Sometimes we simply need to change the way we look at a mountain in order to rejuvenate our climbing game. We did this with Himlung Himal, a classic 7,126m mountain above the Phu Valley. It is usually crowded with big groups in the autumn, but in spring 2016 there was no one else. We were alone and able to climb as we wished, without fixed rope, even on a commercially guided expedition.
This made us open our eyes and try new itineraries. From Camp 3 on the “new normal route” (see editor’s note below), we branched right, climbed to Lung La on the southwest ridge, and followed this ridge to the summit (V/PD). Benoit Clerc, Simon Garcia, Olivier von der Weid, and Cyrille Vuidel reached the top on May 12 and called their route Dedicated to the Braves. Unfortunately, the Nepali team of Dhan Magyar, Deepen Bothe, Dorje Bothe, and Jangbu Sherpa did not reach the top, stopping a dozen or so meters below to fix a bit of rope for the last tricky section.
On the same day, Frank Bonhomme and Rajan Bothe tried to climb the prominent western spur that reaches the southwest ridge between Himlung Himal and Himjung (7,092m). Due to soft snow and lack of time, they were only able to climb the technical part of the spur, then traverse left to the tracks on Dedicated to the Braves and descend. Their high point was 6,700m, and they named the line to this point Just for Him (V/D).
Even on the most classic and popular mountains, there are always new things to try, lines to attempt, and other angles to explore. The climbing game in the Himalaya is endless.
[Editor's note: Himlung Himal is one of the most frequented 7,000m peaks in Nepal, but the standard route via the northwest ridge has become increasingly exposed to avalanche danger. The new normal route, pioneered around 2013 by Kari Kobler (Switzerland), is interesting, relatively short, without particular difficulty (PD+), and with limited objective danger. It shortcuts the previous route by ascending the south flank of the northwest ridge to reach its upper crest.
Paulo Grobel, France