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Asia, Nepal, Gurans Himal, Dualagiri, Ascents, Attempts, and Tragedies

Dhaulagiri, ascents, attempts, and tragedies. On October 12 the Spanish climber, José Antonio ‘Pepe’ Garces, the leader of a small Spanish-Italian expedition to the Normal Route up the northeast ridge, was killed when he fell to his death from ca 8050m on the summit ridge. His body could not be recovered. On the same day his fellow team member, Silvio Mondinelli, reached the summit. (Editor’s note: 44-year-old Garces was a prolific 8,000m collector and just a few months previously had summited K2. Prior to this he had climbed Everest in 1991, Cho Oyu in 1997, Gasherbrum I and II within one week during 1999, and Manaslu in 2000. He had also reached the Central Summit of Shishapangma.)

On the much more difficult east face, which has only been climbed by nine people, three Japanese disappeared sometime after October 14. The four-member team first went to the northeast ridge to acclimatise and Hideji Nazuka continued to the summit on his own, reaching the top on the 11th. His fingers became frostbitten and he immediately left the mountain. Forty-six- year-old Nazuka has now climbed nine of the 8,000m peaks, with some of these achieved by outstanding routes, such as the first winter ascent of the southwest face of Everest (1993; his second ascent of Everest), the first ascent of the northwest face of K2 (1990), and the northeast ridge of Kangchenjunga (1991). The remaining three climbers, Masashi Fukumoto, Ryushi Hoshino, and Yukihiko Shinagawa, moved down to the base of the huge east face, which they hoped to climb to an exit on to the northeast ridge at 7500m.

The trio were watched by another Japanese party led by Ryoji Yamada. This party was actually part of the same expedition as Hoshino and friends but Yamada’s team had no intention of attempting the east face. Team members saw the east face climbers start up early in the morning of the 12th with three days’ food. They later saw them make two bivouacs. Yamada himself watched them on the third day, the 14th, and reported that at 10:00 a.m. they had only reached 6400m or 6500m. “They were moving very slowly, were very tired and not in good condition,” he observed. If Hoshino and team-mates had managed to reach the ridge at 7500m as planned, they would probably have been alright, as Yamada had left a camp there for them, stocked with a good supply of food.

Yamada and his party departed base camp on the 16th, leaving only a cook. The latter came back to Kathmandu alone on the 22nd or 23rd and told the trekking agent that the Japanese had not returned. He also added that on the 18th and 19th there had been very heavy snowfall with strong winds around the summit. Yamada was still in Kathmandu when the cook returned and on the 24th he flew by helicopter to Dhaulagiri to search for the missing men. From the air Yamada could see no trace of the climbers nor any signs of avalanching on the face. He concluded that they must have fallen before they reached his ridge camp. Hoshino was 33 and one of the more renowned climbers from Japan with the southwest face of Everest, Cho Oyu, Gasherbrum I and II, and the first ascent of Ultar to his credit.

A third Japanese expedition led by Kiyoshi Ishii was also on the mountain and climbed the northeast ridge. Ishii reported in Kathmandu that two of his members and three Sherpas had reached the summit on October 2, the Sherpas saying that the point reached was the correct summit. However, they, like other climbers before them, were wrong. They had actually reached a false summit. A German woman, Ms. Barbara Hirschbichler, went to the same point at the same time. She said that she had seen a higher point to the west but at the time believed the Japanese team’s Sherpas, who said no one went to the other (but true) summit. She therefore did not try to climb it (if she had it would have meant retracing some of her ascent route and then taking a different line, as it is very difficult to climb directly to the main top from the false summit). She was extremely disappointed to learn later that she had been given incorrect information.

Elizabeth Hawley and Tamotsu Nakamura, Japanese Alpine News