Inspired by a photo in AAJ 2018, and thanks to a Grit and Rock Award, Cecilia Buil (Spain), Ixchel Foord (Mexico), Spanish photographer Dafne Gisbert, and Anna Torretta (Italy) traveled to the Mugu Valley. They used a helicopter to fly from Nepaljung to Mugu Village, therefore saving around a week of trekking. Their goal was the first ascent of Peak 5,467m (29°44'46.80"N, 82°28'20.10"E), to the northwest of Mugu Village. This summit is the highest in a small range of jagged rock peaks known as the Khela Danda. On the ridge just to the north of this top is a spectacular rock arch, clearly visible from the valley and referred to as the Mugu Eye.
In October the climbers established base camp at 4,200m and an advanced base at 5,050m, below the rock couloir falling from the arch. The weather was generally clear but windy, with low temperatures (-9°C at base).
An attempt was made to climb directly to the arch, but the couloir was deemed too dangerous due to rockfall, and it was too cold to use rock shoes. After a snowstorm covered the wall, Buil, Foord, and Torretta opted for Plan B: a wider, south-southeast-facing couloir to the left, leading more directly toward the main top. Climbing for one and a half days, with a sheltered bivouac on the wall, the three reached a height of 5,370m, approximately 100m below the summit, before poor rock quality, strong winds, and intense cold forced them down. To that point they had overcome difficulties of 6a A1 M5.
They spent nearly nine hours descending the couloir, making short rappels to avoid dislodging copious loose rock or getting the ropes stuck. The team returned by walking out to the nearest airport at Gamgadhi, then flying to Kathmandu.
– Lindsay Griffin, from information provided by Anna Torretta, Italy