American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Nepal, Annapurna Himal, Damodar Himal, Pt 6,417m, First Ascent; Corrections to Some Previous Reports on Gaugiri

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  • Publication Year: 2006

Pt 6,417m, first ascent; corrections to some previous reports on Gaugiri.

In May 2002 Americans Peter Ackroyd and Jim Frush made the first ascent of Gaugiri, an often snowless but isolated 6,110m rock pyramid on the Tibet border. The Nepalese Ministry of Tourism places Gaugiri at 84° 11' 16" E, 29° 02' 45" N. This agrees exactly with its position as marked on the new HGM Finn map (Sheet 2984-13: the HGM Finn maps are generally considered the official cartographic reference to the Nepal Himalaya) and also with its reference in Classification of the Himalaya, a scholarly work published in the AAJ 1985 by Adams Carter. However, the Finnish map marks the Damodar Kunda Lakes, a notable pilgrimage site, immediately below (and north west of) Gaugiri, where there are in fact a few small ponds at 5,420m. The true lakes lie some nine kilometers south (considerably further when walking this terrain) close to where sheet 2884-01 shows some very small lakes just north of the Namta Khola. This confusion led to the American pair separating from their porters and spending a night out without equipment before the team eventually re-united—see AAJ 2003 pp. 385-386 for a full report. The American route up the southwest ridge was repeated by Austrians in 2004 for what is now believed to be the second ascent of the mountain.

In 2003 two parties were reported to have climbed Gaugiri (see AAJ 2004 p. 393). Australian Anna Brooks and her naturalized Australian partner, Ken McConnell (from Scotland) trekked with their Nepalese team to the true Damodar Kunda, hoping to climb Gaugiri. They did not have a copy of the Finnish map and were not carrying an altimeter but during the trek met four climbers, three Spanish and one Andorran, who were on their way out of the area, believing they had just made an ascent of Gaugiri via the north face to north east ridge. Pep Aced and one of his partners both carried altimeters and confirmed readings of 6,270m on the summit. Unfortunately, it appears that in a report submitted in Kathmandu, the altitude was mistakenly transcribed as 6,720m. This led to a later assumption that as the Spanish peak must lie south of the true Damodar Lakes, it was possibly Khamjungar, the only mountain of that height in the region.

Talking with local goat herders based around the lakes, Ongdi Sherpa, the Australians Sirdar, was told that the Spanish climbed a nice snowy pyramidal summit that was clearly visible south of the lakes (and which incidentally they were told was Gaugiri), but that the herders in fact referred to another peak a little further east in the range as Gaugiri (the name simply means “yak horn” and it is most likely that herders refer to several peaks by that title). The Australians decided to climb the same peak as the Spanish (via the same route) and after crossing the main Namta Khola and climbing a scree gully to an advanced camp, reached the summit by mid morning the following day (Alpine PD). The relatively short ascent and high snow line confirmed that the peak was nowhere near 6,700m.

Later, it became obvious to both Australian and Spanish groups that they had not climbed the Gaugiri of Ackroyd and Frush. Brooks re-examined her photographs, specifically relating panoramas with the topography of the Finnish map. Ackroyd provided further assistance. Brooks, and subsequently Ackroyd, concluded that while the Finnish Map marks a summit of 6,270m in the arc of peaks to the southwest of Damodar Khunda, it seems much more likely that both Spanish and Australians climbed Pk 6,417m, a little further to the southeast. This would actually agree with Aced’s altimeter reading: although he measured 6,270m on the summit, his reading for the Damodar Khunda Lakes was c4,800m, which is actually around 200m too low. If there was no significant change in the weather during their ascent, the Spanish could well have climbed to over 6,400m.

Pk 6,417m: first ascent (October 8, 2003) by Josep Aced (leader), Serge Philippe Benet, Adria Font and Francesc Zapater; second ascent (October 21, 2003) by Anna Brooks, Ken McConnell (leader), Dendi Sherpa and Ongdi Sherpa.

Lindsay Griffin, from information provided by Peter Ackroyd and Anna Brooks.

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