Gaurishankar (7,135m), South Summit, Northeast Face, Attempt
Asia, Tibet, Himalaya, Rolwaling Himal
After much negotiation with the CTMA, Kazuya Hiraide and I secured a permit to climb Gaurishankar in the autumn. Still we had a difficult time getting to the northeast side of this mountain. Our approach was up the Rongshar and Menlung valleys, but each time we tried to move forward, Chinese Police or Army would stop us for no good reason. We persevered with negotiations and were eventually allowed to continue. Many expeditions have failed to reach this side of the mountain, either because of political problems or climatic conditions. Talking about the weather, if you go too early, the east and northeast faces will be too dry, with much rockfall; if you are too late in the season, it may not be possible to get up the Rongshar Valley, due to snow.
On October 22 we arrived at base camp on Menlung meadow and then made several reconnaissance and acclimatization trips. We had planned to climb the east face to the main summit but found that, after the long period of prevailing good weather, the mountain had become quite dry, with little snow and ice.
Seracs in the upper section were unstable. To the right the northeast rib rises to join the long northeast ridge at ca 6,200m. We first climbed the smaller, triangular northeast face, which lies between rib and ridge. Conditions were poor, so we changed our plan. We moved well left of the east face and attempted the northeast face of the 7,010m south summit. Leaving base camp on November 5, we found a way through the icefall to the bottom of the face. On the 7th we began climbing, following a line of couloirs with thin, rotten ice and sugary snow. After four days we had reached 6,850m, just below the summit ridge, but couldn’t solve the problem of the crux rock band. With little food and fuel left, we retreated. During our descent on the 11th, the weather changed, and it began to snow.
Editor’s Note: in September 1997 Taeko and Yasushi Yamanoi climbed the north flank of the northeast ridge, reaching the crest and a high point of 6,300m, where it becomes steep, narrow, and mushroomed. They witnessed many serac falls and avalanches on this side of the mountain and recommended a visit later in the year. In early October 2005 Jess and John Roskelly appear to have tried this ridge from its base but gave up at only 5,450m because the rock was terribly loose and did not appear to improve. The south summit has had several ascents from Nepal since the first in 1979 by Pete Boardman, Pemba Lama, Tim Leach, and Guy Neithardt.