ZANKSAR: Chilling II – A MACC Fund sponsored Expedition
June 2018 saw a small team head to the Lalung Valley in the Zanskar Himalaya to make an attempt on the unclimbed North face of Chiling II (referred to erroneously elsewhere as Z2). The expedition was led by Alex Mathie, climbing with Matthew Harle. We were supported by big load specialist (high-altitude porter) Karma, dal baht extraordinaire (cook) Narish and first-time LO Jai.
Matthew Harle wearing his Icarus Flight insulation and Alpine Stretch Pants
We established base camp at the toe of the Lalung glacier at 4200m on 9th June with assistance from local porters. The following day, we established an advanced base camp in the driving rain below the subsidiary glacier leading to Chiling I & II at 4700m. Throughout the expedition, our attempts to go climbing were, without exception, frustrated by poor weather. It snowed on the Chiling peaks every day we were at base camp, and while brief windows of blue sky were often observed in the mornings, these invariably gave way to cloud and precipitation higher up the glacier. Early in the trip, 13 hours of heavy snow brought an uncomfortable and nervy end to an acclimatisation foray on the North-East face of unclimbed Lalung III (6152m). Later on, conditions on the North face of Chiling II proved unjustifiably dangerous, with unstable accumulations of snow and rotten, poorly bonded ice at lower elevations. Our attempts to make progress up the entrance couloirs on the north face during the short, clear windows each morning were shut down by an onslaught of spindrift and falling ice as the face shed its coating of snow from the previous night’s weather. Now with insufficient food, gas, and un-dented parts of helmet for a serious attempt, we reluctantly decided to abort.
The team from left to right: Jaiprakash Gupta (LO), Karma (high altitude porter), Matthew Harle, Alex Mathie
Failure after such physical, mental and financial investment is always a difficult pill to swallow. However, we both felt that this was an invaluable learning experience for a pair of young alpinists making their first forays into the Greater Ranges. We are more psyched than ever and will be back in the Himalaya before long.
Approaching the North Face of Chiling IIWe would like to thank the Montane Alpine Club Climbing Fund, the Mount Everest Foundation, the Jeremy Willson Charitable Trust, and the British Mountaineering Council for their generous financial support of our expedition. We would also like to thank Montane, Rab Equipment, Torq and Expedition Foods for keeping us warm, dry, energised and satisfied with their fantastic equipment and food.