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Asia, India, East Karakoram, Chong Kumdan II (7,004m)

Chong Kumdan II (7,004m). The isolated Chong Kumdan Group was explored in 1991 by an Indo- British expedition that climbed 10 peaks, including the first ascent of the highest, Chong Kumdan I (7,071m). This team approached along the Shyok River and then west up the long Chong Kumdan Glacier. During the expedition joint leader Harish Kapadia investigated an approach to the Nup La (ca 6,250m), the col at the head of the glacier immediately south of Chong Kumdan II. Huge crevasse fields barred his way, making an approtach to CK II both difficult and long. A later foray to the north side of this peak showed no easy route, and it was the only major summit in the group not attempted.

In 2007 an Indo-American team visited the Chong Kumdan Glacier, with CK II as its main goal. Again huge crevasses and towering seracs barred access to this unclimbed peak and the team turned to CK I, where they made the second ascent, by a new route (AAJ 2008).

That same year I led a commercially organized expedition to Mamostong Kangri (7,516m), a peak south of the Chong Kumdan Group, making a successful ascent from the south. I realized that from Mamostong base camp there was a long but feasible glacial route north, crossing several high cols, which would lead to the Nup La and south ridge of CK II. In 2008 I decided to put this idea to the test.

At the beginning of August our team left the 4,900m Mamostong base camp and with the help of high-altitude Ladakhi porters moved slowly but continuously toward our goal. After nine days we had crossed one unnamed col to the South Terong Glacier, traversed north, and crossed a second pass to gain the upper reaches of the Chong Kumdan Glacier. From near the second col we climbed a previously virgin summit of more than 6,000m, naming it HMI Peak.

(The Indian members of our expedition came from Darjeeling’s Himalayan Mountain Institute.)

At this point most Indian mountaineers and the porters returned, leaving four French and two Indians to continue toward CK II. Eleven days after leaving base camp, we placed Camp 8 (6,550m) above the Nup La on the south ridge of CK II. On the following day all the team (Indians Samgyal Sherpa and Konchok Thinless and French Sebastiano Audisio, Bernard Meurin, Dominique Ravot, and I) reached the southernmost of the ridge’s four summits, which we named Chong Kumdan Mont Blanc. The following morning, day 13 from leaving base, Audisio, Ravot, and I crossed another summit (Cima Daniela) to reach CK II’s main summit.

Descent was rapid, and in two-and-a-half days we all reunited at Mamostong Base Camp. Although the technical difficulties were modest (AD for the final section, with the steepest part being below the Nup La), it was a committing journey through complex, often delicate terrain. Our practice of a slow but steady ascent from base camp, where relatively small daily height gains allow good acclimatization, seems to be paying off.

Paulo Grobel, France