The Mountains

“On the flanks of Changabang (6864m), in the eastern Garwhal Himalaya of India, the entire range of climbing possibilities is exemplified: from the relatively easy to the extreme, from all out siege through capsule style to the most adventurous alpine ascents. Changabang is a mirror that reflects the development of Himalayan mountaineering, from the early days of exploration with minimal aid to modern climbs employing all the paraphernalia of technological advancements.”
Doug Scott – Alpinist Magazine

Alex MacIntyre and Voytek Kurtyka descend the east ridge after their 1978 ascent of the south buttress. Photo by John Porter

“Changabang is a mountain in the Garhwal Himalaya of India. It is part of a group of peaks that form the northeast wall of the Nanda Devi Sanctuary. It is a particularly steep and rocky peak, and all routes on it are serious undertakings. It has been the site of many world-class climbs. It does not have a high topographic prominence, being slightly lower than its near neighbor Kalanka to the east, and lower than many other peaks in the immediate vicinity. But its steep rocky profile has made it a much more attractive destination than its elevation would indicate.

Changabang was first climbed on June 4, 1974 by a team led by Chris Bonington, via the Southeast Face, leading to the East Ridge. This is the easiest route on the mountain, and one of the few that is primarily a snow/ice climb, as opposed to a rock climb with some snow, ice, or mixed terrain.

Other notable ascents include some of the hardest climbs ever done in the Himalaya. The first of these is the ascent of the West Face by Pete Boardman and Joe Tasker in 1976. The route took over 25 days to ascend, and their use of big wall climbing techniques to overcome the serious, sustained difficulties was revolutionary.

In 1997, Andy Cave and Brendan Murphy made the first ascent of the North Face of Changabang, a 1,600 m (5,250 ft) route involving steep, sustained ice, mixed, and rock climbing. Unfortunately Murphy was hit by an avalanche and swept off the face to his death on the descent.

On October 12, 2006, two Mexican climbers, Andrés Delgado and Alfonso de la Parra, were successful in climbing Changabang by a new route. However, while descending, they encountered a storm and have been reported missing since October 15, when they made a contact via satellite phone. India put on a rescue effort despite harsh weather conditions. As of October 31, 2006, both climbers were yet to be found. As of November 8, 2006, both climbers remained missing and the search for them had been canceled due to inclement weather”

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Purbi Dunagiri from the south. Photo Brian Alder

Purbi Dunagiri is a 6489m peak located directly to the north west of Changabang. The 1st ascent (and only ascent) was made in 1988 via the south face by a 12 member Indian team led by Swapan Kumar Ghosh. Summiters were Nidhir Kumar Pal, Debabrata Mukherjee, Sher Singh Rawat & Nandan Sigh (HA porter). Pal & Mukherjee were killed on the descent by an avalanche.

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The Routes

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Kalanka and Changabang with the approximate lines marked of the:

North Face route – red line

1996 attempt on north face (Roger Payne and Julie Ann Clyma) – red dots

West Face route – yellow line

Changabang West Face

Brian, Marty and Adam will be the team to attempt an historic 2nd ascent of the West Face, the first ascent of which has been immortalised in the book ‘The Shining Mountain’ written by Pete Boardman after his successful ascent in 1976 with Joe Tasker.

At the time, the two young Britons were applauded among the world mountaineering community for making an extremely audacious ascent of what was certainly the most difficult route done in the Himalayas.

‘The Shining Mountain’ is compulsory reading for enthusiasts of mountaineering literature and has inspired countless young climbers (including the five of us!).

Pete and Joe climbed the route in ‘capsule style’ (a kind of modified seige style, where the team establishes camps along the route and uses fixed rope in sections of the climb). Apart from significant advances in climbing equipment technology since the 1976 ascent, a major difference in our attempt is that Brian, Marty and Adam will attempt to climb the West Face in ‘alpine style’ (no established camps or fixed ropes during the ascent).

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Pete Boardman & Joe Tasker

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Changabang North Face

The North Face was first climbed in 1997 by a four person British team comprising Brendan Murphy, Andy Cave, Mick Fowler and Steve Sustad.

“This (route) was in the tradition of British mountaineering in the Garwhal at its best – small parties, modest in means and manner, taking on big commitments and succeeding after many trials. Longstaff, Shipton, Tilman, Boardman and Tasker would have been proud”
Doug Scott – Alpinist Magazine

The best resource for information on the route is Mick Fowlers excellent book ‘On Ice’.

The ascent was nominated for the Piolet D’or.

The ascent was marred by tragedy when Brendan Murphy was killed in an avalanche during the descent.

Craig and Kester will attempt the North Face and plan to descend via the same route.

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Brendan Murphy on the North Face route. Photo Andy Cave

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