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Asia, Nepal, Pumori, Kongma Tse, P 5886, Kusum Känguru and Attempt on Kwangde, 1991

Kongma Tse, P 5886, Kusum Känguru and Attempt on Kwangde, 1991. Between October 16 and November 14, 1991,I visited the Khumbu area, joined for the first 15 days by Ed Pope and Betty Roberts. We established Base Camp at 4900 meters below the west side of the Kongma La, five days after leaving the Lukla airstrip. On October 23, I walked out of Base Camp at 11:30 A.M., “intending to take a little hike.” Beginning at the mouth of the Lingtren Lake (4939 meters) on the east side of the Khumbu Glacier, I climbed the west ridge of Kongma Tse (5792 meters, 19,002 feet), mostly fourth-class with two pitches of 5.7. Some of the rock was very loose. At 2:30 P.M., I reached the summit and descended the east face and crossed the Kongma La to get back to Base Camp at four P.M. On October 26, Ed and I climbed a new route on the west face of P 5886 (19,312 feet). The west face was first climbed by Canadian Barry Blanchard and American Jim Scott in April, 1991. (See AAJ, 1992, pages 206-7.) Our route follows the buttress bordering the west face on the left. Although the approach was moderately threatened by séracs, the buttress itself was safe and interesting mixed climbing. Seven moderate pitches (5.6) led to the northwest ridge, which we followed to the summit after 8½ hours of climbing. We descended the north ridge, which connects Kongma Tse to Nuptse. We were back in Base Camp at seven P.M. and in Lukla three days later. I returned up-valley to the village of Monjo to camp at 6370 meters below the north face of Kusum Kanguru on November 2. On November 5, I left Base Camp at 4:30 A.M. and arrived at the foot of the 1500-meter-high wall at seven A.M. I bypassed the bergschrund on rock (5.7) and joined the central couloir, first climbed by John Ball and Tom Curtis in 1985. Four hundred meters up the face, my helmet was shattered by falling ice. Luck and a good ice placement kept me from going to ground. I continued on good ice, which was a sustained 60° to 80° on the upper half. I declined to climb the rotten snow of the final 20 meters and photographed the summit (6367 meters, 20,890 feet) from there at 2:30 P.M. The descent was frightening. After 12 rappels and 1000 meters of down- climbing, I got back to the foot of the wall at 6:30 and to Base Camp at 8:30. I had permission to try the Lowe-Breashears route on the north face of Kwangde (6011 meters, 19,720 feet). Due to a dry and warm post-monsoon season, there was little ice on the lower 300 meters of the wall. Faced with compact slabs and a two-day snowstorm, I abandoned the attempt and flew out to Kathmandu on November 14.

Marc Francis Twight