Posted on: July 1, 2006

Kyazo Ri (6120m) had only one previous official ascent, in 2002, via the southwest ridge. On October 29, at 6 a.m., John Kear and I embarked for the jagged south ridge. After a traverse beneath the east face, a difficult mixed pitch brought us to a large glacier-filled basin, followed by 500 more feet of mixed terrain. We shortened the rope and simulclimbed to a col, where we dropped a rope, stove and our second tools to lighten up. John was soon cranking out the next few pitches at 5.7-5.8 on solid granite. After weaving our way through choss on the east side of the ridge, we scaled a committing pitch back onto the crest, below the final tower, at 5.8 X. John then led a pitch of exposed, overhanging 5.9 jug hauling and did a little pendulum/lower to a ledge forty feet below to access simpler climbing. We simuled the ensuing mixed ground and took turns leading over sharp granite and solid alpine ice. Some moderate mixed climbing and alpine ice (AI3) brought us to the long summit ridge, and at last the summit, at around 5 p.m.—pretty close to dark. We rappelled (with one sixty-meter rope) and down climbed the 4,000-foot descent to the glacier, ascended 2,000 feet of steep, frozen kitty litter to the south ridge, then descended and traversed around to our camp on the northeast side of the mountain. Twenty hours after leaving camp, we were back, having completed the second ascent of the most beautiful mountain in the upper Gokyo, via a new route: the South Ridge (V 5.9 AI3).

After a rest day we headed over the Chola Pass for Cholatse's east-northeast face. The lower face was boney and we were not sure it would go, but a blue serpent of ice ran down the entire upper face. We began the climb on October 7. Subsequent research showed that our start—200 feet of WI5—had been climbed in 2005 by Slovenians, part of a line (VI M6 5.10c 90 degrees, 1700m, Humar-Kozelj-Opresnik) that was itself a variation to the 1984 American Route (VI AI5 5.9 A2 mixed, 39 pitches, Bibler-Freer-Jackson-Stewart). After the direct start, our variation included three "turf warfare" pitches to the right of the American Route, the last of which required John to trust frozen turf sticks through bulges (M6 R). We then rejoined the American Route for the next few pitches, including "The Belly Crawl," which I led with a desperate crawl under a shallow roof then a wild step out onto thin rotten vertical ice (M5 WI5). The following day I left John in a cave, wiggled in a blue Alien, then tapped rotten, slightly overhanging ice for sixty feet of sustained WI5+ climbing with psychological protection. Two thousand feet of pure waterice followed, including the "Sapphire Dragon," a 360-meter long silver-blue ice flow. We reached our high camp as the sun was nearing the skyline. On the summit day, after numerous simulclimbed WI3 pitches and one scary vertical snow lead, the rockband separating us from the southeast ridge unveiled the crux of the route. Where the Slovenians had gone left out a ramp and the Americans right up a gully, we went straight up an amazing 140-foot M6 pitch and a 190-foot WI5+ pitch, all above 20,000 feet, to join the southeast ridge. Once on the ridge we climbed six more AI4+ "Mushroom Ridge" pitches, escaping out onto the southeast face when necessary, to reach the summit in the dark. Sixteen difficult rappels got us back to our tent. We were rappelling by morning. Pasang, our cook, met us at the base of the wall with warm cheese bread, hot tea, a big smile and a bigger "namaste."

Seth Hobby, Bellingham, Washington

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