Sunday, 21 November 2010

It wasn't to be

Amazing views from the south summit of Mera Peak, 5 of the 14 8000m peaks visible

You win some and you loose some, and unfortunately we were definitely beaten by the mountain this time, but we’re both back safe and sound which at the end of the day is a good result for any trip. The disappointment as you’ve might have guess is that we didn’t get to stand on the top of Kyashar, for me its not just because we didn't get up the route and stand on the summit but more that we didn’t get to give it a good go, no one’s fault, just the way it works out sometimes.

The local youths!

Sorting kit and food at base camp below Kyashar

After savouring the views on the south summit of Mera peak, sorting the gear in base camp and a brief winter snow storm we set off up the face on the 3rd November. Steep grassy slopes and broken slabs led to our high point of a recce a few days ago and at 4890m we changed into rock boots for the first actual climbing.

The start of the climbing at 4890m, soloing up the initial slabs (photo - Tony Stone)

Dirty lichen covered slabs lead for 50m to more broken ground leading us higher into the complex rock buttress. Easy scrambling interspersed with the odd tricky step accessed a ramp feature we’d spotted when scoping the face. It was very Eiger reminiscent, loose scree covered terraces surrounded on all sides by steep, clean granite walls. More through good luck than anything else we were getting high on the buttress without any technical difficulties, the ropes still coiled round us. Higher the ramp turned into a steeper gully and we got the ropes out for three long pitches of Cilan style loose rock, the final one feeling quite ‘exciting’ but giving way to easy ground and the top of the buttress.

One of the many loose terraces between the steeper steps

Finding a way through the choss on the final pitch of the initial buttress (photo - Tony Stone)

On the rock wall leading to the glacier (photo - Tony Stone)

Where next? This is one of the things I love about trying new routes, the unknowns. We could see where we wanted to get to, the small glacier glinting in the evening sun, tempting us up to catch the final rays, but a steep wall looked to block easy access. Coming round into a massive boulder strewn bay we’d expected to be cramming our toes back into rock boots but were happy to find a fault line leading easily up through the rock wall that brought us to a five star bivi at the base of the glacier. The following morning after a leisurely start savouring the warming rays of the sun (the joys of a south face) we were breaking trail up the glacier to reach the snow crest that lead to the base of the upper pillar.

Savouring the morning sun

Heading up towards the main face

How your body will adapt, no matter how fit you are, to altitude is anyone’s guess and there’s only one way to find out – by getting on with it. This was Tony’s first trip to altitude and he’d been struggling with it since the start, having to descend from the high camp on Mera Peak with signs of server AMS (acute mountain sickness). But still with having spent a night at 5500m on Mera it wasn’t too bad. Unfortunately the altitude was still playing havoc with Tony and we made the safe call to bail before getting committed any higher on the pillar where altitude illness would have led to a serious situation.

Retracing our steps

Descending the big bay below the glacier, the fault line we'd followed through he rock wall isn't visible but starts just behind Tony's back and went diagonally up right to the glacier just visible

There are still lots of unknowns on this route, but it gave me a sneak preview and a few of the answers, but more importantly temptation and psyche to be back. And anyway the failures keep you on your toes make those successes all the more special.

The boys that help make it all possible

Many thanks to Mountain Equipment, Black Diamond, Scarpa, Tendon Ropes, Lorpen Socks, SIS and Adidas Eyewear for their continued support and our agent Loben Expeditions for another first class service. The expedition was funded with help from The BMC and the Alpine Club Climbing Fund.