Asia, Nepal, Upper Dolpo, Jongsang Himal, Drohmo South Pillar, Major Variation; Drohmo East, First Ascent; Pathibhara Chuli, Southwest Face; Kirat Chuli West Face and Chang Himal North Face, Attempts

Publication Year: 2008.

Drohmo south pillar, major variation; Drohmo East, first ascent; Pathibhara Chuli, southwest face; Kirat Chuli west face and Chang Himal north face, attempts. The Slovenian Alpine Association organized an expedition to the Kangchenjunga region, situated in the remote northeastern part of Nepal. Leadership was given to veteran expedition leader Tone Skarja, a man with much Himalayan experience. The team also comprised alpinists Tine Cuder, Matej Kladnik, Ales Kozelj, Boris Lorencic, Mitja Sorn, and I, accompanying by expedition doctor Damijan Mesko. The main objective was an ascent of Kangbachen, at 7,902m the fifth highest summit inthe Kangchenjunga Massif. However, the moraine of the Ramtang Glacier was so shattered that it was not possible for porters to reach the proposed base camp. Instead, we established base camp farther north at Pangpema (4,940m) and attempted nearby peaks.

To acclimatize for attempts on the difficult north face of Chang Himal (Wedge Peak or Ramtang Chang, 6,802m) and an ascent of Kirat Chuli (Tent Peak, 7,362m), Kozelj and Sorn made an ascent of the south pillar of Drohmo’s central summit. They found good snow conditions and climbed largely to the right of the crest of the pillar, joining the 1998 route, climbed by Roger Mear and Doug Scott, in only a few places. They took two days from the 6,000m col at the foot of the pillar, reaching the small summit at the top of the crest on October 16. [Editor’s note: Mear and Scott continued a short distance west along the summit ridge to reach a possibly higher corniced top, which they registered as 6,855m. The main summit of Drohmo is 6,881m and situated a considerable distance to the west. It remains unclimbed.] From the col the 800m-high route averaged around 60°, with steeper sections up to 80°. Due to good snow conditions, the two were able to descend a largely independent route, completely on snow, to the east of their line of ascent. They then tried the north face of Chang Himal, but were forced to bail after one bivouac, at a point less than half way up the face, because of terrible conditions: considerable amounts of soft snow over rock. An attempt on the unclimbed west face of Kirat Chuli was abandoned at the bottom, when they found it to be deep in snow and avalanche prone. [This face had been climbed to 6,700m, seemingly above all technical difficulties, in 2002, by another Slovenian team—Ed.]

Cuder, Kladnik, and Kozelj then made another ascent of the south face of Drohmo (Sorn staying at base camp with a toothache), this time to the previously unclimbed east summit (ca 6,695m). After a bivouac at the foot of the face, the three climbed their new route in eight hours, largely on snow and ice, reaching the summit ridge just left of the highest point. Again, they found good conditions and were able to summit and descend to base camp the same day, October 25th. They called the 900m route Smrdljiva Sled (Stinking Trail) and rated the difficulties TD+, VI/4+, M4.

Lorencic and Valic acclimatizated with an ascent of Pangpema Peak (6,068m) and then climbed Pk. 6,630m on the southeast ridge of Pathibhara Chuli (Pyramid Peak, 7,140m). The route followed snow slopes up to 45° on the southwest ridge, the summit being reached on the 16th [most likely the first ascent of this summit—Ed.]. They returned to base camp after three days, well acclimatized. However, they were unable to examine the southwest face of Pathibhara Chuli, their next objective, because it was obscured by cloud each afternoon.

After they rested a few days, the weather stabilized, and they set out for the remote basin beneath the virgin southwest face of Pathibhara Chuli. The next day they climbed to the glacier plateau below the wall and examined their proposed route, spending the night at 5,900m. The day after they climbed 50-60° snow slopes to a narrow shelf below a rock band, where they spent the night at 6,900m. The following morning, the 24th, they climbed through the rock band (UIAA IV, 20m) and reached the summit. This was the first ascent of the mountain from Nepal and only the second overall ascent. [Pathibhara Chuli was first climbed in the spring of 1993 from Sikkim by an Indo-Japanese expedition via the northeast ridge, over the Sphinx. The 7,090m northeast summit has been reached twice from Nepal: in 1949 by Swiss and in 2006 by Slovenians—Ed.] They descended the same route, reaching base camp in a round trip of five days. The team found walking on the convoluted shattered glaciers of the area very strenuous, but the weather and climbing conditions were good.

Miha Valic, Slovenia