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