Rolfe and his climbing team headed to the Indian Himalayas this August to attempt Nun Peak and its neighbouring peak Kun. This was a new expedition for 360 but one that had been on our radar for some time thanks to Rolfe's curiosity. Here's a few words from Rolfe on what happened...
“Of course, there’s a tinge of regret that we didn’t reach the summit. This is the point of climbing a mountain after all. But seeing how the odds rapidly began to stack against us the moment we set foot in India the fallback dictum of “the summit is always a bonus” is perhaps more appropriate for our recent attempt on the 7,135-metre-high Nun Peak.
It is extremely refreshing to climb on a mountain that is devoid of other people. We were the only team climbing this majestic icy pyramid. It is also a great feeling to tackle a mountain on its own terms and not be guaranteed success. We carried our own loads, set up our own tents, cooked our own food and dug deep on a route that was utterly unfamiliar to us. The normal route (red) had been battered by climate change, large uncrossable crevasses had only recently split this straightforward ridge and unpredictable ice fall pummelled the lower half of the route.
So, we turned our eyes to an alternative way to the top and decided on the original French route (blue) first climbed in the 1950’s. This route is to my mind a more elegant climb and avoids the numerous serac walls that haunt the normal route and most of the other alternative routes on the steep east face. The only drawback is that it saves its toughest climbing till the end and this plus the weather changing at the last minute stopped our progress to the top.
The high camp on the French route sits at 6,300 metres on an exposed ridge which affords incredible views over this rarely visited part of the Himalaya. I reached this camp with my friend Pemba well before midday and immediately began to level out the rock platforms for the tents. Still struggling upwards was the rest of our team. The normal route up the East Ridge has camp 2 and 3 nicely spaced 500 metres apart. This section of our route featured 1000 metres of jumaring on a 50 -60-degree icy headwall and for 3 of our team this proved to be the crux of the expedition. They descended to camp 2 and from here down to basecamp the following day.
The rest of us scrutinised the weather forecast and were disappointed to find that our predicted 24-hour window had shrunk to about 8. Violent winds were forecast to form at sunrise and with it a lot of snowfall and cloud cover. Our original plan, made in the warmth of our tents at camp 2 (5,400 metres), was to leave our sleeping bags behind and attempt the summit in a continuous push with only a brief stop to refuel and rehydrate at camp 3. Then after having reached the summit to descend back to camp two. Of course, there is never such a thing as a fixed itinerary on any mountain and as per usual this plan didn’t eventuate as hoped.
We left the high camp at 10 pm and slowly made our way up the exposed ridge. The wind picked up rapidly as we climbed higher, and the temperature became more and more bitter. We called it quits at 6.625 metres. By this time our Indian team member had developed frost nip on his toes, and I hadn’t felt my fingers for quite some time. Ahead of us lay 2 rock-bands and a long-exposed summit ridge. Continuing in the rapidly deteriorating conditions was asking for trouble. Descending was a no brainer.
Not having a sleeping bag at the high camp lead, me and my tent mates to have a shivery few hours until first light appeared and we descended all the way to our comfortable basecamp for hot drinks and excellent food.
Of course, were not done with this mountain yet. We’ll be coming back next season to attempt the summit again. We’ll have unlocked a few of this beautiful mountain’s secrets and know what store for us. Perhaps we’ll get lucky and see what those final 400 metres are like too.”
It’s certainly piqued our interest…
This trip is an expedition of many stages, from training to preparation and acclimatisation, and completing the legs to the summit. These pictures begin to show the beauty and grandeur of the Indian Himalayan landscape around you but very much the gravity of the mountains and the scale of it all has to be seen with your very own eyes…
Who’s curious to join them for next year’s summit attempt? They’re hungrier than ever!
Check out our Nun expedition right here.