From November 26 to 29 Fumitaka Ichimura and I made the first ascent of Tawoche’s north face. There was an obvious, logical line that was unclimbed, at an ideal altitude for an attempt in November.
On our first try, however, we failed because we took the wrong route. At 5,500m we traversed too far right, not realizing that we had strayed from our original plan. We spent the night on a tiny ledge and then tried and failed to climb through the rock band above. Three days later we started up the face at 5:30 a.m. At midday we reached the spot where previously we had started the rightward traverse. This time we continued more directly, on moderate ice, until we reached the rock band. We now traversed right on steep ice, with few ice screw placements and poor rock gear. Our plan had been to reach the second icefield and be clear of the large, dangerous seracs above before making our first bivouac, at 5,600m. However, we only managed to reach the first icefield that night. During the bivouac we were hit by much spindrift and chunks of ice.
Our second day began with easy ice, but we continued on much steeper ice, with poor protection. The ice was too soft for screws and the rock often loose, or merely chunks of rock stuck in snow. Ichimura led a steep pitch in the dark, and at 9 p.m. we finally cut a site for our second bivouac (6,100m). It was just big enough that we could sit, and it was midnight before we finished our small meal.
On day three the terrain was mostly sugary snow, with some moderate ice climbing. Ichimura deluged me with spindrift; sometimes I was unable to open my eyes. We soon reached the summit ridge. Not far away was the main summit, but there was a massive gap before it, preventing us from reaching the true summit. On the descent we had to dig deep into the snow to find a layer hard enough to hold our weight. We made a rappel from a buried stuff bag filled with snow; it moved slightly as I descended. A second rappel from an Abalakov got us to a point where we could downclimb a short distance to a flat area above the east couloir. For the first time since starting the route we could take off our harnesses and lie down. The night was cold and windy. Next day we downclimbed and rappeled the east couloir, then walked back to Pheriche, where we arrived at 4 p.m. We climbed the route without tents, bivouac sacks, jumars, or aid, and carried food and fuel for just three days. The 1,500m Direct North Face was VI AI5 R.
Genki Narumi, Japan