FOUR-MILE EAST RIDGE OF GANESH V CLIMBED

Posted on: December 7, 2007


On November 15 a French team comprised of Frederic Degoulet, Julien Dusserre, Mathieu Maynadier and Aymeric Clouet climbed four miles along the east ridge of Ganesh V (6770m), Nepal, to summit the sharp peak to the left of the large block, the third subpeak (6741m). Along the way, they encountered 3-4 kilometers of cornices, 75 degree snow slopes, free climbing up to 6a [5.10b] and mixed climbing up to M5. [Photo] Courtesty of www.ffcam.fr

The Ganesh massif is visible from Kathmandu when looking north, and Ganesh V sits on its far eastern end, on the border of Tibet. First climbed in 1980 by a heavy Japanese team, then by a Slovenian team (which included Tomaz Humar), Ganesh V had only two established routes: one on its southern ridge and another on the northern, Tibetan side. Our recent climb, the first French ascent to date, established a new route on the mountain.

On November 15, around 4 p.m., Frederic Degoulet, Julien Dusserre, Mathieu Maynadier and I reached the top of the third subpeak (6741m) of Ganesh V (6770m), having established the eastern ridge. We named the virgin needle Gorilla Peak because a gorilla's face can be seen in the rock of this eastern needle. The 2700-meter climb above base camp is 6.5 kilometers long as the crow flies. Difficulties encountered included: 3-4 kilometers of cornices, 75 degree snow slopes, free climbing up to 6a [5.10b] and mixed climbing up to M5.

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After trekking fifteen days to acclimatize on the paths of Gosainkund Lake (the sacred lakes of Shiva), we met up with our team of ten porters and cooks in the village of Tatopani. Houses and other buildings were grouped around thermal hot springs, a pilgrimage destination. It was the last village we would see for the next twenty-three days, as we would be either in base camp or on the mountain. The acclimatization was uneventful, or at least as uneventful as possible, because our change in diet to Dal Bhat—a traditional dish of Nepal—caused some intestinal problems. Following a rhythm of three days at altitude, then three days of rest, we established our advanced base camp on a ledge, but with shelter thanks to a small cliff at 5500m. Then, at the first bivouac at 6200m, we left a cache of bivy equipment, food and gear. After a last rest at base camp we decided to "put to sea" and try for the summit. The expression is fitting, as a marvelous sea of clouds accompanied us, as though we were sailing on an ocean of cotton. However, the clouds eventually began to transform into wet cumulus ones, dropping snowflakes in the afternoon. These changes obliged us to adapt and climb in mixed conditions under small snow slides—and sometimes to stop for a few hours to wait for a clearing in order to get oriented. On the evening of the fourth day, our radio informed us that that 100 kilometer/hour winds were forecasted for the following day and evening. The temperature, already very low each night (-20/-25 degrees C), ran the risk of becoming unbearable.

Knowing that we would not have a second chance, we set our hearts on the third subpeak, the most rocky, and in our taste, the most beautiful. The fifth day we climbed 250 meters of 6a granite and mixed to reach the apex of Gorilla Peak, the third needle (6741m) of Ganesh V. The wind forecast left us enough time for a quick descent, but rappelling we got stuck three-quarters of the way down. But the immense joy from successfully reaching the top made us forget the cold of the bivouac that followed, and the fear of being ripped off the wall by the wind. It was late on the sixth night that we reached base camp, greeted warmly by Kamal and Rai, our cooks, who were happy to celebrate success with us.

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