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Asia, Nepal, Kwangde South or Nupla

Kwangde South or Nupla. We made the first ascent of Kwangde South, climbing its northeast ridge. [The peak lies 3 kilometers southeast of the main peak. On Erwin Schneider’s map, Shorung/Hingu it is called Nupla.—Editor.] The climbing team included Rob Burhoe, Pemba Norbu Sherpa, Jim Traverso and me and for a short time Dr. Steven Parker of the Himalayan Rescue Association. Burhoe and I reconnoitered the route during the last two weeks of April and ferried loads to 1500 feet below our Base Camp site with Sherpa help. Over the next few days, we moved most of the gear to Base Camp and then descended, leaving some behind at the lower point. I returned three days later to find all the gear in the lower cache gone, $1000 worth. With the help of local friends, the gear was replaced and the climb continued. It saddens me to make this report, as the majority of people in the area are hard-working and honest. We thought we had done a sufficient job hiding the gear—and it was four miles and 6000 feet above the nearest village. Any low-budget expedition such as ours should not leave any caches at all, should leave one trusted person with them or hide them so well you have trouble finding them yourself. Burhoe and I were joined by the remainder of the team on May 4 in Base Camp at 15,750 feet. Pemba had just returned from the ill-fated French Annapurna expedition, taking one day to rest in Kathmandu! Pemba, Parker and I placed Advance Base at 16,400 feet after climbing some exposed but easy fifth-class rock and snow. We spent the next several days fixing our 1200 feet of rope on the initial steep sections of the route. This was done under wet-snow conditions. The granitic rock was solid. The crux of the lower part was an overhang which I later rated 5.8+, dry. We then took a couple of days for rest. At three A.M. on May 16 we left for the summit, reaching the last technical section just below the summit in the late afternoon. At this point, I was hit by bad stomach cramps. Wishing to give Pemba and Traverso a better chance at the summit, I unroped. Burhoe had stopped lower down due to dysentery and exhaustion. Pemba and Traverso reached the summit (5885 meters, 19,308 feet) at six P.M. They then descended as darkness fell, Pemba opting to continue down the fixed ropes solo, the rest of us by head lamp. We reached Advance Base at 7:30 A.M. on May 17, thirty hours after our departure. The next day, I soloed the fixed lines to get a better idea of the difficulty of the rock. I was joined by Pemba. We descended, down-climbing much of the route, leaving no rope and few rappel anchors. All trash was burned and buried.

Eric Brand