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Asia, Nepal, Upper Dolpo, Rolwaling Himal, Kwangde Lho, North Face in Winter

Kwangde Lho, north face in winter. In January 2008 Vladimir Belousov and Alexander Novikov made a calendar-winter ascent of Kwangde Lho (6,187m) via a new route on the Hungo face. The Russians’ original aim was a line between the Breashears-Lowe December 1982 route (ED2, WI6,1200m) and the Lorenzo-Munoz 1985 route, Mandala (1150m, little information on difficulty). However, when they arrived below the north face, they found very dry conditions, and the only possible line they felt they could climb without resorting to aid was the wall beneath the Kwangde Lho-Kwangde Nup col.

Belousov and Novikov started on January 8, carrying two small rucksacks, one sleeping bag for both climbers and a Bibler tent. Their route slanted left across the lower section of Kwangde Nup’s north face, climbing a couloir and rock band to reach the northwest spur descending from the summit of Lho. Below the central rock barrier, near the point where Mandala comes in from the left, they made a horizontal traverse right. The crest above had looked difficult, probably requiring hard rock climbing and aid; to the right lay icy mixed walls that could be climbed free. The Russians chose these and eventually reached the southwest ridge 100m below the top, where they made their second bivouac just short of the summit. It was - 20°C, very windy, and they were unable to pitch the tent. They sat up all night trying to keep warm and the next morning reached the summit in clear weather at 9.30 a.m. They named their route Chicory. Although it is hard to say whether the new route shares common ground with Mandala, Chicory is mostly 40–50° snow and ice with five difficult pitches: three (M4, WI4, M3) through the rock band above the narrow couloir on the first day, one the exit pitch onto the southwest ridge (M3 and 5.7), while the last was on the south side of the mountain just below the second bivouac (M2/M3 and WI3). On the first four the leader led without a pack, the second jumaring while carrying both packs.

From the summit the pair descended the original route (Ishikawa-Iwahashi-Ogawa-Sherpas, 1978), making several rappels to reach the south ridge, which was hard ice. They descended to the Lumding Valley, walked across the frozen lake, and made the long, arduous climb back north across the Lumding La, finally reaching Phakdingma on the Dudh Kosi on the 12th. Although the vertical gain on the north side of the mountain is 1,200m, Chicory has an estimated climbing distance of 2,110m. It is probably the easiest way to reach the summit ridge via the Hungo face.

Vladimir Belousov, Russia, and Lindsay Griffin, Mountain INFO, www.climbmagazine.com