American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Nepal, Ama Dablam, Northeast Face

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1986

Ama Dablam Northeast Face. In early December Carlos Buhler and I made the first ascent of the northeast face of Ama Dablam. Flanked by the east and north ridges, this face is hidden from view until one walks beyond the village of Chukung, and is best seen from the upper slopes of Island Peak. After walking in from Jiri, accompanied by Carlos’ mother Julie and brother Roman, and my wife Julie, we made a side trip to Kala Pattar (5500 meters) to acclimatize. Heavy snowfall in the area in October rendered the normal Base Camp site for the north side of the mountain inaccessible to yaks, so we established our Base Camp at the small pasture ground of Shango on November 20. With the help of our sirdar, Ang Jangbu, and two other Sherpas, we made a small advanced camp the following day, in the deep snow of the normal Base Camp site at about 5000 meters. To acclimatize further, Carlos, my wife Julie and I made an ascent of the normal route on Island Peak (6189 meters), reaching the summit on November 25 and returning to Base Camp that day. After two days of rest, Carlos and I moved to the advanced camp. We reconnoitered the lower gullies, breaking trail through often-deep snow, and left a cache of food and equipment at the start of the route proper at 5400 meters. After a bivouac there on November 30, we climbed the face in a single push, reaching the summit at 10:02 on the morning of December 7. We descended the normal southwest ridge to 5200 meters that day, utilizing fixed ropes left in place from the fall season, as well as those of a New Zealand team attempting a winter ascent of that route. Our route followed a prominent, steep ice rib in the center of the northeast face. The climbing was predominantly on snow and ice, with some difficult pitches of thin ice over rock; several waterfall pitches were encountered, as well as much steep, unconsolidated snow. Due to the soft snow conditions, the bivouacs were all good, and only one required extensive chopping. Despite perfect weather, the face proved to be a cold one, getting 4 to 6 hours of sun each morning; combined with the short winter days, this resulted in daytime temperatures as low as - 10° F.

Michael Kennedy

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