As previously reported, Mick Fowler and Victor Saunders successfully completed a first ascent on Sersank (c6,050m) in the Indian Himalaya, almost 30 years after their last climb together. Mick and Victor reached the summit at 12:30pm on 3rd October, by the unclimbed 1,100m north face of the mountain. The pair are now back in the UK and more details have emerged of their climb.
Sersank had piqued the curiosity of Mick after reading a description from Martin Moran:
"I had seen it from Kishtwar Kailash in 2013, but it was the British mountaineer Martin Moran who really prompted our interest. He led a trek across the Sersank La in 2011 and wrote that the north side presented a ‘tremendous north face of linked white spiders.’ Victor and I knew Martin well enough to read between the lines. We contacted him, confirmed our suspicions and found our 2016 objective."
The expedition was supported by Berghaus and was the first time that the two men have climbed as a team since their first ascent of the Golden Pillar of Spantik (Pakistan) in 1987. Mick and Victor left the UK in mid-September and flew to Delhi. From there, they had a three day drive to the road-head, followed by a two day walk in to establish base camp. After acclimatisation, the climb itself took five days, during an eight day round trip from base camp.
Mick described the climb as follows:
“We decided that the easiest access would be to trek across the difficult and rarely used 5,000m pass of the Sersank La and descend the far side to the foot of the face. Fresh powder covering the rocks made this exhausting but after overcoming the usual array of Himalayan hurdles we set off up the face on 28 September.
“Heavy snowfall on dry cold rock made for challenging conditions. For two days we swept away snow and inched up the disturbingly blank rock below. By the end of the second day a lower buttress and sharp crest had been overcome and we were firmly established on the cold confines of the north face proper. Here the conditions were better but it became clear that Victor's body was unable to process our dehydrated food, but such minor problems are nothing to a man of Victor's stature.
“Day four was the crux day - fantastic white ice climbing with several pitches just within our limits. Even with numerous unplanned halts, superlatives abounded as we ended the day lying on separate small ledges cut in the ice. Actually, Victor appeared to be more suspended in a web of rope than supported by a ledge, but such inconveniences are minor in the grand scheme of a Himalayan experience.
“At 6.30pm on our fifth day on the face it fell to me to aid and cut through the cornice to emerge onto the south side. After another cold bivouac on narrow ice ledges, the previously unclimbed 150m summit block was dispatched and it was time to head down the complex glacier systems of the south and west face. Two days later we had abseiled through a never-ending icefall, stumbled down disturbingly steep loose rock and met with our cook and liaison officer, who brought us tea and biscuits.”
Mick was able to send a short text message to Berghaus to confirm success, before he and Victor started the journey back to Delhi and then to the UK. Until this expedition, the highest point climbed on Sersank was by a Japanese team with fixed ropes and high altitude porters in 2008, who reached the base of the summit buttress from the west side.
“The climb ticked just about all of the boxes for us - interesting area, great company, unclimbed face, unclimbed summit, a striking line that was visible from afar and led straight to the summit, a challenging climb, and one with an aesthetically pleasing and different descent route. And it all gave us old men so much pleasure that we are already thinking about plans for next year. It was a brilliant and memorable outing.”
In 2015, Chamonix-based mountaineer and interpreter Eric Vola compiled sections of books by both climbers and merged them into ‘Les Tribulations de Mick et Vic' - published in France and winner of the Grand Prix at the Passy Book Festival. The book provided an impetus for this reunion expedition.
When asked how it felt to reunite with Victor, Mick told UKC:
"We are very different personalities but the banter between us is good and we think the same way in the mountains. Climbing together again felt like carrying on where we left things off 29 years ago. At 66 Victor has lost none of his ability, drive or determination. He is a truly remarkable man."
Mick is sponsored by: Berghaus