Pokharkan (6,372m), North Face, Cassis Arête
Asia, Nepal, Damodar Himal
We planned to climb the northeast ridge on Pokharkan, but the arrival of a violent wind, with gusts of 80-100 km/hour at 6,000m, forced us to find a route that was more sheltered. Nevertheless, heavy snow, the cold (-15°C or lower), and strong winds rendered climbing conditions very difficult and only Hugues de Varax, with the young Nepalese Bishal Rai, Chhotemba, Kishor Gurung, Pas- ang Sherpa, and Renzi, made the summit, which they reached on September 20 from our Camp 3 at 5,800m. The Cassis Arête of Pokharkan is technically reasonable, with no objective dangers. It is a snow route of PD-, with just a short descent through talus to reach the upper glacier. We attained our primary goal: to establish an easy, aesthetic route that could become a classic on a 6,000m peak near the village of Phu.
Our second goal was to figure out an approach to Amotsang (6,393m), an unclimbed summit in the Damodar massif west of Pokharkan. The base camp at 4,850m that we used to climb Pokharkan is the ideal point of departure for this new route, which would begin by traversing to the Amotsang Pass at 5,600m. The most difficult task remains: climbing to this beautiful, mysterious summit.
(Translated by Todd Miller)
Editor’s Note: Pokharkan was first climbed at the end of October 2002 by Koichi Kato and Pa Nima Sherpa via the north ridge, with camps at 5,260m, 5,700m, and 6,050m. It was climbed again two weeks later via the south face to the east summit (6,250m, first ascent), and then the east ridge to the main summit by Kaji Sherpa, Martin Scott, and Dave Wynne-Jones.
The 2009 expedition followed the Japanese approach from the south, walking east around the mountain to establish a base camp in more or less the same location as Kato did. The Cassis Arête is similar to the original route in the lower section but continues left to reach the northeast ridge just left of the east summit, before continuing over it and on to the main summit.