American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, India, Himalaya, Zanskar, Mt. Aiseo, Northwest Face

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2009

Mt. Aiseo, northwest face. Having never climbed in the Greater Ranges before and with a fulltime job to start in September, I found the prospect of a first trip to the Himalaya hard to resist. Adriano Ferrero, Simon Lorenz, Aimone Ripa di Meana, Oliver Ullrich, and I would make up a team of varying experience and fitness. Following in the footsteps of Mummery and Abruzzi, we would head to Zanskar’s Durung-Drung Glacier. After a couple of months trying to get fit on the treadmills of London, we flew to Srinagar. The atmosphere was tense, with a heavy troop presence, but from our houseboats on Dal Lake the scene could hardly have been more tranquil. Our Liaison Officer joined us at this stage. A seasoned mountaineer, Amresh was also a mango-eating champion (2.4kg in three minutes) and former Guinness World Record holder for standing on one leg (71 hours 40 minutes).

Our team assembled, we journeyed past the Nun-Kun massif to the Pensi La (4,400m), where Z3 (6,270m), our primary objective, could be seen towering above the glacier. Despite initial optimism from our climbing Sherpas (Narbu and Dorjee), closer inspection from a base camp on a moraine at 4,620m revealed that the mountain had suffered since ascents in the 1980s. A couple of avalanches confirmed our fears, and we felt compelled to look for another target, away from black ice and loose rock.

While exploring the upper glacier, we surveyed another mountain that looked safe and achievable. To reach it, we passed beneath the previously climbed Rahamo and through a spectacular glacial ice canyon that cleaved a passage through the main icefall. Above this we established advanced base camp at 5,025m.

The following day, August 2, we woke to clear skies and good snow. Although our goal was still some distance away, we soon reached the Savoia Pass immediately north of our proposed peak and began the ascent. The northwest flank proved to be similar in many ways to the Voie Normale on the Weissmies (Swiss Alps). Steep, crevassed glacial terrain eventually gave way to a balcony nestled beneath rocks at 6,000m. The summit seemed a long way off, and with bad weather approaching and fatigue creeping in, we decided on one last push. To our surprise the summit was far closer that we expected, with a short, steep section leading to a perfect snowy pinnacle, on which we recorded two GPS readings of 6,026m and 6,032m and an altimeter reading of 6,035m. We decided to take the average of GPS readings, which so far had proved more reliable, hence 6,029m. We enjoyed excellent views of the whole range before the long climb down.

Having consulted the journals and found no recorded ascents of the mountain, we christened it Mt. Aiseo, and awarded a grade of PD, chiefly for crevasse problems. As a whole, the area offers considerable scope for challenging and adventurous climbing.

Edward Cooper, Alpine Club

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