Pasang Lhamu Chuli (7,352m), Southeast Face, Hook or Crook
Asia, Nepal, Malahangur Himal, Khumbu Section
At 2:30 p.m. on October 29, Michael Lerjen, my brother Samuel, and I stood on the summit of Pasang Lhamu Chuli. We were not exactly full of joy. Pasang Lhamu Chuli hasn’t got an easy way off down the backside. Like the Matterhorn, once you reach the summit, you are only halfway through. That evening we made it back to 6,900m and the following day regained base camp. It took 25 rappels from Abalakovs, stoppers, Camalots, a buried ice axe, and a buried segment of trekking pole. After establishing base camp at 5,200m, we acclimatized with an ascent of Dzasampatze [the second known ascentof this 6,295m peak immediately south of Pasang Lhamu Chuli, the first having been made by Slovenians in 2004], We began our new route on Pasang Lhamu Chuli on October 25, making a five-hour trek across the broken Somna Glacier to bivouac below the southeast face at 5,800m. The next day we were able to move fast: a little ice-climbing at first and then snow-trudging. In high spirits we camped on a snow mushroom at 6,500m, remaining tied in while we slept. The following day the climbing became more complex: snow mushrooms as big as trucks, between which lay steep ice walls. While climbing ice we were able to place good protection and to belay using ice screws, but on bottomless snow we could only move forward like voles, with no useful belay. Our nerves were on edge, as we often moved up one step only to fall back two. Regularly we asked ourselves what this had to do with climbing. We gained only 400m that day and squeezed our two-man tent into a gap in a mushroom at 6,900m. With three of us inside, the night was uncomfortable.
On the following morning our morale sank when we encountered a 150m rock wall at ca 7,000m. Steep slabs and vertical cracks taxed us, and, above, steep ice pitches sapped our remaining energy. Once over this, 300m of desperately tiring snow-trudging brought us to the summit. We made it thanks to team spirit and motivation, having to implement efficiently all the experience wed gathered in the Alps, Patagonia, Canada, and Alaska. This was the first alpine-style ascent of Pasang Lhamu Chuli, and we named our route Hook or Crook (VI WI6 M5,1,550m).
Editor’s Note: Formerly known as Nangpai Gosum I or Jasamba, Pasang Lhamu Chuli straddles the Nepal-Tibet border southwest of Cho Oyu. It was officially renamed by the Nepalese Government after the death in May 1993 of Pasang Lhamu, the Sherpani who became the first Nepalese women to climb Everest but perished during the descent. While rumors abound of this mountain having been ascended by climbers acclimatizing for fast alpine-style ascents of lines on the southwest face of Cho Oyu, the first official ascent was made in 1986 by a Japanese expedition via the long northwest ridge from Tibet. This ridge, which rises southeast from the Nangpa La, was gained from the Nepalese side in 1996 by Japanese and French expeditions, making the second and third ascents. In October 2004 Slovenians Rok Blagus, Samo Krmelj, and Uros Samec made a highly underrated ascent of the southeast face to the south ridge, reaching the upper crest at 6,650m via a difficult ice and mixed climb (ED M5). The south ridge integral, approached via the southwest flank, was climbed in 2007 by Hans Kammerlander and Karl Unterkircher, finishing via the upper section of the Slovenian Route.