AAC Publications - http://publications.americanalpineclub.org

Asia, Nepal, Khumbu Himal, Pumori, West Face, New Route

Pumori, west face, new route. A five-man expedition comprising four Swiss and one American split into two groups with three of the team attempting the south ridge and the other two, Swiss guides, Ueli Bühler and Ueli Steck, opting for the west face. After a suitable period of acclimatisation Bühler and Steck crossed the rimaye at the bottom of the 1,400-meter face at 2 a.m. on May 6. They adopted a very lightweight approach, taking one 60-meter rope and virtually no bivouac gear, thereby hoping to make a fast ascent. The pair reported that most of the face was 55-60 degrees with some parts as steep as 80 degrees, while there was a section of mixed climbing at M4. They reached the south ridge at ca 6700m and continued to a bivouac at 6800m. Without gear Bühler and Steck were soon driven out of their bivouac by cold. Climbing again at 2 a.m. on the 7th, they moved quickly up the remaining 350 meters until near disaster struck. While moving together up a 45-degree couloir, Steck set off a windslab avalanche that swept the two climbers back down the face. Fortunately, Bühler was able to stop them both and after getting over the shock they continued upward, reaching the summit at 6 a.m., just in time to see the sunrise. They then descended the east ridge. There were no fixed ropes in place as no one that season had climbed above the east col. Below the col, things became easier as they were able to follow marker wands and use ropes placed by a German expedition. They were finally back in their west face base camp (5200m) at 8:30 p.m., having spent 43 hours on the mountain.

Elizabeth Hawley