Lobuje West, southwest face, Korean Direct. A six-man Korean team comprising Kang Sung-woo (leader), Ahn Chi-young, Gwon Jung-hyo, Lee Tae-gyun, Eddy Park-Jun, and I made the first ascent of 6,145m West Lobuje’s southwest face on April 16. The weather was good throughout, except for one day’s snowfall. We fixed rope to 5,790m, from which point we climbed continuously to the summit, leading on a 100m 8mm rope. We left various pieces of gear and 600m of rope on the middle section of the route.
Our route, Korean Direct, comprises three main sections. The first, led in rock-climbing shoes and not affected by serious rockfall, climbed the right edge of a triangular rock buttress that terminated at 5,430m. We rated it no more than 5.8. The second, a 300m ridge scramble with moves up to 5.7, involved exposed climbing over precariously loose, car-sized boulders that offered sparse protection. The final section, above the point where rock ended and snow began, started at 5,640m and had crux pitches of WI4. Rumors of a Japanese attempt in 1995 are dubious, as to our knowledge there are no journal entries, and there was no trace of any climbing being done near base camp or on the wall itself.
We established base camp on March 31 at 5,080m and spent the next five days scouting, organizing gear, and fixing line from 5,100m to 5,474m. On April 10 Ahn, Park, and I fixed line to 5,540m and the following day extended this to 5,700m. On the day after that we refixed rope, and, hauling more rope, gear, and food from base camp, continued our preparation for a summit push.
On the 13th Ahn, Gwon, Park, and I bivouacked at 5,430m, but the next day Gwon was forced to retreat, due to typical miseries of AMS. Ahn and Park fixed the remaining designated rope up to 5,790m. Thirty meters below this high point we cut platforms before darkness quickly enveloped us. Despite the waist-width ledges, this was a good bivouac, with clear skies, no wind ,and the distant glimmer of a Swiss soloist bivouacking high on the north face of Cholatse [Ueli Steck; see above—Ed.].
Our third day was equally slow, due to a relaxed start. The weather remained clear, and climbing commenced with me jugging up our fixed line and improving a mediocre anchor on an ice ridge. From there (5,790m) we climbed without fixed rope. Ahn pulled out a monster 90m lead along the right side of the ice ridge, and I finished with a 70m pitch up to the right of a large exposed granite slab, where we had originally anticipated finding a tent platform. There was none, and we spent the rest of the afternoon cutting a ledge at 5,900m, fixing safety lines, and cramming into the tiny two-man tent before night closed in.
On April 16 we were off by 6:15 a.m. with a few meager packets of dehydrated soup, nuts, and chocolate bars. This was our only chance of reaching the summit without starving the next day I began by traversing left for 50m, then Ahn led directly up a steep ice gully to the top of an enormous snow terrace, just below and to the left of a building-sized cornice (WI4). Eddy led the second crux pitch (WI4), which led left of this large terrace and up the right side of a 50m+ steep granite headwall. I then traversed right and gained a gully of hard snow, rock, and ice, up which I climbed for more than 70m, placing mostly chocks and slinging horns. Ahn jugged the rope and led through, then finally Eddy reached the summit 50m above us. The time was 3:18 p.m. and we had climbed 27 pitches. [Base camp to summit was 1,000m, though the amount of climbing was estimated to be 1,300-1,400m—Ed.] Ahn and I followed and were able to straddle the saddle-like summit with our right legs on West Lobuje’s northeast face and left legs down the southwest face. After taking pictures for 20 minutes, I led down, and we arrived back at our tent just as dusk blackened into night, our minds and hearts filled with the summit light.
Peter Jensen-Choi, Corean Alpine Club