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Asia, Nepal, Kangchenjunga Southwest Face

Kangchenjunga Southwest Face. We hoped to make the first American ascent of the southwest face of Kangchenjunga. We were Rob Gustke and Bill Roos, leaders, John Bercaw, Jeff Brinck, George Gardner, Frank Coffey, Craig Miller, Gunnar Paulsen and I. We reached Base Camp at Pache’s Grave at 18,500 feet on April 7, after an 18-day approach from the airstrip at Tapplejung. We used a more technical but safer route to the top of the “Hump,” where we placed Camp I at 20,000 feet on April 15. On April 25, we occupied Camp II at 21,700 feet on the top of a sérac midway up the upper icefall. The next ten days were very unsettled with daily snowfalls and high winds. On May 2, Paulsen, Coffey, Gustke and I occupied Camp III at the base of the Great Shelf at 23,700 feet. On May 6, after being stymied by the weather, we descended to Base Camp while Roos, Brinck, Bercaw and Miller moved up to Camp III, )hoping to pitch our final camp. (Gardner had to return home because of pressing business concerns.) Camp IV was located at 25,600 feet on May 12 by Bercaw and Miller, who descended to Camp III, where that afternoon all eight members were reunited. The following day Paulsen and Coffey unselfishly broke trail and carried two oxygen cylinders to Camp IV while Gustke and I carried personal gear and Roos and Brinck ferried food and oxygen. At 2:30 A.M. on May 14, using oxygen, Gustke and I began climbing the Gangway, the 1400-foot-high ramp that leads to the final 1200-foot angling traverse over mixed ground. Around noon, at 27,500 feet, we split up because Gustke’s oxygen set failed. I continued alone and reached the summit at 4:45 P.M. After five minutes on top, I descended to a waiting Gustke and together we stumbled down, only finding Camp IV after midnight. On May 17, Coffey and Roos attempted to climb to Camp IV for another try. Only Coffey reached the lone tent. A large storm developed at midnight, forcing Coffey to descend. The entire team was back in Base Camp late on the 18th.

Mark Udall