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Asia, Nepal, Annapurna Himal, Mahalangur Himal - Khumbu Section, Kyajo Ri, First Recorded Ascent of Southeast Ridge

Kyajo Ri, first recorded ascent of southeast ridge. On October 24 Seth Hobby and I established base camp at 4,600m below the east face of Kyajo Ri (6,186m). Our plan was to climb the mountain from the northeast. Photos provided by our friend and trekking agent, Ang Karma, seemed to show a series of runnels and smears up the northeast buttress that led to the upper north ridge. Whether those runnels ever existed, or perhaps this was just a dry year, is not clear, but closer inspection proved there were no obvious lines.

The best option appeared to be the southeast ridge, which we knew to have been climbed to 5,600m in autumn 2002 by the team that eventually made the first official ascent of the mountain. [Kyajo Ri was first brought onto the permitted list in 2002, and in that year was ascended via the southwest ridge; AAJ 2003, pp. 394-396. The mountain is believed to have received unauthorized ascents before that—Ed.] On the 29th we left our camp around 6:00 a.m. and traversed under the east face to reach the glacier leading to the col at the foot of the ridge. Gaining the glacier turned out to be one of the cruxes of the climb, with a 40m section of 85° snowy, mixed terrain. Seth then led up through another delicate mixed band to the start of the ridge, where we found a cairn left by the 2002 party. Here we dumped the stove, second rope, and our second tools, in order to move as fast as possible on the technical rock above.

The first several hundred meters were mostly easy climbing on generally good rock, with difficulties never more than 5.7-5.8. Wild towers on the first half of the ridge forced us onto the east flank, and in bypassing the second tower we had to climb into a slabby gully that led to several hundred meters of absolute choss. We regained the crest via a pitch of 5.8 X and arrived below the final rock tower. There was no easy way to avoid this tower, so I downclimbed a little, then traversed to a series of good-looking holds that led round a corner. The holds were positive but the moves a few degrees beyond vertical; the sack and big boots, combined with the altitude of 5,900m, made it all feel serious. From a stance, a short pendulum got me to a ledge and easier climbing. From here we simul-climbed over easy rock and mixed terrain all the way to the summit ridge, which proved to be one of the most aesthetic mountain features either of us had climbed.

We didn’t linger on the summit, approaching darkness and a cold wind prompting a hasty descent. We rappelled the southwest ridge and continued all the way down to the Kyajo Ri Glacier, below the south face. The only problem was that our camp was on the other side of the mountain. Tired, hungry, and out of water, we reached it by quality alpine suffering, with the biggest hurdle being climbing 600m of frozen kitty litter to regain the col at the foot of the southeast ridge. A few rappels and a glacier slog led us to our camp, 21 hours after leaving. We graded our route V 5.9 AI3.

John Kear, AAC