Account of the expedition for the New Zealand Climber magazine
On October 5th Bruce Norman from Scotland and Pat Deavoll made what may be a first ascent of a 6400m peak in the Garwhal region of the Indian Himalayas.
Pat writes?.The ascent was the culmination of an ?organic? process which began earlier in the year when Bruce and I tried to get a permit to attempt the first ascent of Jankuth (6805m), a fantastic peak in the head of the Gangotri Glacier. Marty Beare and I had tried unsuccessfully to climb the peak in 2004 and for me it was unfinished business.
However, although our permit request was acceptable to the Indian Mountaineering Foundation, it was denied by the Uttaranchal State Government, so we changed our objective to the unclimbed east ridge of Kharchakund, also in the Gangotri. This time we were granted the permit and Shelley and Paul Hershey from Dunedin decided to join our venture, with the (also unclimbed) SW ridge of Kharchakund as their goal.
The team met in Delhi at the beginning of October, and after two days of travel,we began the three day walk in to base camp. Two weeks of great weather prevailed, during which we spent four days acclimatising on non technical Kedar Dome, and put in food dumps at the base of Kharchakund.
By October 23 we were ready to go, and all four of us set up an advanced base camp on the lateral moraine under the east face. Next morning we went for a scout, the main result of which was Paul and Shelley deciding to attempt Yeonbuk (5953m) instead of Kharchakund because of the amount of serac fall on the SW ridge.
Bruce and I headed off on the 25th, establishing ourselves up on the east ridge after climbing several bullet proof pitches of 60 degree ice.
Unfortunately we woke next morning to a snow storm (the same one as thwarted the Changabang team). After some dithering, we decided to come down, and just as well as the storm lasted six days.
Not to be outdone we headed back up the glacier when the fine weather reappeared, Bruce and I with the intention of trying the SW Ridge as the east ridge was now snowed up and out of condition. Paul and Shelley were still looking at Yeonbuk.
However when Bruce and I got to the bottom of the route a day and a half?s walk from basecamp, we concurred with Paul and Shelley earlier assessment. Too much serac danger.
?Enough of this damn mountain,? we thought. ?Time is running out and if we are going to salvage anything from this trip we need to look at something else.?
Up glacier was a good looking peak I had noticed on the 2004 Jankuth expedition, and if the weather stayed promising, we thought we had a chance of climbing it in the limited time we had left. We headed up glacier to the base, then spent a day climbing the 600m ice fall taking us into a pleasant cwm on the west face. At this point we started to doubt the weather and decided if we were to have any chance of summiting we would have to climb the remaining 1100m in a single push. (No mean feat at that altitude for Bruce who four weeks previously had climbed K2 without oxygen, but for me something of a challenge.)
We left camp at 4am the next morning and by 1pm, by alternate ice and snow pitches, had reached the summit ridge. By this stage it was really cold and windy and beginning to white- out. Pushing on, we made the summit at 3pm after a final 60 degree pitch of superb ice. The weather abated a bit and we got sketchy views of the line Marty and I had taken on Jankuth (to the south) and of the massive Satopanth (7075m) in the opposite direction. We stared hard at Yeonbuk but could see no sign of Paul and Shelley (in actual fact they had decided the avalanche threat was too high on Yeonbuk and headed back to base camp the day before).
?Ok, good, we?ve climbed something,? we said to each other, before heading down. By the time we got back to our camp in the cwm at 9pm the weather had well and truly packed in and descending the ice fall the next day was a little fraught. Walking back down the glacier in a white out/thunderstorm I think I was struck by lightening ? my hat started to smoulder!