American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Nepal, Kanchenjunga Ascent and Tragedy

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1982

Kanchenjunga Ascent and Tragedy. We were Gilles Gaby, Michel Parmentier, Michel Pellé, Jean-Jacques Ricouard and I as leader. There are two approach routes to the Yalung side. We left Ilam and went through Sukepohari, Phidam, Gopetar, Tungrumba and Mamanke to the last village of Yamphuting, where we had to take on porters at double wages. On the return we went through Taplejung, Dankhuta and Daran, a preferable route with wide paths and more inhabitants from whom to recruit porters. Only on September 9 did we get to Base Camp at 17,725 feet, a magnificent rocky isle, sheltered from avalanches and with grass and running water. We could see the stone tomb of Pache, buried by an avalanche in 1905, the inscription in memory of the Mexicans who left their high camp never to return, and the piles of garbage and refuse of 18 Japanese and 22 Sherpas of last spring. We began reconnaissance right away. We found Japanese fixed ropes and German ladders up to Camp I. Above, the monsoon had swept all away. Between September 9 and October 9 we five Frenchmen and two Sherpas established Camp I at 20,000 feet in the cwm between the two sérac areas, Camp II at 22,950 feet on the second step and Camp III at 24,950 feet at the foot of the couloir that leads to the summit ridge. In contrast to the weather in western Nepal, we had constant good weather except for a five-day snowstorm at the end of September. The later the season, the more the wind blew. We decided that Parmentier and Ricouard were best acclimatized, and on October 15 they left Camp III just after midnight and reached the summit at three P.M. They found a Japanese flag and an oxygen bottle there. (We did not use oxygen.) They were not roped on the descent. Less fatigued, Ricouard went ahead and out of sight. At sunset Pamentier got back to Camp III and thought his companion must have gone on to join Pellé, the two Sherpas and me at Camp II. At 4:30 P.M., while descending from Camp II to Camp I, Gaby saw something fall in the great couloir. He tried to think it was a pack, considering the speed of the fall and the lack of steepness, but he was nervous all night. On the morning of the 16th, we sent the Sherpas up to congratulate the pair, but they found Ricouard’s body at the turn of the great couloir. Our friend must have slipped. We buried him in the nearest crevasse. We decided to give up the expedition and left Base Camp on October 21.

Michel Berruex, Club Alpin Français

This AAJ article has been reformatted into HTML. Please contact us if you spot an error.