American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Nepal, Cholatse, North Face

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1996

Cholatse, North Face. Our expedition was composed of four French climbers (aged 21-26) selected by the French Mountaineering Federation (FFME): Boris Badaroux, Philippe Batoux, Marc Challamel, Christophe Mora and Paul Robach (leader). Searching for a challenging and unclimbed route, we were very excited to find the tremendous north face of Cholatse (6440 meters). We established Base Camp on October 9 at the bottom of the north face, about 100 meters below the Zonghla lodge. Our objective, a 1400-meter high wall with sustained ice and snow difficulties, was without serac danger. There was also enough snow in the lower part of the face. (Photographs show that in some years, the first third of the route is composed of rock slabs and poor ice.) After a week trekking for acclimatization, we started to climb, finding gullies (60° to 70°) of rotten snow or thin ice where we couldn't use ice screws. We were obliged to use deadmen or to dig the snow in order to find cracks to set pitons. Two hundred meters of fixed rope were left after this first reconnaissance. Over the next days, we fixed another 400 meters of rope. We followed a tremendous ramp in the middle of huge overhanging rock walls. In this section, we found steep slopes up to 85°, sometimes rotten. The highest point was at 5600 meters, where we left bivouac gear. After a few days of resting, we started on October 23 at 1 a.m. The climb along the 600 meters of fixed ropes took us seven hours and a lot of energy! From the altitude of 5600 meters, we climbed in alpine-style, in 100-meter pitches. We first crossed a large snowfield (60° to 70°) to the right, which led us at the bottom of a 100-meter high icefall (80° to 90°). When we reached a huge depression above the icefall leading to the northwest ridge, we stopped and spent several hours building an uncomfortable platform for two tents. On October 24, we started late in the morning, climbing a succession of steep ice-flutes under the northwest ridge. When night came, we got to a sharp ice-flute (70°) at the foot of vertical rock slabs, where we dug an unstable bivouac. On October 25, three of us took a full rest day, while the two others fixed a strenuous mixed pitch (IV+/750) on the right of the rock wall. From this point, we were only 50 meters from the northwest ridge. The next day, we reached this sharp and aesthetic crest and followed it until we gained the summit of Cholatse at 1 p.m. We went down by the same route, finally reaching our uncomfortable bivouac at twilight. The following day, we abseiled the face, recovering all the fixed ropes.

Paul Robach, French Mountaineering Federation

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