Kangtega and Lobuje East Ascents and Nuptse Attempt

Author: Jeff Lowe. Climb Year: 1986. Publication Year: 1987.

Englishwoman Alison Hargreaves, Americans Henry Kendall, Marc Twight, Tom Frost and I were active in the Khumbu region near Everest during the pre-monsoon season, climbing two new routes and attempting a third. All were done pure alpine-style.

Kendall and I climbed a new route on Lobuje East (6119 meters, 20,075 feet), following a steep snow-and-ice gully on the left side of the east face. Hargreaves and Twight repeated it shortly afterward.

Hargreaves, Twight, Frost and I moved on to Kangtega (6779 meters, 22,241 feet). In a ten-day round trip from Base Camp, we climbed a difficult new route on the right side of the northwest ridge, encountering very technical ice and mixed climbing on the ice tongue right of the ridge proper. On May 1, Frost and I reached the slightly lower northwest peak, while Hargreaves and Twight continued on to the main peak via a steep final ice face. We descended the northeast couloir, first climbed by the Japanese in 1979.

After moving Base Camp to 5200 meters on the Lhotse Nup Glacier, Twight and I attempted the southeast buttress of Nuptse. We followed the prominent buttress between the original British route and the Cassin-Messner ramp. After 1300 meters of very technical climbing on the buttress, the angle of the route recedes to more moderate snow and ice until the final 400 meters, when it reverts to rock for a difficult finish at very high altitude. Bad weather delayed our start until May 19. Encountering very difficult climbing (5.10, A4) during a single eight-day push, we reached a high point of 6700 meters on May 26. However, bad weather had moved in and with the possibility of an extended wait with little food, we retreated, reaching Base Camp on May 27. The route is one of the finest I have been on and has just the combination of features I am looking for: steep, technical mixed ground, and altitude. Above all, it’s a safe line. There is nothing hanging over you, so you can just relax and enjoy the outrageous climbing.

Jeff Lowe