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Asia, Nepal, Dhaulagiri, Southwest Buttress

Dhaulagiri, Southwest Buttress. Our expedition was composed of Jean Coudray, leader, Yves Pollet-Villard, Bernard Muller, Raymond Renaud, Marc Salomez, Dr. Philippe Michaud and me. We climbed the southwest buttress, attempted in 1978 by French guides from the Ecole Nationale de Ski et d’Alpinisme. The buttress is in three parts: from 16,400 to 19,700 feet a succession of rock towers, the last 650 feet high; from 19,700 to 22,650 feet a fine snow ridge, with steps up to 60° in the first section and with enormous rock-and-ice towers second; and from 22,650 feet to 24,275 feet a vertical and partially overhanging step. I left Pokhara on August 22 with six Sherpas and 70 porters and ascended the Mayangdi Khola to reach Lower Base Camp at 12,000 feet on September 1 under miserable conditions. We fixed ropes and stocked Upper Base Camp at 16,400 feet, which work was completed by September 12 when the main party arrived at Lower Base Camp. Upper Base Camp was occupied on the 15th and Camp I at 18,375 feet on the 17th. A frightful three-day storm halted operations. On September 25 the route had been prepared to 21,000 feet, where Camp III was placed at the foot of one of the immense towers. Above, there were several difficult mixed and ice passages as well as a thin, airy ridge. Camp IV, the high point for the Sherpas, was established at 22,650 feet on September 29. From there the climbing was more difficult than any I had ever done before and it was done in extreme cold and with violent winds. Mostly with Muller, I led all but three of the 30 pitches up the 1625-foot final step, some with direct-aid on the overhangs, some mixed, some on often rotten rock, some on steep ice. On October 18 Salomez and I reached the top of the buttress. On October 21 Muller and I again climbed the buttress and continued south toward the summit. We bivouacked in a snow cave. On October 22 unhappily Muller and I could not progress all the way up the two miles to the summit because of extremely strong northwest winds. It took an hour to join Muller, 125 feet away on not difficult terrain. We stopped at 24,600 feet (7500 meters). After this attempt we retreated because of fatigue, lack of food and fuel and because winter had arrived. (The south buttress climbed by Japanese in 1978 lies east of the French route.— Editor.)

Pierre Beghin, Groupe de Haute Montagne