From Brian…

The day Craig and Kester left basecamp (27/7), I’d planned a radio sched with Marty and Adam. They had said that morning they were planning to descend from the Ridge Camp on Changabang and make their way down the fixed ropes and the glacier to ABC in the tail end of the storm. They had just endured 2 days being stormbound in the “Limpet” at Ridge Camp, while I recovered from a lurge at BC. They were being forced to get out every few hours and clear snow and unable to cook more than a minimum of food and water, so were pretty strung out and keen to get down.

That afternoon Chetan (our LO) and I ploughed our way through knee deep snow up the hill above BC to make the call. After an hour of no reply we gave up, trying not to fear the worst. The slope under the fixed ropes was seriously threatened by avalanches off the north face and we estimated there would have been over 2m of new snow up there. Needless to say we were worried for Adam and Marty’s safety.

The next morning at 7 am Chetan, the Dutch team of Mike and Cas, their LO and I set off in search of the others. Four hours got us to Dump Camp, now under a metre of snow. Scanning up the glacier there was no sign of Adam & Marty, but also little sign of avalanche activity. No response from our radio calls either. Two hours later we were grinding to a halt in deeper snow on unstable moraine on the glacier, with our spirits falling. Surely if they had got down yesterday we should have seen them by now? Then, out of nowhere, Marty appeared over a rise 20 metres away!! I cried with the relief that they were OK. They had been through a harrowing experience and were overwhelmed to have been “rescued”.

They had successfully descended the ropes on 27/7 to the glacier with minimal gear, aiming for the tent at ABC, normally 30 mins off the fixed ropes. Once on the glacier they realised conditions were horrendous, often in waist to chest deep snow with limited visibility. The final slope to the flat of the glacier proved to be safe and they now thought they were OK. Two hours later they realised the worst. There was no sign of ABC, they had no idea were it was, they had no food, stove, radio, sleeping mats and only one sleeping bag. It was 4pm, snowing hard with zero visibility and if they were lucky they could move at 0.5km/hr, downhill.

At 6pm they chose a boulder to bivvy under, excavating the rubble and snow. Adam had the bag, Marty a bivvy bag. Next morning they set off at 6.30am from near “Split Rock”, normally 2 hours above Dump Camp. They had hardly eaten for 4 days, and were well behind on water. After a couple of hours they luckily found a pool of water on the glacier that Marty remembered from ‘pre-snow’ trips. By midday they were still only half way to Dump Camp where there was food, water and a sleeping mat, and were fearing they might not make that!

Needless to say the reception an hour later was awesome. We showered them with food and drink, and then we all descended to BC in 3 hours, making a mockery of our trail breaking attempts.

Back at BC there was now 0.5m of snow, and the mess tent and the camping tents had been broken and destroyed by the storm. We sorted out the mess, had a few days rest, dealt with more snowfall, ate lots and on 1/10 headed back up the glacier on snowshoes to see what might find.

We eventually found ABC buried under 1.5m of snow, broken and bent. A few hours digging, repairing tent poles and some expert use of duct tape had things shipshape. Unfortunately the climbing options and the time available were limited, so next morning we headed back up to Changabang with the aim of retrieving as much gear as possible. Since the storm the snowpack had consolidated well, and with snowshoes we reached the fixed ropes comfortably. Thankfully they were not too buried, and by early afternoon we were back at the highpoint, 3 pitches above the Ridge Camp where all the rack and spare rope was waiting.

Up here it was very cold and windy, but beautifully clear. Dunagiri was sharp with new snow, and the Rhamani Glaier was clothed in a new white coat. Across the Sanctuary, Trisul was smooth and beautiful. It was very hard to be going down. By 6pm we were back at ABC, having cleared the mountain of all our gear and rope, and were now contemplating the long slog back down to BC. Two more days effort with the assistance of Chetan saw us clear out ABC, which would not have been possible without snowshoes.

More snow followed as we packed up BC, so were very relieved that we had made the decisions we had. The Czech team to Kalanka were marooned at BC, no snowshoes and thigh deep snow everywhere above 5000m. Time to go home.

The porters arrived on the 7/10, and on the 8/10 we were celebrating Adams haircut and 43rd birthday in Joshimath while it poured with rain outside. Next thing you know we’re in Delhi, chatting with Craig and Kester!

Today (16/10) I’m back at Taylors Mistake in Christchurch by the beach and Marty is home to Wanaka. Craig and Kester are of to Thailand for sun and rock, while Adam is still in India being a tourist. We are all healthy and well, though Craig is just finding out he has toes again and we left a few kilos on the mountain.

This time the weather was a huge factor, shutting down Marty, Adam and my attempt on the West Ridge before our big try. For Craig and Kester, they did an incredible job getting so high on the North Face, but again weather intervened.

There were seven climbing teams in the Bagini Valley this season, and only the Indian Border Police expedition with 40 members and 3000m of fixed rope were successful on Trisuli West. The big storm that came through in late September resulted in 4 deaths on nearby Nanda Devi for an Indian Army expedition and a Russian team was rescued by helicopter from Abi Gamin.

The Bagini Valley is an awesome venue for climbing, with the big name peaks of Changabang and Kalanka, access to 7000m (+/-) peaks of Trisuli West, Hardeol and Saf Minal, unclimbed buttresses on Purbi Dunigiri and a host of easier 6000m summits directly above BC. Maybe, just maybe I might be back there again when the Dutch team Mike and Cas return in 2009.

Bye for now
Brian

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Delhi – and round up

October 10, 2007

Well, we’ve all made it back to Delhi safely, which is the news I’m sure everyone wanted to hear ūüôā

¬†Craig and I are holed up in Pahar Ganj and what did we find here? the Taj Mahal?…..no….Enlightenment?……no……Giardia?…….no…….¬† Broadband!!

And with it came communication with the other three. We should be meeting up in a couple of hours for chai and story telling.

Yesterday we got a lovely message from Allan telling us how much he missed us – thanks Al!

The following is an excerpt from a story that Craig has been writing about the trip for the NZ Alpine Journal. It outlines a bit about how the climbing part of the adventure went for us:

(no photographs yet sorry, we’re too old school and are still using film)

…..¬†As plans go there wasn’t one. We knew where we thought we could get a ledge big enough to hold a tent, the rest we would have to make up as we went.

By early morning we crossed the shrund and with lungs screaming we pitched up towards a snaking gully that bisects the buttress from the blank walls out right. In general the snow is good to climb, always we have to dig through layers of ice to place screws but conditions are OK. We lose the ice in an early runnel and have to tension down and across to ice with more depth but by evening we reach the ‘snaking’ gully. We stand perched on a 65degree slope, the¬†ice rising almost vertical above us, surrounding walls are smooth and blank, and with the last rays of sun disappearing over Dungiri to the west we start to hack out a bed for the night. The ledge is good, almost 50cm deep – enough to sit on at least. We forgot to eat and drink all day so with two stoves cranking we play hydration catchup. Neither of us can eat, we’re too exhausted. I don’t remember if we slept that first night.

A quick cuppa in the morning and we start up the gully. After a pitch it becomes far too steep to be climbing with packs heavy with seven odd days shit. The leader climbs and then hauls while spindrift pounds down the gully, the second struggles up 80-degree runnels with pack on. One point saw Kester pushing through a crux when a 15minute blast of spindrift reduced him to as standstill. We manage four pitches before evening, our brains quickly switch to bivvy mode.¬†The ledge is some 15cm wide that night.¬†Practically hanging from cracks in the wall, feet stuffed in packs stopping us from sliding off. I guess we slept, and again we forgot to eat and drink all day, we’re above 6000m now and every-things a fuckin epic!

Kester and I wake in the morning feeling like shit, it’s a general feeling that neither of us shares with¬†the other. We pack and continue pitching upwards, hauling again on the first pitch of the day then as the gully disintegrates we traverse right to easier ground. The slopes drag on, we cough and scream and generally make a hard time of it, always having to excavate through layers of ice for screws. In places screws have hit rock but for the most part the ice has been over an inch thick. It’s late evening before we hit the snow arete atop the main buttress and another two and a half hours to hack out a ledge that almost fits the tent. Again we haven’t eaten, and as the sun fades we are engulfed in cloud – it starts snowing.

¬†by the time darkness arrives we a crammed in the tent, brewing madly, heads spinning from the concoction of drugs we had taken to ease the headaches and coughs. I think we actually slept that night. We didn’t get out of bed the next morning, and only when the snow and spindrift threatened to push our little tent of the mountainside did we get up and dig the tent out…

We’re up and climbing before 7am. Traversing across the ice field towards a devious looking cliff band which separates the ice field from the final headwall. Everything takes more time now. The ice is beginning to dinnerplate and as we reach the cliff band we realise we’ll have to haul again. Although only 60 odd metres the band has a big zag in it, we break this into two pitches but combined with its steepness and fiddly nature it soaks up all the afternoon. The weather has begun to turn to crap, all afternoon spindrift has poured over us. Six in the evening we pop onto another snow arete below the headwall and immediately start looking for a ledge.

We hit bulletproof ice after the first few swings of the aze…

Not much you can say or do really – just make the best of it ha? The evening is clear and cold. The valley below feels empty. Out west, beyond Dunagiri, beyond the Ramani Glacier, thunder clouds roll. In the semi darkness we watch the lightening flashes and here the thunder echo across the mountains. Not much you can do ha?

It’s early evening when the snow starts to fall. Spindrift cascades off the headwall. I pull the tent over me, kester huddles in a bivvy bag…It’s all gone to shit!

By midnight our sleeping bags are as much use as wet dish towels. Kester and I don’t say much, we close down into our own miserable worlds and suffer through the night.

With not much more than a look between us we start rapping, V threading the entire north face. 16odd raps through cloud and spindrift to the shrund then a butt slide down to the glacier, where a wave of exhaustion sweeps over us, we’ve hardly eaten or slept in two days…I’m spinning out as i struggle back to ABC.

The next day is a right-off. We don’t move, hardly eat, just lay there numb.……

Stay tuned for news as it comes to hand from the other team!

(and photos)

comments

October 3, 2007

there were a couple of comments left while we were away, apologies to stephen and claire it seems that wordpress require an administrator to approve them so they’re a little outdated now.

At the bottom of each post is a wee link to the comments section, click this to read their updates (in the old Delhi post)

Rishikesh

October 1, 2007

Just a very quick note to say that Craig and Kester are back out from the mountains and are hanging out, safe and sound in Rishikesh waiting for the other three who are still up the valley. Brian is wallowing in the snow at basecamp and as when we left Marty and Adam were planning an escape from a camp on the west ridge of Changabang after a monster snowfall, they should also be back in BC by now.

More details later when we have a more reliable internet connection…