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Asia, Nepal, Himalchui West

Himalchuli West. Ours was a commercial expedition operated jointly by Himalayan Kingdoms Limited (England) and High Country Expeditions (New Zealand). It comprised nine clients, British Mark Vallance, Graham Hoyland, Bill Bennett, Norwegians Jon Gangdal, Bjame Schmidt, Australians Philip Segal, Campbell Mercer, New Zealander Chas Turner and from Hong Kong K.K. Woo, and guides Australian Paul Bayne, New Zealander Russell Brice and me. Himalchuli West (7540 meters, 24,738 feet) was booked at very short notice following the closure of the Tibetan border, which prevented access to Changtse, our original objective. It was selected on account of its comparable height with Changtse and its supposedly low technical difficulty. The latter was incorrect and we encountered considerable difficulties both on rock and ice on a long and arduous route. We were also hindered by a good deal of bad weather. We succeeded in climbing the whole southwest ridge and making the second ascent of Himalchuli West. Base Camp was established at Meme Pokhari at 4600 meters on May 9. Two or so hours above Base Camp we reached the ridge crest at 5400 meters. The ridge runs for three kilometers until it abuts the main mass of Himalchuli. Along its length lay eleven pinnacles of varying size and difficulty. Camp I was placed on the ridge at 5500 meters on May 16 and Camp II at its end at 5700 meters on May 25. The climbing proved increasingly difficult as we proceeded along the ridge. Much rope was fixed. On May 27, Brice, Vallance and Hoyland fixed most of the route above Camp III, a long, winding route between steep ice cliffs and gaping crevasses. The next day, they established Camp III at 6400 meters below a huge ice cliff. On May 29, Brice made a superb 300-foot lead up the cliff. The three were joined by Bayne and Gangdal from Camp II. The first three returned to Camp III from 7000 meters, but Bayne and Gangdal found a crevasse and sat in it without sleeping bags for the first part of the night. At 1:30 A.M. on May 30, they left for the summit, which they reached eight hours later. Brice and Mercer left Camp III shortly after midnight on May 31, j├╝mared up the ropes and plodded briskly to the summit, getting to it in a biting wind at 7:30.

Stephen Bell, Himalayan Kingdoms Limited, England