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Posted on: March 1, 2004
Jérôme Mercader on the summit of Pharilapcha (6017m), Khumbu area, Nepal Himalaya. Mercader and Sebastian Constant established The Bonfire Of The Vanities (VI WI4 M5, 1000m) on the north face in three days alpine style. [Photo] Sebastien Constant
Pharilapcha (a.k.a. Machermo, 6017m) is among the trekking peaks of the Khumbu opened in 2002 by the Nepalese Mountaineering Authority. The first official ascent of the mountain was made in the spring of 2003 via the west side of the mountain. Climbing the north face, which dominates the view from Gokyo Village, had been a dream of mine for seven years, since I saw it on a trek in the Khumbu; I had been impressed by the beauty of the lines that formed on the rocky and shady wall like yogurt flowing over a black-marble sculpture.
Because Jerome Mercader and I are lazy boys, we set up base camp in a lodge in Machermo Village, a one-day walk from the base of Machermo. From November 22 to 24, we established The Bonfire Of The Vanities (VI WI4 M5, 1000m) on the right side of the north face. We climbed in light alpine style with eight-kilogram packs, bringing with us three days of food, one canister of gas, a small stove, one small Therm-a-Rest, one sleeping bag, one bivy tent and our climbing gear: five ice screws, a set of nuts, six pitons and five Friends. Due to the cold, we had to climb the entire time in our down jackets.
We climbed the twenty-seven pitch route with two bivouacs—one at 5670 meters, the other at 5960 meters. (The small amount of gear we carried meant we could not think about retreat.) We overcame the initial section at M4 to reach a long snow band that splits the lower part of the face. We then climbed the gully system for nine pitches (snow and ice to 80 degrees), gaining the summit ridge via two hard mixed pitches through the headwall (up to M5 WI4). Two simulclimbed pitches on the ridge led to easier climbing to the top. We summited on the third day with a full view of Everest and Cho Oyu, then descended the west side of Pharilapcha via a large snow couloir to a loose rock ridge, which brought us to the glacier and eventually back to Machermo Village later that day.
— Sebastian Constant, Briançon, France
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