American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, India, Eastern Garhwal, Kalanka, North Face, Attempt

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

Kalanka, north face, attempt. Kalanka is 6,931 meters and is joined to Changabang bordering the massive Nanda Devi Sanctuary. There is only one confirmed line on the north side of Kalanka, climbed by a Czech team. We set up base camp on May 1, and throughout the next week we continued to carry loads and get our fitness back.

On May 12 John Varco and I finally got a good work day in on the mountain, ascending the first 2,000’ up a snow slope. We left a cache of food and gear at 18,500’ and headed back down in bad weather. May 17 was our first night on the big wall portion of the mountain. We dug out a great bivy. The next 800 feet was 80-degree mixed climbing on extremely loose rock. We fixed all of this to what we called “The Meat,” a rock structure where the route turns into a 90°-overhanging wall.

The weather continued to suck. May 27 was our 10th day on the mountain, and although we were making headway we were completely out of food. So we headed down to advanced base camp. Our remaining food consisted of 6 freeze-dried dinners, 20 GU packets, 10 energy bars, 1 package of Kool Aid, and 2 cough drops.

We returned to the ledge exhausted but happy to at least be back on the mountain. Our health was deteriorating from being up so high so long. John had lost about 15 pounds and had a chest infection producing a lot of green phlegm. Finally after nine days we reached the top of the north buttress.

We were both totally worked and had been completely out of food for four days. After much deliberation and weighing every possibility we decided to forgo the summit. We put all the gear together in two huge loads and headed down.

Depender surprised me with an amazing birthday cake he had made the day before. He had written my name in white icing and we celebrated a fantastic climb and adventure consuming the delicious cake under the stars with a circle of snowcapped peaks surrounding us. I looked over at John and smiled; he gave me a big hug, and all was right in my little alpine world.

Sue Nott

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