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Asia, India–Kumaon and Garhwal, Jaonli Attempt

Jaonli Attempt. From September 14 to November 6, we attempted the unclimbed east side of Jaonli (6632 meters, 21,760 feet). British members were Richard Brooke, Jim Milledge, Mike Westmacott and I, Irish members were Joss Lynam and Paddy O’Leary and our Indian member was C.P. Ravi Chandra. Our average age was 64 and we totalled 382 years! The outer defenses of Jaonli were formidable. It took three weeks to break through three major icefalls. The two strongest climbers, O’Leary and Milledge, were selected to make a summit bid via the long, snowy south ridge, starting from Camp III at 17,300 feet. They established Camp IV at 19,800 feet and the following day tried for the summit. They found the ice climbing more demanding than it had appeared from below but attained 21,000 feet before being forced to retreat by the onset of night. One more high camp would be needed. While the summit pair recuperated, Ravi Chandra and I climbed to 19,500 feet on the nearby east ridge. It did not offer a better route to the top. On October 19, five members were at Camp III. At 2:45 A.M. on the 20th, we were jerked into wakefulness. There was the roar of falling ice, snow and rocks. The glacier was shaking like jelly. Earthquake! Luckily the camp was well clear of avalanche danger. We had been caught in a major earthquake. The main destruction had struck the valley on the other side of Jaonli where one to two thousand people had been killed. It registered 6.1 on the Richter scale. Milledge and O’Leary immediately set off on a second summit attempt, supported to Camp IV by Westmacott and Brooke. The following day, we could see their figures climbing upwards. Suddenly, they stopped, cast left and right and came down. The earthquake had opened a huge cleft clean across the ridge. They faced an unclimbable ice wall topped with unstable ice blocks. The summit was unattainable.

Michael Banks, Alpine Club