Progress Report 3 - Kangchenjunga - 11th May 2000


Despite delays getting himself and his equipment to base camp, and set-backs caused by the weather, the UK's top high altitude mountaineer Alan Hinkes has begun his assault of the giant Himalayan mountain Kangchenjunga (8586m).

Alan is attempting to be the first Briton to climb all fourteen of the world's highest mountains, which are all over 8000 metres in height - Challenge 8000. So far he has climbed eleven of the mountains, including Everest and K2. This spring, he is attempting to climb Kangchenjunga the third highest mountain in the world.

Alan arrived at base camp (4500m) on Sunday 30 April after an epic eighteen days journey from Kathmandu. The trek from the road head at Tapelejung had taken several days longer than expected due to severe weather. Very heavy snow falls made the route treacherous and the 25 porters who were carrying all of his equipment were forced to take the last part of the trek at a very slow pace.

At base camp, Alan found four other expeditions, from India, Korea, Switzerland and Britain already tackling Kangchenjunga. They were able to report that the severe storms had dumped alot of fresh snow on the mountain, increasing the avalanche danger and making the ascent much more dangerous.

"Once the sun has come up it starts to partially melt the snow and I can hear avalanches crashing down the mountain throughout the day," said Alan via satellite phone. "Everything is completely white; the fresh falls of snow have covered up many of the rocky outcrops."

Once all of his equipment had arrived at base camp, Alan was able to begin his assault on the mountain. On Friday 5 May he climbed up to Camp 1 at 6050 metres, crossing deep snow and climbing up some challenging rock and ice obstacles. He spent the night at this altitude and suffered from some mild altitude sickness, which every climber has to overcome before they can go higher. He returned to base camp on Saturday to rest.

To acclimatise safely, all climbers have to gradually climb higher, returning to base camp to rest before pushing higher, returning, pushing higher still and returning to rest until they are ready to make the final summit attempt. Acute mountain sickness can be fatal and it is important to acclimatise slowly to the altitude, although every time a climber pushes
higher he will suffer from the early signs of mountain sickness; headaches, flu-like symptoms, nausea and disorientation. It will take Alan about three weeks of climbing and returning before he is acclimatised enough to make a summit attempt.

On Wednesday 10 May, Alan set off for Camp 1 again and hopes to climb to Camp 2 at 6800m and possibly higher, where he will spend one or two nights before returning to base camp. Eventually Alan will put Camp 3 at about 7300m and his final Camp, which may only be a bivouac at about 7800m. He should be ready to make his summit attempt in the last week in May. Kangchenjunga is 8586m high, only 300m lower than Everest.

Before leaving for Camp 1 Alan commented: "It feels good to be on the mountain climbing, although the conditions are not ideal. This area at the eastern end of the Himalayan mountains has a reputation for bad weather so I was expecting the conditions to be hard. The monsoon will come in fast at the end of May, so I shall take every break in the weather over the next three weeks to push higher until I am ready to make my attempt on the
summit of Kangchenjunga."