Nuptse East I, south face, pre-monsoon attempts. Immediately to the south of Everest is the jagged Nuptse, which has numerous summits with no easy access from its southern flanks. By coincidence, independent teams of highly-skilled European mountaineers, one led by Hans Kammerlander from Italy’s South Tirol, and the other led by Valeri Babanov of Russia, came this spring to attempt the first ascent of the southeast pillar that leads directly to the 7,804m unclimbed peak known as Nuptse East I. This line is technically extremely demanding.
Kammerlander with Konard Auer, Alois Brugger, Wilfried Oberhofer, and a German camera crew arrived rather late, and seeing the Russians well-established on the pillar, opted for a line up the face to the left, more or less in the vicinity of the 2002 American-Canadian-Slovenian attempt. Ropes were fixed on the lower section and the team gained the upper section of the southwest-facing spur. They eventually established a high camp at 6,900m, before being driven down by very strong winds.
Babanov had made an unsuccessful solo attempt on the pillar in the autumn of 2002 and this time was accompanied by Vladimir Suviga. The Russian pair arrived in April and again established ropes on the pillar, this time surmounting the difficulties and reaching the top of the pillar at ca 6,400m, then continuing up snow slopes to establish a tent at ca 6,700m, before they, too, retreated in the high winds and stormy weather that also affected Kammerlander’s team. When the weather cleared Babanov and Suviga left base camp late on May 4 and regained their high point. They then pushed on up to the final ca 400m mixed buttress. However, above 7,000m the weather turned poor with snow and strong winds. Ground down by the cold (estimated to be below -30°C) and insufficient acclimatization to this high altitude, the pair finally came to a halt on May 10 at ca 7,450m. Above, the mixed terrain looked hard and icy and the pair decided to retreat, hoping for another attempt later in the month. In the meantime the South Tyrol team had regained their high camp but once again been forced to retreat.
Subsequently, the weather did not allow either group to make another attempt and the Russians, who were the last to leave, finally abandoned their efforts because of too much snowfall, their exhaustion, and lack of time to get well-rested before resuming the climb.
Elizabeth Hawley, Nepal