American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Nepal, Western Nepal, Janak Himal, Jongsang Peak, South Summit I, New Route and Tragedy

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2001

Jongsang Peak, South Summit I, New Route and Tragedy. The expedition, organized by the Alpine Association of Slovenia (PZS), had planned to climb the unclimbed 7000-meter-plus Janak Chub, but though organization of the expedition was already in progress, we failed to obtain the permit for the ascent. Hence we chose new goals, wherein our young team would be able to gain the experience of alpine-style climbing on more-or-less demanding faces. There are plenty of such possibilities in the mountains west of Kanchenjunga. We decided on Jongsang Peak (7459m) (the goal of a smaller Slovenian-Nepalese expedition in 1983), Pathibara or Pyramid Peak (7123m), and Kirat Chuli or Tent Peak (7356m). Both Jongsang Peak and Kirat Chuli are located on the Nepalese border with either Tibet or Sikkim, and have had no approaches from the Nepalese side. As they are on the list of joint peaks that require the participation of at least three Nepalese expedition members, our expedition was a joint Nepalese-Slovenian expedition.

We arrived in Kathmandu on September 7. In four days, everything was arranged for our departure. Our 12-member team consisted of a doctor, myself as leader, and ten, mostly young, prospective alpinists from all over Slovenia. The Nepalese divided us into three independent expeditions. A leader and expedition members were assigned to each peak. The road to Taplejung was impassable because of a strong monsoon that, in east Nepal, lasted late into September. Our approach had to start in Basantapur. In Ghunsa we traded our 102 porters for local people, who carried most of the gear on yaks. In 12 days we arrived at Pangpema (5000m). The weather stabilized in the last three days of our approach.

After two days spent establishing Base Camp, we began with the acclimatization ascents.

On September 27, all of us except the doctor climbed Pangpema Peak (6200m), which was in the immediate vicinity of Base Camp. We continued with acclimatization on September 29. At the same time we decided to set up some Advanced Base Camps for further ascents. Uroš Samec and Jernej Bevk headed for the foot of Kirat Chuli. The next day they ascended up to 6400 meters on the south ridge of Pathibara, while the rest of us, accompanied by two porters/assistant cooks, established ABC (5510m) at the intersection of Ginsang and Long Ridge glaciers. On September 30, the entire team set off for Peak 6470m (6350m according to Jan Kielkowski’s book, Jongsang Himal: Przewodnik Alpinistyczny, Part 1) on the southwest ridge of Langchung Kang. To provide even better acclimatization, we set up a bivouac about 1100 meters below the top. On November 1, all nine of us reached the top of Peak 6470m and descended down past ABC to Base Camp.

We then planned a three-day rest and afterward some serious attempts to climb the summits. Urban Ažman and Andrej Markovic left BC on November 4. Their intention was to climb the central gully of the south face of the South Summit I (7350m) of Jongsang Peak in alpine style. The others departed BC the following day. Samec and Bevk planned to go to the west face of Nepal Peak to acclimatize additionally before climbing Kirat Chuli. Jernej Brešcak and Matej Kovacic began up the west ridge of Pathibara on November 6. Matija Klanjšcek and Blaž Stres went over the Long Ridge Glacier to the south face of the South Summit II of Jongsang Peak. Grega Kresal, Miha Marence and I decided to climb the left gully of the south face of Jongsang Peak’s South Summit I.

Markovic and Ažman began their route on November 6 at 2 a.m. They climbed the gully and, at 5 p.m., they were the first people to stand on the South Summit I of Jongsang Peak, having established the route Touch of Silence (VI/4, 1200m) in 15 hours. They traversed to the South Summit II and started descending in the vicinity of the central pillar, as we had determined to do while studying photos of the peak in BC. Due to weariness and darkness, they turned left too soon and encountered a steep rocky area. They arranged an abseil on a snow picket. Ažman used the rope only to help in his descent, whereas Markovic was tired and wished to abseil. The picket pulled out while he was abseiling and he fell the entire length of the face to the bottom. Ažman descended to Long Ridge Glacier alone unroped and with a lot of luck. Stres and Klanjšcek, who had, on November 7, already started ascending their route, found him there, exhausted and only half sane. They had noticed his headlamp moving in a confused way hither and thither. Worried about their friend, they descended back to the foot of the face. They put up a tent and provided him with first aid. Afterward, they returned to the foot of the face and found Markovic’s body, which they put into a sleeping bag. At 8 a.m., when we were scheduled to connect by radio, they informed us of the accident.

I found out about the accident when I was almost in the middle of our route at the spot where our gully met the one from the Long Ridge Glacier. Our rope party, as well as the other two rope parties from Pathibara and Nepal Peak, instantly began descending. That day we all arrived at BC. Unanimously we decided to stop our ascents and end the expedition. On November 10, we buried Markovic not far from the place where his body was found, and afterward took down ABC.

On November 15, the last members of the expedition, assistants, and all porters left Pangpema.

Andrej Štremfelj, Planinska zveza Slovenije

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