Sonam Himal and Karsang Peak (both 6,225m), traverse by Les Bosses à Mary; Le Belvedere d’Alfred (6,226m), possible second ascent; Kumlun Himal (6,365m), northwest ridge, Honorez la Vie. When you return home from an expedition to Nepal, there is always one question: “Did you summit?” It is so difficult to describe all facets of an expedition experience, so different from our daily lives; so difficult to describe all the pains and pleasures encountered off the beaten track, far from the clichés of alpinism. And when people ask which mountains we climbed, it’s such a disappointment for them to discover that the altitude is not extreme or they have never heard of the peaks. People don’t understand: “Why travel so far to climb insignificant mountains that nobody has heard of?”
How do you respond to such a question? It helps to turn the question around: “Why climb famous mountains, which everyone already knows, where there are no surprises?” What I most liked about our expedition to the Damodar was the discovery and exploration. It is a British specialty, a rare focus for a French alpinist, and especially for a professional mountain guide. What do I enjoy? Not knowing exactly where I’m going, while gazing at an endless horizon. What do I enjoy? Sharing these rare feelings with other alpinists, encouraging them to take it one step farther.
Mustang-Phu is an incredible trek, somewhere between alpinism and hiking, filled with small, hidden treasures. In the autumn we wanted to relive the simple pleasures found on this stunningly beautiful route and familiarize ourselves with the Damodar Himal—a tiny, almost insignificant massif separating the Kingdom of Mustang and the Valley of Phu, a mysterious, hidden place.
Mustang–Phu is an extraordinary route, and we barely scratched the surface on our journey the previous year. It is amazing to traverse the Mustang on sacred paths, in the presence of Ringzum Gonpo, Sago Namgo, the “spirit catchers,” and the legend of Guru Padmasambhava.
As for our climbs, on October 11, Marie-Christine Cler and I climbed Sonam Himal and Karsang Peak, two small summits of 6,225m north of the Saribung Pass (6,042m). We named our route Les Bosses à Mary. These provided an easy, scenic, snow traverse with a Himalayan grade of II/F. [Editor’s note: These rounded summits lie between the Saribung and De Hults passes, or between the peaks of Saribung and Kumlun Himal], Two days later, with Jean Mil- teau, Pascal Pueyo, and Vincent Stellato, I climbed the Le Belvedere d’Alfred (6,226m) in the middle of the Damodar Glacier. We reached the summit via the snowy east ridge at II/PD [Editor’s note: This peak was likely first climbed by the Belgian, Alfred de Hults, more than half a century ago]. On the 14th Paul Vulin and I climbed Kumlun Himal (6,365m) to the north of De Hults Pass. We first climbed over the Col Cler between Sonam and Karsang, descended to De Hults Pass, climbed the west face of col 6,273m, and then the south flank of Kumlun’s northwest ridge. This snow route, which we named Honorez la Vie, was technically more demanding, at II/D. We des-cended the 40-45° southwest face directly to De Hults Pass. [Editor’s note: This peak was attempted in 1986 by a French expedition, thinking it was Bhrikuti Sail].
In addition we discovered the ideal route for the traverse from Mustang to Phu, on the way also climbing Saribung Peak (6,328m, southwest of Saribung Pass), likely the fifth ascent. Further information is available at www.paulo-grobel.com. We also discovered how fragile some of these wilderness areas are. We should approach them conscientiously, with respect, on our best behavior as alpinists. It’s in-evitable that I’ll come back here to establish another Mus- tang-Phu route, and to play again, jumping over mountains and borders.
Paulo Grobel, France (translated by Todd Miller)