Kamet Photo Album
BRITISH KAMET EXPEDITION May 5th - June 14th 2005
The ascent of KAMET (7756m) on the Indo-Tibetan border via the original route of the first ascent by the East Kamet Glacier and Meade's Col.
Since the first ascent of Kamet by Frank Smythe's 1931 expedition no British team had successfully ascended the peak
Martin Moran Leader Lochcarron, Scotland 50
John Lyall Dep. Leader Kingussie, Scotland 43
D.S.Rathore Liaison Officer Bikaner, India
Dukpa Tshering Sherpa Darjeeling, India
Urgen Sherpa Sherpa Darjeeling, India
Phurba Gyalzen Sherpa Darjeeling, India
Govind Singh HAPorter Bhatwari, Uttarkashi, India
Ajaypal Singh HAPorter Bhatwari, Uttarkashi, India
Naveen Chandra Base Camp Manager and Cook Delhi, India
Saroj Sherpa Cook Darjeeling, India
Manish Pandey Kitchen Boy Delhi, India
Claudia Bäumler Frickingen, Germany 36
Hartmut Bielefeldt Frickingen, Germany 39
Mike Freeman Team Doctor Penzance, England 62
James Gibb Northwich, Cheshire 35
David Hasdell London, England 38
John 'Rock' Hudson Nottingham, England 60
Hazel Hunkin London, England 33
Neil Lindsey Chagford, England 57
Tom Rankin Glasgow, Scotland 53
Steve Ward Leamington Spa, England 50
Martin Moran Mountaineering Ltd, Park Cottage, Achintee, Strathcarron,
Ross-shire IV54 8YX Scotland UK Tel/Fax: +44 (0)1520 722361
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: www.moran-mountain.co.uk
Support Agency in India:
Himalayan Run & Trek Pvt. Ltd (Director: Mr C.S.Pandey), T-5 Manish Chambers,
Plot No.6, L.S.C.Block-B, Mayur Vihar Phase 2, Delhi 110091, India
Tel: +91 11 22772700 Fax: +91 11 22772800 E-mail: email@example.com
Peak Permits and Mountaineering Administration in India
Indian Mountaineering Foundation [IMF] (Director: Col. N.K.Bhimwal),
6, Benito Juarez Road, Anand Niketan, New Delhi 110021, India
Tel: +91 11 24111211, 24117935, 24111572 Fax: +91 11 24113412
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: www.indmount.org
Peak Applications and Permits:
Mountaineering expeditions to India must make necessary applications to the IMF at least 3 months before planned departure (preferably 6 months).
Expeditions to the state of Uttaranchal (Garhwal and Kumaon regions) must be approved by both central Govt. in Delhi and by the State Govt. in Dehra Dun, and must pay peak royalties to both.
Central and State Govt. regulations currently conflict in several respects - where this occurs teams must apply whichever is the stricter rule (eg State rules prescribe a maximum of 12 in a team, IMF rules allow up to 16)
Listed peaks available for booking are shown on the IMF web-site. An initial enquiry must be made through the IMF to check whether the proposed peak is available for the period required. In India only one team is allowed to be on a route at any one time.
Application forms are available for downloading from the IMF web-site; these must be completed and sent to the IMF. Each member must also submit a personal bio-data form to the IMF for authorisation of entry Visa.
Peak royalties: the scale of royalties is printed on the IMF web-site. For peak Kamet we paid the following:-
IMF Central Govt.: Peak fee (>7000m): $4,000
Environment Levy: $ 400
Liaison Officer Fee: $ 500
Uttaranchal State Govt.:
Peak Fee: Rupees 40,000 /- (c.£500)
Camp and Trail Fees " 10,000 /-
Environment Levy " 20,000/-
Handling Charge " 10,000/-
The IMF fees were paid direct by bank transfer 3 months before departure; the State Govt. fees were paid by the support agency by Bank Draft 1 month before departure.
Upon clearance of the expedition and its members by Central Govt. Ministries the IMF raises a letter of authorisation for the Embassy/Consulate(s) in the members' countries of residence to issue 'X' Mountaineering Visas. This is usually given around 1 month prior to departure.
If the peak application is refused for any reason the team may transfer their application to any other available peak - this can be done at short notice.
In view of the complexity of the application process all teams are advised to use the services of a reputable support agency (approved by the IMF) in Delhi to guide and expedite clearance of the expedition.
Members of mountaineering teams must obtain a 'X' Mountaineering Visa in their country of residence. Anybody arriving in India with a simple Tourist Visa will not be allowed to climb. The 'X' visa may be obtained on arrival in Delhi but only with a delay of several days.
Upon authorisation for issue of the X visa team members (or an appointed representative thereof) must go to the designated Embassy/Consulate to obtain the visas. A copy of the IMF letter of authority should be taken and presented with the normal visa application forms. This has to be done in person - there is usually insufficient time for postal application and it is vital to ensure the correct X visa is issued.
An LO is appointed and attached to every mountaineering expedition by the IMF. They may be from the Armed Forces, Intelligence Bureau or Civil Service but increasing numbers are civilians who are interested in the mountains and have undergone the necessary training courses. The LO is provided with all necessary equipment by the IMF. Most LO's stay at or below Base Camp throughout the expedition. They can provide vital help as interpreters and intermediaries in any disputes over porters or permits. They also supervise the conduct of expedition to ensure no illegal activities or unauthorised climbs are undertaken.
Teams wishing to use walkie-talkies on mountaineering expeditions must obtain both an Import and Operating Licence. We took several sets of Motorola PMR transceivers which worked very well over distances up to 8km.
Application forms to the relevant Ministries are available on the IMF web-site and should be submitted through the IMF at least two months before departure.
The support agency again plays a vital role in expediting processing of the applications.
GPS Receivers and Satellite Phones:
Indian Ministry of Defence rules currently forbid use of these devices on mountaineering expeditions, this despite their obvious benefits to mountaineering safety (especially of GPS).
Expedition supplies, both consumable and non-consumable, may be imported into India with exemption from Customs Duty by arrangement with the IMF. At the end of the trip any items not consumed must be re-exported to the country of origin. The IMF will only sign the bond releasing the goods from customs duty if the expedition leader and LO sign a statement that the imported goods have either been consumed or re-exported. The formalities and costs of air freight and of customs clearance are severe discouragement to equipment import. Parties who plan to climb in lightweight style may prefer to bring extra supplies with them on their outward passenger flights and pay the relevant airline excess baggage charges.
For Kamet we freighted butane/propane gas cylinders to India as these could not be taken on passenger flights. Our shipping agent was:-
SOS Air Freight, Building 308, Cargo Terminal, Manchester Airport M60 5PZ Tel: 0161 437 0521
The assistance of a local agent in paperwork and customs clearance is essential.
Local Clearance of Expeditions and Inner Line Permits:
The clearance of expeditions after arrival in India requires several stages:-
i) IMF Briefing in Delhi: at a meeting with the IMF Director the team's visas and personal insurance certificates are checked; the team meet the LO and the expedition is cleared to leave for the mountains
ii) Local Expedition Checkpost (ECP): Upon arrival in the mountains expeditions to Uttaranchal must report to a local ECP (usually the nearest town or roadhead village) for clearance by the local Divisional Forest Office (DFO); the DFO checks for payment and compliance with State Govt. royalties and rules; teams must deposit a R/s 10,000 bank draft at the ECP against return of all non-combustible garbage at the end of the trip and submit a form of undertaking for good environmental practice (Form No.1 -Part III) plus supporting documents (Form No.1 -Part IV). This takes half a day. Upon return from the mountain the team must present their garbage bags and submit a report to the ECP in order to secure release of the R/s 10,000 deposit.
iii) Inner Line Permits: if the expedition is going into the Inner Line border security zone (as was the case on Kamet), the team must obtain Inner Line Permits from the local District Magistrate or Sub-District Magistrate. We obtained ours from the SDM in Joshimath. Authorisation for issue of the permits is provided by the IMF in Delhi but forms and extra passport photos of each team member must be submitted locally. The team leader and LO must also make contact with the local commanders of both the Army and Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and present the Inner Line permits and letters of authorisation from the IMF. Once this is done local units will usually be co-operative and helpful to the team. A further half-day is required for these formalities.
Medical Preparations and Inoculations:
Essential inoculations taken by all members were:-
- Hepatitis A & B
- Meningcoccal A & C
- Tetanus and Polio boosters
- TB 'BCG' inoculation (usually done in youth)
Most members were inoculated against Rabies as advised by the Team Leader and Doctor. Some members were inoculated against Japanese B Encephalitis. The expense of these inoculations is the main discouragement.
No members took Anti-Malarials in view of the short time spent in low-altitude risk areas and the unpleasant side-effects of taking the recommended Proguanil/Chloroquine tablets at altitude. The use of insect repellents was a more direct preventive measure.
All members were advised to take a Dental check-up in the month before departure.
Our team flew to India with KLM, BA and Air France who all operate daily flights from Europe, arriving in Delhi between 22.00 and 23.00hrs. E-Tickets were purchased direct through the Internet at prices between £550-600 per person.
Web-sites for booking: www.klmuk.com www.ba.com
Both BA and KLM offer connections from most regional airports in the UK, flying via London, Heathrow and Schipol, Amsterdam respectively. BA offers a better baggage allowance (23kg as opposed to 20kg) and is currently more likely to tolerate small excesses without charge. However, the BA connection at Heathrow involves a change of terminal, which is an inconvenience and increases chance of lost baggage.
Personal Insurance of Team Members:
Faced with huge premiums under the British Mountaineering Council expedition insurance cover (c.£400 per person), most members took out a general travel and trekking policy to cover all eventualities up to base camp (including Cancellation/Curtailment, Loss of Baggage, Travel Delay, Personal Accident and Liability, Medical and Repatriation). As an example a 42 day policy with www.insurancewide.com (tel: 0870 420 3450) cost just £66.
In order to provide essential Mountain Rescue, Medical and Repatriation on the mountain most members joined the British section of the Austrian Alpine Club. Basic worldwide cover for these eventualities is included in the annual subscription of £40. Contact to join: www.aacuk.org.uk Tel: 0870 242 7309. Levels of cover: Rescue: 22,000 Euros; Repatriation: No limit; Medical and Accommodation: 7,500 Euros. These satisfy the IMF's minimum requirements for rescue cover. However, should injuries require prolonged intensive care in a foreign country the cover will quickly be exhausted and there is no Personal Accident section in this cover to provide recompense in event of death, disablement or amputation.
Kamet: source 1:150000 Garhwal East: Survey of India
1cm = 1.5km
May 5th: The team members met in Delhi airport, arriving on flights from London, Amsterdam and Paris and checked in to the Janpath Hotel.
May 6th: The team attended the briefing meeting with the IMF and met our LO Mr Rathore, Sherpas and support staff. All personal gear, mountain kit and tents were checked and packed ready for the bus journey to Joshimath.
May 7th: While the expedition bus with all supplies drove to Haridwar overnight, the team caught the Shatabdi express train, which leaves from New Delhi at 7am. This provided a swift and infinitely more comfortable journey to the Himalayan foothills than that by road. We met the bus at midday, took an hour's lunch stop at Laxmanjhula temple in Rishikesh where three members took a swim in the Ganges, then drove to the provincial town of Srinagar 80km up the Alaknanda valley, arriving at 6.40pm. Srinagar is a university town with a bustling bazaar, where bamboo marker wands were procured. We stayed at the Government GMVN resthouse.
May 8th: Our journey continued at 9am up the Alaknanda valley, stopping for lunch at Chamoli and reaching Joshimath at 4.15pm where we checked in to the Dronagiri hotel. Passport photos were then obtained for all members in preparation for obtaining our Inner Line permits.
May 9th: A beautiful sunny morning enabled us to enjoy Joshimath's splendid hill-slope location surrounded by 5000 metre ridges which still held winter snow. All team members except Martin went up to Auli ski resort by jeep and took an acclimatisation walk up into beautiful mixed forest above the ski slopes. The most enthusiastic members reached an open hill summit at c.4000 metres before returning to the Auli GMVN resthouse and cabins to spend the night at 2650m altitude - our first step in acclimatisation.
Meanwhile Martin, Rathore and Pandey spent the day in administrative duties. First we visited the Divisional Forest Office to deposit our Rs.10,000 environmental bank draft and to obtain the State Govt. clearance to proceed. Then we obtained the Inner Line Permits required for all members from the Sub-District Magistrate's office and reported to the Army (GSO) base to inform local commanders of our route and itinerary. Martin and Rathore joined the team at Auli in late-afternoon.
May 10th: Returning to Joshimath we loaded our kit and supplies on to a lorry, then boarded jeeps for the 70km road journey to the roadhead at Gamsali. We stopped at Tapovan to take a bath in the hot spring water then continued through sections of extensive road-repairs, crossing the outflow of the Rishi Ganga to Suraihoti. The weather was chilly and ominously cloudy with short blatters of rain. Above Suraihoti the Dhauli Ganga valley became very wild with one section of difficult driving across a zone of recent landslides. Only a scattering of cedar and cypress pines relieved the bleakness of the scenery. Just before Malari we were delayed by a truck which was stuck in the bed of the Pargil Gad (mad burn), so called because it rises to a spate from snowmelt in dry hot weather. With some shifting of boulders a passage was effected around the truck and we could continue to the ITBP post just past Malari where our papers and permits were checked. A burst tyre further delayed progress just past the bridge over the Girthi Ganga, and at 3.30pm we reached Phargaon 4km before Gamsali where the road was blocked by a large snowdrift.
Here we met our team of porters who were assembled from Joshimath and surrounding villages. Only 45 of the required 80 porters were present. There were two reasons for the insufficiency. This is the marriage season in local villages and many potential recruits were still enjoying the festivities. Secondly, the Army had recently forbidden Nepalese porters to work in Inner Line areas, fearing that the unrest of the Maoist rebellion in Nepal might spread to India.
We shifted all our baggage 2km to Bampa village where we made camp in the medical centre and school ground. The village was still deserted and would only be occupied by the end of the month, the inhabitants living near Chamoli during the winter and spring seasons.
Before dinner a cricket match was contested with the younger porters down on the open maidan below the village.
May 11th: A clear fine morning revealed the magnificence of our location. Huge cliffs surrounded the confluence of the Dhauli Ganga and Amrit Ganga valleys. The village of Gamsali was perched on a terrace below the cliffs and high above the rivers which cut impressive gorges in the debris of millennia of glacial deposition. The valley below Bampa was clothed in pines and hemmed by spiky rock peaks of 4000m altitude, rather akin to the Canadian Rockies in scenic splendour. The snow peak of Dunagiri poked her head above the valley rim. This was physical geography of stunning scale and proportion.
Our day's trek took us only 8km to Niti village. First we had to pause for an hour at the Gamsali ITBP post where we met the commander Major Sharma, who was most obliging. With permits cleared we walked through a narrow rock gorge where the Army is vainly pursuing its aim of extending the motor road toward the Niti Pass on the Tibetan border. Despite constructing a magnificent metal girder bridge the approach road had been washed away on near-vertical scree slopes.
Niti is a neat cluster of slate-roofed houses and like Bampa was deserted. We camped on and around the village maidan where more cricket was played with porters and ITBP men.
May 12th: Unable to procure any extra porters, we negotiated with our team of 48 men to do double-ferries of the extra loads up to base camp. Our route now followed the precipitous east side of the Dhauli Ganga gorge, undulating between 100 and 200 metres above the river, which for long sections was covered by huge beds of avalanche snow. After 5km the path climbed out of the gorge to reach a moraine ridge at 3800m altitude. The valley now opened into a broad reach with several grazing kharaks, through which the blue waters of the Dhauli weaved majestically. A level 4km march took us to the ITBP post at Shepuk Kharak. One kilometre beyond we made camp just above the confluence of the Dhauli and Raikana rivers.
Here we had hoped to find a snow bridge to cross the Dhauli, but the river was a raging torrent, swollen with daytime snow-melt. Without any convenient or safe fording point we had to either construct a tyrolean traverse on ropes or else make a bridge. Finding several sections of metal girder left by the Public Works Department we set to work on lashing together a five-metre span of bridge with some of our ropes. We swung the bridge across the river from an abutment of boulders and Sherpa Dukpa risked his life to run across the girders despite a precarious anchorage on the far bank.
Only on the third attempt were we able to get the extended girder securely lodged. An hour was then spent reinforcing the abutments and securing the bridge with ropes. We retired to camp at dusk, hoping that the waters would drop substantially overnight.
May 13th: The leader spent an unsettled night worrying about the safety of the crossing. An added concern was that if we left the bridge in place after crossing it might get washed away, should the waters rise further, effectively leaving the whole expedition stranded in the Raikana valley. So at dawn Martin, Neil and James constructed a tyrolean rope further upstream as a back-up should the bridge fail. The water had dropped half a metre overnight, but the girders were verglassed. Nevertheless with the support of a handrail, all our porters and members crossed safely by 11am.
A steady climb of 6km with 500 metres of ascent up the east side of the Raikana Gad took us through several beautiful kharaks fringed with vivid dark-green clumps of juniper. Finally drawing level with the stone-covered snout of the Raikana Glacier we crossed the river by a wooden plank bridge to gain extensive alluvial flats of Nanda Kharak at 4400m. Several members continued up the Raikana Glacier to recce the 4km route to Vasudhara Tal, where we planned to make base camp.
At 3pm with several porters still ferrying loads up from the Dhauli Ganga bridge a vicious snowstorm commenced, quickly laying 10cms over our campground. Lacking our mess tents, which were still in transit, our porters were without shelter and became severely chilled. We erected all our mountain tents to provide shelter for the two hours until the mess tents arrived.
May 14th: After a very cold night many porters were unwilling to continue, but the appearance of the sun at 8am produced a partial change of mood. Some 30 men agreed to make two load-carries to Vasudhara Tal. While John Lyall and several members went ahead to check out the route beyond Vasudhara Tal the porters made the first carry. The base camp site lies beside a smaller glacier lake 200m to the SW of Vasudhara Tal. It was littered from previous military expeditions. Twenty unopened cans of pineapples were an unexpected bonus.
John and team found a very quick route on snowfields round the left corner of the rock peak under Pt.5892m to reach the East Kamet Glacier.
May 15th: Base camp was established at Vasudhara Tal. The surroundings are bleak, a wasteland of ice and stone, and irritating winds rose at midday creating a miniature sandstorm around camp. The encircling peaks are very attractive, particularly Pt.5892m and a rock peak of similar height just to its south. Ten porters did two carries in the morning to ship the last of our loads. David was feeling unwell with a chest infection for the second day and he and Hazel stayed behind at Nanda Kharak.
En-route to Vasudhara Tal the top of Kamet was spied for the first time, looking impossibly distant and remote behind a range of intervening 6000 metre summits.
May 16th: At 6am our Sherpas performed a puja ceremony at the shrine they had built at base camp, lighting incense sticks and juniper and requesting the blessing of the gods for the safety and success of our team. The juice of a coconut was poured over the hands of each member. We each had to touch a coin soaked in oil at the stupa and eat a mouthful of prasad, a food offering which was then laid on the stone dias built into the cairn. Above, three strands of prayer flags fluttered in the icy breeze.
At 8am all fit members plus Phurba and Dukpa set out with 10-12kg loads to make a route to Camp I. On rounding the corner a stupendous view opened up the glacier gorge to the ice walls of Deoban, Pk.6977m and Mana.
We climbed snowfields up the left (south) side of the glacier for 4km, passing under the impressive north wall of Pk.5892m, then crossed diagonally towards the north side for a further 2km to find a suitable site for Camp I, safe from the fire of the séracs lining the south wall of the valley. Here we dumped loads at altitude 5040m and returned to base camp (Martin on ski, the rest on foot).
A snowstorm commenced at on our arrival 3pm, driven by strong westerly winds.
May 17th: While the team relaxed and packed up fuel and food rations David and Hazel came up to base camp, both feeling stronger. However, Neil was hors de combat with a back strain and Martin was also troubled by lower back spasms, both injuries the result of over-enthusiastic assistance in lifting boulders during the Dhauli
bridge-building operation. Two Tibetan or Himalayan Snowcock were spotted over the glacier as well as lammergeier and golden eagle. The weather was much improved but high winds persisted at altitude.
May 18th: On a misty humid day all the team, minus David, Hazel and Neil, moved up to occupy Camp I.
May 19th: A magnificent clear morning encouraged us to make an early start from Camp I with loads of 15-18kg for Camp II. The glacier was largely snow-covered making for relatively easy travel, this a big advantage of coming out early in the season before the winter snow cover melted. After 5km the glacier turned to the north, revealing Kamet and her huge South-East Face. A steady climb brought us to a level lateral moraine on the right side of the glacier at 5550m and we sited camp just in the lee of this ridge. While the others walked back to Camp I Martin skied down in an hour. This apart, the use of skis was not really advantageous, the general angle of the 15km hike from Base to Camp II being too flat for fast ski-ing.
Hazel, David and Neil came up to Camp I in the afternoon. After a massage from Govind Neil's back was remarkably improved.
May 20th: All the team except Hazel, David and Neil moved up to occupy Camp II, leaving at 8.50am and arriving at 12.50pm. The second journey under the galleries of séracs on the Mana face felt much less intimidating.
May 21st: A misty dawn plus light snowfall did not deter us from prospecting the route to Camp III which turns right up a remarkable rock canyon which must formerly have been filled by a substantial side glacier. The hanging remnant of this glacier now forms a barrier at 5900m, and we turned this on its right side, fixing a couple of ropes up a short section of steep mixed terrain. We reached the lip of a level plateau at 6150m after a laborious 5 hour ascent, dumped our loads of ropes and fuel and returned to base in a glorious swooping descent of just one hour! Neil had now joined the team at Camp II but David and Hazel turned back, not yet feeling sufficiently acclimatised or strong enough. Snow fell heavily throughout the night.
May 22nd: Leaving Neil, Rock, John, Urgen and Saroj at Camp II to further acclimatise and mind the tents during the prevailing storm, the rest of us returned to Base Camp. Ajay, Govind, Dukpa and Phurba did a superb job of breaking trail in 20cms of fresh snow. The trek proved gruelling as a filtered sunlight baked us on the latter stages. Snow sloughs and wet avalanches slid off the side-walls of the glacier. We reached base at 4.15pm after a 5½ hour journey, ready for a two day rest prior to making a decisive attempt on the mountain.
May 23rd: The rest of the team returned to base after a long march in further snowfall. The weather prevented any washing or drying of kit at base camp, pinning us in our tents for most of the day.
May 24th: A beautiful morning raised spirits and allowed us to clean ourselves and prepare loads for moving back up the mountain. David and Hazel went back up to Camp I to make one further attempt to reach Camp II.
May 25th: The team left base between 6.45 and 7.15am on another clear morning, carrying heavy loads for Camp II. David and Hazel had tried again to reach Camp II but were not strong enough to make the trek with big loads. After a chat with Martin at Camp I they decided to head back to base and return to Joshimath with Ajay. From there they would trek the Kuari Pass route to Mundoli and meet us back in Delhi on June 12th. They were disappointed but realistic about the decision - knowing that they were unlikely to reach high on Kamet they would enjoy themselves far more on a through-trek route.
After a period of torrid heat in mid-morning, cool breezes and cloud rendered the second half of the trek to Camp II much more pleasant. Camp was reached between 4 and 4.30pm.
May 26th: World Service reported Liverpool's amazing Champions League victory and the leader left Camp II with Dukpa and Phurba humming"You'll never walk alone". While the remainder of the team rested at Camp II the threesome established Camp III at 6150m. The onset of a blizzard made the setting up of camp testing.
May 27th: Snowfall and strong winds pinned everyone inside their tents at both CII and CIII all morning. A third of a metre of fresh snow has accumulated at CIII. A clearance after midday allowed Martin to break a trail to the foot of the mixed face barring access from the CIII plateau to the upper mountain. Dukpa and Phurba then took a load of fixed ropes up to the face and fixed two lengths, returning to CIII when they triggered a sizeable wind-slab avalanche.
May 28th: A fine clear morning enabled Martin, Dukpa and Phurba to fix ropes across the mixed face to the foot of the final snow-slope below the levelling where CIV would be sited. After a nerve-wracking traverse above the site of the wind-slab fracture Martin reached a narrow balcony where sections of old fixed rope were visible. Dukpa then took over the lead, fixing lines for 60m horizontally, then diagonally up a snow ramp and continuing directly up gain mixed ground left of a large sérac band. The technical standard of the climbing was Scottish grade II or Alpine AD. The team took just 1 hour to descend the ropes and return to camp after a great day's climbing.
Meanwhile John, Claudia and Hartmut moved up to CIII and Tom, Steve, Neil, Rock, Mike and James made a carry from CII to CIII.
May 29th: John and Dukpa went back up the ropes and fixed the last 100 metres up the snow slope to the shoulder at c.6550m. Tom, Steve, Mike and James moved up to CIII. The weather deteriorated throughout the afternoon and another blizzard set in overnight.
May 30th: Foul weather all day pinned everyone in their tents. With the help of his 'pee bottle' John achieved a full 24 hours without leaving his sleeping bag. Cramped conditions created stress and despondency among some of the team. All the good work of trail-breaking to CIV was undone as another 30cms of snow piled in, creating new worries of avalanche risk. The schedule got pushed back again, but there was still a week to make the summit.
May 31st: The storm passed but a hot soup of sun and cloud drained much of remaining morale. Urgen and Dukpa went up to clear the fixed ropes of the fresh snow, while several members walked up to the base of the ropes. The uphill plod was agonising in the heat. Neil and Rock came up to CIII with Govind.
June 1st: A new month brought fine weather at last. The move was made to occupy CIV, minus Hartmut and Rock who were struggling to acclimatise and decided to stay at CIII. James was also struggling but with persuasion made the ascent of the fixed ropes. The rhythm of climbing the fixed ropes produced a greater energy in the team. The site of CIV is a remarkable snow shoulder, cut off by ice cliffs on both sides and linked to Meade's Col by a narrow ramp of snow and ice. The site is very exposed in event of strong winds. We erected our four tents and settled in for a comfortable night.
June 2nd: A fabulous dawn revealed a fantastic serrated skyline of peaks to our south and east. The summit obelisk of Kamet lay just across the lip of the ice cliffs and looked magnificent in the morning sunlight. We left one tent at CIV and set off at 9am. James decided to turn back after 50m of ascent, feeling uncomfortably breathless. This left a summit party of Martin, John, Neil, Tom, Steve, Claudia, Mike and our three Sherpas. A tortuous plod in calf-deep snow up the snow ramp led to a 40 degree ice slope. Fragments of old fixed rope allowed the team to use protection of prusiks or jumars to ascend this slope. At 1pm we reached a broad snow bowl above the ramp at c.6850m altitude. With the Sherpas breaking trail ahead the team ascended the bowl to gain a levelling directly under the upper East Face of Kamet about ½ kilometre before Meade's Col. Camp V was pitched here at 4pm at an altitude of 7080m. John and Martin discussed the route options for the summit attempt. The direct route up the face, as followed by Smythe's party in 1931, was heavily snow-covered but was the shortest option and looked clear of any technical obstacles. The alternative was to traverse up right to gain the NNE Ridge, which rises from Meade's Col and leads back left to the summit. The Sherpas had previously followed this route on Indian Army and Navy expeditions but we feared icy conditions on the crest and the way was significantly longer in terms of numbers of steps.
June 3rd: We rose to another amazing dawn before 6am with air temperatures at minus 20 degC. We left at 7am, seemingly with plenty of time for the 680m summit climb. The Sherpas disagreed with our choice to follow the direct route, and thereafter only Dukpa contributed significantly to the trail-breaking. It was difficult to tell why the other two Sherpas were unwilling to share the lead. They may have felt piqued at being overruled by John and Martin or else they were unsure about following a line they didn't know. Progress up the slope was agonisingly slow, about 70 metres height gain per hour. The ascent was simple but laborious. A cold breeze set in and we wore every layer of clothing throughout the ascent. Inspiring views opened down Kamet's winding northern glacier and across the Tibetan plateau as we overtopped 7355m Abi Gamin. With John, Martin and Dukpa taking turns in the lead we headed diagonally left up steeper slopes towards the left bounding ridge of the face, where we expected the snow depth to lessen. Martin put in a sustained bout of trenching to gain the ridge at 3pm about 100m below the summit cornices, but instead of thinning the snow if anything became deeper. The members following were becoming progressively colder due to the slow pace. Neil and Phurba turned back as John led through for a final bout of trail-making. After just 10 metres John was brought to a halt at a steepening where the snow was thigh deep. Here there was a real risk of avalanche. Meanwhile the weather was clouding in and suddenly our position felt exceedingly precarious. Just after 4pm we decided to retreat from a high point of 7650m. The descent seemed endless. We were all at the limit of our strength by the time we regained CV. Both Tom and Steve reported problems of frostbitten fingers and toes and Neil had breathing problems. After brewing some drinks all members crashed out to sleep by 8pm.
Whether we had set out too late or had chosen the wrong route or whether we should have opted to climb Abi Gamin instead in view of the deep snow cover - these were all questions to ponder in retrospect. Having returned safely to camp we were simply relieved that we had taken the sensible decision to retreat before our situation got out of control. Frustration and disappointment at having got so close to the top would doubtless emerge in the days to come.
June 4th: A rapid descent was essential given problems of frostbite and Neil's potential pulmonary oedema. We were packed and ready to leave by 9am. The first stage down to CIV was exhausting, with a burning sun on our backs. We used two climbing ropes to lower each member down the ice slope. We picked up the extra tent and gear from CIV. Every member managed the descent of the fixed ropes without needing an additional security rope. Govind and James met the team at CIII. Feeling progressively better as we dropped height and as afternoon cloud veiled the enervating sun, we continued directly down to CII, enjoying wonderful views of Mana peak. We reached CII between 6 and 6.30pm. Rock, Hartmut and Saroj were ready with brews of tea and noodle soup. Martin, Urgen and Dukpa stripped our fixed ropes from the face. The two Sherpas arrived at CII with enormous loads of ropes and hardware that weighed between 25 and 30kg! We all felt gratitude and enormous relief to be off the high mountain and were warmed by the support of the other members who had stayed up to support the summit party and help clear the mountain.
June 5th: Examination of Steve and Tom's blackened toes gave us considerable anxiety. All options were considered, including helicopter evacuation; but the sensible conclusion was reached that they should walk out to base camp as soon as possible, before total thawing of the damaged joints took place, which could render further walking in boots impossible. Despite exhaustion Tom, Steve, Mike, Claudia and Hartmut packed and at 11.00am after a substantial 'brunch' left for base camp in sweltering sticky heat. Our Sherpas took enormous loads of 30kg+ down to base. The remainder of the party cleaned up CII and packed loads for the final evacuation.
June 6th: Martin, John, James, Neil and Rock left CII soon after 6am in cool misty conditions. Kamet made a last dramatic appearance through the mist as they turned the bend in the glacier, proving conclusively that she had been worthy of all our efforts. James posted a remarkable time of 4¼ hours for the trek to base despite a load of over 20kg. The Sherpas returned to CII and cleared the final loads. We were all relieved to be back together in base, enjoying good food and comforts. Steve and Tom's injuries could now be properly treated and the affected areas kept clean and dry.
June 7th: A cold raw day with constant breeze and gentle snowfall. All members rested, awaiting arrival of porters and mules for the return trek. Base camp was cleaned and rubbish burnt or packed for the return. Steve and Tom decided they could walk out in sandals without causing significant further damage to their toes.
June 8th: The caravan of members, porters and mules finally left base camp at 10.30am. Our bridge over the Dhauli Ganga was still in place and the level of waters was much reduced, so that mules could easily ford the river. Clearly we had chosen the worst possible time to cross on our way up when the spate was abnormally high due to massive snowmelt. On the trek back to Niti we encountered a French-Israeli team who requested purchase of gas canisters, plastic boots and asked for detailed information about the route up Kamet. It was only in the evening that Rathore confirmed that this team had no LO and did not have climbing permits. Yet with assistance from a Joshimath trek agency they had managed to procure Inner Line permits and get round the State Govt. regulations. The last members arrived in Niti at 4.30pm. Steve and Tom showed remarkable fortitude to make this 20km trek, only slowing up on the last section through the gorge. Niti was only now being re-occupied for the summer and a flagon of Chang was procured to accompany our evening meal.
June 9th: The final short trek down to Gamsali and Bampa was completed in a couple of hours, with a social call at the ITBP base, where several members rang home. Bampa was now a hive of activity with the fields being tilled and the panchnag (five snakes) temple loudspeaker blasting out hymns and Vedas as part of a local festival. Dozens of children played on the maidan, their shouts and laughter creating the impression of an Arcadian paradise in contrast to the stony wilderness from which we had emerged. Unfortunately there was no transport waiting, as this had been booked for June 10th. After waiting and resting for three hours two ancient mini-buses arrived, which were ferrying local folk up from their winter home near Gopeshwar. These were commandeered and at 3pm we set off for a most dramatic and memorable drive to Joshimath. The rear springs on the bus were completely defunct, but the drive down through the wasted gorge of the Dhauli was magnificent. Finally, the rose-tinted giants of Dunagiri and Nanda Devi guided us through the sunset hour and back to Joshimath. We watched the spectacle with tired eyes and heavy hearts as the disappointment of our failure on Kamet began in sink in. Showers, beers and a restaurant meal helped allay our mood and the joy of a soft mattress was no less appreciated.
June 10th: Martin and Rathore completed formalities with the District Magistrate and Forest Offices and reported the illegal activity of the French-Israeli team to the authorities. Naveen, staff and the Sherpas did not arrive back from Bampa with our main luggage in a lorry until late afternoon. We enjoyed an al fresco meal on the terrace of the Dronagiri Hotel in the evening and celebrated Hartmut's 40th birthday with a rather sickly iced cake and large box of Indian sweets. We were also able to formally thank our staff and Sherpas for their magnificent efforts throughout the trip. Our bus from Delhi also arrived and was loaded ready for an early departure.
June 11th: Leaving at 6.30am we had a smooth drive back to Haridwar, taking 13 hours including a lunch stop at Srinagar. In the latter part of the journey we swopped the cool air of the mountains for baking sunshine and 40degC temperatures. A huge traffic jam associated with evening puja on the Ganges delayed arrival at the Alaknanda Hotel.
June 12th: After smooth six hour road journey back to Delhi, we attended a debrief meeting at the IMF with Col Bhimwal, who had very kindly agreed to meet us on a Sunday. David, Hazel and Ajay arrived back from their trek soon after us, and it was good to catch up on their news. Mr Pandey, his son Ravindra and niece joined us for a final meal before we were driven to the airport to catch our night flights back to Europe.
The Kuari Pass Trek: David Hasdell and Hazel Hunkin: Having returned to Joshimath, David and Hazel first visited Badrinath for a day, returning somewhat unimpressed by all the crowds and pollution that attend the peak pilgrimage season. Ajay recruited porters for the trek and the team left Auli, trekking over the Kuari, across the Birehi Ganga gorge, over the Chechni Binayak pass and down to Sutol. They completed the trek via Wan and Mundoli and enjoyed a beautiful night on Bedni Buggyal meadows under Trisul. A local bus took them to Naini Tal resort, which like Badrinath was rather overcrowded. They then hired a private car for the return to Delhi on June 12th. Both David and Hazel found that their health problems were largely resolved by a shift to lower altitudes and thoroughly enjoyed the trek.
Conclusions and Lessons for Future Expeditions
The narrow margin of our failure led to prolonged analysis of why we couldn't make the last 100 metres. Our decision to choose the Smythe route direct up the snowy upper face may have been a mistake, but without actually climbing to the NNE"Chinese" ridge there is no way of knowing. Had we gone to the NNE Ridge and there encountered strong winds and ice our attempt might have ended prematurely. Had all three Sherpas shared trail-breaking with Martin and John a successful outcome might yet have been achieved. Beyond all such conjecture the truth is that our party was stretched to its limit in terms of time and stamina just to get to Meade's Col after weeks of unsettled weather. We only had the one brief chance to attempt Kamet summit - we gave it a good crack and turned back at a crucial moment when both weather and the physical condition of the party were fast deteriorating. All who played a part in the summit bid should still be proud of what they achieved in face of considerable adversity.
Throughout May westerly jet stream winds were blowing across Kamet. Until June 1st we only identified two or three days where high-level winds fell light and the summit might have been attempted. Therefore, we recommend future parties to schedule a Spring trip to Kamet a week or two later, going out in mid-May and returning in late-June. Warmer calm weather is more likely in the first half of June. Had we gone a week later I have little doubt that we would have summitted.
Against this, the condition of the East Kamet Glacier was superb in May, with a continuous snow cover. By the end of June the glacier will become an endless heap of stony moraines and the trek to CII will be much harder.
Looking at the detail of our trip several positives can be identified in our organisation and approach:-
Acclimatisation: this went well; the Joshimath-Auli-Bampa-Niti-Shep Kharak-Nand Kharak progression gave everyone a solid grounding of acclimatisation, paying dividends later in the trip
Base Camp: despite an inhospitable site and poor weather Naveen did a great job organising base camp, keeping us well fed and in good spirits.
Fixed ropes: the crux of the route between Camps 3 and 4 was well-fixed and made relatively safe even for an exhausted team in descent; however, one of our ropes did get chewed showing the importance of taking the greatest care in placement.
Sherpa load-carrying was amazing and essential to give us a chance of success
Team spirit: it was a tremendous achievement that all members worked well and positively together over 40 days and through all the bad weather with no more than the most trivial spats. Everyone endured the waiting game at Camps 2 and 3 with fortitude despite the hardships. David and Hazel made several efforts to get up to Camp 2, but once this became unrealistic were both sensible and graceful in accepting the alternative trekking plan. Tom and Steve showed remarkable courage and fortitude in dealing with their frostbite, especially in walking out unaided without complaint despite obvious pain and discomfort.
Looking to lessons learnt and changes in strategy that I would recommend to future parties:-
1) Go a week or two later
2) Plan and attempt a training peak: Looking back, our decision not to try a training peak is perhaps the one I most regret. We were up against bad weather and 2 days late in reaching base camp but we would all feel a greater sense of achievement had we tried a training climb from base camp perhaps while the Sherpas were stocking CII. Peak 6072 on the E side of the Raikana Glacier might have been attempted.
3) Don't ignore Abi Gamin: I am sure that all our summit party would have succeeded on Abi Gamin, whereas we put all our chances on the"big one", and missed out
Other Routes on Kamet and neighbouring Peaks: This area has vast potential for pioneering new routes and peaks. The SE Face of Kamet is one of the last great problems of the Garhwal Himalaya, but it is prone to avalanche and the exit gully might be highly dangerous after heavy snows; this route is steep promising sustained mixed climbing over the several rock bands. The S Ridge of Kamet offers a safer route with a higher starting level (6500m) but the upper ridge looks complex and technical with difficult climbing up to 7500m altitude.
The North Faces of Mana, Peak 6977m, Deoban and Bidhan Parbat offer very few lines that are not seriously threatened by ice cliffs. A diagonal L to R line up Deoban looked feasible for a fast-moving alpine style ascent, with the main technical difficulties on the summit headwall. Mana could be climbed via its NW Ridge from the top of the E.Kamet Glacier - a pure snow and ice route.
Nearer base camp Peak 5892m could be easily reached via its East Ridge (snow with rock to finish), whilst its N face offers potential for several technical training routes c.900m in height. The dramatic 5800m spire to the south of Peak 5892m is probably unclimbed and has a very steep north wall.
Exploration of the upper reaches of the Raikana Glacier should be permissible on a Kamet permit - here there are several attractive (probably unclimbed) 6000 metre peaks of moderate to difficult standard.
Medical Report by Mike Freeman (Expedition Doctor)
Martin's medical kit is sufficient for two expeditions and is packed in almost identical cases. I took one, borrowing selected items from the other.
We took a CERTEC (Gamow) bag, which was tried out at base camp and demonstrated that it did what it claimed (rapidly increased the pressure and oxygen saturation). It was sited at Camp 2 but could have easily been taken higher.
The need for an oxygen cylinder was debated in the UK. We obtained a 1000l cylinder in Delhi. It was a one-porter load and reached base camp but was never used. On grounds of weight I would favour its omission from future trips but retain the Certec bag.
We borrowed a tiny Nonin oximeter from Pro act Medical. This was a popular diversion at suppertime. On the whole the younger and fitter had a higher saturation and a lower pulse. The average saturation fell from 92% at Niti (3415m) to 85% at base camp (4665m) and continued to fall till it was 69% at Camp 5 (7083m) We were amazed that the three Sherpas had an average saturation of 55% at camp 5.
A night in Auli plus a slow progression from Bampa to base camp over 5 days (270m/day) resulted in minimal acute mountain sickness.
Our progress up the mountain was delayed by three snowfalls. The vertical distance from Raikana Kharak (below base camp) to the summit was 3446m. We climbed more than twice that figure with 2400m of pure load-carrying to camps.
Unfortunately five members felt they were not going well and decided to go no higher. Two on the way to camp 2, two at camp 3 and one on the way to camp 5. As the team Medic I never tried to persuade them to go higher.
Diamox: Two members took low dose Diamox from base camp and were in the summit party. However no one suffered acute mountain sickness including those who withdrew.
Medical Problems on Summit day:
We set off at 6.30 in sunshine, an hour later than intended. We were soon wearing every stitch of clothing. Our progress was slow and by the afternoon we were in the shade with a strong wind blowing round to the arête. People began to shiver and several had fine nasal icicles.
At 7600m Neil felt unwell and breathless and was assisted down by Dukpa and Urgen. He was coughing up blood on the descent.
Progress continued to the final ridge but remained very slow. Claudia and I (unguided) were the first to turn back, the others soon followed.
I experienced some hallucinations towards the end and these were made worse on the descent by falling in the snow and being partially blinded by ice crystals on the cornea. Vision rapidly improved in the tent, leaving sore eyes. We regained our tents 11hours after setting out.
Martin was the first to catch up with Neil and treated him with Nifedipine and Diamox. He improved rapidly, was given a second dose at midnight and was able to descend the next day (7hours)
Frostbite: 4 cases
We did not realize that we had frostbite and made no attempt to re-warm our hands or feet. Re-hydration was better in some tents than others. In the morning discolouration with blistering of 24 fingertips and 3 toes made the diagnosis obvious. Claudia and later Hartmut played the major role in dressing affected digits and its management. If the blisters burst they were dressed and antibiotics given.
The frostbite was mainly on terminal digits. It appeared worst at day two or three with some regression to leave black scabs which fell off after four weeks with no tissue loss. The two worst cases are not yet resolved (three months). One has lost the terminal phalanx of a big toe and faces some tissue loss of two fingertips. The other may have tissue loss on the tips of a big and second toe.
Trench foot: 2 cases: (prolonged cooling 0-15ºC) this had a more insidious onset. The toes felt a bit strange and after two days were dusky red. The big toes developed dark blisters which later burst despite comfortable boots. Unlike frostbite where the skin became dry hard and black, the affected toes were white and sodden. The skin and toenails fell off to reveal raw red pulp, which oozed and bled for the next two months. At three months the skin has re-grown and the nails will re-grow. The feet are less oedematous but still painful and don't seem to function properly.
Other Ailments and Treatments
High Altitude Cough: Three or four of us developed a productive non-purulent cough.
Weight loss: 4-12kg with three of the summit party at the top of the range
Sores around nose
Facial skin deterioration all common
Diahorrea 4 cases - responded well to Ciproxin
Upper respiratory tract infection: no response to medication.
Photosensitive skin eruption on hands: no response to medication.
Backache 2 cases: Analgesics ineffective. Manipulated successfully by Govind (high altitude chiropractor!)
Mass illness amongst porters in the snow below base camp: cured by sunshine and a pay rise.
It was a tough trip with 21 days camped in snow with a lot of hard work.
Frost damage was an unwelcome surprise. Our descent from the summit was aided by James, Hartmut and Govind coming up to meet us.
Prevention :The two members most seriously affected did not have boots with high altitude inners. Hindsight shows that we spent too long on the face in deep snow with a strong wind.
Recognition: Frostbite not recognized, so that no attempt was made to re-warm fingers or toes.
Repatriation: Our two most affected climbers were at base camp 2 days after the ascent but it took another 8 days to get on the plane. I would have preferred to see them rapidly transferred to an air-conditioned hotel in Delhi where they could sip cold beer with the option of an early flight.
Food and Drink
On any long expedition to a high peak it is a major challenge to provide a diet that is both sufficient and appetising. Regular carnivores additionally find difficulty in adapting to the vegetarian diet of Northern India on the way to and at base camp. In contrast to Smythe's 1931 expedition who seemed to suffer throughout at the hands of their cook Achung, we were blessed with excellent base camp cooks, Naveen and Saroj. We also took sufficient high energy, high protein snack and luxury food to stimulate the taste buds. The meat-eaters had to make do with tinned corned beef and pork. A local goat could have been purchased for slaughter but when it came to the crunch the meat-fanatics were strangely reluctant to draw blood!
On the mountain there was a definite shortage of good food at Camp 2. Saroj was installed with mess tent but catered mainly for the Sherpas needs. The required variety of supplies was not brought up and apathy developed both in cooking standards and hygiene. Saroj was probably affected by the altitude and the cold and loneliness of life at 5600 metres. A lack of sugar didn't help. The challenge of forcing down platefuls of unsweetened rice porage for breakfast lives long in the memory.
Above Camp 2 savoury rations focused on packet soups, dried potatoes, noodles, couscous with spices, cheese, tinned tuna fish and vegeburgers/sosmix (reconstituted soya protein!). Inevitably, the high-mountain diet became tedious after a week or so, but most members ate the minimum needed to keep going. Interestingly, the supplies of freeze-dried chicken and prawns were left untouched. For breakfast opinions were divided on the benefits of porage at altitude - most teams stuck with muesli.
As always snack foods proved very popular at altitude - Scottish oatcakes with cheese, paté spreads or peanut butter, salted nuts, spiced Kashmiri and Bombay mixes, rich fruit cake (donated by Walkers of Aberlour), bourbon and custard-cream biscuits. Boiled sweets were an excellent comfort and source of glucose during the day at altitude. Chocolate bars were not as popular as might be imagined - it is easy to take too much sweet food at the expense of savoury.
Nutritious drinks are more important than solid food above 6000m. We took a good range. Apart from sweet milky tea, powdered orange squash (Tang), herbal teas and sachets of drinking chocolate, ovaltine and mint/orange/cappuccino coffee were very popular. Instant packet soups were never refused.
Catering for the Sherpas was not always easy. Apart from tea, noodles and soups they ate little of our mountain fare and depended on re-supply of cooked rice and 'paranthas' from Saroj at Camp 2. Such supplies also can provide welcome bulk and variety in the diet of the European members. Sherpas require a large daily ration of sugar - we badly underestimated supplies and should have taken 35kg rather than 25kg for the whole trip. On a couple of occasions the lack of palatable food caused a visible dip in the Sherpas' energy levels, which are normally prodigious.
For the guidance of future expeditions here are some suggested foods which should be brought out from Europe and those items which can be purchased in India:-
Food to take out to India:
Dried Mashed Potato (not available in India) Packets of spiced Couscous
Sachets of Drinking Chocolate/luxury Coffees/Horlicks
Instant White/Cheese/Bread Sauce mixes (make with boiled water) - excellent to make stews
Oatcakes and Fruit Cakes: (Walkers of Aberlour highly recommended)
Tubes of Vegetarian Herb and Mushroom Paté
Marmite and Vegemite (some folk are addicted!)
Packets of Vegeburger and Sosmix (make tasty fried burgers or can be sprinkled in stews)
Packets Instant 'boil and serve' Custard
Energy Bars (fruit/nut/cereals)
Sandwich and Freezer bags (Indian poly bags are useless!)
Mountain Foods available in India:
Powdered Orange drink ('Tang') Teabags/Dried Milk/Coffee/Ovalmaltine
Sliced/Tinned Processed Cheese Cream Cheese Spread
Packet Soups (5 min Knorr - limited flavour range)
2 minute Noodles and Egg Noodles Basmati rice (can be cooked at altitude)
Macaroni Muesli and Porage Peanut Butter
Tinned Tuna Fish (but avoid the tinned Sardines!)
Cherry Fruit Cake Chocolate bars/Kit-kats/Picnic etc
Dried Fruit (Sultanas/Figs/Dates/Apricots) Salted Peanuts/Cashew Nuts
Namkeen/Kashmiri/Moong Dal Mixes Jelly Crystals Boiled Sweets
Clothing and Equipment
Tents: 2 and 3 person Vango tents (models Spindrift and Vortex) were used at all camps. These tents are strong and spacious with large porch areas for cooking. They have snow valances for easy pitching and stabilising and comfortably withstood the periods of strong winds. At Camps 3 and 5 it was necessary to accommodate 4 persons in one of the Spindrift tents - this proved to be cramped and uncomfortable and contributed to fatigue and mental stress in some members.
Stoves: A combination of MSR stoves with kerosene fuel with butane/propane gas burners proved versatile and effective. The MSR's are best for daytime melting of large volumes of snow and cooking for larger numbers, whilst gas stoves were ideal for cooking in the evening and mornings at the higher camps.
Ropes: Each group used an 8.2 or 8.6mm dynamic climbing rope. Approximately 500 metres of 9mm static rope were taken for fixing the buttress between Camps 3 and 4. Using 9mm static rope as opposed to 7mm gave much reassurance. Even so, one section of static rope was badly chewed when retrieved on the descent. All the fixed ropes were retrieved by the Sherpas and leader.
Hardware: A selection of 12 pitons, 12 nuts, 3 camming devices, 6 ice screws and many rope/tape slings was taken for the fixed rope section. There were many anchors already in place. More straight 'kingpin' pitons would have been needed had we needed to place all the anchors ourselves.
Personal Clothing and Boots: Each member took full high-altitude equipment, including a duvet jacket and over-gaiters. Whilst most members wore Scarpa Vega boots with high-altitude inners Tom and Steve had Scarpa Alpha plastic boots, which are only specified for altitudes to 6000m. They had tried high-altitude inners but found these uncomfortable, so wore the original inners instead. They were the only two members of the summit party to suffer serious frostbite in the toes, so the message is clear that quality of boots should not be compromised on a big mountain over 7000m.
Sleeping Bags: 4 to 5 season bags (with 1000gms+ down filling) were used by everyone except Mike whose bag only had 750gms of down and proved inadequate even at base camp and even with a bivouac bag cover. Luckily, Claudia was able to lend Mike her spare bag for the summit attempt.
Training and Physical Preparation
The physical performances of the team members on the mountain were variable and did not correlate strongly either with age, prior experience or prior fitness. Clearly, the psychology of climbing high mountains plays almost as big a role as fitness in determining successful performance - in other words a mental preparity for a prolonged grind and acceptance of physical suffering is vital. Many of us were inexperienced in climbing at altitudes much above 6000 metres and understandably experienced a big physiological strain in going to 7000m.
The team members appeared highly variable in their state of prior training. There is no doubt that a steady and prolonged prior training in form of climbing, running, cycling or gym work is very beneficial on an expedition to a high peak, but it doesn't guarantee a successful performance.
The 'Whillansesque' approach of starting the trip overweight and under-trained should never be encouraged but with sufficient determination and the right psychology initial lack of fitness can be overcome.
The age profile of our team was not favourable - a mean age of 46 meant that our abilities in load-carrying and trail-breaking were limited. Many of the older members performed strongly but we were pushed to their limit just to get themselves and personal kit up the mountain.
Sherpas and High-altitude Porters
Our three Sherpas plus HAP Govind were indispensable to the progress of the expedition. Given our choice of 'siege-style' tactics with fixed camps we simply could not have gone high on the mountain without Sherpa/porter back-up. In particular the 15km walk from base to Camp 2 required heavy load-ferrying duties both on the way up and down.
The Sherpas were highly devoted to their perceived duty of leading, serving and supporting their Western clients. However expeditions should be aware of certain drawbacks in Sherpa climbing. Having Sherpas does remove some of the adventure and exploratory fun from the climb; ours all knew Kamet and did most of the trail-breaking and leading of the route up to top camp. The expedition Guides also found it difficult at times to establish command of operations when the Sherpas were insistent on being out in front. Remember too that Sherpas tend to climb by the fixed rope ethic. If there is a difficulty it can only be overcome by fixing a rope. Their experience and aptitude in the subtler ropework of moving together and pitching in alpine-style is very limited. Finally, note that once beyond the limit of their previous route-finding experience, as on our summit day the Sherpas are apprehensive about undertaking a line they didn't know.
John Lyall for his excellent guiding and support from start to finish - everyone in the team knew they had a deputy leader on whom they could totally depend.
Mike Freeman for performing the job of Expedition Doctor with practical common sense and the minimum of fuss; also special thanks to Claudia and Hartmut for taking such good care of Steve and Tom's frostbite injuries.
D.S.Rathore for being a friendly and capable Liaison Officer to us
Mr C.S.Pandey and all his staff at Himalayan Run & Trek Pvt Ltd for superb support services both before and during the expedition
Ajay, Dukpa, Govind, Phurba and Urgen for their remarkable load-carrying, trail-breaking and trek-leading efforts
Naveen, Saroj and Manish for running an excellent and cheerful kitchen service
Kundun Singh Rawat of Lata village and his team of porters for giving us such good loyal service despite procurement problems
Andrew Denton and Duncan Machin of Mountain Equipment for supplying clothing and equipment to the team members at large discounts.
Walkers of Aberlour for donation of Oatcakes and Rich Fruit cakes
on all our trips are available from us on enquiry