Dawa peak, possible first ascent of west ridge; Pharilapcha, first ascent of east face via The Oracle Night. Three years after I first climbed Pharilapcha (6,017m) via a new route, Bonfire of the Vanities, on the north face (AAJ 2004, pp. 398-400), I was back. With Jean-Luc Bremond, Hervé Degonon, and Cécile Thomas I wanted to climb the long ridge that runs from Pharilapcha to Dawa peak (5,920m), a complete east to west traverse of the Pharilapcha group. We warmed up and acclimatized on Dawa peak, climbing the elegant west ridge. On November 10 this gave us eight pitches up snow and mixed ground to the rocky summit, which looks like a table. Although we are not sure whether this route was previously unclimbed, we named it Meditation Ridge (AD, WI 2 M2). From the top we climbed down the east ridge for 15 minutes, then at a large rock pinnacle descended a big snow gully to reach the glacier to the south (35-50°).
It’s important to me that my Alpine and Himalayan ascents are in a lightweight style with minimal equipment. Steve House has shown us new ways to be creative and I admire his thinking. In addition, a lightweight style allows you to move location, or change mountain or route, if your proposed climb is in bad shape. When we arrived in Machermo, we discovered snow conditions to be rather unstable and because our pre-trip preparations had not been the best, we decided not to attempt the long traverse as originally planned, but to go to the start and see if we could complete a route on the east face. I try not to allow ambition make me forgot that staying alive is more important than reaching the summit.
We started from Machermo on November 14 and reached the bottom of Pharilapcha’s east face, which lies in a hidden cirque between the villages of Machermo and Gokyo. The following day, in an 18-hour stint from our camp below the face to the village of Machermo, we climbed The Oracle Night (750m, TD-, WI 3+ M4), a line snaking up the left side of the face to reach the 5,650m col that separates Machermo peak (5,766m) to the east from Pharilapcha to the west. This section gave climbing up to M4 with a few sections of WI 3. From the col we climbed the left side of a glacier to reach a mixed ledge at its top. We traversed this ledge right and then climbed up via amazing mixed terrain with excellent granite to the vicinity of the eastern foresummit of Pharilapcha. From here a sharp snow ridge led to the main summit, which we reached late in the afternoon. There were impressive views down the north face and incredible glowing colors on Everest and the surrounding peaks as we started our descent.
Using head torches, we down-climbed to the 5,650m col and then descended the south couloir (rock and snow to 55°), heading west at the bottom to gain the valley between Pharilap- cha and Kyajo Ri at 5,200m. From there it was four hours to Machermo village, where we spent the night in a lodge, freezing despite wearing our goose down suits that we had carried with us. Two days later we collected our tents from the bottom of the east face and then spent our last two weeks exploring future possibilities.
Sébastien Constant, France