KANGCHUNGSTE, NORTH FACE

Posted on: December 1, 2004


The north face of Kangchungste (a.k.a. Makalu 2, 7678m), showing Katia and Tom (M6 A1 80, 1800m), the route soloed by Jean Christophe Lafaille in May. He had intended to continue to the summit of Makalu (8475m) for his twelth 8000-meter summit, but exhaustion proved too great. [Photo] Jean-Christophe Lafaille

On May 16 at 2:30 p.m., I shouted with joy. I was astride Mt. Kangchungste's pointed summit (a.k.a. Makalu 2, 7678m), exhausted from an ultra-demanding, three-day ascent through the heart of this fantastic north face. I had never felt so alone, so far from the human world as I had during these last weeks of acclimatization and climbing. Up until the end I had to fight amidst delicate barriers of mixed climbing and cornices as impressive as they were precarious. The resulting route, Katia and Tom (M6 A1 80 degrees, 1800m), was the most harsh and beautiful of my Himalayan solo climbs; I cried with elation and fatigue as the immensity of the Chomolonzo Glacier spread out 2000 meters beneath my feet.

I intended to traverse the glacial plateau to rejoin Makalu's normal route at Makalu La, then continue to the summit of Makalu (8475m) the next day via the normal route, which presented no real technical difficulties compared to the north face of Mt. Kangchungste. My dream of accomplishing Makalu by an unclimbed route was almost achieved.

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However, the next day at around 7700 meters I cried with weariness and disappointment in the middle of a moonless night as my legs refused to carry me toward my twelfth 8000-meter summit...

— Jean-Christophe Lafaille, Chamonix, France (translated by Katie Ives)



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