American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Nepal, Peak 29

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1971

Peak 29. Peak 29 (25,705 feet), sometimes called Manaslu II or Dakura Himal, is located between Manaslu (26,760 feet) and Himalchuli (25,895 feet). It was Nepal’s highest unclimbed mountain. Yet it was nearly an unknown peak when we started our explorations in the 1960s. Not visible from many distant points, it is hidden from view even from most of the Marshandi valley on the west and the Buri Gandaki on the east. This is the reason it does not have a local name. The Japanese reconnaissance party to Manaslu in 1952 brought back a photograph of the source area of the Pungen Glacier, surrounded by Manaslu and Peak 29. The first attempt to explore the western side from the Marshandi valley was made by Professor G. Shinoda’s expedition in 1961 but it found no possibilities from this side. In 1963 after exploring the upper part of the Pungen Glacier, H. Kimura’s party ascended a couloir that led to the east ridge. From a high camp a wide ledge led past three small peaks on the east ridge and to the col between Manaslu and Peak 29. The third attempt was made in 1969 by an expedition which I led. The try had to be abandoned at 22,275 feet. (See A.A.J., 1970, 17:1, pp. 182-3.) In 1970 under the leadership of Professor S. Mizuno and me, Base Camp was set up on the Pingen Glacier at 13,125 feet on September 12, ten days earlier than in 1969. In spite of rain and avalanches, Camp I (16,400 feet) was established on the 20th and Camp II (19,000 feet) on the 23rd, near the site of Camp III of 1969. Camp III was placed on the col at 20,350 feet on October 9 beyond one of the three small peaks on the east ridge (Camp V of 1969). Camp IV (22,650 feet; Camp VI of 1969) was established twelve days earlier than in 1969 at the foot of the ice wall. Assault on the difficult 45°, 3000-foot- high ice face began on the 12th. The new ice pitons with sharp-edged screws and twelve-point crampons worked nicely. Although it was tortuous to work up on the hard ice down which continuously poured snow and ice flakes, on October 13 we reached 22,275 feet, the 1969 high point. Every part of the route was secured with fixed ropes. Slips on the ice, especially by the Sherpas were not infrequent. Fortunately, on October 18 a suitable campsite was found in a bergschrund at 24,600 feet, where Camp V was established by five Japanese and two Sherpas. Hiroshi Watanabe and the Sherpa Lhakpa Tsering remained. On the 19th, blessed with clear and at last still weather, the two left Camp V at six A.M. Almost all the climb could be observed from Camp III through a high-powered telescope. Watanabe led. It had been expected that the most difficult stretch would lie just to the right of exposed “Frog Rock.” It took four hours to pass the difficult section, and when at eleven o’clock they rested on an icy ridge above the rock, observers felt easy, expecting success. Above, their progress was much faster and they gained the snowy dome at 1:15, where they embraced each other as if they had already conquered the summit. Their figures were lost behind the dome until three o’clock when they were seen descending. The route was already in shadow and it was colder. At 4:40 Sirdar Illa Tsering, at Camp IV, gave a cry, seeing them fall. When the two were picked up on the icy slope only 15 minutes from Camp IV, there was no way to save their lives. They were still roped together in spite of the fall of some 2300 feet. Watanabe’s ice axe was found at one side, with the lower half broken off but still holding the strings which had held the banners of Japan and Nepal on the summit. It was decided to give up further attempts, taking into consideration the villagers’ strong feelings about not leaving the two bodies on a sacred mountain. On the 23rd the two remains were cremated near Base Camp after a funeral service in the presence of the highest lama of Sama village.

SENYA SUMIYOSHI, Osaka University Mountaineering Club

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