Garry Kennard

introduction

 

 

THE 2010 KANDE HIUNCHULI EXPEDITION

What happened

 

 
   

1984 Kande Hiunchuli South - the tiny figure on the moraine is Mark Adams

 

 
Scroll down for a selection of photographs by Mark Adams
 

The Kande Hiunchuli Saga

continued

2010 Jumla: Amrit Sharki, Pasang Sherpa and Mark Adams

2010 Porters passing through the village of Talphi, Chaudabisi Khola. Note solar panel on central high roof.

2010 Porter climbing pine log ladder


2010 Escaping the gorge

2010 Escaping the gorge

1984 Camp 2. Marks Adams, after two days of heavy snow, looks up Changda Khola towards Kande Hiunchuli South, at the head of the valley.

2010 New base camp, Changda Khola. Same view as above. The remarkable difference in conditions is due to seasonal and local weather conditions.

1989 Camp 3. The team reached the point at the top of the slanting strata on the skyline

2010 Camp 1

2010 Descending to New Base Camp

 

Background
Our plan was for three old friends to return to an unclimbed mountain in the remote far west of Nepal and try to get to the 6620m summit. In 1980, a Swiss team reached the lower 6400 summit but failed to cross the knife-edge ridge to the higher peak. This was our objective in 1984 and 1989. On both occasions we failed to get above 6000m, owing to conditions/incompetence.

The peak has not been visited from that time, so we thought that we could make a reunion of very old people – me (62), my original partner in 1984 Mark Adams (59) and the kitchen boy on that trip, Da Gombu Sherpa (52). Gombu is now an old friend and a very distinguished climber and instructor and has been organising president of the main Nepalese Himalayan climbing associations. He has climbed Mount Everest and two other 8000m peaks - Cho Oyu and Dhaulagiri as well as many other mountains. He has also made a remarkable contribution to his village in the Everest region, building schools, bridges and lots more.

Things rarely work out as one thinks they might. Gombu was unwell and although he came to organise the beginning of the expedition, he had to return to Kathmandu. This left us with our lead climber and guide Pasang Sherpa. Pasang is one of the most experienced leading young Himalayan climbers, having climbed Everest twice and made an extremely impressive technical and fast climb on the difficult Ama Dablam. Pasang is a great climber and guide. He had a very able assistant climber in Amrit Sharki, a brilliant addition to the team. We also had a cook and camp organiser of genius – and sort of Nepalese Jeeves - in Rai. So, a formidable team.

Kathmandu - Nepalganj - Jumla
We hired a small bus for our team and gear for the 14 hour drive to Nepalganj on the Indian border. The road was being washed away as we went and we had to negotiate mudslides, rock fall debris and two punctures.

A late monsoon delayed us on the Indian border at Nepalganj for four days. Then a flight on a small plane to Jumla led us to our starting point. We recruited 12 local porters to carry our gear and food and they were certainly the best team of porters I have ever worked with.

Jumla - Base Camp
This time, the approach to the mountain was much more difficult than before, as the tremendous monsoon had washed away a vital bridge three days out of Jumla in the Chaudabisi Gorge. At this point stupendous cliffs rise up sheer from the river which was in spate and there was no way through the normal route. Our team then decided to climb high up the walls of the gorge on very steep, muddy jungle tracks and over some rock walls, traverse the higher levels of the gorge and descend beyond the narrows. This took two days and was extremely arduous and precarious. We were roping up for some sections and climbing near vertical pine logs resting against the cliffs to get to higher ground. The porters with their gigantic loads were semi hoisted up these horrors by ropes attached to their packs. After the first day of this we were still nowhere and had to bivouac in a great rock cleft on the side of the gorge. The climb out of this the next day was a masterpiece of engineering, daring and skill by the team and was an extremely exciting thing to be involved in. Difficulties continued, but later that day we descended a long way and again found ourselves on the main path, beyond the difficulties.

Another day took us to the site of the old base camp (4100m). To reach the mountain from here, one has to climb over a 5000m pass and descend to what we planned as a new base camp (4300m) in the Changda Khola (valley). This was a very long way but was achieved in one day. The porters came over the pass and a comfortable base camp was set up. The next stage was to establish camp one (5400m) at the foot of the ridge we intended to climb. This year there was hardly any snow, and although the big glacier was still there, it had shrunk in thickness and breadth, but not much. It meant that the broad snow slopes we had easily kicked steps up nearly 30 years ago were steep scree slopes, and, at one point, a crumbly cliff face. We climbed this. I realised at one moment that I was at over 5000m in the Himalayas, was rock climbing - and that I was 62 years old. It impressed me, if no-one else.

High point
So our two small tents were erected and we settled in. At this point I started to cough. The plan was that Pasang and Amrit woud lead up the ridge and place fixed ropes by snow stakes and pitons for the old men to use in climbing during the next days. However, later that afternoon Pasang came back from the ridge and we had a long conversation. He explained. ‘My first priority in any expedition is to bring everyone back safely. If I can make it safe, we may climb the mountain - if all goes well. I must say now having been on the ridge, I cannot make this mountain safe. The rock is falling to pieces and there is no snow to take the anchors. Where there is snow, it has formed double cornices which are liable to avalanche on either side. I feel that I cannot guarantee that there will not be an accident and I say that this route is not possible in its present condition. I said ‘Pasang, we don’t care who climbs the mountain. If this expedition puts someone on the top, it will be a great success. Therefore, can YOU climb it, if we can’t?’ He said ‘If I climb this mountain, it will be a famous ascent and good for me. But I must say that I cannot make it safe, even for me. The risk is too great and for a successful climb to be made another route of ascent would have be found – not this one’.

So – we all looked at each other and thought that this was as far as we could go. Pasang reached the same height as we reached in 1989 – around 6000m – about 600m from the top. So not a bad effort.

Retreat
Then began the retreat. My cough had reached epic proportions and had weakened me so that each footstep became a major achievement. My lungs had filled with water*. The descent from camp 1 to the new base camp, the re-crossing of the 5000m pass and the 5 day stagger back to Jumla were the hardest days I have ever spent - sort of walking, half drowned. Luckily, the locals had rigged up a very dodgy wood ladder bridge to replace the lost one and we didn’t have to repeat our acrobatics getting down the gorge.

Well, we expected to be stranded in Jumla, waiting for the small planes that go in and out, then perhaps a few days waiting back in Nepalganj before being able to get back to Kathmandu. However, Amrit, our assistant, is a high up member of the local Maoist party and somehow managed to get us more or less direct flights to Kathmandu the next day, thereby saving us a week or more. Internet connections enabled us to get a Jet Airways flight (highly recommended) within a day and so I ended up back in London a week early.

The peak remains unclimbed. It is out of the question that I would ever go back - age and lack of money preventing it. However, looking on the map there seems to be a very difficult approach up the Jagdula Khola from the south east, which brings one under the east face, an unexplored aspect of the mountain which might . . . . . .

* On return I discovered the reason for my illness was a self-prescribed overdose of steroids taken earlier to combat an attack of ulcertaive colitis and nothing to do with altitude sickness. The colitis has not reappeared and I am in full health. Luckily it made no difference to the outcome of the expedition.

 

The new temporary bridge we used on the way back

     

Photographs by Mark Adams 2010

   
     
Perma Lama's hotel - GK outside the Jumla house we stayed in 27 years before. Perma and family long gone
 
Our porters crossing the Chaudabisi river
     

Camp at Talphi - Pasang Sherpa, GK and Amrit Sharki

 

Kande Hiunchuli south face

     
Escaping the gorge - anxious moments
 
Escaping the gorge
     
Amrit testing pine log ladder
 
Porters (figures on grassy slope) in Chaudabisi Khola
     

GK crossing stream

 

  Image on the pass into the Changda Khola

   
GK on pass with first views of KH ridge
 
Pasang and Amrit leaving on reconnaissance
     
Evening light on KH1 and KH South
 
Kande Hiunchuli summit ridge
     
GK, Pasang, Amrit and Rai after our cliff climb towards Camp 1
 
Approaching the site of Camp 1
     
Pasang and Amrit after climb on ridge
 
Descending from Camp 1. Pass into Chaudabisi Khola above figures
     
GK having received puja on return to advance base camp
 
GK, Amrit, Rai and Pasang having regained the 5000m pass on the way back to old base base camp. GK collapsed
     
The beauty of West Nepal - alpine landscape in the Chaudabisi Khola
 
   Resting during the long walk back to Jumla