American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, India—Garhwal, Shivling, Attempt and Near Tragedy

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

Shivling, Attempt and Near Tragedy. Our expedition was made up of Surendra Chavan, Moreshwar Kulkarni, Rejesh Patade, Anil Sable, Sanjay Doiphode, Tushar Tonpe, Vivek Marathe and me as leader. A two-day trek took us to Base Camp at Topovan at 3975 meters. We acclimatized carrying loads to Advance Base at 4425 meters, which we occupied at the foot of the west ridge on May 14. Steep snow led to the beginning of the rock ridge, where we placed Camp I at 5800 meters. Much of the rock ridge posed no great technical difficulty. The angle varied from 30° to 90° and the rock had many holds, but the lack of oxygen and heavy loads added to the problems. We fixed almost 1500 feet of rope. On June 1, Chavan and I left Camp II at 6250 meters on a ledge about 150 meters below the icefall and 300 vertical meters from the summit. We were hoping on that day to work our way through the icefall and continue the next day to the top. The afternoon before, an avalanche had roared down the gully just 50 feet from the tent. At 9:25 A.M., I was at the top of the ridge and signaled Chavan to jümar while I started up the snow slope leading to the icefall. With a loud crash, a gigantic ice sérac, 40 meters high and 20 meters wide broke slowly away. An ice chunk in the wave of snow-and-ice blocks hit me squarely on the helmet and knocked me unconscious. I landed in a depression under a boulder, which doubtless saved my life, as most of the debris swept over the boulder. Chavan was in the relative safety of the cliff. Climbers in Camp I watched as the avalanche pounced on our camp. The tent exploded, spewing out everything in it. Moments later, it struck Camp I, but with diminished force. When the curtain of snow dust had cleared, they could see equipment scattered across the length of the glacier. What was frightening was that they could see only one figure hanging on the rope. Chavan could raise no response from me. He jümared up and found me unconscious dangling from the rope held by a carabiner. He slapped and pinched me until I regained consciousness. With our camp swept away, we had no choice but to retreat. We spent the next two days retrieving what equipment we could find. We then trekked back to Gangotri in a single push.

Prasad Dhamal, Giripremi, India

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