On October 25 Alexey Korochkev, Sergey Nilov (both from Moscow), and I left Kathmandu for Besisahar, with the aim of making the first ascent of Thulagi. We had little information on this mountain, the best being a report from the 2008 Japanese expedition (AAJ 2009). Five days after leaving Besisahar we established base camp at 3,750m on the true right bank of the Changlhi Glacier, below Phungi (6,538m). The track along the Dudh Khola had been difficult. After crossing it close to the Khasontu Khola, it took 11 hours through dense forest and complex moraine to reach base camp. There was no water at this site, and we had to carry it from the glacier.
We opted for the same line as the Japanese, a prominent snow/ice spur toward the right side of the northwest face, which we climbed on the right flank. There were large hanging seracs on either side of the spur, generally making the route objectively dangerous. We had an advanced base at 4,000m at the start of the scree; above, our route crossed broken glacier, where there was little snow, and the slope was not steep. Above 5,000m the angle increased to 45-50°, and with it came more snow. Snow depth proved the main obstacle, preventing us from reaching the crest of the spur. We climbed for two days up 50-55° slopes and ice-covered rock of M4 to gain the foot of a large rock triangle at ca 5,900m. Bypassing this buttress on the right involved difficult mixed terrain (up to M5) and ice up to 80°.
On the upper slopes the angle gradually increased. We passed the Japanese high point, and four days after leaving advanced base we reached the ridge at the top of the face (ca 6,400m). From here we descended the far side easily to a large plateau at ca 6,250m. This high-altitude plateau is the upper Thulagi glacier, which forms a sort of shoulder to the southwest of Manaslu before draining south and then west. It is rimmed by the summits of Thulagi, Peak 29 (Ngadi Chuli, 7,871m) and of course Manaslu itself.
After spending one night there, during which the temperature dropped to -25° C, we set off for the summit of Thulagi. Our ascent would follow the northeast ridge, but this now looked long and complex, and to reach it we needed to walk down the plateau some distance. These factors, together with the distance of the summit from the top of the northwest face, and the committing nature of our situation, made us abandon the attempt. From the plateau we took a further two days to descend our route to base camp.
During the ascent we had climbed above clouds, but near the base of the wall we found that a storm had raged for three days and deposited considerable amounts of snow, which made the final section of our descent highly avalanche prone. We think our route is quite possible in an alpine-style push, as long as snow conditions are good.