Summarised by Glyn Hughes, MEF Hon Secretary
The following notes summarise reports from the expeditions supported during 2016, and are divided into geographical areas.
West Face of Celeno Peak 2016
Graham Zimmerman and Chris Wright (May 2016)
Celeno peak (13,395ft) is located in the Wrangell – Saint Elias range in Alaska. The objective was the first ascent of the West Face, and the second ascent of the peak overall. They flew to Anchorage, and then to the small town of McCarthy, from which they were flown in to Canyon Creek Glacier by Jay Claus, who had made the first ascent of Celeno in 2012. A storm at base camp was followed by a forecast for a week long weather window, so after allowing 2 days for conditions to clear they set off up the West Face, starting with 2000ft of snow and ice un-roped to a mixed spur leading to the summit. This started with mixed climbing generally M4/M5, but with an M6 crux. The next day they tackled a rock band which included the route crux at 5.10X A2+, where dislodged rocks cut their rope. From the top of the band they continued on steep snow and ice to the top of the spur. A rightward traverse to an iced gully which was followed to a bivouac just below the summit. The following day they reached the summit, with spectacular views, and descended by the first ascent route, starting down the NW ridge, and then a couloir giving access to the glacier below. They described this as ‘a fruitful and enjoyable expedition’.
MEF ref 16-14.
British Hunter Foraker 2016
Ben Silvestre, Pete Graham and Will Harris (May 2016)
The primary objective was a new route on the South face of Mt Hunter South. They flew to Talkeetna, and then to Thunder Glacier, where they scouted new routes, and attempted a route on Pt 9000 (Lightning Peak). They completed about half of this route, but aborted because of deep fresh powder snow. These conditions were typical in the Thunder Glacier area, so they decided on a change of plan. They flew to the Kahiltna glacier where they acclimatised on the west buttress of Denali, turning back at 17,000’ in freezing cold wind. They then transferred to their secondary objective, the first British ascent of the Infinite Spur on the S face of Mt Foraker, which they completed in three days, and descended in declining weather with heavy precipitation. The view of the Thunder cirque from the summit of Foraker showed much drier conditions than they had experienced, and possibly good mixed climbing potential.
MEF ref 16-16.
British Juneau Icefield 2016
Tom Bide, Carl Reilly, Anita Holtham, Jake Phillips, Mandy Tee and Rachel Bell (April 2016)
Objectives were first ascents in the Juneau Icefield area of SW Alaska, specifically the Devils Paw (2616m) and surrounding peaks, and Taku Towers. Unfortunately they experienced poor weather for most of the 3 weeks duration, and were unable to achieve any of the climbing objectives. However, they did complete a 70km N-S traverse of the icefield on skis, from Atlin on the Canadian side of the range to the Taku glacier on the US side, from which they were flown out back to Juneau.
MEF ref 16-20.
Team BMG East Buttress of Mount Laurens
John Crook, David Sharpe and Gavin Pike (May/June 2016)
Initial objective was the first ascent of the East buttrss of Mt Laurens on the Lacuna Glacier. They flew into Kahiltna base camp, and started by reconnoitering potential routes. They attempted the West face of Pt 10022, but found it far too warm, and conditions too dangerous for climbing at this altitude, so flew to Denali and acclimatised by climbing up to 6000m on that mountain. They then climbed Kahiltna Queen in a single day Alpine ascent, and then moved on to attempt the Infinite Spur. They reached 11000ft, before a persistent snowstorm forced them to retreat. [Presumably this was the storm experienced by 16-16 during their descent from the Infinite Spur.]
MEF ref 16-29.
British Renland Expedition 2016
Geoff Hornby, David Barlow, Rob Powell and Paul Seabrook (July/August 2016)
An expedition to an unnamed and unexplored glacier near the Mirror Wall area of South Renland. From Iceland they flew to Constable Point, and from there made a 12hr overnight passage in a RIB (hard boat recommended for future trips) to the drop off point and base camp. Climbs were done from an advanced base a few hours from here. Four new routes were completed, including first ascents of two mountains, Cerro Castillito and Mount Hannes. The routes were: the first ascent of Cerro Castillito by the SE ridge, 1300m at alpine AD/D; a 400m rock climb, E2 5b named ‘Arctic Monkeys’; ‘Double 00 Couloir’, an 800m snow couloir at alpine AD, and an alpine arête on mount Hannes, a new route of approximately 1400m, Alpine TD-/TD.
MEF ref 16-25.
Derek Buckle, Andrew Cook, Michael Cocker, Gus Morton and Knut Tonsberg (August/September 2016)
The expedition acclimatised in Leh before travelling to Tirit and a three day trek to base camp at Arganglas. This is near the bifurcation of the Rassa and Phonglas Glaciers, from which they planned to explore one of the southerly arms of the Rassa Glacier. They established two further camps at 5585m and 5675m, from which Buckle and Cook made the first ascent of Pk 6222 (Lak Kangri) via its SE Face at Alpine AD. The route was repeated by Cocker and Morton. The same four climbers then made the first ascent of Pk 6315 (Thrung-ma Kangri) via its S Face, at Alpine D. Tonsberg unfortunately suffered a serious medical condition, and had to be evacuated to Leh, and via Delhi to home, where he made a full recovery.
MEF ref 16-06.
British Sersank Expedition
Mick Fowler and Victor Saunders (September/October 2016)
Sersank is a 6050 m peak at the head of the Sural Valley in Himachal Pradesh. It was approached over the Rhotang Pass from Manali to Sural Butori, followed by a two day trek through the Sural Valley to base camp at 4390 below the South Sersank Glacier. They spent five days climbing the North Face of Sersank, and a further two days completing the route to the summit and descending to base camp via the South Ridge and South Face Glacier. The route included rock buttresses covered in powder snow, steep ice climbing and easier mixed climbing, at up to Alpine ED2 and some pitches of Scottish 5. They experienced poor weather during acclimatisation, but exceptionally good conditions during the ascent.
MEF ref 16-10.
Jangpar Wall Expedition
Martin Moran, John Crook, Dave Sharp and Ian Dring (September/October 2016)
The main objective was to make an alpine ascent of the N Spur of the unclimbed Peak 5755 in the Miyar Valley in Himachal Pradesh. The approach was via Manali and the Rohtang Pass to the roadhead at Khanjar. From an Advanced Base camp at 4320m Moran and Dring made the first ascent of Pk 5755 (named Marakula Killer) via the North Spur, at Grade Alpine ED2 and with pitches up to Via+, and descended via the West Face. Meanwhile Sharpe and Crook crossed the Kang La Pass to set up their ABC at 4860m, and made the first ascent of Raja Peak (6267m) at Alpine ED2, Scottish 6, descending via the South Ridge. After returning to Base Camp (a round trip of 60km) they made the first ascent of James Peak (5780m) via its North Face at TD.
MEF ref 16-19.
Vishnugarh Darh Expedition
Susan Jensen, and Anindya (Raja) Mukherjee (May/June 2016)
Aiming for unclimbed peaks up to 6000m around the Panpatia Glacier in Garhwal, they approached via Josimath and a two day walk in. A Base Camp was established at 3815m, and an ABC at 4199m for acclimatisation. Soon after this camp was set up Raja started to experience breathing problems. Jensen continued reconnaissance alone up to 4765m, but as Raja’s condition did not improve they decided to terminate the expedition and get medical care for him. The problem turned out to be a lung infection related to a condition during a previous expedition when he had a tapeworm in his lung.
MEF ref 16-30.
Malcolm Bass and Guy Buckingham (May/June 2016)
After permission was refused for their first objective (Rimo III) they changed target to the NW Ridge of Gangstang (6163m) in the Lahaul district of Himachal Pradesh.
They drove via Manali to the roadhead at Naingarth, and then made a 2 day trek to base camp. Bass and Buckingham acclimatised with the second ascent of Neelkantha (5630m), on which they were accompanied by their liaison officer Parmendar Sharma. They then completed the ascent of the NW ridge of Gangstang (without liaison officer) over four days, 1500m at Alpine ED1, 5a and Scottish VI. They were blessed with good weather, which meant that they could acclimatise and achieve their objectives in short order.
MEF ref 16-31.
Khumbu Glacier 2016
Cameron Scott Watson, Owen King and Darren Jones (May/June 2016)
This was the second of a series of three campaigns studying supraglacial pond development and melt at ice cliffs on the debris covered Khumbu Glacier. An ascent of Lobuche East (6090m) gave them a good vantage point over the Khumbu Glacier. They completed 11 photographic surveys of ice cliffs which will be processed to generate 3D point clouds, from which melt data can be calculated. They surveyed 19 supraglacial ponds to derive area/volume relationships, enabling the estimation of surface water storage from satellite images.
MEF ref 16-01.
Khumbu New Routing
Will Harris and Jon Gupta (October/November 2015)
The original objectives were to attempt an unclimbed line on Pharilapcha North Face, and a secondary target of Chhuphu in the Thame valley. They acclimatised on Lobuche East, and then, finding the North Face of Phalirapcha in poor condition, they attempted a route on Kangshung (6061m). Here they were thwarted by unseasonable unstable new snow. Next they tried the unclimbed North East face and North ridge of Kvaio Ri (6186m), reaching 5900m before a dropped rucksack forced retreat. They found some compensation with good icefall climbing in the Machermo Khola. They were unable to attempt their secondary target of Chhuphu because of permit problems.
MEF ref 16-02
British Services Dhaulagiri Medical Research Expedition
Adrian Mellor, John O’Hara, David Woods, Matthew Barlow, and Mark Cooke (April/May 2016)
This was part of a much larger Joint Services expedition to the Dhaulagiri region, and involved the establishment of mechanisms associated with the development of Acute Mountain Sickness, and assessing the effectiveness of pre-acclimatisation strategies in reducing the occurrence of AMS. The occurrence of AMS among the military deployed at high altitude can affect military performance. A total of 129 personnel took part in the expedition, and were invited to consent to a variety of studies investigating adaptation to high altitude and diagnosis of altitude illness.
MEF ref 16-03.
British Chamlang 2016
Andy Houseman, Jon Griffith (April/May 2016)
An attempt on the first ascent of the unclimbed North Ridge of Chamlang (7319m). They started with an ascent of Ama Dablam by the normal South West Ridge route. This was a work project, but provided perfect acclimatisation for Chamlang. The whole Everest region was very dry, and the view from Ama Dablam was not promising, with bare rock where there should have been neve. Consideration of options for the approach to Chamlang led them to opt for a helicopter, for reasons of cost as well as time. Conditions on the North Ridge of Chamlang were very poor, and the forecast weather window failed to materialise; there was consistent snow from lunchtime every day. They made a brief tentative attempt on the route, but judging that conditions were too dangerous to continue they aborted the attempt at about 5800m.
MEF ref 16-18.
British West Nainqentanglha Expediton
Paul Ramsden and Nick Bullock (September/October 2016)
The initial objective was the North Buttress of Naiqentanglha Feng (7162m) in the West Nyainqentanglha range, to the North West of Lhasa. Their approach was from a roadhead between Damshung and Guangbajian, and involved a one day walk in to base camp at 5000m using ponies. Although the original objective was on the main peak, exploration along the north Face revealed a hidden face with a huge North buttress on the North side of Naiqentanglha South East, which only became visible when they were directly below it, and they decided to make this their target instead. Their first attempt was halted by a big snow dump, when their tent almost blew away. Returning after a few days, they started ploughing through really deep snow to a very uncomfortable bivouac. This was followed by a steep rock band with enough ice runnels to allow progress to a bivouac in a ‘snow hammock’. Further progress up a ridge led to more deep snow, finally summiting on day 5. They started their descent down the East ridge with difficulty in poor conditions, but these improved the following day.
MEF ref 16-07.
Gulmit Tower expedition
Peter Thompson and Aiden Laffey (June 2016)
An attempted first ascent of the Gulmit Tower (5801m) in the Hunza region of Pakistan, by the East Face and Southeast Ridge. The approach was by road from Gilgit to Gulmit village, with a base camp at 4100m.The attempt on Gulmit Tower was abandoned when a major rockfall hit their base camp at 4480m, and no other suitable safe site could be identified. They moved to the nearby Moorkhun valley and attempted the first ascent of Pregar (6026m) by the South face. Their first attempt reached 5500m before being stopped by crevasses, and in a further attempt from a bivouac at 5075m Thompson was within 20m of the summit when he was turned back by dangerous snow conditions.
MEF ref 16-24.
Alichursky Mountains Ski Expedition
Alex Reid, Derek Buckle, Anna Bushe and Stefan Jachmich (April 2016)
Exploration of the North Alichursky region of the Tajikistan Pamirs in the vicinity of the Bazar-Dara Pass, visiting remote unexplored side valleys, and unclimbed mountains near the Bazar-Dara lake. After being responsible for organising the expedition, unfortunately Alex Reid was unable to take part, and Derek Buckle took over leadership. The team flew to Osh in Kygyzstan, and drove via Sary-Tash and the Kyzlart Pass into Tajikistan and to the town of Alichur. Three camps were established at 4057m, 4349m and 4525m, and these were used for exploration over 14 days. From Camp 2 Jachmich soloed Pk 4982 via its S ridge, almost entirely on skis, and named it Pik Perestroika. From Camp 3 all three explored a side valley, and Buckle and Jachmich skinned up the S face of Pk 4918 to an awkward traverse to a rocky summit at Alpine PD. They named this Pk Glasnost. Returning to Camp 2 the party skinned to a 4856m col, from which Buckle and Jachmich climbed Pk 5021, and named it Pik Druzhba. At Camp 1 they found snow cover had deteriorated, and they left for home.
MEF ref 16-08.
Djenghi-Djer Expedition Kyrgyzstan
Struan Chisholm, Calum Nicholl, Sandy Fowler, Sam Newmark, Mark Chonofsky and Neil Smith (July/August 2016)
Exploration and climbing in unexplored valleys in the Djenghi-Djer mountain range in SE Kyrgyzstan. Travelling was by horseback for reasons of speed and flexibility – an interesting choice when only one of the participants had previous riding experience. They travelled by taxi from Bishkek to Kara-Say via Tamga, and here they picked up their horses – one each plus four for the baggage. They rode west to their first base camp in the east of the range. They then set up a series of three further base camps along the north side of the range, the furthest 80km from Kara-Say, and generally about one hour from the start of their peaks. Climbing in pairs they made five ascents, four believed firsts. These were Mt Trident (4436m, Mt Stann Chonofsky (4412m), An Trus (4168m), Clachan Niall (4135m) and Pointsystem (4157m). Routes were generally PD or AD, with one D. They identified numerous more unclimbed peaks.
MEF ref 16-15.
QUBMC Kaindy Expedition
Owen Largey, Stephen Rooney, Michael Campbell, Kevin Cheing, Thomas O’Hagen, Matthew Boyd, Kora Przybyzewska, Aleksey Przbyzewska and Vladimir Zholobenko (August 2016)
New routes and unclimbed peaks from the basin of the Kaindy Glacier, south of the Inilchik Glacier in central Tien Shan. They flew to Bishkek, travelled by road via Karakol to Maydaadyr, and from there by helicopter to base camp. After several days of heavy snow they were able to explore side valleys and establish higher camps. Successful ascents were made of Peak Oskal by the West face (Alek P, O’Hagen, Largey, Rooney and Campbell), and Pek Svyatoye Mesto (Conor?, Alek P, Boyd, O’Hagen, and Kora P). Several other peaks were attempted, but abandoned usually due to unfavourable conditions.
MEF ref 16-21.
John Proctor, Robert Taylor, Ciaran Mullen and Phil Dawson (July 2016)
An attempt on the unclimbed North face of Muz-Tok (5066m), part of the Pamir Alai range in South West Kygyzstan, and with three other unclimbed peaks as possible secondary objectives. The approach was from Osh to the roadhead at Sary Zhaz via Batken by 4×4, followed by a 21/2 day walk in to base camp. After acclimatisation a number of attempts on Muz-Tok failed early on due to bad weather and poor climbing conditions. A further attempt was made by Proctor and Taylor, and they succeeded in climbing the face of the pyramid which jutted out of Muz-Tok to the North, but were unable to surmount the short final headwall that linked this to the true summit. They descended by abseil down the ascent route. Taylor and Mullen each separately climbed a subsidiary peak of Kara-Eet. The three secondary objectives remain unclimbed.
MEF ref 16-22.
Tortoisebutler Kyrgyzstan Expedition 2016
Miles Gould and Andy Vine (August 2016)
First ascents of peaks surrounding the Kindyk valley, Kuiluu massif, Kyrgyzstan. They flew to Bishkek, and continued by road via Karakol to the Kuiluu valley. They established a base camp at 3200m in the Kindyk valley, and an advanced base at 3800m. Over the next week they made the first ascents of four peaks of 4605m, 4714m, 4554m, 4444m, all at Alpine PD or AD. Further possibilities were identified.
MEF ref 16-27.