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Asia, India—Garhwal, Panchchuli II, Kumaon Himalaya

Panchchuli II, Kumaon Himalaya. Beautiful, needle-shaped Panchchuli II is the highest of five peaks, traditionally known as the “five ovens” used by the five Pandava brothers during their journey to the Ultimate at the end of the Mahabharat. It had beaten back nine earlier attempts, both foreign and Indian. We were on ice and snow from 10,500 feet on. We used 10,000 feet of fixed rope. Eighteen members, including deputy leader J.S. Negi, of the 26-man team reached the summit on May 26. We left the roadhead at Munsiari on May 3, followed the Uttari Balati Gal and in four days located Base Camp at 11,500 feet a kilometer above the snout of the Uttari Balati Gal. Camp I was at 14,000 feet on a terrace close to the third icefall, Camp II at 16,000 feet in the basin of the glacier and Camp III at 19,000 feet where the Uttari and Kakshini Balati glaciers fork. Camp IV was at 20,000 feet at the foot of the southwest ridge of Panchchuli II. Between Base and Camp I it was hazardous because of séracs and the constantly disintegrating glacier. The couloir between Camps I and II was threatened by avalanches. It took three days from Camp IV to prepare the route to within 600 feet of the summit. This was throughout a technical climb, involving step-cutting, aluminium stakes and fixed rope on hard, glistening blue ice. The summit proper (22,650 feet) was a three-fanged cornice toward the east, which shook under the weight of the 18 climbers who reached it more or less simultaneously on five different ropes at 12:35 on May 26.

Mahendra Singh, Indo-Tibetan Border Police