Report by Chris Bonington (unedited)
The North Face of Argan Kangri from near AB1. Lines show the route and approximate position of camps on the way up.
September 17, 2001
Advanced Base Camp 1
There's been plenty of action since my last report. The two Marks were just below the top of the huge North Face of the Argan Eiger and we expected them down the next day.
Meanwhile Jim Lowther, Divyesh Muni, Cyrus Schroff, Sherpa Samgyall and I moved up to Camp 1 below Argan Kangri in increasingly heavy snow. It snowed all night and was still snowing the next morning and so we decided to drop back to advance base. Since the advance base (ab1) of the Indians was off the glacier and on grass we decided to drop back there and make it our advance base for the rest of the expedition.
There was no sign of the two Marks.
We sat out the next two days with glimpses of the North Face of the Argan Eiger through the clouds but there was still no sign of them. One possibility was that they had gone down the other side, but even this was worrying since examination of the map showed that the glacier led into a precipitous gorge which we later learnt that local people considered impassable.
On the 14th we sent one of the fittest of our porters down to the Nubra valley to see if they had descended the glacier and gorge behind the Argan Eiger and on the 15th Harish and I decided we should at least start getting a helicopter organised to recce the back of the mountain. We were on our way down when we met our porter Bhakta on his way back up with the great news that he had met Marks Richey and Wilford, tired and hungry, at the bottom of the Gorge that morning. They had started with food for four days and were away for seven. Bhakta took them to the little hotel where we had stayed on the way out and they plan to rest there, no doubt consuming large quantities of beer, before joining us in the next few days when they will be able to tell you their story in detail - it will be quite an epic!!!!!
The rest of the team is fit and well, staying at advance base waiting for an improvement in the weather when they will make another attempt on Argan Kangri.
All dispatches and photos courtesy of www.bonington.com