Cholatse, southwest ridge, winter attempt. Ross Lynn and I spent three days on Cholatse (6,440m) from January 30 to February 1, 2006. On the first day we climbed from base camp to the ca. 5,550m col at the foot of the southwest ridge, at one point having to cross beneath seracs to avoid a technical crevassed section on the glacier. A final 180m slope of 70° ice led to the col, which we reached by 2:00 p.m. We spent one night camped on this col, preparing for a one-day summit mission on the 31st. We left the col at 6 a.m. Some 300m of mostly rock climbing up the first buttress put us at a more level section of ridge, above which we simul-climbed. We reached the point where the sun-cooked southwest ridge joins the south ridge at around 3 p.m. Here we stashed unnecessary gear and charged for the summit. Two hours into it we realized that we were not going to make it before dark. Close but no cigar! We estimated our elevation to be 6,400m. At 5 p.m., with a building cold wind, we started heading down.
Due to an unusually warm, dry winter, the upper ridge gave us more technical difficulty than anticipated. There were many open crevasses and short steps that ate up our daylight. From our high point we had to make two rappels before reaching our stash of gear. We continued rappelling into the night and finally regained our tent around midnight. We estimated the temperatures we experienced on the mountain as somewhere between -12 and -20°C. During the descent I wore all my layers, including a down jacket, and my feet were cold. In hindsight we realized that an earlier start would have considerably increased our chances of reaching the top.
On February 1 we woke feeling tired and descended to our base camp. A few technical mistakes cost us the summit, but we now have more tricks in the bag for next time.