American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, India, Himachal Pradesh, East Karakoram, Padmanabh, First Ascent

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2003

Padmanabh, first ascent. Almost all the unclimbed 7,000m peaks surrounding the Siachen Glacier were scaled in the 1970s by expeditions entering the region from Pakistan. Padmanabh remained virgin. The period allocated to climbing during our traverse of the Teram Shehr Ice Plateau (see above) was 15 days from a second base camp at 5,650m back to the same camp. On June 14 an advance party went up an easy glacier and reached a col on the south ridge at 6,250m. Their reconnaissance led to the conclusion that an attack camp should be set up near the col. The mostly granite south ridge has an average angle of 45°-50°. We thought this would yield to relatively easy climbing. However, the south ridge comprised small but complicated snow ridges, which appeared one after another. In some places the angle reached 70°-80°. Route preparation up to 6,750m required four working days, and 16 rope lengths were fixed to this point. Two teams consisting of Japanese and Indian mountaineers worked together to open the route.

On June 25, the 12th day after commencing the climb, we attempted the summit. Three members comprising Commander S. Dam, Yasushi Tanahashi and myself departed from our attack camp at 3:50 a.m. Unfortunately S. Dam soon had to drop out as he was unable to keep pace with the other two. We reached our previous high point at 8:30 a.m. Every pitch from there was extremely hard, even though it was less than 300m to the summit. We moved steadily pitch by pitch against a strong wind and the clouds that prevailed on the upper part of the south ridge.

About 11 hours after leaving camp we reached a treacherous snow wall. I led this wall, climbing vertical granulated sugar snow that was very difficult to negotiate. We kicked and stamped down the snow to make it more solid but all our efforts were in vain. We continued our struggle as the wall became even more precipitous. The last 30m ended with a cornice. To overcome it, we first had to dig a trench two meters deep and then excavate a tunnel. If conditions as critical as this had carried on for another five minutes, I would have given up and descended. Tanahashi led the final (26th) pitch, which took us to the foot of an ice tower resembling a cream puff. We stood atop Padmanabh at 3:10 p.m. after over 11 hours of continuous climbing.

A few days later Motup Chewang, Rushad Nanavatty, Dr Oe and Tadashi Fukuwada (each of whom worked hard and climbed quite high while preparing the final route) were poised for another attempt on the summit. However, due to the onset of bad weather, they gave up the attempt.

Hiroshi Sakai, Japanese Alpine Club

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