Asia, Nepal, Mahalangur Himal—Khumbu Section, Pasang Lhamu Chuli, South Ridge Attempt and Tragedy

Publication Year: 2007.

Pasang Lhamu Chuli, south ridge attempt and tragedy. South Tyrolean mountaineers, Alois “Luis” Brugger and Hans Kammerlander returned to 7,351m Pasang Lhamu Chuli, still intent, it seems, to make the “first ascent” of this peak formerly known as Jasamba, southwest of Cho Oyu on the Nepal-Tibet frontier. Renamed in 1993 after the first Nepalese woman to climb Everest (and who died on the descent), rumors abound of the peak being climbed in the past by one or two climbers acclimatizing for fast alpine style ascents of lines on the southwest face of Cho Oyu. However the first official ascent occurred in 1986 when a Japanese expedition climbed the northwest ridge from Tibet. This ridge was gained from the Nepalese side in 1996 by both Japanese and French expeditions to make the second and third ascents. The fourth was made by Slovenians, Rok Blagus, Samo Krmelj, and Uros Samec in autumn 2004. These three climbed the southeast flank to gain the crest of the south ridge at ca 6,650m and continued to the summit (1,550m, ED, M5,): see AAJ 2005, pp. 391-392. Brugger, Kammerlander, and Karl Unterkircher attempted the south ridge in spring 2005. They retreated at around 6,700m (AAJ 2006, pp. 415-416).

In 2006 and working from a camp at 5,950m, Brugger and Kammerlander fixed ropes up the spur, as they had done before, and on May 11 pressed on up the snow fields above the steepest section to a height of just over 7,000m. Here, they decided to descend to base camp for a rest before going for the summit. Brugger went first. At 6,800m Kammerlander reached a point where he looked down and could see no sign of his partner and, impressed by the latter's apparent speed, thought he must already be well down the mountain on his way to camp. However, he then realized that the only tracks in front were coming up the mountain. Casting around, he noticed a karabiner and quick draw attached to the rope. It appears that either an equipment failure or lack of concentration on the part of Brugger had resulted in the latter became detached from the fixed rope and falling to his death. Subsequent searches, including the use of a helicopter, failed to locate the body.

Brugger (47) was a very experienced Alpine guide and snowboard instructor who climbed hard routes throughout the Dolomites and Alps in the 1980s. In 1986 he made a rapid second ascent of the West Face of Ama Dablam. On Kammerlander's return to Kathmandu, the Ministry of Tourism classified Brugger's body as abandoned rubbish on the mountain and refused to return the $2,000 environmental deposit (a similar incident took place after the death of a Czech climber on Lhotse).

Lindsay Griffin, Mountain INFO, CLIMB Magazine and Elizabeth Hawley, AAC Honorary Member, Nepal