Report 5 - Kangchenjunga - 1st June 2000
UK MOUNTAINEER ALAN HINKES ABANDONS ATTEMPT
ON KANGCHENJUNGA FOLLOWING VERY DANGEROUS
SNOW CONDITIONS. ON THE DESCENT ALAN FALLS
INTO A DEEP CREVASSE, BREAKING HIS ARM
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