American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Nepal, Dhaulagiri

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1980

Dhaulagiri. Our expedition was composed of Iñaki Aldaya, Dr. Javier Garayoa, Dr. Trinidad Cornellana, Gerardo Plaza, Angel Irigoyen, Angel Martínez, Javier Garreta, José Ignacio Ariz, Agustín Setuain, Juan Mary Eguillor, Mary Abrego, Javier Sorozabel, Pilar Ganuza, Joan Massons, Jordi Colomer, Jordi Pons, Ramón Bramona and me as leader. With 250 porters we left Pokhara on March 24. Following the Myangdi Khola route, we got to Base Camp at the foot of the north face of Dhaulagiri at 15,100 feet on April 8. We continued with our liaison officer Kamal Bhandari, sirdar Sonam Girmi, and Sherpas Ang Riti, Ang Nima, Lhakpa Dorje and Kami Nuru. After reconnaissance of the lower glacier and overcoming a barrier of séracs, we set up Camp I at 16,900 feet on April 11. Some rope was fixed and Camp II was pitched on the northeast col at 18,700 feet on April 15. We continued up the northeast spur to 21,750 feet, where we established Camp III on April 20. Between Camps III and IV we placed 1500 feet of rope on slopes averaging 45°. On May 2 the two tents of Camp IV were set up at 23,550 feet in the shelter of a rock wall. The lack of oxygen, temperatures around —20° F and 125-mph winds made progress difficult. Above Camp IV we had to fix more rope on the rock wall. Then a snow ridge led us to steep slopes which fell towards the north. We pitched Camp V in a spot relatively sheltered from the wind at 24,950 feet on May 9. During a two-day storm, four tents were destroyed at Camps III and IV and one was carried away by the wind at Camp V. It cleared and the wind dropped on May 12. Aldaya, Garayoa, Plaza, Pons and Ang Riti set out at three A.M. in —36° F temperature. They reached the summit (26,795 feet) at two P.M., where they found a 100-meter rope and a letter with two photographs left by the Japanese the previous autumn. It took them three hours to descend to Camp V. Another team of four climbers and a Sherpa were ready to attempt the climb the next day, but our sirdar predicted a sudden change of weather and we decided to retreat. We withdrew the camps in two days. Ours had been the seventh ascent of the mountain and the fifth by our route. During our climb we had met the Franco-Swiss expedition led by Sylvain Saudan, which hoped to climb the northeast ridge and descend on skis. After an official protest on our part, since they lacked permission from the Nepalese government, we reached an agreement by which they proposed to climb after we had. On the day after our triumph, six members of their expedition were in Camp V; they were overwhelmed by several avalanches brought on by the sudden change of weather. In one tent Dr. Jean Louis Sabarly and Erik Poumailloux were swept away and disappeared forever down the slope. The next day during a dramatic descent, the Sherpa Pemba disappeared. Saudan, Marie-José Vallençot and Ollagnier got down to Base Camp in very bad shape, where they were attended by our Drs. Garayoa and Cornellana. They were later evacuated by helicopter with seriously frozen hands and feet. We left Base Camp on May 21. Our closely knit team was greatly aided by the cooperation and energy of our Sherpas and the magnificent direction of their sirdar Sonam Girmi.

Gregorio Ariz Martínez, Grupo Navarro de Alta Montaña, Spain

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