Andrew has just returned to Australia from a gruelling but successful ascent of the south face of Mt Kanchenjunga in Nepal. The world’s 3rd highest mountain at 8596 metres and located in the far east of the Himalayan chain in Nepal, Andrew climbed with a strong international team of Veikka Gustafsson, Hirotaka Tadeki, Ralf Dujmovits, Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner and Joao Garcia. Making their summit attempt on May 14th, the team set off from their high camp (camp 3) at 7700 metres at 4am, after a 4 hour delay due to an unexpected snow storm. They combined with a Swiss team led by Norbert Joos, to force their way up the ‘ramp’ in deep snow conditions before moving into mixed ground under the summit buttress. Increasing wind and cloud impeded their progress but they pressed on to finally reach the summit at 5pm.
Andrew spent just 10 minutes on top as the winds reached gale force and darkness was encroaching swiftly. Descending in deteriorating conditions the team were unable to use their headlamps in the night due to thick cloud, and were forced to wear goggles in the blackness to protect their eyes from the gale. Nonetheless they persevered and finally located camp 3 at 9.30pm. With one tent destroyed and 2 others damaged by the storm, the two teams spent a miserable night but by morning the storm had abated and the climbers were able, finally, to light the stove and take in some fluid. They descended to basecamp that same day. Andrew described the climb as one of his hardest but most satisfying ascents, however due to the physical impact of this climb he felt unable to justify an attempt on another 8000er this season and has now returned to Australia.
Andrew’s ascent of Kanchenjunga is his 15th summit of an 8000 metre peak, a record unparalleled in Australian climbing history and equalled by on only 2 or 3 people in the world, and with 11 individual 8000 metre mountains under his belt (he has twice climbed Cho Oyu, Shishapangma Central and Everest), he has just 3 of the fourteen ‘8000ers’ to go.