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 Kangchenjunga 2001                Last Updated 5/31/2001

Update 5/30/2001: We finally reached Katmandu this morning after a whole night of driving, and following a 3 days strike that paralyzed the Country and forced us to vegetate in a lousy hotel somewhere in the SE. Our expedition to Kangchenjunga (8586m) was a success with 4 of us on the summit on May 15.

We were initially 8 climbers:

Piotr Pustelnik, 49, Polish, leader,
Marty Schmidt, 40, USA,
Hector Ponce de Leon, 34, Mexico,
Araceli Segarra, 32, Spain,
Markus Stofer, 34, Swiss,
Brian Duthers, 32, Swiss,
RD Caughron, 58, USA, and me,
Gonzalo Velez, 42, Portugal,

and additionally: Piotr Klepacz, 33, our doctor..

We reached the SW face BC on Apr 12. The view of the mountain was impressive at first sight because it all seemed so complicated due to the wide fractured glaciers that hanged from the "Great Shelf" (7100m) and from the "Hump" (6300m). Camp 1 was installed finally on Apr 21. Due to the persistent weather difficulties our Camp 2 would be put up by May 2 at 6900 meters. By then Markus had abandoned our expedition because he was not psychologically prepared to the complication of frequently doing the trail and the extension and harshness of the route.

The weather was very difficult because it snowed every afternoon sometimes about 20cm which caused our trails on the mountain to disappear. We had to do them again anew in the following climb. In addition we were the only team on the mountain. Later on RD [RD Caughron, 58, USA] also abandoned due to poor health and fear that his heart might "fail" creating us rescue problems. We left BC on May 8 with the intention to continue to the summit. On May 10 we were at Camp 2 but did not foresee the fact that we had not yet found a way through the seracs onto the Great Shelf. On May 11 we tried without success and on May 12 we found a very simple way through. On May 13 we traversed the Great Shelf and camped at 7700 meters inside a crevasse! We took 2 tiny tents and slept with a lot of discomfort: Piotr, Brian and me in one, Araceli, Hector and Marty in the other. Next day my group decided to move the tent 200 meters up to 7900 meters and become closer to the summit. On May 14 Marty left his tent at 23h and passed by ours by 2h. He took a long time due to deep snow. We were also getting prepared and Brian left by 2h30, me and Piotr by 3h (we can't all get ready at the same time in such a small tent designed to 2 persons!). Hector and Araceli left by this time but unfortunately they could not warm their feet and worried with the consequences decided to descend. 

We spent the morning going up the "Gangway", the 45 degrees couloir that leads to the West ridge. By 8h the weather started deteriorating with the wind intensifying and the visibility decreasing. We then diverted to the normal route couloir but it revealed having too much accumulation of snow. Then we retreated to and climbed the Gangway to its end and followed the West ridge to the summit which we reached by 14h. We all descended safely although some of us still have some numb toes and fingers. No serious frostbite occurred.

Gonzalo Velez

PS: Only Piotr Pustelnik used oxygen to reach the summit.


a.) The USA climber is Marty Schmidt;
b) Our last camps were at 7600m and 7800m;
c) Araceli was our only female companion;

d) Inside a crevasse is not at its bottom, but below its lip which formed like a roof.

Update 5/31/2001 official results added:

Four members of International New Millenium Kanchenjunga Expedition has been successful on 8586 meters high Mt. Kanchenjunga on 15th May 2001,1400 hrs.

1)  Mr. Piotr Pustelnik (1951), Teacher, from Nowa, Poland.
2)  Mr. Brian Duthers (1968), Climber, from Schloessllweg,
3) Mr. Martin Walter Schmidt (1960), mountain Guide, Denver, Colorado, USA.
4) Mr. Gonzaleo Manuel Sobral Blanco Velez, (1958), from Portugal.

This eight member expedition team was permitted to climb 8,856 m high Mt. Kanchenjunga from South West Face under the leadership of Mr. Piotr Pusteir(1951).

Update 3/26/2001: Kangchenjunga 2001 Expedition

The list of members is following:
Piotr Pustelnik - leader   POL
Piotr Klepacz - doctor    POL
Hector Ponce de Leon    MEX
Araceli Segarra Roca      ESP
Goncalo Velez               POR
Russell McBride             USA
Raymond D. Caughron    USA
Martin W. Schmidt         USA
Marcus Stofer               Swiss

Brian Duthers                Swiss

Piotr Pustelnik leader of Kangchenjunga 2001 expedition

Source: Piotr Pustelnik

Update 4/30/2001: On 2nd April Piotr Pustelnik was in Kathmandu and was trying to do some "shopping" for food, climbing equipment, etc. Team change: there's no Russ McBride, Brian Duthers (Swiss) is added. This expeditions is the only one who will attempt Kangchenjunga this spring. They have to make it alone to the on top. More on: http://3razy3.onet.pl

Update 2/21/2001:Kang Millenium Expedition members

Goncalo Velez, likes to quote, "From a certain point onward there is no longer any turning back. That is the point that must be reached." (Franz Kafka) 

Update 2/5/2001

Araceli Segarra, who last year attempted K2, will attempt Kangchenjunga this spring 2001. Araceli Segarra, who is best known in the US for her role in the IMAX movie, in which she reached the Summit of Everest, will attempt to be the second woman to summit Kangchenjunga. Ginette Harrison is the only woman to have reached the Summit. Wanda Rutkiewicz, who most consider the greatest woman climber ever, died on Kangchenjunga somewhere over 8000 meters while attempting by the southwest face route. 


Kangchenjunga Autumn 2000 Czech Expedition Himalaya 8000

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