American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Nepal, Cholatse

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1994

Cholatse. Our members were Americans Nick Beatty, Chris Breemer, Rob Cassady, Glenn Dunmire, Ed Webster and I, Canadian Andrew Brash and Argentine Tom Heinrich. We established Base Camp below the west side of the peak on October 4. Dunmire and Webster were hoping to climb a new line on the left of the face, joining the northwest ridge while the rest of us were looking to the right side after a “warm-up” on the southwest ridge. A week spent watching the face gave no encouragement that it could be climbed safely with bombardments coming from the summit séracs. On October 15, our first night in Advance Base, the matter was settled. At 1:55 A.M., a chunk of the upper west face, 200 feet across and 100 feet high, broke off and pulverized on its 6000-foot ride to the valley, nearly flattening the tents at Advance Base and dusting Base Camp with snow a mile away. We established Camp I on the southwest ridge at 18,000 feet on October 16. On October 18, we moved to a bivouac in a wind scoop below the prominent tower at 19,000 feet. Here we found the broken adze of John Roskelley’s axe, undisturbed for 11 years. Unfortunately, Beatty had to descend to Base Camp with bronchitis. Threatening weather delayed us until ten P.M. on October 19 when we climbed to our highest bivouac at 20,000 feet. Climbing through the night was gripping with the south and west faces yawning below. Sunrise found us following Brash on three brilliant traversing leads over 75° rotten ice to reach the summit ridge. That same day, Webster and Dunmire arrived at their first bivouac on the west rib. On October 21, Breemer, Cassady, Brash and I reached the summit (6440 meters, 21,129 feet), which is about the size of a desk chair. Meanwhile Webster and Dunmire were on the west rib. After a second bivouac, they climbed a nearly vertical 300-foot pitch, but a chunk of falling debris tore Dunmire’s rotator cuff. They topped out on October 23, the same day the southwest-ridge team returned to Base Camp. We had left rappel anchors for them on the southwest ridge. It was only upon their not reaching the second anchor that they realized we were using two 50m ropes while they had one of 300 feet. Despite being 15 feet short on all dozen rappels in the dark, they returned safely to Base Camp on October 24.

John M. Climaco

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