Sersank Expedition Complete – The De-Brief – Mick Fowler

Mick Fowler gives us a ‘Sersank summary’. Read on for tales from his latest adventure where he tackles yet another unclimbed Himalyan peak with climbing partner Victor Saunders.

Sersank (c6050m) North Buttress

The ascent and descent – dots are Bivouacs
The Mick and Vic re-union expedition. Our last Himalayan climb together was the Golden Pillar of Spantik in 1987.
Since then we have had a memorable boxing match in an East London pub and kept in touch but essentially we pursued different lives; Victor Saunders as a mountain guide based in Chamonix and me as a taxman based in Nottingham.
This year though, after being brought back together by the successful joint publication of some of our memoirs, we decided it was time to again experience the pleasure of Himalayan north face climbing together.
It was all down to Martin Moran that we ended up on the spectacular north face of Sersank. My interest was stirred having viewed it from a distance but it was his writing enthusiastically about a ‘tremendous north face of linked white spiders’ that motivated us to have a go.
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 – Ugh! Thanks Victor) we set off up the face on 28th 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. Bivouac 3 on the face brought uncomfortable spindrift, a precariously pitched tent and a night-time emergency which saw Victor urgently but unsuccessfully trying to discard five layers of clothing plus a harness. His favourite Calvin Klein underpants took the brunt of the flow and had to be cut off and abandoned. 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 LO bringing tea and biscuits.
The climb ticked just about all the boxes for us: interesting area, great company, unclimbed face, unclimbed summit, striking line, visible from afar, leading straight to the summit, challenging and with an aesthetically pleasing different descent route. And it all gave us old men so much pleasure that we are already thinking about plans for next year.
Summit Selfie!
I will follow this blog up with a full account of the trip which will be posted here on the Berghaus blog in the near future – along with more of the photos we captured.
Ok, back to unpacking.
Mick Fowler