Asia, Nepal, Chamlang's P 7010

Publication Year: 1982.

Chamlang’s P 7010. Reinhold Messner obtained permission from the Nepalese government to climb the southest ridge of Makalu. He asked me to accompany him, knowing I had attempted the route in the autumn of 1980 (A.A.J., 1981, pages 244-6). I secured permission for Chamlang from the north, reasoning that only by acclimatizing fully would there be any chance to climb a peak of over 27,000 feet, from flowers to the top, alpine-style. Chamlang would provide suitable terrain on which to acclimatize and also be of considerable mountaineering interest. No one had ever approached the north side and the only ascent of the mountain had been by the Japanese and Sherpas from the southwest in 1962. The walk to Base Camp began on September 1 from Tumlingtar airstrip. Apart from us two, Reinhold’s girl friend, Nena, accompanied us for three days only, being seven months pregnant. I had with me my wife Jan and daughters Martha (8) and Rosie (3) and two lady climbers, Arianne Giobellina and Elaine Brook, who were trekking to Base Camp. Because Chamlang is open only for joint expeditions, we had to include three Nepalese members for that climb. They were Pasang, Mingma and Ang Dorje. Also we had our liaison officer, various others and 50 porters. This must be the largest two-man expedition ever! By September 14 we had walked the 150 miles through the monsoon and leeches to Base Camp at 15,700 feet. Acclimatization began with a reconnaissance of the Lower Barun Glacier. Reinhold and I found a way around the icefall by going along the lower slopes of P 6720 until we could walk onto the flat glacier, which would lead easily to the Chamlang Glacier. The route involved 5.6 rock and probably had not been taken before. From the 17th to the 21st we walked north to visit the Austrians on the normal route of Makalu and the Anglo-Poles on the west face. From camp on the moraine hill, P 6140, we visited various cols to the west and north. We had good views of Chamlang and spotted the American camp at the bottom of the Kangchung face. On September 21 we moved off with the Sherpas to camp on grass above the Lower Barun icefall at 17,725 feet. The next day we walked up to the Chamlang Glacier and camped at 19,700 feet beneath Chamlang’s north face. Chamlang is really a five-mile-long, level ridgetop, with the main summit (P 7319) to the west and P 7290 to the east. On all its length it drops only about 1000 feet. We discussed attempting the very attractive but steep snow flutings below P 7205 but with two untried Sherpas (Mingma had lost interest) and heavy monsoon snow on the mountain, I did not think it feasible. Eventually we agreed to climb up below the lowest point of the ridge to P 6990. On the 25th we set off up deep snow and reached the bergschrund at 21,650 feet, where Pasang and I dug a snow cave whilst Reinhold and Ang Dorje led out our two ropes. This was Messner’s first experience with snow-holing and it may be his last, since we woke up covered with three feet of drifting snow at two A.M. From there the climb steepened and went up and across loose powder-snow flutings. We reached the top of the face at one P.M. after being puzzled by an UFO which hovered over us, a box-like object, shining magnificently in the midday sun. Mushrooms of snow lay heavily on the ridge. We waded along and up one of the central summits, P 7010 (22,999 feet), before going back down the way we had come. Snow began to fall that night and continued for the next few days. Avalanches threatened the Lower Barun gorge and so we walked north and crossed a col north of Sherpani at 20,000 feet. We camped on the far side and returned to Base Camp on the 28th. News had arrived from Kathmandu that Nena, who had walked in with us for the first three days, had walked out the same distance in the next half-day to catch a plane and had had her baby at a Kathmandu hospital that same night. Understandably Messner abandoned Makalu and reached Kathmandu in three days! I did not think it possible to solo the southeast ridge, knowing its technical difficulties and especially now with its masses of fresh snow. After an excursion with Arianne and Martha to a col at 20,350 feet to the east of Makalu, we walked out. On our return, we pieced together the fact that the same UFO had been seen by the Austrians and the Anglo- Poles to the west at nine A.M. Then it was sighted by Jan and the family over Base Camp at ten A.M. and by Arianne at 11:30 on the Chamlang Glacier. Our sighting was between twelve and one P.M. Finally there were reports in newspapers in Tibet and Nepal.

Douglas Scott, Alpine Climbing Group