Dawa Peak, north face, first ascent of Snotty’s Gully. Jon Bracey and I landed in Lukla on October 6. Four days later we arrived at base camp, which in our case was Gokyo Resort Lodge situated at 4,800m. Day five was spent stashing gear beneath the north face of Dawa Peak (5,920m), the independent summit immediately west of Pharilapcha and named by Shuldin Sherpa (five times sum- miteers of Cho Oyu), the owner of the Machermo Lodge, after his daughter.
On Friday the 13th, Bracey and I bivouacked beneath a stunning gully leading directly to the pointy summit of Dawa Peak. We had spotted the line on the 10th, as we walked from Machermo village to Gokyo. It was a truly fantastic line, sporting water ice plastered to the back of a deep cleft. It promised similar climbing to the Super Couloir on the Mont Blanc du Tacul in the Mont Blanc range. The first section looked straightforward but then an imposing, overhanging rock band barred entry into the gully proper. There appeared to be a corner but as much as we tried from below, it was impossible to see into it: in fact before we started the climb we were unsure that what we hoped was a hidden, ice-filled corner, was a corner at all. The only other alternative was a direct ice-blobbed line, which looked at least WI 9 and neither of us wanted to throw ourselves at it before exploring the hidden corner option.
On the 14th we were at the base of the route by 7 a.m. An awesome chandelier led to more open ground, where we moved together for two pitches before making an 80m left to right traverse below the huge overhanging rock band. Bracey led the fifth pitch, continuing round to the corner, hoping to see hidden ice. “It should go but it looks hard,” came Bracey’s shout. I followed in excited anticipation: that it “should go” was good news but I wondered what the Bracey version of “hard” would entail.
The corner was vertical, mixed, and similar to the crux sections of climbs like the Beaumont on the Petites Jorasses. After 50m of M5 I constructed a belay at the top with all four of our pitons. Bracey led the next pitch at M5+, after which two more pitches of 50-60° snow and ice led to a spot where we could erect our hanging bivouac tent.
After an uncomfortable night, Bracey led pitch 10 at WI 5, running out of rope and making us move together for 10 steep meters before he could find a belay. Four more pitches, largely of unremitting, iron-hard, glass-coated ice at WI 4 and 4+, gave way to a pitch of unconsolidated snow and loose blocks leading to the ridge. The view was spectacular, the belay non-existent. Our 16th pitch led west up the ridge to a coffee-table-sized summit, which we reached at around 12:40 p.m.
The descent was four and a half hours of smooth and trouble-free rappelling, largely from Abalakovs competently constructed by Bracey, and we were back in Gokyo by 6:45 p.m. We christened our ca 1,000m route Snotty’s Gully (WI 5 M5+) in memory of the late Sue Nott. Were it situated in the Alps, there would be regular queues at its base.
Nick Bullock, UK