Asia, Nepal, Various Activity in the Pre-Monsoon

Publication Year: 1998.

Nepal, Various Activity in the Pre-Monsoon. Britain’s Alan Hinkes arrived in Kathmandu at the end of March with a film crew and publicity material describing him as “the most successful high-altitude mountaineer in Britain,” and quite rightly pointing out that no one has ever successfully climbed as many as six 8000ers in a single year, which was the goal he was now setting out to reach. This spring, he was to scale three in Nepal, first Lhotse, then Makalu and finally Kangchenjunga; in the summer, he would move on to Pakistan and climb Nanga Parbat; and in the autumn, he would finish up back in Nepal on Dhaulagiri I and Annapurna I. Moreover, he said, he would do his spring ascents alone as much as possible; he would climb without companions or the use of any artificial oxygen, and much of his climbing would be in alpine style with only one fixed camp (or perhaps none) on each mountain and no Sherpas helpers.

But that is not how things actually worked out. Weather conditions were terrible for several weeks this spring with the winds a special problem. When Hinkes went to Lhotse, he was on a commercial team’s permit, and it was not as a soloist but as a member of this group that he finally managed to be the first person this spring to gain the summit of Lhotse—and the only one to get to the top on his summit day—after having made good use of the group’s camps, equipment, food, Sherpas and bottled oxygen. He summited Lhotse on May 23. A helicopter picked him up from the Lhotse-Everest base camp area as he had originally planned. But he had planned this to be on about May 10 or so and not on the 28th, as it actually was. The aircraft dropped him near an advance base camp which had already been established for him by another Briton, an American and a small Nepalese camp staff for his Makalu attempt.

The two teammates who were with him on his own Makalu permit had also already pitched two higher camps and stocked them with food and gear for his quick push for the summit. But Hinkes and the American colleague, Fabrizio Zangrilli, who went for the summit bid with him on May 30, got no higher than 7200 meters on this giant mountain when at midday they turned back; Zangrilli had been hit on the side of his head by a piece of falling ice and made ill by this, and both were fearful of more hits by rockfall during the hot part of the day. Hinkes could see that the winds up high were very strong, and on June 2 he decided to give up. Kangchenjunga was not even visited. He said he hoped to return to Makalu and go to Kangchenjunga next spring after having carried on with his attempts on this year’s three other 8000-meter objectives.

Hinkes was not the only climber this season to be trying to close in on his goal of summiting all 14 of the world’s 8000ers. On Kangchenjunga was the Italian mountaineer, Fausto De Stefani, who already had 12 to his credit and lacked only Kangchenjunga and Lhotse. He went to Kangchenjunga with a Spanish team, but he didn’t like their route. The leader of an American-British expedition said De Stefani asked to join their effort but they preferred to climb without him, so he finally teamed up with some South Koreans, but was unsuccessful nonetheless.

Elizabeth Hawley

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