American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Nepal, Upper Dolpo, Mansiri (Manaslu) Himal, Himalchuli, from the North

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

Himalchuli, from the north. The Ukrainian National Himalayan Expedition climbed Himalchuli (7,893m) from the Lidanda Glacier to the north. Jointly led by Mstislav Gorbenko and Sergey Pugachev, the eight-member team arrived at the 3,600m base camp on April 13. They established an advanced base at 5,100m on the Lidanda Pass, which marks the start of the huge northeast ridge, on the 19th. From there six members worked the route ahead, which would eventually involve ca 15km of climbing before they reached the summit. They used no local help beyond base camp, took no oxygen on the route, and used a minimum amount of fixed rope (ca 250m). They placed Camp 1 (5,900m) and Camp 2 (6,500m) on the plateau east of Lidanda Peak (6,693m, formerly known as Rani Peak) and on the south ridge of Lidanda Peak, respectively. From there the team outflanked Lidanda and descended to the glacier plateau northeast of Himalchuli, where on May 10 they established Camp 3 at 6,200m. They placed Camp 4 two days later at 6,800m on the northeast face. Slanting up across this face in a couloir, which was 60° in places, with a section of hard ice at 80°, the climbers reached the northwest ridge, where they set up Camp 5 in a bergshrund at 7,250m. The ridge leading back toward the summit was not technical but comprised poor rock and snow. Instead of following the crest, the climbers climbed down the right flank for 100m, and then slanted across 65° terrain for 800m before rejoining the crest. They placed their final camp on the 17th at 7,680m, and all six climbers left for the summit at 3:30 a.m. on the 19th. At 9:30 a.m., after negotiating 40° slopes, Sergey Bublik, Yuri Kilichenko, Andrey Kiyko, Maksim Perevalov, Pugachev, and Vladimir Roshko reached the top. They had left no sleeping bags at the top camp, and when they arrived back at Camp 5, they found it crushed by snow, so all had to descend to Camp 4. The following day, the 20th, they were back in Camp 3 and reached base camp on the 22nd.

Himalchuli, the 18th highest peak in the world, has now been attempted 26 times but only six teams had summited prior to the Ukrainians. Some of the earlier attempts concentrated on the long northeast ridge, though a small British team in 1953 reached 5,600m from the south. Japanese got to 6,400m from the north side in 1958; another Japanese team made a spirited effort in 1959, getting to 7,400m on the northeast face before being defeated by steep ice. Italians climbed slightly higher in 1974, finding the climbing very hard. Later in 1974 another Japanese expedition tried the same route but was defeated at 7,050m. Japanese tried again in 1977, and two members reached the northwest ridge, progressing to ca 7,800m before a climber was killed when a falling cornice hit him. A British team reached 6,400m in 1978; Americans reached 5,800m from the south in 1979. After 1979 no other expedition attempted the route until the Ukrainians in 2007.

Most climbers, certainly in later years, have approached from the south. Himalchuli was first climbed in the spring of 1960 by Yiro Jamada’s Japanese expedition via the southwest face. The team reached the gently sloping saddle between Himalchuli West (7,540m) and the main top, then continued up the southwest ridge to the summit. Unusually for an attempt on a sub- 8,000m peak at that time, the climbers used oxygen. In 1978 Yoshio Ogata’s Japanese team climbed a hard new route up the south face to southwest ridge and, after visiting the main summit, made the first ascent of Himalchuli West. As this was not then on the permitted list, the famous and prolific Ogata was banned from Nepal for five years. In 1984 Americans made the first ascent of the southwest ridge integral, traversing the south flank of the west summit to join the Japanese route in its upper reaches. This was repeated in spring 1985 by Hungarians (the first Hungarian ascent of any major Nepalese mountain), while in autumn of that year Japanese appear to have repeated, more or less, the 1978 route. Yet more Japanese appear to have repeated the 1978 route in the autumn of 1986, the last time the mountain was climbed from the south.

Himalchuli West has been climbed twice since 1978: in 1989 by a multi-national, commercially organized expedition via the southwest ridge, which they found long and hard and on which they fixed 3,500m of rope, and on December 19,1990, again by the southwest ridge, by Koreans who were making a winter attempt on the main peak. Lidanda Peak (6,693m) was first climbed in 1970 via a Dutch team via the south ridge, a route that was repeated again by two members of the 1978 British Himalchuli expedition.

Lindsay Griffin, Mountain INFO, www.climbmagazine.com

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