CHOMO LONZO

Posted on: December 1, 2005


Yannick Graziani on the traverse from the Central (7540m) to the North (7199m) summit of Chomo Lonzo, Nepal Himalaya. The French expedition managed the first ascent of the North Summit via two new routes, as well as the first traverse from the North Summit to the previously unclimbed Central Summit. [Photo] Patrick Wagnon

Located in the Kangshung Valley and separated from Makalu by Sakietang-La, Chomo Lonzo has three different summits. In 1954 Lionel Terrary and Jean Couzy made the first ascent of the South Summit (7790m) from Nepal, and in 1993 a Japanese party made a second ascent from Tibet, following a dangerous line under seracs. Neither the Central Summit (7540m) nor the North Summit (7199m) had any ascents before our expedition. On March 30, expedition members Stephane Benoist, Yann Bonneville, Aymeric Clouet, Patrick Glairon-Rappaz, Yannick Graziani, Christophe Moulin, Christian Trommsdorff and Patrick Wagnon departed from France. Our concept was for three independent parties to climb in pure alpine style (no fixed ropes, no permanent high altitude camps).

On April 13 the team set up base camp; from April 14 to 24, they acclimatized and did reconnaissance on the northeast and west faces of the mountain. The northeast face seemed challenging but risky, with much snow and threatening seracs. On April 25 Benoist and Glairon-Rappaz made an ascent of Chago (6850m) from the north.

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After setting up an advanced base camp on the West Chomo Lonzo Glacier, Yann Bonneville, Aymeric Clouet and Christophe Moulin made an attempt on the west face of the North Summit on May 4-5. Strong winds and snow stopped them at 6500 meters. From May 4-7, Graziani, Trommsdorff and Wagnon achieved the first ascent of the North Summit, via the Northwest Ridge (TD: M5). Benoist and Glairon-Rappaz accomplished the first ascent of the North Summit's west face (ED: M6 85 degrees) from May 13-16. They found the climb to be as difficult as the route they established on the north face of Thalay Sagar two years ago, but at a higher altitude. On May 15 Bonneville, Aymeric and Clouet attempted the northwest ridge. Finally, May 15 through May 21, Graziani, Trommsdorff and Wagnon traversed from the North Summit to the Central Summit, making the first ascent of the latter, unclimbed, peak, via its north ridge (ED). This group experienced poor conditions with strong winds.

As far as I know, very few parties have climbed such difficult pitches at such high altitudes without fixed ropes. The traverse could be easily compared to Voytek Kurtyka and Robert Schauer's ascent of the West Face of Gasherbrum IV or to Christophe Profit and Pierre Beghin's ascent of K2. The team managed difficult routes in high-pressure situations—in short, it was real modern alpinism!

Jean-Claude Marmier, Chamonix, France

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