Progress Report 4 - Kangchenjunga - 24th May 2000

Alan Hinkes, the UK's top high altitude mountaineer, is ready this week to make an attempt on the summit of the world's third highest 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, at 8586m high, only 300m lower than Everest.

Since his arrival at base camp (4500m) on Sunday 30 April, Alan has been familiarising himself with the mountain and gradually acclimatising. The acclimatisation process takes him about three weeks and involves climbing part way up the mountain and returning to base camp to rest, then climbing higher and again returning, climbing further again and returning until he has got used to the altitude and is ready to attempt the summit.

On Friday 5 May he climbed as high as Camp 1 at 6050m before returning to base camp to rest for a few days. On Thursday 11 May and Friday 12 May he climbed as high as Camp 2 at about 6950m, spending the night there before returning to base camp to recover. He set off again on Wednesday 17 May, climbing to Camp 1 for the first night, to Camp 2 for the second night and then pushing on to Camp 3 at 7300m where he spent the night of Friday 19 May. On Saturday 20 May he pushed up as high as 8200m climbing over the
'Great Shelf' - a gently sloping ice field surrounded by crevasses - and up to the top of the 'Gangway', a narrow steeply sloping snow ramp, which forms a funnel for rocks and ice falling down the mountain. Alan returned to base camp on the Sunday.

He now plans to rest at base camp before preparing himself for his summit attempt. He plans to set off on Wednesday 24 May or Thursday 25 and the attempt will take him about four days of climbing and two days to return. The conditions on the mountain have not been good with very strong winds and heavy snow falls. The fresh snow increases the avalanche risk and makes the climb much more dangerous.

Speaking by satellite phone from base camp, Alan described the conditions: "It is heavy work in the fresh snow and I have to be constantly on my guard for signs of avalanches or rock falls. The bad weather is probably the first sign that the monsoon is arriving, so I need a good weather window over the next few days. I feel fit and ready for my summit bid."