Fowler, Saunders achieve first ascent on Sersank

Posted by Peter Burnside on 26/10/2016
Vic Saunders (L) and BMC patron Mick Fowler take a Sersank summit selfie.
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Nearly 30 years after their last climb together, BMC patron Mick Fowler and Vic Saunders achieved the first ascent of a stunning new 1,100m climb up the north face of Sersank (6,050m) in the Indian Himalaya.

Fowler and Saunders reached the previously unclimbed summit at 12:30pm on 3 October, by the unclimbed 1,100m north face of the mountain. This BMC approved expedition was supported by Berghaus and was the first time that the two men have climbed as a team since their first ascent of the Golden Pillar of Spantik (Pakistan) in 1987.

After leaving the UK in mid-September, the duo flew to Delhi and travelled three days by car and two days by trekking to establish base camp. After acclimatisation, the climb itself took five days, during an eight day round trip from base camp.

BMC patron Mick Fowler describes the climb: “We decided that the easiest access would be to trek across the difficult and rarely used 5,000m pass of the Sersank La and descend the far side to the foot of the face. Fresh powder covering the rocks made this exhausting but after overcoming the usual array of Himalayan hurdles (including an unfortunate mix-up of pee and drinking bottles!) we set off up the face on 28 September.


Line shows the route of ascent and bivouac positions.

“Heavy snowfall on dry cold rock made for challenging conditions. For two days we swept away snow and inched up the disturbingly blank rock below. By the end of the second day a lower buttress and sharp crest had been overcome and we were firmly established on the cold confines of the north face proper. Here the conditions were better but it became clear that Victor's body was unable to process our dehydrated food, but such minor problems are nothing to a man of Victor's stature.

“Day four was the crux day – fantastic white ice climbing with several pitches just within our limits. Even with numerous unplanned halts, superlatives abounded as we ended the day lying on separate small ledges cut in the ice. Actually, Victor appeared to be more suspended in a web of rope than supported by a ledge, but such inconveniences are minor in the grand scheme of a Himalayan experience.


Mick leading a pitch on day four on the face of Sersank.

“At 6.30pm on our fifth day on the face it fell to me to aid and cut through the cornice to emerge onto the south side. After another cold bivouac on narrow ice ledges, the previously unclimbed 150m summit block was dispatched and it was time to head down the complex glacier systems of the south and west face. Two days later we had abseiled through a never-ending icefall, stumbled down disturbingly steep loose rock and met with our cook and liaison officer, who brought us tea and biscuits.”

Fowler was able to send a short text message to Berghaus to confirm success, before he and Saunders started the journey back to Delhi, and then to the UK. Until this expedition, the highest point climbed on Sersank was by a Japanese team with fixed ropes and high altitude porters in 2008, who reached the base of the summit buttress from the west side.

Mick Fowler adds: “The climb ticked just about all of the boxes for us – interesting area, great company, unclimbed face, unclimbed summit, a striking line that was visible from afar and led straight to the summit, a challenging climb, and one with an aesthetically pleasing and different descent route. And it all gave us old men so much pleasure that we are already thinking about plans for next year.”


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