American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Nepal, Ganesh Himal, Jonsang, Attempt

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1999

Jonsang, Attempt. One of the few teams trying something innovative in Nepal last spring was the six-man Irish expedition led by Kieran O’Hara that planned to attempt the unclimbed southeast face of Jonsang, the 7483-meter summit of which forms the triple border point of Nepal, Tibet and Sikkim. The Irish team were seriously delayed in Kathmandu due to the non-arrival of freighted gear, but finally established Base Camp during the second half of April at Pangpema next to the Kangchenjunga teams. The following two weeks were spent stocking an Advanced Camp at the start of the Ginsang Glacier and then attempting to find a safe site for CI close to the foot of the face. This proved impossible, so a site was eventually chosen at the foot of the Jongsang La which leads over into Sikkim. Hoping to climb the face in an alpine-style push, the Irish left on May 8 to acclimatize on the flanks of the 6954-meter Langpo Peak, which lies above the West Langpo Glacier southeast of the Jongsang La. They established two camps on this side of the mountain and reached an altitude of ca. 6800 meters before returning to Base Camp for a rest. On May 13, all six were at CI ready for an attempt on Jongsang the following day. At 12:30 a.m. on the 14th, Tomas Aylward, Seaghan Brogan, Garth Henry and Kieran O’Hara set off for the face with five days’ food, leaving Robbie Fenian and Malcolm McNaught to follow a day later. The four very soon found the climbing harder than anticipated and pitched sustained slopes of 55-65° on ice and mixed terrain (Scottish 3/4) for 20 hours before cutting out a bivouac site at 6500 meters. A sleepless night followed and the following morning Aylward and Brogan began to descend immediately. Henry and O’Hara continued to ca. 6600 meters but were soon engulfed in the bad weather that moved in on the 15th. They quickly realized that descent was the only realistic option. All four rappelled to the foot of the face, where they were met by the other two climbers. There was no time left for another attempt and the group could only strip their camps and return home.

Lindsay Griffin, Alpine Climbing Group

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