Climbing History of Kamet

In the history of high altitude mountaineering, Kamet has a prominent position: In 1855, the area was explored by the Schlagintweit brothers, and already in 1913 Meade's Col (7138 m) between Kamet and Abi Gamin was reached. In 1920, Dr. Alexander Kellas (who died in Tibet during the approach march of the first major British Mount Everest reconnaissance) got to Meade Col during his Kamet attempt. It took until 1931 when the first climb was achieved by a British expedition led by Frank Smythe. For five years, Kamet was the highest mountain climbed by men, until the summit of Nanda Devi (7816 m) was reached by a British-American expedition. There is not much information about expeditions in the years after the first climb. Since 1962 the area was closed for foreigners becase it is located very close to the Tibetan border. In the last 40 years the mountain was climbed almost exclusively by Indian military expeditions; no detailed reports were published.

The highest mountain climbed in history of alpinism
16th century 6723 m Llullaillaco climbed by Inca priests for sacrificial ceremonies
1906 7120 m Trisul
1930 7483 m Jongsong Peak
1931 7756 m Kamet
1936 7816 m Nanda Devi
1950 8091 m Annapurna
1953 8850 m Mount Everest

Climbing history of Kamet


First determination of heights and positions of the four main peaks of the Kamet group (Kamet, Abi Gamin, Mukut Parbat, Mana) by Richard Strachey [3].


Robert and Adolphe Schlagintweit reach the Kamet group from north (Tibet). The report to have reached 6700 m at Kamet. They, however, mistook Abi Gamin (which is north of Kamet) for Kamet. To reach Kamet from Tibet, one has to go over the summit of Abi Gamin [3].


An altitude of 6718 m was reached on the west side of Abi Gamin (or at Mukut Parbat, which was called Abi Gamin West at that time - therefore there is often confusion) during survey work by Pocock [1].


Reconnaissance by T.G. Longstaff, C.G. Bruce, A.L. Mumm, Alexis and Henri Brocherel from Raikana Glacier via East Kamet Glacier (i.e., from the east). They consider the narrow passage in the middle part of East Kamet Glacier as too dangerous and try to avoid it using snow fields and ridges towards the north. But there no practicable access to Kamet was found - the eastern side of the mountain seems to offer no way to the summit. They try to reach the mountain from the west but, due to bad weather, they don't get very far [1].


Due to bad weather, C.F. Meade with the guides Alexis Brocherel and Pierre Blanc only reach Khaiam Pass, 5880 m, on the western side. [1]


A. Morris Slingsby and H. de Crespigny attempt the western side of Kamet group. They reach the pass between Abi Gamin West and Abi Gamin East (Slingsby's Col, ca. 6700 m), but deep snow forces them to turn back on the way to Abi Gamin East. [1]


C.F. Meade comes back with Pierre Blanc, Franz Lochmatter, Justin Blanc and Jean Perrin. They reach more than 7000 m at Abi Gamin; bad weather and mountain sickness force them to retreat. They notice that Abi Gamin (East) is not a small shoulder on Kamet north ridge but an independent mountain. The necessary crossing of this summit from the west on the way to Kamet would be a very big effort.[1]


C.F. Meade and Pierre Blanc are on the eastern side now. The narrow turns out to be well accessible, the main difficulties are found in a combined slope at about 6400 m. Camp 4 is established at 6700 m; they reach the wide and easy saddle between Kamet and Abi Gamin East (which is known as Meade's Col since then, 7138 m), but cannot pitch a tent there because they are too exhausted and not well acclimatized to continue, and because the snow is too bad. [1]


Second attempt by Slingsby on the same route, this time forced to return by a snowstorm at above 7000 m before the summit of Abi Gamin East. [1]


A.M. Kellas and H.T. Morshead reach - three weeks after arrival in base camp - den Meade's Col and continue up to 7200 m on the summit ridge. Since their porters refuse to go on or pitch a tent at Meade's Col, neither Kamet nor Abi Gamin could be climbed. [1]


Successful expedition (Frank Smythe, E.B. Beauman, E.St.J. Birnie, C.R. Greene, R.L. Holdsworth, Eric Shipton).

Only two weeks after arrival in the base camp, the summit was reached - for a high 7000 m peak a quite sportive feat. The long approach on foot probably supported a good acclimatization (compared to the quicker approach today). Despite the sometimes very flowery language, Smythe's book is the best reading about Kamet. [1]


A British military expedition led by Ralph Ridley reaches more than 7200 m on the 1931 route. Unfortunately except for some pictures which were shown in the exhibition "The Ice Soldiers" in England in 2003, no detailed information has survived. Smythe, who happened to meet a participant when he approached Valley of Flowers, indicates some lack of mountaineering experience as a reason for the failure [2].


An Indian expedition reaches the summit using the actual ridge which Smythe had avoided in the eastern flank.[3]


October/November: An unexpected Chinese attack causes the Indo-Chinese border war. Areas close to the border are closed to any access.


An Indian expedition reaches the summit from southeast of Meade's Col.


An Indian expedition must turn back on the west ridge at about 7000 m because of a snow storm.


An Indian military expedition of the Assam Rifles reaches the summit in September.


In autumn, an Indo-French expedition climbs the technically difficult west ridge (V-VI).[3]


An expedition of Indian Border Security Forces climbs Abi Gamin and Kamet.


An Indian expedition led by Bachendri Pal (first Indian woman on Mount Everest, 1984) climbs Kamet and Abi Gamin.


The Indian Mount Everest Women Pre-Everest Selection Expedition (again led by Bachendri Pal) reaches Abi Gamin with 16 participants. At Kamet they reach 7730 m.


Argentine expedition to Kamet.


In August a Polish expedition is at Kamet.


Indian marine climbs Abi Gamin and Kamet in May/June as preparation for a Mount Everest expedition.


In May, an expedition of the Indian marine climbs Kamet. Three members are rescued by a helicopter because of frostbite and high altitude sickness; with 7000 m this was the highest helicopter rescue ever successfully carried out.


As a preparation to the first Indian all-women expedition to Mount Everest 2005, a 27-person team attempts Kamet in August. Except for the announcement in the internet, there was no newer information to be found.

The completeness of the data after 1949, especially for expeditions on the normal route, cannot be guaranteed. Very probably, in "before internet times" expedition reports got dusty in some archives and information about climbs never reached the public.


Hartmut Bielefeldt
Sonnhalde 8
D-88699 Frickingen
© 2005 Hartmut Bielefeldt

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Last updated 21 August 2005 by Hartmut Bielefeldt