American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Nepal, Upper Dolpo, Jugal Himal, Gurkarpo Ri, First Known Ascent

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2008

Gurkarpo Ri, first known ascent. Paulo Grobel organized two commercial expeditions for Nepal’s post-monsoon season. On October 2 Grobel, two Sherpa companions, and five French clients reached the summit of Saribung (6,328m) in the Damodar Himal. This, the fourth ascent of the mountain, more or less followed the original route up the northeast face and northeast ridge, pioneered in 2003 by Jim Frush and Steve Furman. The leader then returned to Kathmandu to collect a new group, for a more demanding ascent of Langtang Ri (7,205m) in the Langtang Himal, a peak which has been attempted at least seven times, four times successfully.

Grobel established his base camp, near the foot of the Langtang Glacier, at a spot known as Pemthang Karpo. [Also referred to as Morimoto Peak Base Camp—6,150m Morimoto Peak, officially named Bhemdang Ri, lies to the northwest—the site is immediately below and north of 6,412m Langshisha Ri—Ed.]. A quick probe north convinced the French team that with all the fresh snow on the moraine-covered glacier, just reaching the foot of the mountain would take too long and would be particularly difficult for their porters. It was time for a rethink.

The weather forecast, which predicted clear skies but winds up to 60km/hour at 6,500m, made the west ridge of Gurkarpo Ri (6,889m) seem the best alternative. However, Grobel knew nothing of Gurkarpo Ri’s history, had no idea whether it was on the government’s list of permitted peaks, and was unaware that it had never been climbed. Time was getting on, and calculating that he only had around 10 days left to make the ascent, Grobel realized the climb would have to be made in a more or less continuous push.

He and his team quickly established Camp 1 at 4,800m on a side glacier, and Camp 2 on a huge flat glaciated col between Langshisha Ri and Gurkarpo Ri. Realizing that two more camps would be needed, Grobel had 800m of static line and 25 snow stakes air-dropped, something of an (expensive) novelty in Nepal but necessary in order to give his clients the best chance of success. The sharp snow and ice spur leading up the northwest flank of the west ridge was dubbed the Arête des Rapiettes. The team placed Camp 3 to the left of the arÍte at 5,800m. As a training/acclimatization exercise, they climbed this arÍte to a small summit at a grade of PD+. Grobel and his two Sherpas, Cho Temba and Zangbu, climbed and fixed the broad glaciated couloir left of the arête. The 400m snow/ice slope led to a plateau and the site of Camp 4 at 6,200m. On October 31, while the other members rested in this camp, Grobel, Cho Temba, and Zangbu fixed rope on the 45–50° slopes above, leading to a vague col on the upper west ridge at 6,600m.

The next morning, November 1, Cho Temba awoke with a bad headache, and Grobel thought it wise for him to descend to Camp 2, accompanied by Zangbu. The remaining five climbers continued. One member stopped before the ridge due to a bronchial infection, but the other four, Pierre-Oliver Dupuy, Marc Kia, Jean Francois Males, and Grobel, reached the crest and were surprised to find the southern slopes quite gentle. They made good progress, finding only one short section of 40° surmounting a bergshrund, before reaching the summit in excellent if cold weather. The descent went without incident, and three days later all members were back at Kyanchin Gompa in the Langtang valley. They named the route Some More Rice?, grading it alpine D.

From information supplied by Paulo Grobel, France

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