British first ascent in a group of Nepalese peaks previously unvisited by mountaineers.

Posted by Lindsay Griffin on 19/01/2014
Exploring the region close to Peak 6,142m. Behind, the frontier ridge runs west over two, shapely pointed peaks to, in the far right distance, the rocky Chandi Himal. Guy Wilson

Supported by the BMC, MEF, The Alpine Club and a Shipton-Tilman Memorial Grant, David Chapman, Neil Warren and Guy Wilson became the first to climb in the remote Chandi Himal of Far West Nepal

While they were successful in making the first ascent of one of the Chandi peaks, their exodus from the region proved something of an ordeal.

The Chandi is a collection of summits straddling the Nepal-Tibet border. The highest is 6,142m, but Chandi Himal, as officially designated by the Nepal Mountaineering Association, is a 6,069m summit to its west.

Reaching the mountains involved five flights, ending at Simikot, followed by six days trekking north to the border via the Chuwa and Nin Kholas.

The team took eight mules, a few local staff, and found the terrain rough. This made the journey slow, as the mules found difficulty picking a safe line between crumbling moraine bands.

Travelling through regions few foreigners have seen, the group arrived at a 4,950m base camp below the fine unclimbed summit of Peak 5,895m - a cold spot as surrounding mountains masked the sun most of the day.

From here they explored north, following the glacier towards the Tibetan border in order to reconnoitre possible routes on Peak 6,142m.

However, in early November they turned their attention to the designated Chandi Himal, and Chapman and Wilson established an advanced camp at 5,450m, on the bed of a dried-up, dusty lake.

They had a rough night but awoke to clear, windy weather. Working north, they ascended moraine to a glacier and followed it to a col (ca 5,950m) on the main divide, between peak 6,069m and a snow dome of 6,024m.

From here an apparently easy rock ridge led northwest to the top of 6,069m. The pair decided to leave all technical gear on the col, and set off climbing unroped, only to meet an extremely loose section of ridge at around 6,000m, running up to an equally loose pillar.

With disappointment, they retreated to the col where, not wanting to leave empty handed, they decided to climb the snowdome opposite.

This was successful and the pair returned contented to base camp, vowing never to return up the desolate, remote, dry and dangerous valley leading to advanced base. There were plenty of other objectives.

They had made the right decision getting all the way down to base camp, as next morning it started to snow. The far west of Nepal is noted for generally fine weather, but several days passed with no let up in the storms. The snow lay deep at camp.

Their challenge quickly changed from climbing mountains to getting themselves, their kit, and local staff out of the valley.

With time running out and few options left, they were forced to abandon most of their gear and set off with 30kg sacs.

But after three days they had covered only 15km of the 65 to Simikot, and most of them were now supporting minor injuries due to the heavy sacs and rough terrain.

It was at this point, when further poor weather beckoned, that their agent stepped in with the offer of helicopter evacuation. It was not what the team wanted, but it was clear that without leaving most of their remaining gear (and that of the staff), thereby putting all in jeopardy, they would not be able to exit the valley before new snow made matters worse.

The decision was taken, and the same day they were safely evacuated to Kathmandu.



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