Desesperados; new route on Kang Yatse III, indian Himalaya
Paulo Roxo e Daniela Teixeira reporting10 November 2017
- This October Paulo Roxo and Daniela Teixeira opened "Desesperados", a new route on Kang Yatse III, peak of 6300m in Indian Himalayas.
Text by Paulo Roxo
On 21th September, me and Daniela Teixeira traveled to Indian Himalayas again, after 2 years since our last expedition, as for this period I had to recover of a serious climbing accident.
We arrived in Leh eager to explore some valleys to find future climbing goals. We knew we were late on the Ladakh climbing season, but we were decided to go anyway.
As a first acclimatization trip we entered the rarely visited Parkachik glacier and crossed it until its head, having an awesome sight of the North and West faces of Nun and Kun, the highest peaks of Ladakh with more than 7000m. From this point we could not go further, as there are only two absolutely broken glaciers, from which the roaring of falling ice towers is constant.
A couple of days after, with a 23kg backpack each, we left the village of Tongul and followed the trail heading to Nun Advanced Base Camp, having in mind the north face of a very interesting 5800m peak that we just saw from a distance some days before.
Once on the mountain, on the top of a hanging rotten rock tower at 5000m, we found an acceptable platform to place our bivi. The north face looked dry and icy, anyway we were decided to give it a try. Unfortunately on the following hours, the weather was as predicted, strong winds in altitude. We could not sleep for the whole night, trying to prevent the bivi to get blown away by the strong wind gusts. The dawn decision was obvious with such wind: we bailed!
After resting two days in Panikhar village, we headed to a valley known by few people as Chelong Nallah, rarely visited by foreigners (and even locals). Our expectations were high as we knew there was an interesting unclimbed and unnamed technical peak at the head of the valley. Soon we found out that (again!), its north face was dry and very, very icy. The last 2 months had no precipitation, and the constant wind and dropping temperatures were the cause of these conditions everywhere we looked at. All the faces, even the easy angled slopes were frozen, hard bullet ice. In a possible fall, self-arrest was for sure impossible.
Once more, we reached the altitude of 5000m and placed our bivi tent on the gap between a crevasse and a serac. At night it was a bit creepy, as the glacier was cracking loud all the time beneath us. Although with little enthusiasm, that night we left the tent very early. We could see the ice wall shinning with the moon light above our heads. On the first blows with the ice axes we realized we would have to climb more than 500 meters steep cascade with bullet proof ice, with only 5 ice screws to protect the pitches! Once more… we bailed!
With our spirits shattered we went to Leh in a record time, ready to change our flight home and try a more guarantied new rock route somewhere in Spain! Since changing flights was too expensive, we had to rationalize the whole situation and decided to visit the area of the Kang Yatse massive… again with 23kg on our back!
On 19th October, with day by day colder temperatures, we left Leh and after some kilometers of tires shattering road the suffered taxi left us at the very small village of Chokdo (4000m), where we started our 7.5 hours trek, reaching Nymaling (5000m) that same day, after crossing Kunmaru pass at 5200m. On the next day we started to walk at 8h30 a.m. and headed to the glacier that passes beneath the east face of Kang Yatse main (6400m). After five hours we reached our bivouac place, at 5700m, at the foot of the unclimbed west face of Dzo Jongo main (6280m). After some hours rest, dressed in fully winter mode, we left the tent at 3h00 a.m. on the 21th of October, facing extremely low temperatures. But this was our ultimate desperate try, so…
Daniela started opening the trail in the horizontal vast glacier plateau. Strangely, the ice was covered by a layer of loose snow. After finding all the mountain north faces covered with black ice, now we were walking in a huge carpet of irritating, muscle shattering, and barely transformed snow. At each step, the snow would hold our weight just some seconds before collapsing. Opening trail was a very tiring physical and mind job! I just thought that if it was me opening trail, I would have most probably given up. But Daniela kept going in silence, with the eye brows white frozen, and a bumpy slow pace. It took more than two and half hours to reach the base of the north face of our intended mountain, a plus 6300m peak (supposedly unclimbed) at the head of the valley. The sunlight gave us some life… and will! Soon we were crossing some dangerous wind slabs. “I don´t like this!” – said Daniela. I replied with some tranquilizing words but, still I felt unease. As we reached a bergschrund and prepared for the following vertical ice wall, suddenly, together with a grave sound, the floor disappeared. Daniela was surfing down the falling wind slabs and I was desperately trying to jump inside the bergschrund to hold the rope and stop the fall. Seconds later I heard “Calm down! I´m ok!” Daniela´s voice was not far. Somehow she managed to stop sliding even before the rope tension. Still from the bergschrund, we tried to climb up, but then again, the ice became so hard that we were forced to give up. Half an hour later we were down following the channel made by the avalanche debris. We were trusting the distorted logic that there was nothing left to fall on the avalanche path.
Fighting disappointment, and knowing we’d lost precious time, we decided to keep going up, this time trying to avoid the looking like wind slabs sections we could not identify at night time. Eventually we reached the col between our intended peak and Kang Yatse III, at 6000m. We had just finished climbing a not enjoyable rotten black schist easy angled wall and decided to have a little rest at the col. The obvious ridge ahead looked too rocky. Ironically, this time we took more ice screws but, only two cams and two pitons! It was a ridiculous low amount of gear to face a rocky climb. Indecision… again! “What to do?” With the cup of reviving tea came the last idea “What about trying Kang Yatse III? Maybe we still have enough time for it…right?!” Almost immediately, instead of following the ridge to the east, we headed west, traversing horizontal delicate rocky terrain, entering the belly of Kang Yatse III east face. Going blindly we were looking for some weakness on the – very welcoming - sunny face. Being an east face meant that the snow was a lot better than all the north faces we aimed for, and all the north faces we saw. Finally, we found awesome transformed snow, with just enough ice to climb and place good protections. The route revealed itself more interesting than what we anticipated and we were climbing quickly. At 14h00 we reached the summit ridge. A couple of easy, but pleasant, rock climbing sections followed, and soon, close to 15h00, we achieved the main summit of Kang Yatse III, with 6300m. It was a “last minute” and unpredicted ascent but finally our mountaineer spirits were delightedly happy. Apparently this was the second ascent of the mountain. Hugs and kisses! Since it was getting late, we felt we had to hurry down. We kept traversing the summit ridge and took a couple of photos on the other summit. There, we found a little kern. It was the summit reached by the first climbers, in 2015. We climbed down the snow ridge of the original route just as the sun was disappearing engulfed by the horizon of mountains.
Now the tension was on. We didn´t know where to go and the night was just a few minutes distance. “We are risking a bivouac!”, said Daniela. Little reflection was needed to understand that, without any bivouac gear, it would be a very frozen and unpleasant night. Caught by darkness, we decided to keep going down using faith and pure instinct. “To the left I remember there were some rock towers so, the probability of finding precipices is high, I think.” I said without any confidence! “To the right… well… I think it´s better!” Beneath, we had steep ramps of schist gravel, but we couldn’t see much ahead. We kept the crampons on. “This way we have better grip!” Daniela said. It was a very unlikely theory but, surprisingly, on small rocks it worked perfectly. It was a violent ordeal for the crampons – sometimes I could see the occasional sparks – but… who cared? We went down as quickly as we could and in one and a half hours we reached the safety of the glacier. By 20h30, after crossing the ankle shattering unstable loose snow of the glacier, we reached our tiny comfortable bivi.
The next day we went down. In our minds we kept the thought of the last “fast and light (not so light!)” days. At the very end, like a last minute trip, we manage to climb… something! This wasn´t surely our best route on the great ranges and, because of the constant indecisions, the line of ascent we took looked kind of… strange – to say the least! On the other end, it was a fast pure alpine style outing. In three days from the city of Leh we did a new route on Kang Yatse III (6300m), completed the first traverse on the peak and accomplished the second ascent of the mountain. “Well, it wasn´t bad at all, don´t you think?” I said on the way down, just before jerking on another bulk of ice hidden by the barely transformed snow cover.
We named our route “Desesperados (Desperate)”, based on the events of the expedition.
Paul and Daniela thanks RAB