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Asia, Nepal, Makalu Traverse Attempt and Kangchungtse Attempt via West Face

Makalu Traverse Attempt and Kangchungtse Attempt via West Face. Our expedition was composed of Mike Woolridge, leader, Rob Collister, Andy Fanshawe, Lindsay Griffin, Dr. Gill Irvine, Hamish Irvine and me, all British, and American Steve Sustad. We failed to complete our first objective: the traverse of Makalu. The southeast ridge was followed to 6800 meters and the normal northeast ridge to 7500 meters. The principal cause of failure was the short time between the end of the monsoon on September 29 and the onset of the high winds associated with winter, about three days later. These three days were the only window of opportunity on Makalu this autumn; the only person to take advantage, Pierre Beghin, had already committed himself irreversibly to the mountain. Our second objective was the previously unclimbed 1000-meter-high west face of Kangchungtse. It has a central snowfield, a rim of summit cliffs and granite slabs seamed with ice gullies in the lower half. The left side of the face has big black and red cliffs from which stonefall emanated. The right flank was guarded by a large sérac. Sustad and I left our tent at 6500 meters during the night of September 25 to 26 and followed a line through difficult mixed ground with particularly steep sections at 7000 and 7500 meters. The weather deteriorated. At 9:30 P.M. on the 26th, we reached the summit ridge at P 7600, 40 meters below and 300 meters from the summit of Kangchungtse. We descended without going to the summit. It cannot be said that we lost our way coming down; we never knew it. The map showed Makalu La as being south, but it did not show the cliff bands we nearly fell over. The descent was through 7400- meter Makalu La and thence via the normal Makalu route back to our tent, which we reached on the evening of September 27.

Victor Saunders, Alpine Climbing Group