American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Nepal, Upper Dolpo, Mahalangur Himal—Khumbu Section, Dawa Peak, Snotty's Gully, Second Ascent; Phari Lapcha, The End of the Beginning, First Ascent

  • Climbs And Expeditions
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  • Publication Year: 2008

Dawa Peak, Snotty’s Gully, second ascent; Phari Lapcha, The End of the Beginning, first ascent. Halvor Dannevig and I traveled to the upper Khumbu, hoping to find interesting climbing on “not too high” peaks. We consider how we do it to be more important than what peak we climb, so for us snow-plodding up fixed ropes on famous peaks is not interesting. As I was a Himalayan novice, the peaks around Gokyo seemed a perfect start to my Himalayan climbing. Our main objective was an unclimbed line on the north face of Phari Lapcha (6,017m).

Staying at the Gokyo Resort Lodge, we had a perfect view across the lake to the north face. The more we looked through binoculars, the more we realized that it was not ice, but snow, that was plastered to the face. For acclimatization we tried to climb a new line on the unnamed 5,906m peak between Dawa Peak (5,920m) and the Renja Pass. Standing in a cave underneath a thin ice curtain, after climbing 200m of powder snow and really bad ice, we were not optimistic. I continued, and in half an hour managed 15m of snow-covered M5. With no protection in sight above and no ice, I rappelled and found myself two meters outside the cave.

The only place we saw ice on the north side of the Phari Lapcha massif was in Snotty’s Gully (WI5 M5+, ca 700m but 1,000m of climbing), a line climbed by the accomplished British alpinists Jon Bracey and Nick Bullock in 2006. With so many unclimbed lines around, it didn’t feel right walking tothe base of this climb. But we had traveled to Nepal to find good climbing, so it didn’t really matter that much. We started climbing at 5 a.m. the next day, carrying chocolate in our pockets and one small pack with water and two down jackets. Being from Norway, we like to think wc have the best ice climbing in the world. But when we stood oil the summit at 2:40 p.m. that day, we realized that some of the pitches of perfect water ice would have been super-classics in any of our home-country’s valleys. We rappelled and downclimbed to the Machermo Glacier, hoping to have a look at the south side of Phari Lapcha to see if there were any interesting lines. Due to afternoon cloud, we were unable to see this side of the mountain, but stumbling into the village of Machermo at 6:30 p.m., happy in the prospect of dinner and a warm bed, we had already decided to try something else up there after a couple of rest days.

Pitching a tent at 5,250m, close to the Machermo Glacier, we saw a gully of snow, ice, and rock on the southwest side of Phari Lapcha. Starting at 3 a.m. the next day, we climbed 100m of rock to get into the gully, then 300m higher, after having climbed snow and perfect ice up to WI3, we found ourselves at the crux: two long pitches of verglassed rock. Although not too difficult to climb (M4), these pitches proved interesting to protect. After three more mixed pitches, we arrived at the upper part of the gully, safe from rockfall and on easier ground. Two hundred meters higher, after climbing steep snow with short sections of rock, we joined the southeast ridge. At 9 a.m. we stood on the summit of Phari Lapcha East. We believe this route to be new and have named it The End of the Beginning (ca 900m, M4 WI3). It was climbed in the same light style as Snotty’s Gully, with just one small pack. We found the route similar to the Eugster Direct on the north face of the Aiguille du Midi, Mont Blanc Massif.

Nils Nielsen, Norway

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