A legendary pair and a legendary climb


Almost 30 years after their last climb together, Mick Fowler and Vic Saunders have successfully completed a first ascent on Sersank (c6,050m) in the Indian Himalaya.

Fowler and Saunders reached the previously unclimbed summit at 12:30pm on 3 October, by the unclimbed 1,100m north face of the mountain.

It was the first time that the two men have climbed as a team since their first ascent of the Golden Pillar of Spantik (Pakistan) in 1987.

Until this expedition, which was supported and equipped by Berghaus, 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.

Line shows the route of descent from Sersank with blobs being bivouacs

Line shows the route of descent from Sersank with blobs being bivouacs

The climb in Mick’s words

“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.”

Mick Fowler leading a pitch on day four on the face of Sersank

Mick Fowler leading a pitch on day four on the face of Sersank

“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.”

Vic at bivouac 4 of the ascent

Vic at bivouac 4 of the ascent

“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 liaison officer, who brought us tea and biscuits.”

Sersank summit selfie by Vic Saunders left and Mick Fowler

Sersank summit selfie by Vic Saunders left and Mick Fowler

“The climb ticked just about all of the boxes for us – interesting area, great company, unclimbed face, unclimbed summit, a striking line that was visible from afar and led straight to the summit, a challenging climb, and one with an aesthetically pleasing and different descent route.  And it all gave us old men so much pleasure that we are already thinking about plans for next year.”