Pharilapcha-Machermo Peak (6,017 m), first ascent of north face (The Bonfire of the Vanities), and southwest side (The Bridge of Lost Desire). The north face of this peak, dominating Gokyo village, remained virgin. Climbing it had been a dream of mine for seven years, ever since the beauty of the lines running down that rocky, shady wall, like yogurt flowing over a dark surface, had impressed me during a trek in the Khumbu. Of course, I knew destiny would bring me there again, but when? Finally Jerome Mercader and I arrived in the autumn of 2003. Before our north face ascent we established The Bridge of Lost Desire on the southwest side during a reconnaissance of the peak. This showed us an easy descent for our north face attempt.
Because we are lazy boys we set up our base camp at a lodge in Machermo village, one day's walk from the foot of the face. Why do we require the services of a cook, sirdar, and staff on a mountain like this, when you can travel so light? We were just two friends ready for a long and sustained alpine-style adventure.
We climbed on the right side of the 1,000m north face via a system of gullies. We adopted a very light style, carrying rucksacks that weighed only eight kilos and held three days food, one canister of gas, a small stove, one small Thermarest, one sleeping bag, one bivouac tent constructed by myself (weighs only one kilo) and our climbing gear; five ice screws, a set of nuts, six pitons, and five cams. Due to the cold weather we had to climb in down suits.
In total we climbed 27 pitches, with two bivouacs on the face in the micro tent. Many pitches had very thin snow or ice covering the rock and were hard to protect due to the poor quality of the snow. The hardest thing was to put in rock protection. It was a challenging and amazing climb, and the style of our ascent required us to ponder on the prospect of retreat with our minimal rack. We sum-mited on the third day, atop a thin snow ridge with a complete view of Everest and Cho-Oyu. And we finally had sun to warm our bodies.
We established The Bridge of Lost Desire (ca 350m, V M4 WI3), on November 18 in a 12-hour round trip from a 5,200m high camp. The route was 11 pitches to the summit ridge and began at an obvious snow cone 600m to the right of the west col. First, there was a mixed wall (M4) above the rimaye, after which we followed a snow couloir for three pitches (50°). Above, was one M4 crux section to surmount a small step, after which two pitches in a snow couloir brought us to rocky terraces. From this point you can see the summit ridge, which we reached in three pitches (snow from 45-65°). Here you join the traditional route (I guess, because we saw a sling on a block). Two exposed pitches led to easy ground and the top. To descend we climbed down the couloir to the rocky terraces and then followed a loose, rocky ridge 20m to the right of the couloir. Before the last wall (above the rimaye) we crossed left to the couloir and made rappel.
Le Bucher des Vanités (The Bonfire Of The Vanities) (1,000m, VI M5 WI4), November 22-24. The route: three pitches (some M4) up the first wall to a long snow band that splits the lower part of the face. The first crux lies in the couloir system above (The Three Gullies; three pitches of snow and ice to 80/85°). We made a tight bivouac on a snow ledge at 5,670m. From here, a two-pitch traverse left enabled us to start the delicate M5 dance in the “Perdition Wall.” A gully continued up right and gave five pitches to 65°, with the last crux on crumbly rock (M5) before joining the summit ridge. We made our second bivouac at 5,960m, just under the summit ridge. Next day, two pitches on the sharp ridge above led to easy ground and the summit. We down-climbed the southwest side of the peak by The Bridge of Lost Desires.
Seb Constant, France