Winter expeditions in Nepal

Posted by Lindsay Griffin on 02/04/2010
South Face of Tawoche. Dougald MacDonald

There were only three official expeditions to the Nepalese Himalaya this winter: British, American-Canadian, and Japanese. It turned out to be a particularly dry season and only one was successful.

In the Khumbu, Andy Parkin and Victor Saunders, on a BMC Approved expedition, planned to attempt Peak 5,943m near the Chola Pass (south of Pointed Peak climbed by the 1953 Everest Expedition), and then Peak 6,424m at the head of the Omoga Glacier. There are no official records of any prior ascents.

They had hoped to climb the sunny South East Face of Peak 5,943m from the Chola Valley as a warm up, before moving south to Pangboche and establishing a camp up the Minma Khola below the small Omoga Glacier.

Peak 6425m is a shoulder of Kantega North West (6,686m) and its North Ridge was tried by Rab Carrington in 1979. Parkin and Saunders hoped to climb the North Face to the left, the idea coming from Parkin, who the previous winter had attempted the peak immediately east.

In fact, with the winter being so dry, neither of these routes looked feasible, so the pair decided to try the unclimbed North Face of Lobuje West (6,119m). While carrying a heavy rucksack to the bottom of the face, Parkin fell on the moraine and hurt his back.

Although he decided to continue with an attempt on the route, the pair had to give up at 5,600m when Parkin's injury proved too painful to continue.

The main success of the season was the first ascent of 6,495m Tawoche's South Face by American Renan Ozturk and Canadian Cory Richards. The pair climbed the Central Buttress on the South Face in alpine-style, taking three days to reach the summit and a fourth to descend the route.

The crux occurred on the second day with a long section of friable, loose rock. However, the difficulties were augmented by the lack of snow on the mountain, meaning the pair had to climb for 36 hours without water. The 1,200m route was graded ED2 5.10 and M4/5, and was known to have received one previous attempt, by three Americans in February 2007.

Shinji Sato and five other Japanese attempted the first known winter ascent of Khatung Kang, the 6,484m peak immediately south west of the Thorong La (5,416m) on the Annapurna Circuit.

They got no further than 5,600m on the 4th January. Sato, seven other Japanese and four Tamang brothers had previously attempted the same route - the North East Ridge from the Thorong La - in January 2006 directly from a base camp below the La at 5,200m. They gave up at 6,100m due to insufficient time and strong winds.

This peak was first climbed in spring 1956 by Arthur Baumgartner and Marguerite Deriez from Switzerland. These two climbed direct from the Thorong La with two high camps. The mountain has most likely received a number of unauthorized ascents since.

In the photograph the new American-Canadian route climbs the prominent rock buttress falling vertically from the summit.



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