American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Nepal, Yalung Kang from the North and Tragedy

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1986

Yalung Kang from the North and Tragedy. Our Slovene expedition had as its objective the first ascent of Yalung Kang from the north. There were several possibilities. The most attractive but the least sure and most dangerous was to follow the north buttress directly to the summit. The north ridge seemed a little easier but longer and more exposed to the same ice avalanches as the north buttress. A third possibility was to climb one of the existing routes on the north face of Kangchenjunga and traverse right to Yalung Kang. We were 14 climbers: Filip Bence, Tomo Cesen, Tomaž Jamnik, Silvo Karo, Pavle Kozjek, Dr. Damjan Meško, Slavko Sveticic, Borut Bergant, Janko Humar, Janez Jeglic, Franc Knez, Marjan Kregar, Peter Pedgornik, journalist Braco Zavrnik and I as leader. On March 9 the first group of ten members and four Nepalis (liaison officer, Sherpas, etc.) left Kathmandu. Only on March 21 could the last five members and seven Nepalis set out because of a cargo shipment delay. The first group got to Base Camp at Pangpema at 5050 meters on March 25 and the second on April 6. Reconnaissance on the north buttress and north ridge approaches began on March 26 and on the north face route the next day. After we reached the site of Camp I at 5720 meters, we decided to continue on Warth’s 1983 route on the north face of Kangchenjunga to the snow couloir between Kangchenjunga and Yalung Kang and then go across snow slopes and the ridge to the summit of Yalung Kang. Later a party of four would try from Camp II to climb the north buttress alpine-style. On April 1 we established Camp I. From April 2 to 8 we climbed and fixed a steep ice step between 6000 and 6200 meters and pitched Camp II at 6520 meters on April 9. From April 10 to 14 the steepest part of the face was equipped with fixed rope from 6700 to 7350 meters and on April 15 Camp III was pitched at 7350 meters. On April 16 Bence and Pod- gornik climbed the hardest part (UIAA VI) of the face at 7500 meters and reached the snow slopes which led to the rocky summit pyramid of Yalung Kang. On April 19 Kozjek reached the Camp IV campsite at 8100 meters and the next day Karo and Knez established the camp. On April 21 Bergant, Cesen and Pemba Nuru Sherpa carried oxygen there; Pemba Nuru returned to Camp III. On April 22 Bergant and Cesen left Camp IV, Bergant climbing without artificial oxygen. From the couloir between Kangchenjunga and Yalung Kang they reached the east ridge of Yalung Kang, which they climbed on the south side on bad rock. At 2:30 P.M. they found a good passage around the rocky crest and at three P.M. got to a not very steep snowfield which led them to the summit (8505 meters, 27,903 feet), which they reached at 4:30 P.M. There they found a bamboo stick of the Korean expedition and they left Cesen’s oxygen bottle. They took photos of Slovene and Nepali flags and at five o’clock left the summit. During the ascent and descent the weather was fine. From the last difficult place in the snow couloir, some 225 meters above Camp IV, at nine P.M. as they prepared a rappel, Bergant slipped for no apparent reason and disappeared. Due to crevasses above Camp IV Cesen stopped, made a narrow terrace in the ice slope and walked all night in order not to fall asleep and get frostbite. The radio had fallen with Bergant. At seven A.M. on April 23 Cesen reached Camp IV. As he descended, he looked and found no traces of his friend. At 10:30 he met Bence and Podgornik and via their walkie-talkie sent a report of the accident to Base Camp. We decided to give up the expedition. On April 24 we searched for Bergant on the face below Camp IV. Because of new snow and avalanches, we found nothing. We evacuated all camps except Camp IV from April 24 to 27. On April 28 we had a memorial service near Base Camp and cut Bergant’s name on a big rock.

Tone Škarja, Planinska Sveza Slovenije, Yugoslavia

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