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Asia, Nepal, Western Nepal, Janak Himal, Kusum Kanguru, Southwest Buttress/Ridge, Variation

Buttress/Ridge, Variation. After alpine- style ascents of Cholatse and Lobuje East, Fredrick Wilkinson and I, both 20, descended to Thado Khosi from the Gokyo region of the Khumbu Himalaya in early November. We hoped to do either a new route on the southwest face of Kusum Kanguru (6367m) or repeat the Dream Pillar (Southwest Buttress/Ridge) route put up by Stephen Venables and Dick Renshaw in 1991.

After a few days of rest, we began our approach up the Kusum Khola drainage.

On the first day, a logging trail led to the first major fork in the river. On day two, we were forced into the bamboo forests on the river’s left side after a bit of riverside talus hopping. That night, we camped at a stream bed high up on the left flank of the Kusum Khola drainage. The following day, we reached the site of our base camp at 3900 meters on a rhododendron-studded ridge. From here, we could tell that a direct route up the southwest face would be more or less suicidal due to incessant rockfall, so we decided to attempt the brilliant-looking Dream Pillar.

After a day of rest, Fred and I made a carry to our Advanced Base Camp at 4800 meters and returned to Base Camp. A little more food and we were ready. We began the ascent on November 9. The climbing on the lower part of the route is characterized by about 1000 meters of mixed climbing—more or less good rock interspersed with snow of all qualities and consistencies. On day 3, after a short corniced ridge traverse, we began the upper section of the route. There was rock climbing of the highest quality on magnificent rock to about 5.9 (hard at this altitude!), and there was some excellent mixed climbing as well. We reached our highest bivouac, a little ledge barely big enough for our I-tent at about 6100 meters, on November 12 at the beginning of Kusum Kanguru’s summit ridge.

Then the winds came. Our I-tent nearly ripped apart in heavy winds from Tibet that night. The next morning the wind was still howling and lenticular clouds speckled the sky. Fred made a very short reconnaissance above: all that was left was the snow of the summit ridge. Unfortunately, the winds made the knife-edge summit ridge too dangerous for us to climb— we would have been blown off. With less than a day’s food left, we had little choice. We bailed. We descended to the route’s base in a day and a half, making about 25 60-meter rappels off anchors in good rock and ice. This route is of the highest quality.

Subsequent research revealed that we took a line independent of that of Venables and Renshaw on the first 900 meters of the route. The route Fred and I took climbs the center of the initial buttress, while the Venables/Renshaw line climbs the buttress’s right-hand edge, some 300 meters to the right.

Bart Paull*

*Recipient, with Fred Wilkinson, of two AAC Mountaineering Fellowship Fund awards