American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Pakistan, Makrong Chhish Attempt and Tragedy

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1992

Makrong Chhish Attempt and Tragedy. Steve Hillen, Mike Penlington, Dave Tyson and I traveled on June 16 with three jeeps along the Karakoram Highway from Gilgit to Nagar. At Nagar, 30 porters were hired. The jeeps continued to Huru, the furthest jeepable settlement along the road to Hispar. The walk-in began the following day and went past Hispar and on the north side of the Hispar Glacier to Bitenmal, where Base Camp was established in sight of unclimbed Makrong Chhish (6608 meters, 21,680 feet). The walk-in took three days. With liaison officer Major Farooq, we established Advance Base in an ablation valley of the East Makrong Glacier, a tributary of the Hispar Glacier. We began the first attempt on July 27. The planned route was on the south face via a large gully leading to the east ridge about 300 meters below the summit. We made two bivouacs, the second just below our high point at 6000 meters. We abandoned the attempt as we were not sufficiently acclimatized. During a period of bad weather, Camp I was established at 4800 meters. The final attempt began on July 8, following the original route. We had some difficulty with crevasses which had opened up since the previous attempt. At eleven A.M. on July 9, we dug ledges at the previous high point in order to rest until evening. Shortly afterwards, a large avalanche swept down the gully over the ledges. No one was injured but we decided to abandon the attempt. At five P.M. on the descent whilst I was abseiling over two crevasses, a snow stake pulled out and I slid some 60 feet before stopping. This left Steve Hillen above the crevasses without a rope. He frontpointed down the slope to the second crevasse, which he jumped across, but he lost his footing and started to slide. Dave Tyson, who was below him, tried to stop him, but they became entangled and both slid down an avalanche runnel and over an ice cliff to their deaths. Penlington and I recovered the bodies and then arranged for an army helicopter to retrieve them and for them to be flown back to the United Kingdom.

David Lister, Loughborough University Mountaineering Club, U.K.

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