Romanians Claim Summitless FA in Annapurna Sanctuary

Posted on: May 29, 2013

This month, Romanian climbers Cosmin Andron and Cristina Pogacean quietly made the first ascent of Gandharva Chuli (6248m). Located in the Annapurna Sanctuary of Nepal, the snowy peak is only permitted to expeditions who hire Nepali porters and cooks. Andron and Pogacean, with the help of eight Nepali companions, established the Romanian Route between May 2 and May 6. The line climbs moderate mixed ground to the snowy southwest ridge and continues to a giant rock triangle that intersects the west ridge to the summit.

Gandharva Chuli (6248m) from base camp on the west bank of Modhi Khola, indicating the ascent line and the location of the camps. [Photo] Cristina Pogacean

The team set up base camp on May 2 near the confluence of the Modi Khola and the river that runs from Singhu in the north. The following day Andron and Pogacean, along with three porters, made an advanced base camp at 4448m on a grassy shoulder of a rocky ridge just before reaching the glacier.

Cosmin Andron leading on the southwest ridge at the start of the mixed climbing just as the storm hit on May 4. [Photo] Cristina Pogacean

On May 4, the two climbers set off over the glacier and through mixed terrain before reaching the snowy ridge leading to the obvious rock triangle on the west ridge. Around 12:00 p.m. clouds moved in. Two hours later they were in the midst of a lightning and snowstorm. They continued marching upward but eventually decided to bivouac just before hitting the snowy southwest ridge. All through the night, heavy snow continued to fall.

Andron and Pogacean just before the lightning storm that brought heavy snow and avalanche conditions. [Photo] Cristina Pogacean

Waking late after an uncomfortable evening to good weather, the duo decided to find a better bivy spot higher on the ridge and inspect the snow conditions. They climbed a couple hundred meters up the southwest ridge and dug a platform big enough to erect their tent and take a rest day. Avalanches broke loose in all the gullies and faces around them throughout the day.

Cristina leading part of the west ridge. [Photo] Cosmin Andron

Conditions on the morning of May 6 were clear and cold. The two climbers decided to head for the summit, leaving their tent at 3:30 a.m. They continued up the southwest ridge to its intersection with the west ridge that connected to the summit. Once they gained the knifeedge west ridge they short roped each other with very limited protection in unstable and thin snow until reaching a wider, more manageable section.

Cosmin Andron following on the west ridge of Gandharva Chuli just before the wind started picking up. Behind is Annapurna South (7219m), Annapurna I (8091m) and Kangsar Kang (7485m) profiled on the skyline and in the middle is Tharpu Chuli (5663m) and Singhu Chuli (6501m). [Photo] Cristina Pogacean

At around noon, the wind picked up slowing their progress greatly. The last 30 meters to the summit steepened from 55 degrees to 65 degrees. That in combination with high winds and spindrift slowed their pace. It took the climbers nearly four hours to reach their final stopping point a short distance below the summit.

A happy Cosmin Andron near the summit on May 6 with the Nepali flag, Romanian flag and expedition monkey. [Photo] Cristina Pogacean

Following a discussion with their cook and the discontent from the locals about their planned ascent of a sacred Nepali mountain, both Andron and Pogacean decided not to stand on the actual summit.

Cosmin down climbing from the summit, snowstake and flag left in place. [Photo] Cristina Pogacean

The climbers also left their route without a grade. "We did not rate it as the complexity of weather, location, snow conditions and particular conditions on the [summit] day are not consistent nor traveled enough," Andron says. "So we [can't] get an objective appraisal as it would be in the Alps or with trade routes in North America." However, Andron described it as the "Swiss Route on Les Courtes combined with the Cosmiques Arete on Aiguille du Midi (have them stacked and expanded a bit)." He also noted that, while the whole route was reversible and could not be considered "ED" by the French Alpine System, the altitude, remoteness of the peak and the fact that the terrain above was totally unknown to them made Gandharva Chuli's difficulties "not negligible."

Andron and Pogacean completed their new route and first ascent with the help of Purna Tamang (cook and sirdar); Hasta Magar (porter), Sohit Ghale (porter and waiter); Sukram Tamang (porter), Dawa Tamang (porter), Ram Shresta (porter and kitchen help), Wanchu Sherpa (member), Lok Bahadur Gurung (member).

Sources: Cosmin Andron,

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I agree with Bruno Schull. No justifications necessary, your climb and respect of local traditions are enough. The justifications, especially the strange photos with brackets, seem to detract from the overall sharing about your climb. Be proud, your team did a nice job. Like Primus sez, they can't all be zingers.

2013-06-23 14:19:47

Chewtoy not understand climbing spirit. Crothers say 'summitless' like tabloid writer. HA!

Bravo, my Romanian climbing friends!

2013-05-30 19:20:12

A badly titled and weakly written account of a very good climb.

2013-05-30 16:50:14

General question:

If you summit a sacred peak, but don't tell anyone have you offended anyone?

2013-05-30 16:40:22

Humor perhaps lost in translation

In the context of the number of summitless "new routes" your ascent deserved a "Climbing" definition.

Of course always keep in mind if one publicizes a climb the public has a tendency to poke fun

2013-05-30 12:27:11

Hi "Chewtoy"

- we asked for permission as this is the law in the country we went climbing to. Poaching was a possibility but we prefer not to embrace every single possibility in or lives. I would be happy Nepal to renounce the "permit" procedures and open all peaks - until further notice we chose to ask for permission.

- we looked for understanding from the local community. On the official documentation the peak appeared as "unclimbed" not "forbidden" or "sacred". Nor in the meagre available literature. An option would have been to turn around from Machhapuchhre BC upon sensing local discontent. On next expedition, if you leave us a contact number in case you volunteer a refund, will be happy to oblige. In the meantime we choose to honour in a customary manner (see Kanch) such local beliefs yet haing the climbed we came for in a respectful manner.

- As the summit is "the seat of Gandharvas" we choose not to ride it "cowboy style". Seems to elicit a "not getting on top" understanding (see "Kanch" example again). Material evidence to the contrary on the other hand implies littering. We are happy to report that on the 2000m (6500ft) route we left behind (in the abseil stations) 4 (six) titanium pegs and some 6mm cord and 1 (one) snowstake one body length below the summit. We feel we can sleep soundly concerning the environmental impact of our ascent. Nevertheless we obliged in collecting on the way from our BC to Machhapuchhre BC glorious and copious remnants of certain type of Asian "Alpine Nation" instant noodle that had no significant role on site ...


2013-05-30 12:00:57

Litter the summit of a peak, After asking for permission. But don't get on top.

A pearl necklace ascent?

2013-05-30 10:50:28

Impressive. ("lightning," NOT "lightening")

2013-05-30 10:23:20

I don't think that the climbers are "trying to explain or justify the lack of difficulty", it's just that everyone keep asking all the time "what grade is it?" "how difficult it is?", and it's better to clear that out from the start. People nowadays are only interested in high summits and stories where climbers take great risk and put themselves in danger. I prefer a story about a wonderful team who fulfilled their dream and explored a beautiful peak,in a very pure manner, while having respect to the mountain and to the local traditions, and making the right decisions. I congratulate the team for their target and effort, and the accomplishment of reaching the peak is just a reward for their work.

2013-05-30 10:14:22

I like this. Nice looking mountain. Beautiful area. A sense of exploration. Respect for local traditions. Reading the article, it seems like the climbers are trying to explain or justify the lack of difficulty—no justification is needed! It's great to read about new ascents that are not necessarily cutting edge.

2013-05-30 01:40:35
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