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Asia, Nepal, Pumori, Kusum Kanguru North Face, 1991

Kusum Kanguru, North Face, 1991. In mid May, 1991, I soloed a direct finish to the Curtis-Ball route on the north face of Kusum Kanguru. This was my most aesthetic climb and my most moronic. Leaving the Curtis-Ball at half height, I climbed emerald gullies falling from an azure sky. The gullies often ended and I had to cross terrifying, crystalline, rotten-snow ribs to find more ice. At three-quarters height a cough became debilitating and I bivouacked, hacking up inch-long pieces of yellow phlegm … and blood. I wondered if I’d be alive in the morning. Going up the final 1000 feet seemed a safer option than rappelling 4000 feet on a single-length 7mm rope. A blizzard obscured the col atop my descent route to the east. I bivouacked again in a snow cave dug with crampons and helmet. More hacking and more blood. The next morning, I descended 1000 feet of tumbling glaciers, rappelled 1000 feet more on sérac walls and finally rock. In the early afternoon I walked into Base Camp. My sirdar had built a small shrine and was burning juniper for me … or for my soul.

Barry Blanchard, Alpine Club of Canada