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Asia, Nepal, Rowaling Himal, Kwangde Shar, Northeast Ridge, Alpine-Style Winter Ascent

Kwangde Shar, northeast ridge, alpine style winter ascent. On December 8, Corean Alpine Club Technical Committee members Yu Hak-jae and Park Seok-hee established base camp about three hours below the north face of Kwangde, with plans to make the first winter ascent of Kwangde Shar (6,093m) via the 1978 British route on the northeast ridge [the Koreans we unaware that the first ascent during the Nepalese-defined winter was made via a new route from the south on December 7,1982, by Mick Chapman from the UK and Colin Pont from Australia. The first calendar winter ascent of the mountain, and the first winter ascent of the northeast ridge, was made on January 8,1983, by the Japanese, Kenji Fujita, Shiniya Ikuta, Mazasru Mizukami, Yasuki Nishimoto, and Yozo Yokoyama. These five spent two weeks establishing two camps on the ridge and fixing the steeper upper section before making the final push—Ed].

Their first attempt, on December 10, was foiled by heavy snow and white-out conditions. On the 15th they set off for another attempt with the bare minimum of provisions, and after two nights on the face and three days climbing in pure alpine style, reached the summit at 11:35 a.m. on the 17th. The two men descended to the south and spent a third night at 5,140m, then on the following day crossed back over the watershed ridge and descended the north facing couloir between Kwangde Shar and Nupla, making 25 rappels and leaving only slings and pitons behind. The route was very dry and graded VI 5.9 [on the first ascent the ridge was in snowy condition and crampons were used throughout—Ed]. The following is an abbreviated account by Yu Hak-jae, beginning on the morning after the first bivouac at ca 5,300m.

Early on the 16th we melted snow from a crack in the rock, while we waited for the sun to hit us. The dirty water sufficed and we allowed the filth to sink to the bottom before transferring it to our three water bottles. The route seemed to become more complex the higher we climbed. By 6 p.m. we had reached 5,800m and decided to bivouac, spending three hours excavating a comfortable site for the cold night ahead, spreading the rope out in place of the mats we had decided not to bring. The wind was stronger here, and blew snow into our sleeping bags. My body was stiff, food was limited and we had only taken one gas cylinder.

Next day, each 50m pitch took more than one hour to climb and the occasional ancient fixed rope just confused my route finding. Eventually, we came to a spot on the ridge where the way ahead seemed impossible. I climbed around to the right for five meters and spotted a rusty piton five meters higher in an irregular crack. I didn’t have the right gear to go up in that direction but shouted to Seok-hee to watch the tope as I crept my way up the slab. It was a bit frightening at first and I suspected that previous parties had also climbed through this section somewhat hesitantly.

Engrossed in the climbing, my stiff body began to loosen and after a thin vertical crack, I reached the narrow summit. We took a few pictures and then I wrapped a two and a half meter sling round a large rock bollard and started to rappel the south face.

Yu Hak-jae, Corean Alpine Club (translated by Peter Jensen-Choi).