American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Nepal, Rowaling Himal, Kwangde Lho, North Face, New Route

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2007

Kwangde Lho, north face, new route. In late autumn the French high performance team, a group of young alpinists comprising Nicolas Bernard, Laurent Bibolet, Emmanuel Chance, Nicolas Ferraud, Frédéric Gottadi, Mathieu Mauvais, Thomas Mougenot, Pierre Roy, and Sébastien Thiollier, some of them instructors or aspirant guides, plus two guides, Patrick Pessi and me, attempted several routes on the 1,200m north or Hungo face of Kwangde Lho (6,187m).

We split into three groups: Mauvais, Mougenot, and Roy would try the Breashears-Lowe Route (ED2, WI 6, 1,200m, Breashears-Lowe, December 1982); Gottadi and I would attempt a new route up a line of runnels a little further right, while the remaining members under the guidance of Pessi, would climb as two teams on a line of goulottes much further right, leading toward the summit of Kwangde Nup (6,035m).

Unfortunately, heavy spindrift proved too much for the team on the Breashears-Lowe, and Pessi’s groups were no more successful. Although from afar their proposed goulottes looked feasible, in reality they comprised very thin ice over extremely compact granite.

We were more fortunate and from November 15 to 18 we managed to complete Normal Routes Have Nothing Extraordinary (ED2, WI 5+, 1,150m). The climb begins up the next main runnel right of Mandala, and after crossing through the traverse, climbs through the middle rock barrier on an ice smear right of the Breashears-Lowe crux [the upper half of this smear had been climbed previously in 2001 by Sam Chinnery and Ali Coull as an easier variant during the second ascent of the Breashears-Lowe—Ed]. Above, we continued steeply to join the American route for its last few pitches to the summit.

The ascent was one of the most beautiful routes I have ever climbed and, overall, may be my best adventure to date. The difficulty was sustained at WI 5 and there were 12 technical pitches, the crux being WI 5+. Combating the cold proved really hard for us. There was no sun, strong winds (particularly toward the top) and temperatures down to -18°C. Three bivouacs were needed on the climb, after which we made the long descent south, down into the relatively remote Lumding Valley. After crossing a pass and making a long descent to the Dudh Kosi, we arrived in Namche Bazar three days after leaving the summit.

Stéphane Benoist, France

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