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Asia, India–Kumaon and Garhwal, Kedarnath, North Face Ascent and Tragedy

Kedarnath, North Face Ascent and Tragedy. A joint Indo-Australian military expedition climbed Kedarnath (6940 meters, 22,770 feet) by a new route on the north face. It consisted of Australians Bob Killip, Nevin Agnew, Captain Brian Morrissey, Lieutenant Mike Kilcullen, Corporal Lance Einam and me as leader and Indians Captain M.S. Dhami, Subedars N.D. Sherpa, Binod Kumar, S.N. Singh, Naik Subedar Gurjant Singh, Havalders Chetram, Mohan Lai Kajuria, Shital Singh, Yadev, Major Arwind Shukla as doctor and Major Krishnan Kumar as co-leader. We set up Base Camp at Tapovan, Advance Base near the junction of the Gangotri and Kirti Glaciers and Camp I at the foot of Kedamath’s north face at 4460, 4750 and 5000 meters on September 25, 28 and October 3. We followed the glacier to a line of ice cliffs at 5800 meters, where Camp II was located. From Camp II, the only access to the broad upper slopes was a steep, avalanche-prone gully. A party of eight set out on a summit bid on October 7. Deep, loose snow made progress difficult. N.D. Sherpa achieved the summit in nine hours, the others reaching 6800 meters. On the descent N.D. Sherpa triggered a slab avalanche which carried him 300 meters down a steep gully. Luckily, both he and the avalanche stopped two meters short of Camp II. He was shaken but had only minor injuries. Yadev, Gurjant Singh and Kilcullen reached the summit on October 10 from their high camp at 6400 meters. After arriving at the summit at 5:20 P.M., they hurried down in the dark. They could not locate their camp. Singh and Kilcullen settled into a snow cave for the night, but Yadev continued on alone. He was never seen again and a search failed to find him. The other two in the morning crawled into their tent barely 100 meters away. Both Singh and Kilcullen suffered frozen hands and feet and it wasn’t until the 12th that a ground party reached them to assist them down. They were eventually evacuated by helicopter along with Morrissey, who had also suffered during the first attempt.

Zac Zaharias, Major, Australian Army Alpine Association