Expedition Reports 2010

10/01 – Parkin-Saunders Khumbu Winter 2009-10 Unclimbed Peaks

Andy Parkin with Victor Saunders (Jan-Feb 2010)

Although most climbers only visit the Himalayan mountains in the summer, the winter months sometimes offer more settled – albeit colder – weather conditions. This pair hoped to take advantage of this to make the first ascent of Peak 5943m (via its SE Face) from the Chola Valley, before moving south to Pangboche and establishing a camp up the Minma Khola from which to climb Peak 6424m (a shoulder of Kantega North West) at the head of the Omoga Glacier. However, with the winter being so dry, neither of these routes looked feasible, so the pair decided to try the unclimbed North Face of Lobuje West (6,119m). Unfortunately, while carrying a heavy rucksack to the bottom of the face, Parkin fell on the moraine and hurt his back. Although he decided to continue with an attempt on the route, the pair had to give up at 5,600m when the injury proved too painful to continue.

10/02 – NZ Antarctic Peninsula

Ms Lydia Bradey with Ms Penny Goddard and Dean Staples (Jan-Feb 2010)

A few days before they left New Zealand this team learned that a French team had just made the first ascent of the West Ridge of Mount Parry (2520m) on Brabant Island, their intended objective. Undeterred they continued, and after sailing from Ushuaia to the Antarctic Peninsula they looked around for an alternative, and selected a classic line on the West Face of the First Sister of Fief (986m) on Wiencke Island. Ice cliffs prevented a landing near to the peak, but access only took half a day on skis. Although at 12 pitches it was shorter than the route on Parry it was far more technical, as it followed a central line of steep ice and snow rather than a ridge: they graded it NZ Alpine Grade 5. Descent was by 7 abseils down a gully between the First Sister and Mt Luigi to complete a 14 hour day.

Penny Goddard holds dual NZ and UK nationality, and was awarded the Alison Chadwick Memorial Grant for 2010.

10/03 – Baffin Big Walls (Canada)

Mark Thomas with Stuart McAleese and Mike (Twid) Turner (May 2010)

Sail Peaks form a series of mostly unclimbed gigantic rock faces rising very steeply on the southern side of the Stewart Valley on Baffin Island. Access to the valley was a 9 hour trip by skidoo from Clyde River, and after setting up base camp, the team fixed 400m of rope to the base of the wall. They then spent 20 days of very difficult (mainly serious aid) climbing 1400m of rock in cold, snowy conditions to reach the summit. They have called the route Arctic Monkeys, and graded it VI, A4, V+. An early thaw prevented skidoos reaching base camp at the end of the trip, so they were forced to wade through frozen slush for 25km to make their escape.

10/05 – Kichatna 2010 (USA)

Adrian Nelhams with Dean Mounsey (May 2010)

Hoping that his third visit to Alaska’s Kichatna range would be lucky, this leader planned to climb new routes on the W Face of Mt Jeffers (c.2440m) from the Tatina Glacier and/or a similar route on the NW Face of Middle Triple Peak (2693m) from the Monolith Glacier. But he had reckoned without the unseasonably warm temperatures and lack of an overnight freeze which resulted in an unstable snowpack. Although several attempts were made on Mt Jeffers, each was abandoned due to frequent avalanches. However they were more fortunate on the other side of the valley, which had a different aspect, and two 1000m mixed routes were climbed. The first was a beautiful 800m line to a summit c.2300m: they called the route ‘Beat Surrender’ and graded it ED2. The other route was a curving 1000m ED1 line ‘Metronome ’ to a summit c.2360m.

10/06 – Janahut 2010 (India)

Malcolm Bass with Paul Figg from UK and Pat Deavoll from NZ (September-October 2010)

Although the original intention of this expedition had been another attempt to make the first ascent of Janahut (aka Jankuth 6805m) at the head of the Gangotri Glacier, this year they were refused a permit, but fortunately managed to obtain one for Vasuki Parbat (6792m). Recent torrential rain had caused landslides and major damage on the road to Gangotri, and hence delays accessing the mountain area. After acclimatising on the nearby slopes of Bhagirathi II they started up the West Face of Vasuki Parbat, following a line attempted by Mick Fowler and Paul Ramsden in 2008. After climbing relatively moderate snow slopes, at approximately half-height on the third day, Deavoll chose to descend because she was suffering from the cold and poor acclimatisation, but the other two continued, despite Figg being hit on the shoulder by a large rock and Bass sustaining concussion in a 10m fall. On day eight they reached the long summit ridge, and on day nine followed it north, over the main summit to descend the North West Ridge, passing a metre below the highest point in homage to Lord Vasuki – King of the Serpents. This was probably the third ascent of the peak, although the IMF does not recognise the first ascent which was claimed by the Indo-Tibet Border Police in 1973.

10/07 – Chinese Tien Shan 2010

Mick Fowler with Mike Morrison, Paul Ramsden and Rob Smith (August-September 2010

The Xuelian range lies in Xinjiang Province close to the borders of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, and although it forms a major part of the Chinese Tien Shan, it is little visited. The prime objective of this trip was to make the first ascent of the NW Ridge of Xuelian East (c.6400m), but bad weather with heavy snow prevented the team getting within 25 km of the glacier, so they concentrated on their back-up, Sulamar (5380m). On this, despite regular thunderstorms and more snow, in a 6-day round trip Fowler and Ramsden were successful in making a traverse with the first ascent of the North Face and descent via the unclimbed South Ridge at a grade of TD sup. (This was the second ascent of the peak, which was originally climbed in 2008 by Bruce Normand’s team: they had named the peak Khanalak 2, but the locals know it as Sulamar.) Fowler & Ramsden went on to investigate the climbing potential of the Chulebos Peaks, while Morrison and Smith explored the previously unvisited side glaciers feeding the Muzart Glacier.

10/08 – British Tahu Ratum 2010 (Pakistan)

Luke Hunt with Hamish Dunn and Tom Ripley (plus Holly Mumford to Base Camp) (July-August 2010)

For their first venture into the Greater Ranges this young team chose an area north of the Hispar Glacier with the intention of making first ascents of routes in the Khurdopin Group, in particular the beautiful NW Ridge of Tahu Ratum (6651m). Unfortunately, in 2010 the Monsoon travelled further north than usual, causing extensive flooding in some parts of Pakistan and confining the team to their tents for much of their time at base camp, so that they never progressed beyond the foot of the mountain.

This expedition received the Nick Estcourt, Mark Clifford & Jeremy Wilson grants for 2010.

10/09 – Barkley Ridge; Wrangell St Elias 2010 (USA)

Stuart Howard and Dave Swinburne (July-August 2010)

Although May and June are normally chosen for climbing in the Wrangell St Elias range, as teachers they were forced to go later, finding the snow softer, but not unmanageable. They had originally hoped to make the first ascent of Peak 9270 (2825m), the highest point of the Barkley Ridge, but with unsettled weather in the area, they followed the recommendation of their bush pilot and transferred their attention to the rarely visited upper reaches of Granite Creek. Once dropped off, they lost no time in tackling as many peaks as possible. They reached the summits of three, Peak 8329 (2539m) at AD-, Peak 7679 (2341m) at AD, and Peak 7178 (2188m) which gave an easy ascent on ski: all were assumed to be first ascents. An attempt at Peak 7890 (2405m) was thwarted by a large wall some 150 metres below the summit. They felt that there is still plenty of opportunity in this area of Alaska for exploration and first ascents of moderate difficulty.

10/10 – N Wales Western Kokshaal-Too 2010 {Kyrgyzstan)

Matt Stygall and Dave Rudkin (August-September 2010)

This team visited the Fersmana Glacier in the Western Kokshaal-Too region of the Tien Shan with the intention of exploring and hopefully climbing Pic Byeliy (aka Grand Poohbah, 5697m) and possibly Pic Granitsa (aka Border Peak, 5370m). Although the weather was good when they arrived, it soon turned against them, with storms and heavy snowfall. To acclimatise, they attempted the West Ridge of an un-named peak of 5200m, but retreated from 5000m due to poor rock. An attempt on the North Face of Pic Granitsa was abandoned at the bergschrund due to poor weather/snow conditions and the risk of avalanche. In view of this they felt that conditions on Pic Byeliy would be too dangerous, so they moved to the Ak Sai National Park, where they climbed the classic 700m Route Schwaba on the West Face of Bachichiki (4516m) at HVS (5.8-5.10) .

This expedition also received a Mark Clifford Award

10/11 – Chamlang North Face 2010 (Nepal)

Graham Zimmerman (NZ/US) with Hayden Kennedy & Cory Richards (both US) (November-December 2010)

The original objective of this team was to visit the remote area between the Khumbu and Barun valleys, to attempt the North Face of Chamlang (7319m). However, in view of heavy snowfall and reports of failures and accidents on other northern aspects, they decided to attempt a new route on the South Face of Nuptse (7861m) to the right of the infamous ‘Cobweb Wall’, which appeared to be in good condition. After acclimatising on other peaks in the area, they carried gear to the foot of the route, and took the opportunity to take detailed photographs of the face. Examination of these revealed that large sections of the route were devoid of ice, exposing loose slabby rock. With higher than normal temperatures, more and more ice was melting, creating dangerous conditions on all peaks, so it was reluctantly decided to abandon the expedition.

10/12 – Jopuno 2010

Geoff Cohen with Bob Hamilton, Dick Isherwood, Steve Kennedy and Dave Ritchie plus Paul Swienton from USA (April-May 2010)

Although Jopuno (5936m), has had three previous ascents, they had all been via its ridges, but this team hoped that the recent designation of certain peaks in Western Sikkim as ‘Alpine Peaks’ would allow them to explore the peak’s unknown east side. However, they found the approach unfeasible due to extremely difficult vegetation, so they turned their attention to nearby Lama Lamani. On this, Cohen and Swienton climbed the SW spur to a notch, then traversed left on snow to gain the North summit (5655m), while Hamilton and Kennedy continued up the harder mixed crest to reach the summit ridge which they followed to the top at PD or AD-. All four descended via the NW Face. They also climbed a peak of c.5500m near the col between Jopuno and Lama Lamani, and investigated the West Ridge of Jopuno, but were climbing too slowly to reach the summit.

10/13 – Imperial College Obra Valley 2010

Jonathan Phillips with Boris Korzh, Phil Leadbeater, Kunal Masania and Andy McLellan (September-October 2010)

The Obra Valley is situated in India’s far Western Garhwal, and being little visited offered plenty of scope for exploration and first ascents. Although heavy rain and landslides delayed access to the area, once established they experienced 16 days of settled weather. From a high camp at 4900m they made the first ascent of Pt 5480m via its SW Ridge (500m, AD-). Moving their camp 200m higher, they then climbed the valley’s highest peak, Pt 5877m, thought to be known locally as Dauru. Ascent was made via the NW Ridge (700m, AD), the summit snow cap giving a truly excellent panorama. After moving camp again, they crossed a col on the SW Ridge of the shapely Ranglana (5554m) descended a short distance towards the Maninda Valley, before traversing to its South Ridge and following it to the summit (900m, D-)

10/14 – Sim-Griffith Ruth Gorge (USA)

Will Sim with Jon Griffith (April-June 2010)

On their first visit to the Greater Ranges, this team hoped to climb new routes on Mount Dickey (2909m) and/or the East Face of Mount Dan Beard (3127m). However it snowed almost constantly whilst they were in the area, so they only experienced a few days of good weather. On one of these they managed to climb 400m on Peak 11300 (3444m) before Griffith fell 20m, injuring his back and forcing a retreat. In search of better weather, they then flew over to Denali base camp on the Kahiltna Glacier from which, to acclimatise, they first climbed the 800m East Ridge of Mount Francis (3185m) and the 1000m SW Face/Couloir of Kahiltna Queen (3773m). They then attempted a single push ascent of the Moonflower Buttress on Mount Hunter (4442m), reaching ‘The Vision’ in 16 hours before making the agonising decision to descend without completing the route.

This expedition also received an Alpine Club Climbing Fund Grant for 2010.

10/15 – Scottish Wakhan 2010 (Afghanistan)

Alan Halewood and Neal Gwynne) (July-August 2010)

Much of Afghanistan is ravaged by war, but the eastern end of the Wakhan Corridor (‘Little Pamir’) is not affected so is relatively safe, and although it is understood that a Polish climber recently carried out a reconnaissance, it is little visited, so was the chosen destination for this pair to explore and make first ascents. Following consultation with Mountain Unity International which has set up facilities for trekkers and climbers visiting the area, they concentrated on the Pamir-i-Wakhan Range to the west of the Waghjir Valley. Unfortunately they were affected by the heavy monsoon rains that struck the Pakistan area so badly this year, but nevertheless climbed several easy walking peaks up to 5000m, and also Koh I Iskander (5562m) a more serious peak with a pitch of Scottish III. They left the area via the 4895m Garumdee pass (aka Uween e Sar), with a detour to climb a peak of 5327m, which they named Koh I Khar (Peak of the Donkey). Both peaks are thought to have been previously unclimbed.

10/16 – Untouched: First ascents in the Djangart (Kyrgyzstan)

Matt Traver with Dan Clark & Jamie Maddison from UK plus Chris Parenteau & Mike Royer from USA. (July-August 2010)

The Djangart region of Kyrgyzstan’s Kokshaal-Too range has seen little activity from western mountaineers, so seemed an ideal venue for an exploratory expedition. Prior to departure, the team identified three peaks of particular interest, and although they experienced rain almost every day, they did indeed climb three peaks – but not those originally contemplated. First success was on Pt 4766 on which Clark, Royer and Traver climbed the 700m ‘Horseman’s Horror’, D+ on its NW Face. During the approach to the second peak, Pt 5080, Clark became unwell and (accompanied by Maddison) had to return to Bishkek for medical treatment. Meanwhile Royer and Traver climbed the 700m ‘Will your anchor hold?’ TD- on its E face, and finally on the N Ridge of Pt 5048, the 650m ‘Postcard for the Chief’. Names for each of the peaks have been proposed to the Kyrgyz Alpine Club, viz ‘Peak Howard Bury’, ‘Peak Sutherland’ and ‘Peak of Illumination’.

10/19 – Singekang Valley 2010 (India)

Dr Jeremy Windsor with George Carlton, Sandra Kennedy, Alan Tees & Andrew Tees from UK plus Martin Boner from Ireland (October-November 2010)

Although adjacent to the Spiti River Highway. the Singekang Valley appeared to be unvisited by western travellers until this team arrived. Their exploration identified a number of accessible peaks and a potential crossing towards the east at the head of the valley. They had hoped to make the first ascent of Singekang (6031m) via its West Ridge, but were stopped 400m below the top by unconsolidated snow, low temperatures and steep ice towers. However, they did make the first ascent of Snaght Kang (5500m) whose summit lies at the end of the north ridge of Peak 6,091m on the southern rim of the valley.

10/20 – 2010 British Annapurna III

Nick Bullock with Pete Benson & Matt Helliker (April-May and October-November 2010)

Annapurna III (7555m) has always proved to be a challenge to mountaineers, and this team’s first attempt did not even reach Base Camp. Undeterred, they returned in the Autumn, when additional sponsorship enabled them to fly in by helicopter. They soon discovered that the SE Ridge, their original objective, consisted of very loose rock, with its approach threatened by avalanche and sérac fall. Hoping that the East Ridge would provide a safer option, they climbed to a shoulder at 5900m and stashed gear for a later attempt. A period of bad weather and extreme cold kept them in BC for the next week, and although they managed to reach the cache again, they realised that they had insufficient time to safely attempt the climb and return to base camp, so reluctantly abandoned the expedition.

10/21 – British Torugart-Too (Kyrgyzstan)

Sam Leach with James Monypenny & Tom Nichols (August-September 2010)

The Torugart-Too range in SE Kyrgyzstan had attracted few expeditions in the past, so gave this team plenty of scope for exploration and first ascents. In this they were successful, making the first ascent of Pt 4870 (Torolok) by its N Face at Grade D, and climbing new routes on the N Face/NW Ridge of Pt 5008 (‘Diligent Epiphany’, TD-), ‘Free Tibet’ on the N Ridge of Pt 4700, and on the S Ridge of Pt 4495. They were also pleased to report how smoothly they progressed through the various check-points involved.

10/22a – International Sichuan 2010

(China) – Dr Bruce Normand with Kyle Dempster from USA also Jean Annequin & Christian Trommsdorff from France and Gu Qizhi & Yan Dongdong from China (October-November 2010)

When his planned expedition to Tibet (MEF Ref 10/22) was refused permission by the local authorities, this leader managed to organise an alternative trip to the Minya Konka area of Sichuan in record time. He had three objectives in mind: the West Face of Mt Grosvenor (aka Riwuqie Feng, 6376m), the East Face of Mt Edgar (6618m) and any route on the unclimbed San Lian Feng (6684m). In a 24 hour push on Grosvenor, Dempster & Normand succeeded in making its second ascent by climbing the Central Couloir on its West Face, while the French pair reached 5700m on a route further to the right before high winds forced them to abandon the attempt. In an 8-day marathon of highly technical climbing on Mt Edgar, Dempster & Normand climbed the L side of the E Face to the S Ridge (M6 and ice to W15) to what in the current white-out appeared to be its highest point: once again, this was the second ascent of the peak. Meanwhile the Chinese climbers attempted a route on the N Face, but were forced to cancel due to cold weather and inadequate equipment. Although the mountains of Sichuan are no longer ‘unexplored’, the team reported that the Minya Konka range still contains about a dozen 6000m peaks which are either unclimbed or have only have had one ascent.