American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Nepal, Yalung Kang Attempt

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1988

Yalung Kang Attempt. I had originally hoped to climb Yalung Kang by the normal southeast-face route with a small alpine-style team. When the members of my original team could not come and I could find no others, I decided to attempt it alone with a support team of John and Charlie Smith and Dana Welch. In the end, one of the original members, Jim Farkas, could come. Because of my commitment to climb alone, we agreed to hire a high-altitude porter to go with Jim. We would still climb alpine-style and without oxygen. We left Kathmandu on August 10, but severe flooding in eastern Nepal complicated the approach. We finally arrived at Base Camp at 5400 meters up the Yalung Glacier on August 30. There we realized that we were missing three weeks of food. That meant we had to work together and climb fast. By September 15, Camp I was established at the top of the lower icefield at 6200 meters. On September 20, Camp II was placed at 6400 meters so that it could be reached in a day from Base Camp. It was a third of the way up the second icefield. On October 3, the support group left for Kathmandu. Camp I was eliminated and Camp II was the only permanent camp. After a couple of days of snow, the weather cleared and on the 7th we left Base Camp for the first summit attempt. We made Camp III at 7000 meters near the top of the second icefield. On the way to Camp IV, I was putting my down jacket into my pack when a gust of wind blew it into a crevasse. I went down to try to retrieve it, but since I was alone and without rope, there was nothing I could do. I spent the night at Camp IV, hoping to borrow a jacket later, but that did not work out. Jim tried for the summit from Camp IV on two consecutive days. On October 11, with porter Ong Chu and sirdar Narayan, they found the snow too soft. Ong Chu went down, complaining of a headache. The following day, Jim and Narayan tried again, but just over 8000 meters, Jim fell several hundred feet. Narayan lost his ice axe and they abandoned the climb. Jim was shaken by his fall and I stayed with him and Narayan on the way down. Near Camp II, I went ahead to melt snow. Narayan arrived shortly, saying that Jim was on the last part of the fixed rope and would soon be with us. As time passed, we grew concerned and at nine P.M. we went out to look for him. Our batteries were weak and by 11:30 we realized we could not find him until daytime.The following morning we found him nearby. He had fallen but spent the night in his sleeping bag. We helped him to Camp II. The next day, Ong Chu came up with the news that there were only two days of food in Base Camp. He and Narayan descended to get porters for the walk out. I would go down with Jim the next day. However, we got caught by a snowstorm at the site of the Belgian Camp I at 6200 meters. The first night we stayed in the Belgian tent but by morning it was completely destroyed. I put up my tent. It snowed constantly for three nights and two days with a total accumulation of five feet. It was not until the sixth day that we could move. At some time, Jim had frostbitten his toes and several fingers. From Base Camp it was another eight days of painful walking for Jim to reach Yamphuding, where we were met by a helicopter that took us to Kathmandu.

Magda King, Colorado Mountain Club

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