AAC Publications - http://publications.americanalpineclub.org

Asia, Nepal, Kumbhakarna, North Face

Kumbhakarna, North Face. Ascent and Tragedy. Our expedition consisted of Ger Friele, Edmond Öfner, Ferry van Wilgenburg, Rudolf de Koning, Dr. Ingo Doomenbal and me as leader. With 55 porters we set out from Hille on September 5. Base Camp was at 4600 meters on the northern moraine of the Jannu Glacier, a beautiful spot with a small stream. After reconnaissance, we decided to repeat the route pioneered in 1975 by New Zealanders and finally climbed by Japanese in 1976. We abandoned the idea of climbing the very demanding pillar left of the route. From September 21 to 25, we fixed rope on the lower buttress to the snow plateau at 5500 meters. The weather was bad and the climbing up to UIAA V difficulty. Camp I was at the top of the buttress. After a few days of rest, we fixed rope on the “Wall of Shadows,” 600 meters of technically very difficult climbing with three pitches of vertical ice couloirs. Camp II was at the top of this at 6100 meters. On October 9, Öfner and I started from Camp II for the summit alpine-style. The first part above Camp II had some difficult vertical rock and a vertical ice couloir. Afterwards we came onto the large snowfield and difficulties diminished. We bivouacked at 6700 meters and again a second night on the summit ridge at 7250 meters. There I discovered I had frostbitten feet. Öfner left the bivouac at midnight and reached the summit at 6:30. At 11:30 he was back and together we descended, still on October 11, to our third bivouac at 6600 meters. Meanwhile, Friele and de Koning had bivouacked at 6400 and 7100 meters. While Öfner and I descended to Base Camp on the 12th, they reached their third bivouac at 7250 meters. They got to the summit at 1:30 P.M. on October 13 and returned to 7250 meters. The next day they were returning to Camp II and at six P.M. made radio contact from 60 meters above camp. From then on, we heard nothing and could not see them. On the 15th, van Wilgenburg went to look for them and discovered their bodies at the foot of the “Wall of Shadows.” They must have been struck by falling ice while descending the last 60 meters to Camp II. Van Hilgenburg buried the two bodies in a crevasse on the snow plateau.

Gerard C. van Sprang, Koninklijke Nederlandse Alpen Vereniging