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Asia, Nepal, American Women's Expedition to Dhaulagiri I, Pear Route Attempt

American Women’s Expedition to Dhaulagiri I, Pear Route Attempt. After delays in Bangkok, where we had to transship our gear, our AAC- sponsored expedition left Pokhara in two groups on August 13 and 14, with a total of 270 local porters. It took us nine days to reach Yak Pass above Tukuche in the Kali Gandaki Valley. From Yak Pass, most of the loads were carried by mules; the trail crosses the 17,000-foot Dhampus and French Passes which are separated by several miles of scree-covered, high terrain. We established one support camp at about 16,000 feet on the Kali Gandaki side of the Dhampus Pass, and another in the Hidden Valley between the two passes to provide logistical support especially when the high passes were covered with deep snow. During monsoon, this approach is probably safer than the Mayangdi Khola gorge approach, where landslides occur. From the French Pass camp the loads were relayed to the Mayangdi Glacier Base Camp, which was established at 15,000 feet opposite the Pear Route on September 4. On September 7, Susan Havens, Shari Kearney, Ang Dawa, and Gyalzen (Phortse) climbed up an obvious scree, rock, and snow ridge to establish Camp I at 17,000 feet. It was possible to place several tents at this camp. The next section of the ridge consists of mud and rock and is narrow; we fixed approximately 600 feet of rope there. A snow section of the ridge leads to a short icefall and to a plateau, where Cyndy Simer, Lucy Smith, and Gyalzen established Camp II on September 11. The camp was later moved to a position directly on the way to the future Camp III. This new site was exposed to snow sliding off the ridge above; however, placing the camp on the ridge itself would have meant a very long carry. After a snowstorm which deposited about six feet of snow at Camp II, Camp III was established on September 25 by Sue Giller, Heidi Lüdi, Ang Rita, and Gyalzen at 21,300 feet, under a triangular sérac located on the right side of and below the Pear. They followed the ridge above Camp II and then started climbing on the gradually steepening snow of the north face proper; the only fixed ropes were placed on the steep terrain directly below Camp III. The establishment of Camp IV was hampered by strong winds on the face. This camp was placed by Annie Whitehouse, Ang Rita, Gyalzen and me on October 5 at 23,300 feet at the top of the Pear, where a snowbank permitted construction of ten platforms. Lucy Smith, Cyndy Simer, and particularly Chewang Rinzing participated in the work on the route. A snow slope leads from Camp III to the bottom of the Pear which we climbed on the right side, following the advice of Alex Bertulis; the right side is steeper and perhaps less prone to avalanches than the left side where avalanches were reported. We climbed in shallow snow plastered over rock with very few and closed cracks. We fixed the entire length of the Pear, mostly on poorly placed pitons which we were going to supplement by bolts. As the snow was being blown away and more rock appeared, the route became more difficult. There were no other possible campsites between our Camps III and IV. We did not climb on October 6 and 7 on account of high winds which redistributed the snow fallen in the second half of September and created avalanche conditions lower on the face. At 2:15 P.M. on October 7, a localized slab avalanche off the ridge above broke most of the tents at Camp II, pushed them downslope and covered most of the campsite. One tent with Diana Dailey, Lyn Griffith, Shari Kearney, Cyndy Simer, and Lucy Smith inside was pushed into a crevasse and landed on a snowbridge about 40 feet below the surface; Diana Dailey was on the snowbridge, the three remaining climbers still inside the tent, and Lyn Griffith was missing. The Sherpas present at Camp II during the accident, Sonam Girmi, Ang Dawa, Chewang Rinzing, and cooks Yeshe Tenzing and Gyalzen (Kunde), freed themselves from the tents and snow and helped the slightly injured climbers out of the crevasse. Chewang Rinzing suffered a torn ligament in his right ankle. Despite a two-and-a- half-day search both in the crevasse (this search was carried out principally by Sue Giller) and under the snow, we did not find Lyn Griffith; she was sitting next to the entrance of the tent and apparently fell out of it and slid into the deep, narrow crevasse below the snowbridge. Lyn, leader of the Support Party, was a plant ecologist from Australia; we will greatly miss her as a close friend and an enthusiastic expedition member. Almost all equipment at Camp II was recovered, but a collective decision to abandon the climb was made on October 9 in face of persisting avalanche conditions and particularly strong winds, coming with an unusually early onset of winter. We never did reach the difficult parts of the route, which start about 400 feet above our highest point. A traverse to the right skyline ridge of the north face, attempted by the Polish expedition with Alex Bertulis in the fall of 1979, did not appear practical after we looked at the photographs taken by the Japanese from Dhaulagiri II and V; the face probably did not have enough snow to accomplish the traverse anyway. We were planning to use oxygen higher on the mountain. All climbers and Sherpas reached at least Camp III. Almost everything, including the considerable amount of gear at Camp III, was evacuated from the mountain and we left Base Camp on October 17. Thirty porters, for whom we did not have equipment, were sent via Mayangdi Khola, while the rest of the expedition retraced the approach, picking up the support camps. The high passes were under snow and very windy. Mules carried most of the loads from Yak Pass to Pokhara, which the main party reached on November 1. The Sherpas, under the excellent leadership of Sonam Girmi, were extremely helpful and hard working. Several expedition members (Doug Hardy, Wendy Jones, Vera Komarkova, Beth Wald) were recipients of small research grants from the Explorers Club and the AAC. Professor William A. Weber made phytogeographical observations, and several hundred plant specimens were collected, mainly from above 16,000 feet. Ecological, meteorological, and glaciological observations were carried out at the support camps throughout the expedition. Kathryn Collins, M.D., carried out medical observations on women. The financial support of the expedition included grants from the AAC Vera Watson-Alison Chadwick-Onyszkiewicz Memorial Fund and from the Mazamas.

Vera Komarkova