American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, India, Himachal Pradesh, Gangotri, Kedar Dome, East Face Attempt

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2004

Kedar Dome, east face attempt. Cameron Lawson, Mark Synnott, and I arrived in the Gangotri during September, finding that a lingering monsoon was greatly shortening any post-monsoon weather window. The objective was the huge rock wall forming the east face of Kedar Dome (6,831m). We established base camp at Sundovan, close to the end of the mountain’s north ridge, where there is some excellent quartzite bouldering. The east face rises above the Ghanohim Glacier and is around 2,000m high. In 1989 it was climbed to the end of the rock difficulties at 6,200m (but did not continued up the remaining 600m of easy-angled snow ridge to the summit) by the Hungarians Atilla Ozsvath and Sazboles Szebdro, at VII- and A2. The vertical height of their route was 1,300m. In 1999 Polish climbers Jancek Fluder, Janusz Golab, and Stanislaw Piecuch climbed a new and more direct line to the right, joining the Hungarian Route at the Yellow Tower (below 6,100m), before bad weather forced them down. Mani Stone has difficulties of VIIIWI4 A3+. Lawson, Synnott, and I planned to repeat the Polish route in Alpine style but to complete the line to the summit of Kedar Dome. We first went up the normal north face route to ca 5,480m and bivouacked for a night in order to aid acclimatization. Dangerous snow conditions prohibited any higher progress and the weather was at best unstable. With little improvement in sight, Lawson joined the Americans, Anker, Chabot, and Millar, who were attempting the Shark’s Fin on Meru, at the end of September. From around this moment things began to get better, with afternoon storms becoming far less frequent. Shortly after, Synnott and I were able to start on our Alpine style attempt. The first day took us 500m up the face, where the ground was not very technical and it was possible to climb unroped over significant sections. The second day was necessarily quite short due to the return of bad weather and only four pitches were achieved (5.9 to 5.10-). The third day dawned murky and it started precipitating by 9 a.m. The rest of the day was spent inside the tent, trying to conserve food and fuel. When day four brought no change, we stashed most of the gear was stashed and descended.

It was another week before the weather again looked promising and the pressure began to rise steadily. We packed and ascended back up to advanced base, where, of course, on arrival we were hit by a violent storm. However, the next day was sunny and any build-up of cloud proved benign. We gained something of a morale boost by regaining our high point in a single day, leading in blocks with the second jumaring carrying a huge sac. The next day also seemed very promising, with even less cloud build-up, boosting morale further. The unstable weather pattern appeared to have broken at last.

Starting out that morning we were able to move together for a few rope lengths, after which we pitched two good steep rock pitches in a crack system. From there a lengthy traverse led into a couloir approximately half-way up the face. In the couloir, Synnott fixed the lead 10mm rope and continued on a 6mm haul line while I jumared. Suddenly, the belay, which was three Friends in what appeared to be perfect cracks, failed. The belay block then narrowly missed me as I tumbled down the gully before fortunately being brought to a halt by the large rucksack. Inspection of the lead rope showed it had been badly damaged by the block and without a replacement we had no alternative but to go down.

Kevin Thaw, U.K.

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