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Asia, Bhutan, Masagang Attempt

Masagang Attempt. Our expedition was composed of Britons John Lecky, Sean Smith and me and Americans Steve Sustad and Ed Webster. We hoped to make the second ascent of Masagang (7195 meters, 25,606 feet) by a new route. We flew to Paro on April 5, spent the 6th sorting food and gear in Thimphu and drove to the roadhead on the Mo Chu some miles up from Panakha Dzong on the 7th. With 30 ponies, we walked via Damji, Gaza Dong, Koina to Laya from April 8 to 11. At Laya we changed to yaks and did a short day up valley to the east of Masagang. We realized we were being taken to the Base Camp from which the Japanese in 1985 had made the first ascent. We decided to double back to the southwest via Laya. After reaching the southwest valley, two days of reconnaissance convinced us that the route would not go for our party. We therefore decided to return with all yaks to the eastern valley between Masagang and Tsenda Kang. We could see no feasible routes on the east side of the mountain and so had to set up Base Camp at 4500 meters at the old Japanese camp and attempt their route. On April 21 we established the site of Advance Base at 5000 meters. We placed Camp I at 5600 meters on April 26, having headed north to the Tibetan border to avoid the main Masagang Glacier icefall. On April 27, we got to the col at 6000 meters with magnificent views. On May 2, we established Camp II at 6150 meters near an ice pyramid below the forepeak. The weather continued bad. On May 14, Webster, Smith and Sustad reconnoitered 200 meters above Camp II but reported the route would not go. They found a hard traverse of 500 meters under massive, overhanging, unstable ice towers. There simply was no other feasible route onto the easy upper slopes and we had to admit defeat.

Julian Freeman-Attwood, Alpine Club