AAC Publications - http://publications.americanalpineclub.org

Asia, Nepal, Himalchuli, Attempt from the Northeast

Himalchuli, Attempt from the Northeast. Already attempted several times unsuccessfully, the extremely long northeast ridge of Himalchuli butts into a final steep face. Our attempt was post-monsoon, lightweight, Sherpa-less and with a minimal budget. The party was Ian Howell (Kenya) and I (UK), joint-leaders, Iaian Allan, Dr. Alastair Stevenson (Kenya), Janusz Onyszkiewicz (Poland), John Fowler, Nigel Gifford and William O’Connor (UK). Base Camp was established at 15,300 feet on October 15, 17 days out of Kathmandu. We had unpleasant incidents with the belligerent inhabitants of Namrung, our trailhead village high up the Buri Gandaki, but despite woeful predictions that we were far too late in the field, our timing proved perfect. We reached the ridge crest easily by its wide northern flank at Camp II (19,300 feet), and nearly four miles across a featureless ice plateau, we occupied Camp III (20,960 feet) on October 23. The only route onward climbs the 21,700-foot shoulder of Rani Peak (22,211 feet) before descending an awkward 1200-foot ice wall to the wide saddle below the final face. Here we planned to place our last camps before an alpine-style summit push up the face. By October 27 ropes had been fixed down the ice wall and everything necessary for the final climb had been carried to Camp III or above. We planned to place Camp IV before pulling back to Base prior to our summit bid. A short storm on October 27 and 28 damaged two tents and so we pulled back to rest a day or two early. At Base Camp we learned of the death on Annapurna of Alison Chadwick Onyszkiewicz, wife of one of our strongest members and a close friend of most of us. The expedition disintegrated. Only three days later, Howell, Stevenson and I returned up the mountain. It seemed foolish to continue as a threesome but we were able to salvage virtually all our equipment in a series of mammoth carries before departing Base Camp on November 7. The route is not difficult, but would seem to be better suited to conventional expeditions with full Sherpa support.

John Cleare, Alpine Climbing Group