Although the main substance of the avalanche did not reach the camp, the blast from the leading edge lifted the tent that Parkin was in, and he was airborne then hurled into a deep crevasse. Still in his sleeping bag, he fell through the floor of the tent, approximately 20 m into crevasse, landing upside down. In the other tent, Jensen and Saunders were rolled along the glacier about 30 m before coming to rest on the edge of the same crevasse. Several pieces of equipment were now missing, notably Parkin’s crampons, Saunders’ and Parkin’s axes, and both Saunders and Parkin had lost inner boots of their plastic boots. In addition, all the food and the stove were missing. Fortunately the rope and a few slings had survived the blast, allowing rescue operations to begin.

It took several hours for Jensen and Saunders to arrange safe crevasse rescue, descend to the base of the crevasse and recover Parkin, his rucksack and the remains of his tent. Parkin had injured his back and was not able to stand. With the use of painkillers and oral dexamethasone, Parkin was sufficiently ambulatory to walk two kilometres to a junction in the North Shukpa Kunchang Glacier which was safe from the avalanche prone north face of Saser Kangri II. Jensen and Saunders left Parkin there in a tent and broke trail back to Chamsen Base Camp, where they arrived in the afternoon of 15th August.

Early on the 16th August, Divyesh, Saunders and the Sherpas walked back to Parkin and carried him to the Chamsen Base Camp. Although illegal, it was fortunate that there was a satellite phone in the group. This allowed us to initiate an air rescue by the Indian Air Force on the 17th August. The airlift was in bad weather conditions with low clouds and poor visibility. It was executed with exceptionally fine flying and very determined ground-based support. We are pleased to acknowledge the commendable effort by the Indian Air Force and our agent RIMO Expeditions, and other friends who worked around the clock to ensure the rescue.

It took two days to fly Parkin to hospital in Leh, where he was found to have a minor fracture of the sacrum, from which he is currently making a fine recovery.

After a period of poor weather, though low on food and fuel, the remaining team consisting of Susan, Victor, Vineeta and Divyesh along with the Sherpas took advantage of a fine spell between 19th and 21st August to climb Chamsen Peak via camps at 6000 m and 6500 m, to reach the summit on 21st August at 10:30am. The summit was climbed by the West Ridge. About 600 m. of rope was fixed to gain access to the camp at 6500 m.

The whole team was able to re-cross the Col in a 17 hours effort on 24th August, eventually returning to Leh on 29th August. Apart from issues surrounding the use of the satellite phone to call the rescue, there were no further difficulties for the team.

 

Few memories
Chamsen Kangri (7017 m 23022 ft)

Team Left to Right - Susan Jensen, Victor Saunders, Vineeta Muni, Divyesh Muni and Andy Parkin

View from the Sakang Col (6150 m)

Probing a route across the Sakang Col.

The route down the Sakang Col to the Northe Shukpa Kunchang Glacier

On route to C2 at 6500 m.

Towards C2

On the summit ridge

Approaching the top.

On the summit!

Andy Parkin carried off to safety.