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May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine


Because It's Still There:
Arganglas 2001

Legendary British Mountaineer Sir Chris Bonington leads a team of veteran climbers to a cluster of previously unexplored peaks in the remote Ladakh region of northeast India. Follow their adventure into the unknown here.

Dispatch #2—9.9.01
Split into two groups, the teams recon potential routes, battle weather, and launch their first summit attempt.

Dispatch #1—8.31.01
After establishing base camp and surveying the terrain, Bonington says one thing's for certain: the next few weeks should be fun.

Base Camp, 4,800 meters (15,750 Feet)

I'm sitting in our little communications tent at Base Camp with an amazing mountain view around me. Immediately opposite within half an hours walk are granite buttresses offering fun multi pitch rock climbs. Over them towers a rock spur reminiscent of the South West Pillar of the Drus, leading up to a 6020m summit. Looking south east up the valley, the right hand retaining wall of the glacier presents a series of thousand metre plus rock walls and buttresses that compare in size and seriousness to the best of the Alps, but of course they start at a height higher than any climb in the Alps. We've already named one huge wall, the North Wall of the Eiger, another, the Walker Spur of the Grandes Jorrasses. Mark Wilford observed gleefully that it was like coming to the European Alps for the first time before anything had been climbed.

We haven't yet been able to see around the corner of the glacier where we shall find the highest peaks and our principal objective - . 6789 which we have named Argan Kangri.

In the next few days we plan to recce a site for an advance base part way up the Northern flank of the Phunangma Glacier, and then do a series of training climbs, every one of them on unclimbed peaks and faces, before attempting Argan Kangri and some of the neighboring high peaks. We are in an Alladins cave of challenging unclimbed peaks and faces - the next few weeks should be fun.

Reconnaissance Phunangma Glacier

On the morning of Sept 1 a team of 8 left BC and headed up the Moraine towards the Phunangma Glacier with the objective of locating an ABC on or near the glacier and to make an initial recce of the surrounding peaks and glaciers. Upon reaching the top of the first knoll we were treated to an impressive view up the length of the glacier and its immediate peaks. With great excitement we checked out the most obvious routes on the peaks we could see and for purposes of identification gave temporary names to the most prominent.

At the Western end of the Phunangma Glacier are two massive triangular peaks with great north faces. The left hand, .6218 we have named the Eiger and it presents a superb direct line to the summit of some thousand metres...All final names of the peaks climbed or observed will be in the local language with local significance.

We chose two locations for ABC, one in the middle of the Phunangma Glacier on a strip of moraine at approximately 5400m which offers good access to the aforementioned peaks. A second ABC was selected to the north west approximately 1km away on a grassy moraine near the snout of the subsidiary glacier we have names the Nono Glacier. This camp will give good access to Peaks .6317, .6092, and 6265 which lie in a compact cirque north of the Phunangma Glacier.

Finally by 3.30pm all members had returned to BC tired from the long walk but enthusiastic about the climbs ahead.

September 9
Report by Chris Bonington (unedited)

Advanced Base Camp

Marks, Richey and Wilford, set out at 10.30 yesterday to walk over rough moraines to the foot of the Argan Eiger North Face. At 11 o'clock this morning we saw them through our binoculars and flurries of snow just beginning to cross the bergschrund at the foot of the face. They are obviously going to have a look in spite of the unsettled nature of the weather. It's snowing here at advance base.

Divyesh Muni, Cyrus Schroff with the Sherpas Dawa Wangchuk and Sam Gyal are at a high camp on the Nono Glacier and are due to attempt a 6000 metre peak today but we don't know whether they have set out in view of the weather.

The only other news is a delightful walk that Jim and I had on 6 September up the Phunangma Glacier from Advance Base. It was easy going but needed a rope since there were hidden crevasses. It was a great feeling being on ground where no one had ever trod and we were rewarded at the head of the glacier by a view of peaks stretching into the distance, probably most of them unclimbed.

We have now got to hope for an improvement in the weather. It is decidedly autumnal with snow showers but you can climb between them.

All dispatches and photos courtesy of www.bonington.com

©2000, Mariah Media Inc.

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