Asia, Nepal, Upper Dolpo, Mahalangur Himal—Khumbu Section, Pasang Lhamu Chuli, First Ascent of Southwest Face and South Pillar
Pasang Lhamu Chuli, first ascent of southwest face and south pillar. After attempts in 2005 and 2006, Hans Kammerlander finally climbed the southwest face and south pillar of Pasang Lhamu Chuli (7,351m), a peak immediately southwest of Cho Oyu. It was formerly Jasamba but officially renamed after the death in May 1993 of Pasang Lhamu, a Sherpani who was the first Nepalese women to climb Everest but perished during the descent. The peak forms the most westerly summit of the Nangpai Gosum group and had been climbed at least four times previously.
In October 2004 Slovenians Rok Blagus, Samo Krmelj, and Uros Samec made a highly underrated ascent of the south pillar, reaching the upper crest at 6,650m via a difficult ice and mixed climb (ED M5) up the southeast face. They used no fixed ropes but first climbed the face to 6,100m, slept there for acclimatization, and fixed rappel anchors for the descent. They next climbed to 6,400m and did the same. On their third foray they left their advanced base at5,450m and climbed the whole southeast face in 14 hours, slanting left onto the crest at 6,650m. There the angle eases, and they spent two nights at that altitude before going for the summit. The first narrow corniced section above proved difficult, but above 7,000m they found the route straightforward.
In spring 2005 Kammerlander, with fellow South Tyroleans Luis Brugger and Karl Unterkircher, attempted the south pillar integral from the “saddle” between Pasang Lhamu Chuli and the 6,295m Dzasampa Ri. The “saddle” is actually a long, quasi-horizontal ridge, studded with rocky pinnacles and towers. Italians had reached it at its northern end via steep snow and ice slopes on the southwest face. They progressed part way up the steep mixed crest above over snow and poor rock before retreating in high winds. In 2006 Brugger and Kammerlander returned, following the same line, fixing rope and reaching the end of the steep section, where the Slovenian route comes in from the right. As they were returning to base for a rest before the final push, Brugger became detached from a fixed rope and fell down the southeast face to his death.
Kammerlander, with Ernst Brugger (brother of Luis) and film maker/cameraman Hartmann Seber, arrived at their 5,200m base camp immediately south of the mountain on May 2, 2007. Unterkircher arrived the next day and with Kammerlander set about establishing Camp 1 at ca 6,050m on the crest of the south ridge. To reach this point the two reclimbed their old line up the southwest flank, fixing a few ropes. They spent a couple of days and nights at this camp, to aid their acclimatization, and worked on the route above, before returning to base camp on the 12th in heavy snowfall. They returned a few days later and climbed the difficult pillar above, fixing ropes to 6,700m, where the main technical difficulties ease and the angle relents. This high point was the same reached by Brugger and Kammerlander in 2006 when,due to inaccurate altimeter readings, they thought they were over 7,000m. At 6,500m a steep, difficult rock band bars the route, and the pair was forced off the crest, making a quasi-horizontal traverse to the right before they could slant back left up a line of weakness to regain the ridge at 6,650m. This line of weakness appears to be the same snow/ice couloir that was climbed in 2004 by the Slovenians. Throughout their time on the mountain the weather was less than clement; by late mornings the sky had become cloudy, and from then on snow showers would occur. On the 18th they descended to base camp to rest and wait for a good spell during which to make their summit attempt.
Good weather never really arrived, but the pair decided to set off on the 21st and later that day regained Camp 1. After resting there, they started climbing again at 1:30 a.m. on the 22nd, jumaring their fixed ropes to the high point and then embarking on the final 650m to the summit, which had been climbed by the Slovenians in 2004. Although less difficult, it was not straightforward, and the final 120m lay on a particularly sharp and exposed crest. The pair reached the summit at 3 p.m., after a climbing time from base camp of around 20 hours and a vertical gain from the moraine of almost 2,000m. They regained Camp 1 at 9 p.m. During the descent the following morning they found that a section of rope on the southwest face a little below camp had been swept away by avalanche; the slope they had ascended a couple of days before was now smooth and clean. They had a couple of ice screws and a length of Kevlar for emergencies, and managed to set up a series of delicate rappels and arrived in base camp at 2p.m. Kammerlander, who after the ascent called it the most difficult of his career, felt the climbing on the ridge to be of the same order as the north face of the Eiger but at a much higher altitude. This was the first of Unterkircher’s two notable ascents in 2007. He later made the first north-to-south traverse of Gasherbrum II (see Climbs and Expeditions, Pakistan), climbing a new route on the Chinese face.
Lindsay Griffin, Mountain INFO, www.climbmagazine.com, and www.kammerlander.com