Expedition Reports 2012

12/01 – A Short Winter in the Hindu Kush (Afghanistan)

James Bingham with Eddie Bingham, Quentin Brooksbank and Mark Wynne (January 2012)

Mir Samir is a 6059m peak on the Afghan border with Nuristan that Eric Newby and his companion (both inexperienced mountaineers) set out to climb in 1956, a trip described in ‘A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush’. Although they were unsuccessful, the mountain has since received a number of ascents, but never in winter. Not put off by the unstable political situation in Afghanistan, this more experienced 4-man team hoped to climb a new route on the peak’s North face in winter conditions. Unfortunately, a number of factors led to the expedition being cut short: the theft of a kit bag containing essential equipment, coupled with very deep snow conditions and route finding difficulties meant the team were unable to even reach the base-camp of the mountain.

12/02 – Free Venezuela Big Wall

George Ullrich with Sam Farnsworth from UK plus Siebe Vanhee from Belgium and Mason Earle from USA (January-February 2012)

During their own expeditions to the area, Anne & John Arran have spotted a number of attractive lines on the tepuis, one of the most dramatic being a 500m wall overhanging by 100m in the lee of a waterfall (Salto Tuyuren) on Amuri Tepuis. They did not have time to attempt it themselves, but felt it had the potential to be the hardest and most overhanging big wall on earth. Hence, it became the objective of this international team of climbers. After flying to a remote jungle settlement, and then three days bush whacking, they set out to free-climb an audacious line up the centre of the steepest section of the wall. Unfortunately, at about half-height they began to run out of time, food and water, so were forced to change tactics and use aid to climb some of the harder sections remaining. After 12 days on the wall and 21 pitches, they reached the top of the wall within a stones throw of where the waterfall burst off the summit. They called their route ‘Kids with Guns’, and graded it 5.13a, A3, E6 6c, and feel that given time, the entire route would go free.

12/04A – 2012 Alpine Club Kagbhusandi

Dr Derek Buckle with Joanna Campbell, Mike Cocker, John Kentish, Paul Padman, Mike Pinney & Stuart Worsfold plus John Temple as a trekker.(September-October 2012)

The Kagbhusandi valley is located close to Joshimath and the Valley of Flowers in the Indian Garhwal. This team planned to explore the upper reaches of the Semartoli glacier, and make first ascents of peaks in the area. In particular they hoped to climb Barmal (5979m) the highest peak bordering the valley, and a new route on Oti-ka-danda (5782m). However, on arrival in the area, they realised that due to the poor state of its NW Face and SW Ridge, a meaningful attempt would require the use of fixed ropes, so although they reached a 5008m col to its north west, they then turned their attention to other peaks in the immediate area. Three of these received first ascents including the highest, which they tentatively named Kaghusandi Parbat (5301m):. the others were Pk 5210 and Pk 5120, each route being graded PD to PD+. In addition, Pk 5515 on the inspiring N Ridge of Pk 5855 (to the north of Oti-ka-danda) also received its first ascent via the SW Couloir at a grade of AD.

12/05 – Inspired Alaska

Mike (Twid) Turner with David Gladwin (May-June 2012)

The Kichatna Range (aka Cathedral Spires) is very remote and only accessible by light aircraft from Talkeetna but is fairly well explored, although there is plenty of scope for new routes, particularly on the second highest summit, Middle Triple Peak (2693m). When they arrived on the Tatina Glacier, this team was surprised to meet two other climbers, Stuart Inchely from UK and Kim Ladiges from USA, so they agreed to join forces and climb as a single team. They had hoped to climb a steep ice/mixed line toward the right side of its west face, but this proved impractical under the conditions, so they opted for the unclimbed northwest pillar. Despite poor weather with snow almost every day (the area recorded a 50 year record) in an eight-day push they climbed a 1000m mixed/ice route on the NW Pillar, abseiling back down the ascent route. They have called the route Hard Arteries (A3, E2, V), as half the team lived off pure butter while on the climb.

12/06 – British Chamlang 2012

Nick Bullock with Andy Houseman (September-November 2012)

This team hoped to make the first ascent of the 2000m North Face of Chamlang (7300m) from the secluded Hongu valley, situated a week’s trek from Lukla. The peak was known to have had at least four previous ascents, but always by its West or South Ridges. Base camp was on a grassy meadow at 5000m just below Peak 41, and shared with Rob Greenwood’s expedition to that peak (MEF Ref 12/21). To acclimatise, they made several forays on peaks in the area, including making the first ascent of Hunku (6100m). They also climbed to 6200m on Chamlang’s West Ridge, and to 5700m on its North Face, but had to abandon the attempt due to rotten rock and strong winds.

12/07 – Queen’s University Belfast MC Tien Shan 2012 (Kyrgyzstan)

Conor Gilmour & Rónán Kernan (both Irish), Azwan Isa & Bradley Morrell (British) and Alek Zholobenko & Vladimir Zholobenko (British/Russian) (August-September 2012)

This multi-national team planned to climb new routes on peaks surrounding the little visited Dzhirnagaktu Glacier in the Western Kokshaal-too. They successfully climbed eleven routes, two of them being first ascents of prominent summits and three first ascents of high points of dubious prominence. Summit heights were approximately 5000m and standards ranged from PD to TD. In retrospect, they felt that the trip would have benefited from better weather if it had taken place a couple of weeks later.
12/08 – British Gorakh Himal 2012

Julian Freeman-Attwood with Phil Bartlett, Nick Colton & Ed Douglas (September-October 2012)

The Gorakh Himal range lies in the far west of Nepal between the Changla Himal and the Kanta Himal, and close to the border with Tibet: partly due to the 9 day approach march it has had very few British visitors, so was a good choice for this very experienced team to explore. It also offered a number of peaks awaiting first ascents. They decided to concentrate on the western end of the range, approaching via the Luruppa Khola, never previously visited by foreigners. From a base camp at 4500m they initiated a number of reconnaissance trips, hoping to find a viable route on Langtachen (6284m). When this proved to be unsuccessful, they made a further recce into the Karpunath Lekh, to the west of base. From a col at 5600m they had a good view of the surrounding country, including a particularly fine peak of 5816m, but too far away for them to attempt. Before leaving, Colton and Douglas climbed a 5100m rock peak to the SW, which gave some VS climbing to the summit tower.

12/11A – British Shiva 2012

Mick Fowler with Steve Burns, Ian Cartwright and Paul Ramsden (September-October 2012)

Shiva (6142m) is situated above the Pangi Valley of Himachal Pradesh, and had received several previous ascents via the long but relatively easy southwest flank, but the aim of this team was to make the first ascent of its NE Pillar, also known as ‘The Prow’. After acclimatising on a 5500m peak to the north of the Prow, over a period of nine days, Fowler and Ramsden successfully achieved their aim at a grade of ED Sup, descending via the unclimbed SE flank. Meanwhile Burns and Cartwright made the first ascent of a fine snow and ice peak (c.5500m) on the east side of the Tarundi Valley, giving it the name Shiva Shakkar.

12/12 – Indo-British 2012 Rimo III

Malcolm Bass with Paul Figg & Simon Yearsley from UK plus Satya Dam, Dan Singh Harkotiya, Tashi Phunchok & Konchok Thinless from India: also Rachel Antill (UK) as ‘Resident Artist’. (August-September 2012)

Rimo III (7233m) is situated in the remote area of the Indian East Karakoram, and although the peak was climbed from the north in 1985 by Fotheringham and Wilkinson, the beautiful SW Face remained as one of the long outstanding challenges of the area. After establishing a base camp at 4950m on the North Terong Glacier and an ABC at 5350m, the British climbers acclimatised on ground leading to the col between Rimo III and Rimo II. Unfortunately, after reaching 6200m bad weather forced them to retreat and they then spent ten days waiting for an improvement. But the SW Face of Rimo III never cleared, so they decided to change objective. They chose an attractive looking un-named rocky peak between BC and ABC on the west end of the Sondhi/Sundrbar ridge. In a 2-day alpine style push (maximum difficulty AI 3) they were successful, recording a height of 6365m on the summit (map height 6330m). They have proposed the name Dunglung Kangri for the peak

12/13 – Bangor University Denali

Tom Ripley and Tom Livingstone (May-July 2012)

These two young students hoped to climb a new line on Father & Son Wall of Denali (6194m) in a single push. Unfortunately, they timed their visit rather late in the season, by which time much of the snow had melted, leaving the face in a dangerous condition. This and the intimidating scale prompted the duo to seek alternative routes. They eventually made successful ascents of the SW Ridge of Mount Francis (2610m), Bacon and Eggs (an ice gully) on the Moonflower Buttress of Mount Hunter (4444m) and a two day ascent of Denali’s Cassin Ridge – one of only four ascents in the season.

12/15 – 2012 New Zealand Wakhan Corridor (Afghanistan)

Ms Pat Deavoll with Bill Byrch & Ms Maryrose Fowlie (July-August 2012)

Following her success in the Wakhan in 2011, this very experienced leader was keen to return to climb some peaks from the Upper Qala Panja Glacier. In particular she hoped to climb the West face of Rahozon Zom (aka South Peak, 6535m). The mountain had never been attempted from this side, both previous ascents being made from Pakistan. However, once a high camp had been established at the head of the glacier, they decided that Koh-e-Rank (5930m) was a more amenable opnbjective, and so it proved, ascent and descent being achieved within a single day.
12/16 – Cambridge Tien Shan (Kyrgyzstan)

Dave Farrow with Michael Fordham, Matthew Graham, Bethan Gudgeon, Joe Hobbs, Doug Hull, Joe Smith and Tom Wright (July-August 2012)

This team of students looking for somewhere ‘more remote and exciting than the Alps’ selected the head of the Shamsi Tuyuk valley (close to the Ala-Archa area of the Kirgyz Ala-Too Range).as the destination for their expedition. Although popular with trekkers, it has no huts or other facilities, but offers a number of accessible peaks between 4100m and 4400m with no recorded ascents. Over the course of fourteen climbing days, operating as two 4-person teams, they attempted 13 routes on 8 peaks, recording first ascents of 6 peaks via 9 routes at grades up to AD. They also identified a number of routes for future expeditions.

12/17 – Imperial College Alaska 2012

Ms Sara Arbós-Torren from Spain with Boris Korzh & Sam Thompson(UK) and Arnaud Sors from France (June-July 2012)

The Wrangell-St Elias National Park still offers unclimbed peaks between 3000m and 4000m accessible from the Fraser and Baldwin Glaciers, so was the area chosen by four students from Imperial College to explore on foot and on ski. They discovered that the rock was generally poor quality, so as far as possible they chose to climb snow/ice lines, succeeding on 14 independent peaks, of which 6 were thought to be first ascents. Unfortunately while descending from one of the peaks, the leader slipped, landing on an ice screw attached to her harness, creating two serious lacerations to her upper thigh. Although not life threatening, they seriously restricted her future mobility, so she was evacuated to Anchorage and then back to UK.

12/18A – Scottish Zanskar 2012

Dr Susan Jensen with Geoff Cohen, Bob Hamilton, Steve Kennedy, Andy Nisbet & Des Rubens plus Nancy Kennedy as a ’trekking member’ (July-August 2012)

Certain valleys in the Zanskar region of Ladakh have only recently been opened to foreign expeditions, so although the peaks were identified and numbered by Japanese trekkers in 2011, none had been climbed. This team set out to explore peaks in the Namkha Tokpo valley. They discovered that south facing slopes had little snow in August, and many were composed of loose rock or scree, so they concentrated on the north side of the valley. They were successful in making the first ascents of G22 East Peak (5650m) via its snowy Eastern Ridge (AD), G22 West Peak (6150m) by its NW Ridge (AD) and Peak G23 (5750m) by its rocky Western Ridge (AD).

12/19 – East Greenland 2012

Matt Traver and Steve Beckwith (both from UK), Mike Royer (from USA) and Matt Bunn (from Australia) (August-September 2012)

This international team hoped to sail into Timmiarmiut Fjord, and make exploratory ascents of peaks in the area. Unfortunately, due to weather and sea conditions, they were unable to sail into Timmiarmiut and were therefore dropped some 120km further north in the Kangertittivatsiaq region. With no previously documented visits by climbers it offered even more scope for exploration, although a 4-man team from USA, was already ensconced when they arrived: they had also been diverted from their intended area. A fixed base camp was established at the centre of a prominent series of granite towers, which they dubbed ‘the ‘Mythics Cirque’. Operating as two pairs, Royer & Bunn concentrated on the valleys to the south & west of the cirque, while Traver & Beck used an inflatable canoe to visit the north ridge. In this way, they succeeded in making the first ascents of a number of peaks between 1100m and 1300m.

12/21 – British Peak 41

Rob Greenwood with Jack Geldard (September-November 2012)

Peak 41 (6654m) has had several known ascents but all have been from the south. In the hope of making the first ascent of the more remote and complex North face, this pair made the longer trek to the Hongu Valley, where they shared a base camp and base camp staff with Nick Bullock’s Chamlang expedition (MEF Ref 12/06). After rejecting several other lines as ‘futuristic’ or ‘suicidal’, they opted to climb a couloir up the most western side of the face, this being the most obvious line and free from objective danger. After two days climbing up poor snow (Scottish grade V) they reached a col at the top of the couloir, and made their way towards a mixed ridge leading to the summit. Unfortunately they discovered that this held little snow, and the rock quality was extremely poor, and so they were forced to retreat from just under 6000m.

12/22 – Altai 2012 (Russia)

George Cave with Greg Annandale, Clay Conlon and Eleri Dawson (August 2012)

This team selected the South Chuyski Range of the Altai Mountains in southern Siberia as a more exploratory area for climbing than the Alps, in the hope of making first ascents or new routes on peaks between 3500m and 4000m. They discovered that all rock routes presented significant and continuous objective dangers in the form of loose and crumbling rock, so major difficulties were soloed without leader-placed protection. Five routes were climbed on four different peaks, at grades from F to AD, at least one – the N Ridge of Dzhaniktu (3942m) – being a first ascent.

12/23 – British Charakusa 2012

Jon Griffith with Will Sim (August-September 2012)

The Charakusa valley offers plenty of scope for new routes, and this team arrived in the area armed with a tick list. To acclimatise, they climbed the ‘British Route’ on Nayser Brakk (5200m) and then the NW Ridge of Sulu (6050m), this being a possible first ascent. They then soloed the 1000m Diaper Couloir to the summit of Beatrice Peak (c.5800m) before turning their attention to the very complex North Face of the unclimbed Link Sar (7050m) on which a combination of bottomless snow and the arrival of bad weather forced a retreat while still 1000m below the summit. Their final route was on the South side of Fathi Brakk (c5600m) where a 1000m loose gully and some good rock pitches landed them on a very airy summit.

12/24 – Talung North Pillar 2012

Gavin Pike with James Clapham & Dave Searle (October-December 2012)

The rarely climbed Talung (7349m) lies above the Yalung Glacier on the Sikkim border next to Kangchenjunga, and has a very obvious arrow-straight line up its North Pillar. This had been attempted by Czech climbers in 2002 & 2004, but both teams had been forced to retreat due to poor weather and frostbite. After a couple of weeks acclimatising at Ramche, they established ‘Middle Camp’ at c.4800m, in the tortuous moraine of the Yalung glacier. From here they carried out a reconnaissance of both the North face and the West face, their intended descent route. After two nights at 6400m, they descended in strong winds to recover for an attempt on the face. But time was running out, and they realised that the face had a distinct lack of visible protection and was more difficult than anticipated, so after two more nights of very high winds and temperatures of -20 ºC, they realised that an attempt was impossible, so started the return to civilisation.

This expedition received the Nick Estcourt Award for 2012.

12/25 – Altiplano 2012 (Chile & Bolivia)

Ms Naomi Dodds with Richard Allen, Prof Damian Bailey, Julien Brugniaux, Rhodri Evans, James Greig & Andrew Loftus plus 25 male & female volunteers. (July-August 2012)

This expedition was a follow-on from a trip to Mt Elbrus in 2008. [MEF Ref 08/12]: the aim was to investigate the hypothesis that normal biological variation in dynamic cerebral auto-regulation observed in the ‘healthy brain’ at sea level will identify an individual’s susceptibility to Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), which could be vital in the relief of suffering. Particular attention was paid to the differences between male and female response to altitude, something that has never been properly studied before. Data were collected from each volunteer at sea level, 3599m, 4400m and 6542m (at the summit of Sajama). Analysis continues.

12/26 – British Mazeno Ridge 2012

Sandy Allan and Rick Allen from UK plus Cathy O’Dowd from South Africa plus Sherpas Lhakpa Rangdu, Lhakpa Nuru & Lhakpa Zarok. (June-July 2012)

The Mazeno Ridge is the longest arête on any 8000m peak – a staggering 13km from the Mazeno Pass at 5377m to where it joins the south-southwest ridge or Schell Route, then another 2 km up slopes on the Diamir Flank to the summit of Nanga Parbat at 8125m. A traverse of the entire ridge is therefore a monstrous undertaking: over eight summits to the junction with the 1976 Schell Route, then via the upper section of this to Nanga Parbat’s summit. It is a totally committing venture, as escape on either flank seems impossible until reaching the Mazeno Col, and had defeated several previous attempts. Hence the successful traverse of the entire ridge by Allan and Allen must rank as one of (if not the) mountaineering achievement of the year.