American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, India, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarankhand (Formerly Uttaranchal) Garhwal, Changabang, North Face and West Ridge Attempts

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2008

Changabang, north face and west ridge attempts. In August, Kester Brown, Craig Jefferies, Marty Beare, and I, all from New Zealand, with Adam Darragh from Australia, traveled to the Bagini Glacier to attempt the north face and the second ascent of the west ridge of Changabang (6,864m). After jointly establishing a camp (ca 5,000m) at the head of the Bagini Glacier’s west branch, the west ridge team of Beare, Darragh, and me fixed 300m of rope up 50° snow and mixed terrain to the col (ca 5,800m) at the base of the west ridge, where we established a camp. After acclimatizing here and fixing another 200m of rope up 60° ice and mixed terrain, we descended to Base Camp intending to climb alpine-style above this point.

Meanwhile Brown and Jefferies spent time acclimatizing on peaks above base camp. Noticing that the right side of the face was in good condition and less prone to spindrift, on 16 September they started up the north face of Changabang via the line pioneered by the British 1996 attempt. After three days, they established themselves on the top of the buttress. Climbing to this point involved ice up to 90°, often covered in insubstantial snow. After a rest day the pair traversed the icefield to join the line of the British 1997 ascent (Cave-Murphy) and in doing so climbed a few hundred meters of new ground. Difficult, steep ice gave access to the upper icefield, and here they endured an open bivy on the ice arête, at 6,200m, under the headwall. Heavy snowfall overnight and into the next day forced them to retreat down the left side of the buttress in 16 rappels. They descended from high on the face in under five hours. Previous parties who have reached the summit ridge via the British 1997 route have descended south to the Changabang Glacier, in both cases with fatal consequences.

In the meantime, the west ridge team moved into the col camp. A week-long storm arrived on 24 September, dumping over half a meter of snow at base camp and forcing an epic retreat. After the storm cleared, we only had time to climb back to our high point and retrieve our gear, a feat possible only with snowshoes for glacier travel. The west ridge still awaits a second ascent and is an obvious candidate for an alpine-style attempt.

Brian Alder, New Zealand Alpine Club & AAC

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