Asia, India, Himachal Pradesh, Gangotri, Thalay Sagar (6903 m), North Face, New Route Attempt

Publication Year: 2004.

Thalay Sagar (6,903m), north face, new route attempt. Ben Gilmore and I attempted a new line on the north face of Thalay Sagar. The line follows the major weakness to the west (right) of the central buttress that was climbed in 1998 by a Russian team led by Alexander Klenov. It had previously been tried by an American team and a New Zealand team (climbed later last year by a Bulgarian expedition, see below). On our attempt we made it to ca 6,000m before being turned around by a storm. Our expedition started April 20, when we met in New Delhi. We spent a day purchasing provisions and meeting with the Indian Mountaineering Federation. There, we met our Liaison Officer and took care of all official business within a couple of hours. We left Delhi and traveled to Uttarkashi, where we finished obtaining supplies and met with the Director of the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering for a handshake and confirmation of our itinerary. We then traveled to Gangotri in nine hours, experiencing minor vehicle troubles along the way. There, we met our 10 porters and organized loads. The trek to base camp took five days, two days longer than expected due to weather.

Once installed in our 4,700m base camp, we hunkered down for four days in a storm that hammered us with snow and constant winds of 40-60 m.p.h. Two tents were destroyed and one damaged. We sent out the LO with the cook and his helper to get new tents and replace damaged food. We stayed at base camp repairing gear and reorganizing our thrashed camp until four days later the LO, cook, and helper returned. Then on May 10 we moved up to ABC at 5,200m. The next two weeks were spent acclimatizing, scouting the route, and waiting out bad weather.

On May 26 we set out on our proposed line, carrying two small packs containing only belay parkas, insulated pants, a stove, and two days of food and fuel. We were attempting the route in single push style. We climbed the first 400m unroped on easy snow and ice, and then ca 400m of mixed terrain. We stayed independent of fixed lines from previous attempts, free climbed every pitch, and left only minimal rappel anchors on the mountain. After climbing for several hours in a building storm, we decided to retreat. During our descent we encountered nearly constant spindrift avalanches, which made finding anchors very difficult. Back at ABC there was a short break in the weather but soon more snow returned. We left for home on May 30.

We would like to thank the Lyman Spitzer Award for its support.

Kevin Mahoney, AAC