Gorilla Peak, Ganesh, first ascent. Ganesh V (6,770m) lies at the eastern end of the Ganesh Himal, visible from Kathmandu. The northern flanks, technically in Tibet, were climbed by a large Japanese expedition in 1980, while later the south face was climbed by a Slovenian team [Editor’s note: In 1980, 12 members of Yoshio Nagao’s expedition summited via the north face and northwest ridge. In 1987 Haruo Makino’s Japanese expedition put four members on the summit via the south ridge, a route that was more or less repeated in 1994 by a Slovenian expedition, after the latter had given up the idea of a new route on the southwest face. Four Frenchmen, who had a permit for Paldor, attempted the south face and northwest ridge in 2006 but were killed, probably in an avalanche from high on the peak. Aymeric Clouet was one of the party who later that season went to search for the bodies.] Before 2007 these were the only routes on the mountain. Our recent climb established a new route to a subsidiary summit.
At 4 p.m. on November 15, Frederic Degoulet, Julien Dusserre, Mathieu Maynadier, and I reached the top of the third point (6,741m by GPS) of Ganesh V, having climbed the east ridge. We named the virgin aiguille Gorilla Peak, because we could see the face of a gorilla in the summit rocks when looking from the east. Our route from base camp was 6.5 km long, with a vertical interval of 2,700m (1,240m of technical ridge climbing). Difficulties encountered included 3–4km of cornices, 75° snow, mixed climbing to M5 and rock to 6a.
After a 15-day acclimatization trek along the paths of Gosainkund Lake (the sacred lakes of Shiva), we met our team of 10 porters and cooks in the village of Tatopani. Buildings were grouped around thermal hot springs, and the place is a pilgrimage destination. It was the last village we would see for 23 days. Our acclimatization was uneventful, other than our change in diet to Dal Bhat, a traditional Nepalese dish that caused intestinal problems. Following a pattern of three days at altitude, then three days rest, we established our advanced base camp at 5,500m, sheltered by a small cliff. Our first bivouac was at 6,200m, where we left a cache of bivouac equipment, food, and gear. After one final rest at base camp we decided to “put to sea” and try for the summit. The expression is fitting, as a marvelous sea of clouds accompanied us, as though we were sailing on an ocean of cotton. However, these clouds eventually began to transform into wet cumulus, dropping snowflakes in the afternoon. The change in weather forced us to adapt, as the climbing became more mixed and was swept by small snow slides. Sometimes we had to stop for a few hours to wait for a clearing, in order to get oriented. On the evening of the fourth day, when we bivouacked at ca 6,500m, we were informed that 100 km/hour winds were forecast for the following day till evening The temperature was already low, each night dropping to -20 or -25°C, and we realized a further drop would prove unbearable.
Knowing that we would not have a second chance, we set our hearts on the most easterly of the three summits of Ganesh V. This was the rockiest and in our opinion the most beautiful. On the fifth day we climbed 250m of granite (mixed and 6a) to the top, about 30m lower than the main summit. The forecast allowed enough time for a quick descent, and the immense joy of successfully reaching the top made us forget, during the bivouac that followed, the cold and the fear of being ripped off the wall by the wind. It was late on the sixth night that we reached base camp, where we were greeted warmly by Kamal and Rai, our cooks, who were happy to join in our celebrations.
Aymeric Clouet, France