Monday, September 15, 2008

Topovan Basecamp - 09.14.08

The somber and powerful eastern and northern aspects of Shivling loom large
on the southern horizon. Twenty five years since being cognizant of this
range and one peak in particular, Meru, I look back on the years that
brought me to this place and what the next two weeks will bring.

In 1988, I ventured to Kalidaha peak in the Kishtwar Himal. It was my first
expedition to the Himalaya and prior to departing, our young green team met
up with Mugs Stump and Steve Quinlin, who were on their way to Meru.

Rambo, the epitome of 80's masculinity and aggression had swept a film mad
India. Mugs, with his set jaw and long curling black hair, more than
resembled Rambo. His character effused confidence to the point that the
petty cab drivers were sure this man was Rambo. It was all good humor and
after a meal, we were off to our separate objectives. A late monsoon, or
early winter storm enveloped the Himalaya, and Mugs and Steve never made the
summit of the East Face of Meru's Shark's Fin.

First given international prominence on the cover of Mountain Magazine, the
sweeping granite face alluded to the possibility and high standard that
difficult alpine climbing could take. This image launched more than one
expedition, mine included.

In 1993, an English team, of Paul Pritchard and Jonny Dawes had a serios
attempt on the peak. At their high point, the team dropped a boot. Setback
by a minor misha with major consequences, the guys retreated. The Shark's
Fin remained elusive. The East Wall called multiple teams to define
themselves on it's cold and forbidding vertical and complex landscape.

Mugs died in 1992, on the South Buttress of Denali. With him, the dreams he
had for adventurous climbs in the greater ranges. As his understudy, I felt
a pull to this peak. More teams tried the wall, some diverting onto the
massive snow slope to the north. The direct East Face remained untouched.

In 2003, Bruce Miller, Doug Chabot and I tried the wall, retreating at 2/3's
height. We retreated due to deep unconsolidated snow and no big wall gear
for the upper wall.

In returning this year, I have a strong team of close friends and the
knowledge gained from five years ago. If we are fortunate, we will have
passage through one of the great unclimbed features of the Himalayas.