American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Nepal, Pumori

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1973

Pumori. Our expedition was composed of teacher-guides in the Ecole Nationale de Ski et d’Alpinisme at Chamonix: Yves Pollet-Villard, leader; Pierre Blanc, Jean Coudray, Yvon Masino, Georges Payot, Raymond Renaud and me as deputy-leader. From Kathmandu we flew to Lukla on September 17 and left Lukla on September 19 with eight Sherpas and 148 porters. Base Camp was established at 17,000 feet at Gorakshep, two hours below the Everest Base Camp. Camp I was placed on September 29 at 17,900 feet on the moraine that descends from Kala Pattar. We attacked the south face at 18,375 feet, choosing the spur which comes lowest and ascends to the summit of Pumori. It has four rocky steps, separated by ice or snow and very steep corniced ridges. The buttress is separated from the summit slope by a final 150-foot rocky barrier. The crux sections were the second (20,650 feet) and fourth (22,000 feet) steps. The first step was above the bergschrund and was cut on the left by a 75° verglas-covered, difficult ice couloir which we abandoned in favor of the more exposed but easier right side. The Sherpas failed to climb this. Some 70° snow led to Camp II on the buttress crest 350 feet below the second step, which started with 250 feet of very difficult mixed climbing. We escaped into a 500-foot-high amphitheater to avoid a part of the step. The top of the amphitheater being overhanging, we climbed to the right over a 100-foot slab with direct aid and onto the ice plaque which covered the upper part of the slab; up this we front-pointed for 65 feet on 80° ice. We emerged at the top of this second step on fifty feet of rock to reach the 65° fluted snow slopes that led to the third step at 21,300 feet. We climbed this step on UIAA IV+ rock and got back to the corniced, broken ridge where we had to ascend vertical walls of rotten snow. The 650-foot ridge took us three days and led to the fourth step, which for some time we feared unclimbable. Fortunately, extremely difficult and in part artificial climbing brought us to a 65° ridge under the rocky barrier below the summit slopes. At the top of this ridge we were pinned for four days, October 26 to 29, by a storm which dropped over three feet of snow. We had fixed some 10,000 feet of rope and wondered if we could find it in the deep snow. It was however the very steepness that saved us since the snow sloughed off as it fell; then a violent wind blew off what remained. Polet-Villard, Masino, Payot and Coudray reascended in two days to Camp III, surprised to find all the fixed ropes in place. We felt they could make it but feared windslabs. On November 3 they set out at 6:30 and by ten o’clock were above the highest fixed ropes. They took an hour and a half to cross the 150 feet of the rocky barrier. They were on the summit (23,442 feet) at noon in brilliant but windy weather. The second team, Blanc, Renaud, Sirdar Ang Temba and I, were at Camp III as they descended. There was room for only four people at the campsite, which previously had taken us two days to carve out of the steep ice. We four were at the summit on November 4 in bright, still weather. We used 170 pitons, 15 ice screws, 70 pickets and 10,000 feet of fixed rope.

Maurice Gicquel, Groupe de Haute Montagne

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