American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Nepal, Kangchenjunga North Face Attempt

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

Kangchenjunga North Face Attempt. Nick Banks, Russell Brice, Bill King and I attempted the Japanese direct line on the north face without oxygen or Sherpa support on the mountain. After an 18-day approach, we established Base Camp at 16,500 feet on a moraine wall above the Kangchenjunga Glacier on March 27. On April 7 Brice and I established Camp I at 19,500 feet above the icefall and below the face proper. The first obstacle was the 1000-foot Ice Building, a set of ice cliffs stepped one atop the other. Brice and I fixed two- thirds of it before a storm drove us down. After returning through deep snow that would dog us for the rest of the climb, Brice slipped in the icefall and broke his ankle, necessitating an exhausting rescue. Banks, King and I completed the Ice Building before Banks came down with altitude problems. King and I pushed loads to Camp II at 23,000 feet before another storm and dangerous retreat. All four, with Brice’s ankle tightly strapped, returned to Camp I but Banks retreated with recurring lung trouble. We suffered a near miss when rockfall and an ensuing avalanche fell from the Twins onto Camp I. King, Bruce and I occupied Camp II in a schrund below the 1000-foot rock band on May 1 after digging out the Ice Building ropes and ploughing through deep snow. Over the next three days I led the rock band variously accompanied by King and Brice. Camp III was pitched on a ledge cut from the snow at 25,000 feet. We three attempted the summit on May 8 via the exit gully and across the great scree terrace before being halted by storm over 26,000 feet. On May 10 Brice and I made another summit attempt but ground to a halt in the exit gully in deep, unstable snow. On May 14 Brice and I made one last desperate effort, climbing from Camp II flattened by an avalanche. We made a rudimentary shelter, had a very cold night and retreated in the morning.

Gary Ball, New Zealand Alpine Club

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