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Asia, Nepal, Khumbu Himal, Kwangde Lho, North Face, Second Ascent of Breashears-Lowe Route

Kwangde Lho, north face, second ascent ofBreashears-Lowe route. After retreating from the right-hand variation on the northwest ridge of Ama Dablam (reported elsewhere), Alasdair Coull and I made the second ascent of the 1982 Breashears-Lowe Route on the north or Hungo Face of Kwangde’s highest summit, Kwangde Lho (6187m). The line had been attempted three weeks previously by British climbers, Dave Hollinger and Andy Sharpe, but they had been forced to retreat after 300 meters due to dangerous amounts of powder snow. We found it in much better condition, with all the loose snow having fallen off to leave good névé. As far as we could tell, conditions in the lower runnel were similar to those found on the first ascent; mainly good névé/ice with the seventh and eighth pitches being particularly thin. The average angle was 70-80 degrees.

After bivouacking at the bottom of the face, we managed to climb the whole ca 600-meter runnel on the first day. On the second day we continued to follow the original line, finding mainly straightforward steep snow. However, a couple of pitches were quite exciting due to the sparse protection and unconsolidated nature of the snow. On reaching the middle rock band, we discovered the smear of ice, which provided the crux on the 1982 ascent, to be not properly formed. Instead, we traversed 100 meters to the right and bivouacked below a much fatter parallel band of névé. The following day we climbed through the 80-meter rock barrier at about Scottish IV, exiting on to the upper snowfield. The first half of the snow- field turned out to be perfect névé but the upper half was composed of very steep, unconsolidated runnels.

We managed to find another bivouac site at the top of the snowfield (enough snow for reasonable bivouac ledges was found at all three sites) and in the morning climbed five more pitches of very deep powder to the ridge. We continued up the ridge for two more pitches before contouring to the southwest ridge just below the summit. The route was 1400m high with a crux section of Scottish VI, 5.

As for our descent, the upper rock was rappelled from in situ anchors for 180 meters to reach a snow ridge, which led easily down to a hanging glacier. We had another bivouac here, then spent the next two days descending the original route down to the Lumding Valley and over to the main Dudh Kosi at Ghat. The descent involved very complex route finding. A careful study of Bill O’Connor’s Trekking Peaks of Nepal is highly recommended.

Sam Chinnery, United Kingdom