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Asia, Nepal, Dhaulagiri VII, North-Northeast Face

Dhaulagiri VII, North-Northeast Face. (This first-hand account supplements the notes written on page 304 by Elizabeth Hawley in last year’s Journal.) The Singapore Dhaulagiri VII Expedition, which I led, took place from September 26-October 27, 1996. We made the approach via Dunai, trekking east through Tarakot and along the Barbung Khola river. Heavy snow on the trek delayed progress as the team began moving south and up along the flanks of the Kaya Khola. Base camp (4500m) was reached six days later. Dhaulagiri VII, also known as Putha Hiunchuli, has seen few attempts by the north-northeast face since its first ascent by the route in 1954, and none since 1978.

The route began with a long march over moraines and some dry glaciated stretches. It steepened as a broad shoulder was climbed from Camp I. There were vertical rock and ice bands on both sides of this shoulder, so the route on the northeast face was rather obvious. The shoulder linked the lower snow slopes to the upper terrace. Camp II at 5900 meters was placed just beyond the skyline. After that, broad, featureless, gentle slopes lead to a short summit ridge, which runs from left to right (as seen while on the northeast face) to the summit, a small snow dome. We used no fixed rope and all climbing was done unroped. Camps were placed at 5300, 5900, and 6300 meters over the period of October 7-13. The only other party on the rarely climbed route was a French party comprising about six professional guides and an equal number of Sherpas. The initial advance party of Y. J. Mok, R. Goh, M. B. Tamang and Mingma Sherpa were poised for a summit attempt on the 13th, but strong windstorms on the nights of October 14-16 and an extended period at 6300 meters made them fall back to BC. The support team of S.C. Khoo and I moved up from the 5900-meter camp to the 6300-meter camp on the 15th.

The two Sherpas rejoined us and we went for the top on the 16th. Despite the successful French ascent days earlier, there were no traces of a trail owing to the week’s windstorms. We reached the summit at about 12:45 p.m. after six hours of climbing on mainly soft, crusted snow. Ours was the fourth ascent of the peak by this route.

On October 18-19, after all the camps had been taken down, R. Goh and M. B. Tamang climbed from Base Camp to the summit and back in a round trip of about 36 hours. Dhaulagiri VII is the first 7000er climbed by a team from Singapore and, at the time of writing, the highest peak to be climbed by climbers from the tropical island. The team comprised: D. Lim, S. C. Khoo, R. Goh, Y. J. Mok, S. Yogenthiran, M. Sherpa and M. B. Tamang.

Dave Lim, Singapore