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Asia, Tibet, Bhutan Himalaya, Yadong County, Chomolhari (7,326m), Alpine Style Ascent

Chomolhari (7,326m), alpine style ascent. On 7 May Roger Payne and I (both British) made a rapid alpine style ascent of the south ridge of Chomolhari (7,326m) in Yadong County. We had been aiming to climb a new route on the northwest ridge of the mountain, but had to abandon this because of incessant strong winds. Base camp at around 4,500m below the west face was also exposed to persistent winds. We first made a reconnaissance of the northern and western flanks of Chomolhari and found a route from the glacier on to the crest of the northwest ridge (easy snow then mixed climbing up to TD). But on 2 May at 6,000m we abandoned the ridge in clear skies but ferocious winds that made standing difficult and the prospect of technical climbing impossible on the crux rock steps and towers above.

Back at base camp Roger and I decided to use the few days remaining before our transport pick-up to take a look at the south ridge. This ridge had been climbed in 1996 by a large Japanese-Chinese party using fixed ropes and was the third ascent of Chomolhari. The first ascent was a remarkable climb in 1937 by Spencer Chapman who followed the southeast ridge from Bhutan and which merges with the south ridge above 7,000m (the Indian and Bhutanese Armies repeated this route in 1970).

After negotiating an unstable icefall that was seriously threatened on either side by seracs, on 5 May we reached the col at around 5,900m, which marks the start of the south ridge. The strong winds continued at the south col and in the early hours of 6 May we had to prepare to exit our tent because of the risk of it being blown apart. However, we waited to the very last moment before returning to base camp. Then, miraculously, on the evening of the 6th the winds dropped, the clouds parted, and a full moon appeared. By 01:30 on the 7th we were ready to depart from the col. A serac barrier had to be negotiated and parts of the summit ridge were excellent exposed snow crests (around AD). We reached the summit before midday and were back at the col by 17:00. On the 8th another early start was needed to descend from the col and get through the icefall to reach base camp. We arrived at base camp at the same time as the transport to take us back to Lhasa.

Julie-Ann Clyma, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Switzerland