American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Nepal, Kangchenjunga Traverse

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1985

Kangchenjunga Traverse. Our expedition was organized by Ryutaro Hashimoto and led by Katsuhiko Kano. It had 20 Japanese and three Nepalese climbers, 18 other Japanese including scientists and members of the media and 28 high-altitude porters. On February 19 the first group of 300 porters started from Hille. They were followed by a second party of 300 porters on February 22. Most of the climbing members joined the first group at Taplejung. From Ramser, two intermediate camps were established on the Yalung Glacier. We reached Base Camp at Pache’s Grave at 5500 meters on March 7. Reconnaissance was begun on March 15. On the 20th Camp I was set up on the ridge called the “Hump” at 6150 meters. Camp II was established at 6650 meters on the 25th. On the 29th, we first reached the “Great Shelf,” where Advance Base would be placed. There was heavy snowfall on April 10. Camp III (Advance Base) was established with a great deal of trouble at 7200 meters on the 13th. For the second stage of the climbing, the party was divided into three groups. The first party took a route to the South Peak, following the 1978 Polish route. South-Camp IV was set up at 7800 meters on April 29 and South-Camp V at 8300 meters on May 7. The second party took a route to the Central Peak up the steep gully between the Central and Main Peaks. Central-Camp IV was set up at 7850 meters on May 1 and Central-Camp V at 8200 meters on May 4. The third party followed the 1955 British first-ascent route to the Main Peak. Main- Camp IV was established at 7800 meters at the entrance to the couloir under the “Sickle” and Main-Camp V at 8250 meters beneath the col between the West Peak (Yalung Kang) and the Main Peak on May 7. Route preparation and load carrying up to the final camps were done without oxygen. These activities set the stage for the attempt to traverse the four summits. In addition to the climbing, on May 12 Naotaka Tadano descended by hang-glider from Main-Camp IV at 7800 meters, landing on the Yalung Glacier at 5100 meters. It took only 19 minutes. On May 16 Gouta Isono, Ryo Otani and Nawang Yonden occupied Central-Camp V. On the 17th they left at eight A.M. for the summit of Kangchenjunga Central, following the 1978 Spanish first-ascent route. They reached the summit (8482 meters, 27,828 feet) at 3:40 P.M. and returned to Central- Camp V. That same day Tsuneo Shigehiro, Seishi Wada, Toichiro Mitani and Nima Temba occupied South-Camp V, supported by three porters. Wada and Mitani reconnoitered the route. On May 18, the sky was clear but it was windy and very cold. They found that two oxygen bottles leaked. Shigehiro, the team leader, was obliged to go with a half bottle of oxygen. The four started at seven o’clock and reached the summit of Kangchenjunga South (8476 meters, 27,809 feet) at 8:30 A.M. From this point, Nima Temba returned to Camp III. The other three traversed the untrodden ridge from the South to the Central Peak. They reached the col at eleven o’clock, where their way was obstructed by a rock wall which took two hours to climb. At 4:30 P.M. they reached the Central Peak and descended to Central-Camp V at seven P.M., guided by the route made by Isono’s group on the previous day. Two new support members, Masashi Teramoto and Mitsugu Kitamura, were waiting at Central-Camp V. That same day Takashi Ozaki and Ang Tsering occupied Main-Camp V, supported by Munihiko Yamamoto and me and four porters. On May 19 Wada, Mitani and Teramoto—Teramoto substituted for Shigehiro, who was exhausted from lack of oxygen—left at 7:30 A.M. for the Main Peak. They had seen from the Central Peak that the rocky ridge to the Main Peak would be very difficult. The traverse team tried to climb to the Main Peak directly by a snow couloir, but they did not find a good route. Finally, they decided to descend to Central-Camp IV, traverse to Main-Camp IV and ascend to Main-Camp V. Teramoto could not reach Main-Camp V and returned to Main-Camp IV, accompanied by Yamamoto. Wada and Mitani reached Main-Camp V at 6:30, where I received them. That same day Takashi Ozaki and Ang Tsering had started at eight A.M. from Main- Camp V and reached the summit of Kangchenjunga (8586 meters, 28,168 feet) at one P.M., fixing ropes for the traverse party. They descended directly to Camp III. On May 20, Wada and Mitani started at eight A.M. and reached the summit of the Main Peak at 12:20. They had climbed three peaks of Kangchenjunga and had spent four days above 8000 meters. Although reconnaissance to Yalung Kang was necessary to complete our goal of traversing the whole massif, we could not send a team out that day. Wada, Mitani and two support members spent the night at Main-Camp V, but leader Kano, considering the danger and difficulty, decided to abandon further climbing. All descended to Base Camp on May 22. In summary: Kangchenjunga South was climbed on May 18 by Tsuneo Shigehiro, Seishi Wada, Toichiro Mitani and Nima Temba; Kangchenjunga Central was climbed on May 17 by Gouta Isono, Ryo Otani and Nawang Yonden and on May 18 by Shigehiro, Wada and Mitani; Kangchenjunga Main Peak was climbed on May 19 by Takashi Ozaki and Ang Tsering and on May 20 by Wada and Mitani.

Tetsuro Matsuzawa, Japanese Alpine Club

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