Progress Report 5 - Kangchenjunga - 1st June 2000


Alan Hinkes, the UK's top high altitude mountaineer, has abandoned his attempt on Kangchenjunga (8586m), the third highest mountain in the world after he encountered very dangerous snow conditions at about 8000 metres in height. On the descent, a snow bridge across a crevasse collapsed and he fell into it badly hitting his elbow and breaking his arm.

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.

After three weeks acclimatising on Kangchenjunga, Alan set off at 3am from base camp at 5400m on Friday 26 May to make his summit attempt. He climbed, on his own, on Saturday and Sunday, above the cloud cover to a height of about 8000m before turning back on Monday in the face of very dangerous snow conditions. A lot of fresh snow had fallen in the previous days making the conditions very unstable and avalanches were crashing down the mountain
all around him.

"I was not confident that the conditions were safe enough," said Alan by satellite phone from base camp. "Even though I had climbed as high as 8000m I still made the decision to turn back. The snow could have gone at any time taking me with it."

During the descent on Tuesday, he started to cross a large crevasse using a narrow snow bridge which looked solid and safe.

"The snow bridge collapsed underneath me when I was part way across," Alan said. "There was solid ice making up the sides of the crevasse and somehow I managed to stop myself falling too far down. But as I fell I heard a metallic crack as my left elbow smashed into the side of the crevasse. At first I thought it was a piece of equipment snapping, but I quickly
realised I must have broken a bone in my elbow. I was very lucky that I was able to drag myself out of the crevasse; I don't know how I managed it, because I couldn't use my left arm at all."

"The rest of the descent was very scary. I couldn't use my left arm for abseiling or to hold a pole and with the very deep snow to wade through it was very hard work. I was very relieved to make it back to base camp and now I am completely worn out."

"Because I was climbing solo," continued Alan, "the feeling reminded me of when I was on my own climbing K2 in 1994. There were some very scary moments then as well. It took me three attempts to climb K2, so I am quite prepared to return next spring to Kangchenjunga to make another attempt. I felt very fit and well acclimatised for this attempt, but I have not had the weather window to give me the chance to reach the summit. I always say that no mountain is worth a life and returning safely from one of these Himalayan giants is a success. I shall return to make another attempt."

Alan plans to rest today at base camp before starting the trek out from the mountain and the return to Kathmandu. The journey will consist of about a week of hard walking with the final leg a short flight back to Kathmandu.

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