American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Nepal, Rowaling Himal, Kwangde Lho (6,187m), New North Face Route

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2003

Kwangde Lho (6,187m), new north face route. Koji Ito and I made the seventh ascent of the north face of Kwangde Lho, by a new route (ED+ M5 WI6). After spending six days climbing 37 pitches, we reached the summit of the 1,150m face on December 13. The north (Hungo) face of Kwangde Lho was first climbed by Americans David Breashears and Jeff Lowe in 1982, and repeated by a British party in 2001. The route Extra Blue Sky of Kwangde Shar (6,100m) was climbed by the French in 1996, by the Czechs and British in 2000 and again by British in 2001. In addition, a Spanish team succeeded in 1985, while in 2001 a Czech team put a new direct finish on the 1989 American route of the north buttress of Kwangde Nup (6,035m)—see AAJ 2002.

We began climbing from an advanced base camp, near 4,900m on December 8. Despite frequent snow showers and poor ice conditions (we only got screws in on one pitch), we competed nine pitches before digging out a bivy in a snow wall. The next day we did six pitches, beginning with two VS WI6 pitches on 70° to 80° very thin ice where protection was almost impossible. Our third day on the face we did seven more pitches, ending with a bivouac at a dihedral. We enjoyed good ice on just one pitch—the fourth—but suffered with the usual bad conditions for the other six.

Day four began with a S WI5, 70°-80° pitch (plus a little at 90°) where protection was difficult, followed by a S M5 WI6 with dry-tooling on thin and discontinuous ice. After five pitches, we found a comfortable bivy under a rock roof. The next day we climbed toward the right on bad 50°-70° fluted snow and ice, trying to follow a ridge leading to the summit ridge. But we ran into an unclimbable slab, then descended a rock band (M5) to a 70° hammock bivy, after a total of six pitches that day.

On our sixth and final day, we began by traversing left to get back onto ice, then went up and right on discontinuous ice that was M5 in two places. The snow conditions were even worse below the summit ridge, where we topped out at 6,050m.

We began our descent with three diagonal rappels down the south face, followed by a downclimb to the glacier on the south side of Shar, where we bivied. The next day, we walked southeast on the glacier to a point near the lowest col between Shar and a nameless peak, then descended to the Namche side. We reached the moraine after seven raps and more down- climbing, then bivied again on the east side of the northeast ridge. The next day, December 15, we finally descended to our advanced base camp by detouring around the northeast ridge.

Hiroyuki Nakagawa, North Japan Climbing Team (translated by Tamotsu Nakamura)

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