The band is back together… Some 30 years after their last joint climb, legendary British mountaineering duo Mick Fowler and Victor Saunders have combined to make a first ascent of a hard new route in the Indian Himalaya.
The pair reached the previously unclimbed summit of Sersank (circa 6,050m) at 12:30pm on 3 October, by the unclimbed 1,100m north face of the mountain. The expedition was supported by Berghaus and was the first time that the two men have climbed as a team since their acclaimed first ascent of the Golden Pillar of Spantik (Pakistan) in 1987.
Fowler and Saunders 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.
To put things in perspective, 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.
It’s all very much in keeping with Fowler’s personal philosophy of fitting his high-level, lightweight, mountaineering trips around his family life and long-standing career as a high-ranking In land Revenue professional. Saunders, meanwhile, works as a professional mountain guide.
Sersank, The Climb: Mick Fowler describe how things played out
“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 (including an unfortunate mix-up of pee and drinking bottles!) 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’
“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.”