AAC Publications - http://publications.americanalpineclub.org

Asia, CIS, Kayindi Valley, Ascents of Angel Peak, The Point of Damocles, and Whitehorse Peak

Ascents of Angel Peak, The Point of Damocles, and Whitehorse Peak. The 10-member team of Ken Findlay, Philip Kendon, Ashley Hardwell, Paul Hudson, Stuart Gallagher, Ken Mosley, David Suddes, Graham Treacher, John Hudson and Dave Penlington left the UK on July 23 and flew to Alma Ata in Kazakhstan via Riga and Moscow. From Alma Ata the group traveled by road to the main Inylchek Valley in Kyrgizia and made the last leg of the journey by helicopter. Once at Maidaadyr four of us were helicoptered to a base on the Kayindy Glacier, while the others were driven round to start a three-day acclimatization trek into the area. Our Base Camp was put at a discrete distance from an existing British camp, the members of which had come back up to look for their lost companion. Mick Davie fell to his death on July 18 while ascending. Two Russian rescuers on the same ridge also fell to their deaths while descending at the end of the day with Joanna Newton. David Suddes watched in horror through binoculars as three climbers descending the ridge were led by the first in the rope out onto a large cornice. The lead climber successfully crossed the danger but then the cornice gave way and the two others fell through, the rope breaking and causing their deaths. The lone climber (which turned out to be Joanna Newton) started descending and later was met and brought down by two other Russians who had returned from a day's effort on the eastern slopes also looking for the lost body.

Paul Hudson, Ken Findlay, John Hudson and Ashley Hardwell set off from Base Camp up the Moshnyi Glacier to establish ABC South. From here on August 2 the team ascended the col at the end of the glacier and, apart from Paul, who felt ill, continued the climb to top out on a snow dome at about 5050 meters. The ridge ahead looked very inviting, but due to the onset of bad weather and Ashley beginning to cough up blood, the team retreated in worsening conditions. It snowed heavily overnight and the next day, ending efforts on this ridge.

“Angel Peak” was ascended on August 6 by Paul Hudson, Philip Kendon, Ken Findlay and Ashley Hardwell. It was assessed at 5300 meters and required a high bivy 200 feet below its summit. The four climbers set off in the early hours of Sunday, August 6, across the Moshnyi Glacier. Good progress was made until they tried to cross the higher glacier to the foot of the climb. Some of the team nearly gave up here due to the length of time it took in routefinding and the slowness of travel across wide crevasses. Once on the route, the climbing was tiring and required continuous concentration as it was mainly on ice. After an exhausting lower section the team continued as one rope of four with Hudson and then Kendon leading out. Fortunately just as darkness fell and temperatures dropped well below freezing Philip Kendon ascended the last ice slope and managed to fight his way onto a more level area of 30°, which held some deep snow. Here a bivy ledge was dug and the night spent in fitful sleep. All four sustained frostnip in their toes as a result of this bivy but there was no lasting damage. The next morning the team proceeded in pairs for the last 200 feet in poor weather conditions, reaching Base Camp 45 hours after departing.

On August 12 Paul Hudson and Ken Findlay ascended a high point on a ridge in Glacier Bay 5 North while four others climbing on the opposite side to the valley were turned back 100 feet below a rock peak due to the dangerous condition of the ridge itself. Paul and Ken made a zig-zag ascent after being repulsed by a small break in the long and high cornice due to its unstable nature. After a long traverse, under 30-foot-long icicles, they mounted a col from which an ascent to the first high point along the ridge was made. It was later called “Point of Damocles” (5200 meters) after all the icicles that had to be negotiated. The lateness in the day prevented them from progressing farther. From the col they descended south into an avalanche chute, crossed it and down climbed safely to the glacier floor.

On the same day a team consisting of Dave Penlington, John Hudson and Graham Treacher climbed a mountain to the south of the Kayindy Glacier system. The team measured the mountain, “White Horse Peak,” as being at about 4850 meters.

David Suddes and Philip Kendon attempted an unclimbed peak to the east of the Upper Kayindy Glacier. They were making good progress when they were both afflicted by an attack of the runs. Their physical condition slowed them down and when they came across a huge slope of windslab just ready to go they decided to call it a day. They returned to Base Camp the following day looking much the worse for wear.

The last ascent, on August 16, was affected by bad weather. Moving in the afternoon to ABC East from Base Camp Paul Hudson and Ken Findlay set off around 4 a.m. and ascended toward the “Pass of the 30-Day Victory,” but turned east to the mountain mass before reaching it. By sunrise they were on the lower reaches of the ice slope that led to a rock outcrop on the ridge. The route was again ice, sometimes overlaid with an inch or two of granular snow, sometimes bare ice and in one or two places deep and unconsolidated snow overlying crevasses. At 4 p.m. a storm blew in with high winds, a drastic drop in temperature, snow and spindrift. An hour later the pair decided that a bivy was their only option as the wind and snowfall increased. Hoping to find deep soft snow at the top of the ridge they reached the summit of “Hunter Peak” (5250 meters) to find hard ice. The only bivouac option was a small rock ledge 24 by 35 inches wide just below the top. The snow fell all night. In the morning, mist, snow and high winds had returned, forcing them to retreat down their ascent route. They reached ABC East at around 5 p.m. The last attempt at a peak by David Suddes and Philip Kendon had to be aborted due to the earlier heavy snowfall and continuing unsettled weather. The team was airlifted out on August 21.

Paul Hudson and Ken Findlay, Alpine Club