American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, India, Gangotri, Thalay Sagar, North Face, Attempt

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1997

Thalay Sagar, North Face, Attempt. Jay Smith and I arrived at Base Camp on August 28 to climb a new route on the north face, which Andy Selters and I had attempted in 1986. Every day until September 17, we endured fog with spells of drizzling rain at Base Camp and snow at ABC. During this period, we managed to get acclimatized and carry loads to our Advanced Base. When the monsoon ended, it still snowed part of every day and was windy with temperatures ranging from 20 to 30°F.

Conditions on the route were quite different from my experience 10 years ago. On my first attempt, we encountered thick ice above the bergschrund and cracks in the granite above. The weather had been cold but reasonable until an eight-day storm hit. This year there was a huge snow slope above the ’schrund, and above that was six inches of snow over thin ice over rock slabs. We did not find the cracks I remembered from ten years ago, either. Besides difficulty with finding anchors and extreme cold, we also had problems with continuous waves of spindrift.

Jay and I climbed to 21,900 feet (as measured on our Avocet watches, in a storm) in early October, at which point a severe storm hit. We were battered in our por- taledge for three days. On the fourth day I decided the margin for error was too slim because of the difficulty of climbing that we had to do in extreme cold and wind and we rappelled down the route. As I waited above Jay, who was on the last rappel on the snow slope, a slab broke 50 feet above me. Although the slab was quite large and we were pummeled by a lot of weight, the anchors held and we were OK.

Scott Backes and Steve Gerberding also came to climb a route on the north face of Thalay Sagar but were thwarted by the same weather and conditions as us and by diverse Third World bugs as well. Chris Nobles accompanied us on the first half of the expedition to take pictures.

Kitty Calhoun

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