Peak 6,400m (Miandi Peak), first ascent; Kharchakund, attempt; Yeonbuk (5,953m), attempt. On October 5 Bruce Norman, from Scotland, and I made what may be a first ascent of a 6,400m peak in the Garwhal region. The ascent was the culmination of a process that began earlier in the year, when Bruce and I tried to get a permit to attempt the first ascent of Jankuth (6,805m), a fantastic peak at the head of the Gangotri Glacier. Marty Beare and I had tried unsuccessfully to climb the peak in 2004, and it was unfinished business.
However, though our permit request was acceptable to the Indian Mountaineering Foundation, it was denied by the Uttaranchal state government, so we changed our objective to the unclimbed east ridge of Kharchakund, also on the Gangotri. We were granted the permit, and Shelley and Paul Hershey, from Dunedin, joined our venture, with the unclimbed southwest ridge of Kharchakund as their goal.
Two weeks of great weather prevailed, during which we spent four days acclimatizing on non-technical Kedar Dome, and put in food dumps at the base of Kharchakund. By October 23 we were ready to go, and the four of us set up an advanced base camp on the lateral moraine under the east face. Next morning we went for a scout, the main result of which was Paul and Shelley deciding to attempt Yeonbuk (5,953m) instead of Kharchakund, because of the serac fall on the southwest ridge.
Bruce and I headed off on the 25th, establishing ourselves on the east ridge after climbing several bulletproof pitches of 60° ice. We woke next morning to a snow storm (the same one that thwarted the Changabang team). After some dithering, we decided to come down, and just as well, as the storm lasted six days.
We headed back up the glacier when the fine weather reappeared. Bruce and I intended to try the southwest ridge, as the east ridge was now snowed up and out of condition. Paul and Shelley were still looking at Yeonbuk. However, when Bruce and I got to the bottom of the route a day-and-a-half’s walk from basecamp, we concurred with Paul and Shelley’s earlier assessment: too much serac danger.
“Enough of this damn mountain,” we thought. “Time is running out and if we are going to salvage anything from this trip we need to look at something else.” Up glacier was a good-looking peak I had noticed on the 2004 Jankuth expedition, and if the weather stayed promising, we thought we had a chance of climbing it in the limited time we had left. We headed up glacier to the base, then spent a day climbing the 600m icefall that took us into a pleasant cwm on the west face. At this point we started to doubt the weather and decided if we were to have any chance of summiting, we would have to climb the remaining 1,100m in a single push (not so difficult for Bruce, who four weeks previously had climbed K2 without oxygen, but for me something of a challenge).
We left camp at 4 a.m. the next morning and by 1 p.m., by alternate ice and snow pitches, had reached the summit ridge. By this stage it was really cold and windy and beginning to whiteout. Pushing on, we made the summit at 3 p.m. after a final 60° pitch of superb ice. The weather abated a bit and we got sketchy views of the line Marty and I had taken on Jankuth, to the south, and of the massive Satopanth (7,075m) in the opposite direction. We stared hard at Yeonbuk but saw no sign of Paul and Shelley. It turns out they had decided the avalanche threat was too high and headed back to base camp the day before.
“Ok, good, we’ve climbed something,” we said, before heading down. By the time we got back to our camp in the cwm at 9 p.m. the weather had packed in, and descending the icefall the next day was a little fraught. Walking back down the glacier in a whiteout/thunderstorm my hat started to smolder! We propose the name Miandi Peak for the previously unclimbed 6,400m mountain, because it sits above the Miandi Barmak.
Pat Deavoll, New Zealand