Asia, Nepal, Shartse

Publication Year: 1975.

Shartse. This expedition, composed of Gerhard Lenser, leader, Dr. Hermann Warth, Dr. Klaus Peter Bach, Germans, and me, an Austrian, had as its original goal the ascent of Lhotse (27,890 feet) by a new route from the Khumbu side. Protests were made by the large Spanish expedition to Everest, which wanted to be alone on the Khumbu, and the Nepalese authorities suggested we shift to an attack from the Barun Glacier to the east. But to get at Lhotse, we should have to traverse Shartse, Peak 38 and Lhotse Shar (24,613, 24,900 and 27,504 feet respectively); Shartse’s south ridge alone was 2½-miles-long! We left Kathmandu on March 18 and flew to Lukla. We made the 100-mile approach by way of the Arun and Barun valleys, crossing the Longma La. Base Camp was established at 17,725 feet on the lateral moraine of the Upper Barun Glacier on April 5. Route choice on Shartse was difficult. The east ridge and southeast buttress are very steep and the east ridge has wild gendarmes. These exist on the badly corniced, long south ridge, but only in the first half-mile. This, sharp ridge forms an airy bridge to an ice pulpit at 22,000 feet, where the ridge broadens and seems to have no more technical difficulties except for a 350-foot rock barrier at 23,625 feet. From there the route from Shartse to Lhotse seemed open provided the weather stayed good and the supply line was well organized. Yet the weather deteriorated daily around noon. On April 13 we placed Camp I at 18,700 feet at the edge of the upper glacial basin between house-high ice towers. Camp II was established on April 16 at 20,000 feet, 350 feet below the Barun La Nup (western Barun col), which we reached by a steep couloir; our ridge began there. It was obvious that to use Sherpas on the ridge we should need fixed ropes: hard, steep snow to windward; soft snow to leeward; breakable slabs where rock was showing; great exposure. For the next three weeks we worked daily in doubtful weather—not a single perfect day—to fix 2500 feet of rope. Protected from wind by an icy cornice, a small tent was pitched on April 27 as Camp III at 21,000 feet. Also under a cornice, we placed Camp IV at 21,325 feet on May 7. Hoping for a break in the weather, Warth and Nawang Tensing pressed forward to Camp V at 22,300 feet, now above the difficult part of the ridge. They started to go higher the day after but it snowed as never before; that night the tént at Camp V was collapsed by the snow. For days we could do nothing on the ridge and devoted ourselves to a photographic reconnaissance of the east side of Everest. Finally Lenser and Sonam Girmi pressed on up the snowy ridge to find Camp IV shattered by a broken cornice and had to return. On May 18 Warth, Nawang Tensing and I climbed from Camp II to III (also badly damaged). We continued the next day to Camp IV which we repitched in a niche. Nawang Tensing stayed there. We two set out on the 20th for Camp V but had to bivouac before we got there. We dug out Camp V finally on May 21. After getting to the bottom of the rock barrier on the 22nd, we set up our bivouac tent in a crevasse. Warth and I climbed for 15 hours on the 23rd. We got to the top of Shartse (24,613 feet) at 1:45 P.M. for a clear view along the great three-mile ridge. The reconnaissance is completed; good luck to those who go further.

Kurt Diemberger, Österreichischer Alpenklub