American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Nepal, Makalu, West Face Attempts, Pre- and Postmonsoon, Makalu II (Kanghungtse) and Makalu solo

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

Makalu, West Face Attempts, Pre- and Postmonsoon, Makalu II (Kangchungtse), and Makalu solo. Both before and after the monsoon the Pole Wojciech Kurtyka and I, plus respective friends, were involved in two attempts to climb Makalu’s west face. We intended that all climbing was to be made in alpine-style with no concessions whatsoever to the more traditional techniques. In the spring we were joined by Con Higgins, United Kingdom, Dr. Piotr Kintow, Poland, and Padam Singh Ghaley, Nepal. After a possibly too long acclimatization between March 25 and May 16 on the “normal route,” we had achieved a high bivouac at 7800 meters (25,600 feet) and a cache and tent on the Makalu La. Kurtyka and I then attempted the west face but failed at about 6800 meters (22,300 feet) in the face of unfavorable weather conditions and inadequate progress on the quite awkward ground in this area. Meanwhile, Ghaley Padam had soloed Kangchungtse (Makalu II; 7640 meters, 25,066 feet) via the Makalu La. This is probably the first truly independent, self-motivated ascent of a major peak by a Nepali. Kurtyka, the Polish climber Jerzy Kukuczka and I returned to the mountain in the autumn. From September 4 to October 2 we again used the normal route to acclimatize, establishing a cache and tent on the Makalu La and enjoying a bivouac at 8000 meters on the north ridge. Our attempt on the west face began on October 4. All bivouacs on the face were made sitting on platforms hacked out of the ice. On the third evening I received a severe blow on the head from a falling lump of ice. We abandoned the attempt at 7900 meters (25,920 feet) after six hours of sustained effort had yielded little more than 40 meters of progress on the headwall which bars exit from the wall. Supplies were diminishing. From October 15 to 21 Kukuczka soloed Makalu. He followed the Roger Baxter-Jones route from the Chago Glacier to the shoulder, where he followed the normal route to the Makalu La and then he climbed the north ridge to the summit on a calm day after a wind-battered climb, on October 20.

Alex MacIntyre, British Mountaineering Council

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