Here is a first summary of the last couple of days.
Philippe and Phudorjee on Kangchenjunga summit, 8586m the 19 May at 9am
The initial plan was to summit on the 17th, but the weather forecast have been completely wrong and the weather very hectic: every day we had snow, then clear sky, strong wind and then calm again. In camp 3 we recorded -15c in the tent and +35 a few hours later! In short we had to wait an extra day in C2 (6400m) and one in C3 (7100m) and delay the summit push to the 19th. The weather was supposed to be even better later, but we had no more gas and food to wait, not to mention the time already spent above 7000m.
On the 18th we went to C4 (7550m). Gorgan had been struggling during his climb and decided not to try the summit. Regine was sick and decided to go down. She has been caught alone in the whiteout and snowfall. The trail disappeared and she had a scary and epic descent to C2! She has been impressive and finally made it back to BC in two days (and she tells that with a big smile now).
The 18th at 10pm Alexia, Ludovic, Ben, me, Pemba, Phudorjee, Dawa and Tendi left C4 for the summit. As planned, the Sherpas and I used O2 while the others started without. With all the recent snow, the conditions in the couloir were bad and breaking trail was daunting. There were plenty of clouds, sometimes snowing a little, and we saw some lightning in the distance but the wind was calm.
Later in the couloir Alexia and Ben started to use O2. At around 8200m (TBC) Alexia, Pemba and Ben turned around. Phudorjee, Ludo and I were leading, trying to find the way to the Traverse. The route is not so obvious when we’re on it. The Traverse was much longer than expected and the Hard Wall was not what we were expecting neither. In fact, almost all the climb from 8300m to the top is mixed climbing, never hard but never easy, slow to climb and the type of snow conditions were very difficult. A few minutes after climbing the Chimney, Phudorjee (O2), followed by me (O2), Ludovic (without O2), Tendi (O2), Dawa (without O2) reached the top of Kangchenjunga at 9am, after 11 hours of climb. Then a member of the Russian team (not sure his name, might be Alexey, Bolotov (without O2) summit as well, followed a few minutes after by Cedric (without O2). We stayed 10 minutes on the top, enough to take a few photos and videos of the sea of clouds below us. Then we started the descent.
Phudorjee, who has been the « Man of The Day » by breaking most of the trail, was back first at C4. I came a bit after him (2h40 from the top), followed by Ludo and the rest of the team. We met a second Russian climber (name?) In the couloir, I think he summit very late (?). Ludo and I were too tired to go any further so we decided to spend another night at 7550m.
We made the first Kangchenjunga ascent this year and if I’m not mistaken, the first French ascents in 27 years.
In the meantime, Alexia, Ben and Gorgan started their descent towards the base camp. Like Regine, they have been caught in the whiteout at the point where they pitched the tent they were carrying, somewhere between C3 and C2. The weather improved and they finally made to the C2!
Back to BC
Ludo and I left the camp 4 at 6am in very cold conditions, but as we were still wearing down clothes we wanted to descend as much as possible in the shade. It was a beautiful day with an amazing view going from Everest, Lhotse, Makalu to the Jannu, Yalung, the extreme South of Nepal and even Sikim (India).
In the mean time another summit push was underway. I hope they will take advantage of the broken trail. 😉
We met Alexia, Gorgan and Ben in C2 and continued the descent to the BC. We all had big rucksacks since we cleaned the camps as we went down. We are now all safe at BC focusing on the way back to Kathmandu. We will do the same trekking that we did to reach the BC, but we’ll try to make longer stages to try reach Katmandu in 5 days. Hopefully the monsoon won’t make things more complicated than they were on the way in.
Here in base camp now, at least we have been able to take a shower – the first in nine days – and we can eat more than we’ve done up there…
More information on Kangchenjunga expedition
Plus d’informations sur Expédition au Kangchenjunga