Kusum Kanguru (6,367m), south ridge, new route attempt. From the 10th of November until the 21st of November Young Chet and I from Alaska attempted to climb the “Dream Pillar” [see Venables’ note to follow] on the south ridge of Kusum Kanguru. We were star struck when we first learned of a huge shining granite pillar at 6,000m in such a spectacular location. The pillar was rumored to be of top quality. Young Chet and I were rearing to go.
The “Dream Pillar” line was first climbed by Stephen Venables and Dick Renshaw (with Brian Davison as far as the crest of the south ridge on their first attempt), in November 1991. In 2000 American youths Bart Paul and Fredrick Wilkinson (both 20 years old) climbed a new route to the top of the “Dream Pillar,” bivvied, and descended the next day due to high winds on the summit ridge. They were no more than a couple hundred meters from the summit. Since then, the only other groups I’ve heard of attempting this aspect were a Slovenian team and an American team on the southwest face. The Slovenians gave up on their original new-route line in the middle of the face, and then turned back low on Venables’ line due to constant rock-fall. About the Americans, I’ve only heard rumors from the local villagers that they succeeded. Needless to say, this side of the mountain has seen hardly any traffic, and this became painfully obvious when our guesstimate of two days to base camp up the Thado Khosi valley turned into five days of ridiculous bushwhacking through extremely thick and cliffed-out bamboo forest. Luckily we had a guy who knew the way, because otherwise it would have taken a lot longer. Future climbers should take with them a local who knows the whole way to base camp.
We arrived at base camp with only six days left for climbing before our flight home. A day spent watching the face revealed the same problem faced by the Slovenians: constant rockfall. Due to the face’s aspect and T-shirt weather at 5,000m, the lower portion of our chosen line (the Venables route) was too risky for Young Chet and I unless we did the preliminary pitches in the night and reached the arete a quarter of the way up to the pillar before 9:30 a.m., when the sun reaches the face.
The next morning we climbed the snow slopes to the start of the technical climbing, only to find that there was still rock falling from the face, just not the huge blocks-of-death seen and heard from our base camp a mile away during the sun-baked hours. These were smaller fist-sized stones falling with quite a bit of velocity. Sadly we abandoned our main objective and dragged our heels back to camp. The Dream Pillar loomed above us like a T-bone steak dangling in front of a dog’s face, just out of reach. We spent the rest of the day scanning for an alternate line. With three days left we hurried out of camp early the next morning and started up our new line. We climbed some nice mixed terrain onto easy snow, but the sun beat on us and our packs were too heavy. We were not moving fast enough, so we descended the next day and missed our flight anyways.
This aspect has a lot of potential. All of the lines look high quality and fun as hell. You just have to manage the rockfall better than we did, which means move faster, climb strategically, and maybe go during colder times of the year. We saw a bunch of sick water ice in the area.
Shakey Poacher, Alaska