Brits Climb West Face of Vasuki Parbatby Malcolm Bass Oct/2010
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Malcolm Bass and Paul Figg descending the north west ridge after climbing the west face
Malcolm Bass, Oct 2010
© Satyabata Dam
The face was first attempted by Mick Fowler and Paul Ramsden in 2008, but a period of heavy snow fall gave them no time to acclimatise, and once the snow stopped temperatures plummeted. Despite this they made a strong attempt, reaching over half height and solving the critical route finding problems. Equipped with this secret Vasuki knowledge, hard won and generously shared by Fowler and Ramsden, Bass and Figg headed out to the face in mid September. With them on the climbing team was Patricia Deavoll, the renown Kiwi alpinist.
Torrential rain marred the start of the trip and ruined the plans of most other teams in the area. But once the skies cleared the weather stayed perfect for a month. After an initial acclimatisation foray on the lower slopes of nearby Bhagarathi II, Bass, Figg, and Deavoll started up the face in early October. The route began with a water ice gully, before opening out onto moderate snow slopes. Nightime temperatures were bitterly cold, so sacs were heavy with big sleeping bags and lots of clothing.
On the third day Deavoll, who had broken her back in a fall only 5 months earlier, decided to descend, which she did over a day and a half, firstly of downclimbing and then abseiling the ice gully on the team's haul line. Just after Deavoll began her descent Figg was hit by a large falling block. Luckily a gas canister in his rucsac took most of the force. Slightly chastened Bass and Figg sheltered under a roof drinking tea until the sun went off the face.
The next day's efforts were altogether more impressive, superb mixed pitches leading to a steep, rotten rock tower which succumbed to bare handed rock climbing in the afternoon sun. Amazingly nothing was dropped from the bivvy on a snow crest. The crux pitch came the next day, day 7. A fine steep icy groove of about Scottish 7 led to the upper snow field, a lot of heavy breathing, and a commodious bivvy beneath the Kilnsey-like head wall.
Day 8 saw the team finally reach the sharp, serpentine summit ridge (Lord Vasuki is the King of Serpents in Hindu mythology). A bit of high altitude rock climbing action gained the summit on day 9, the 12th of October. Traversing over the summit, more hungry for food than summits by now, the pair continued northwards along the ridge, feet on the west face, tool shafts sunk into the east face.
Day 10 saw them downclimbing and abseiling the north west ridge amongst rotting fixed rope relics. In a final flourish of dropping, Bass dropped a stuff sac with his headtorch, map, compass, and multi tool. The plod from the foot of the ridge over unknown ground back to BC was not pretty.