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A Punishing Approach to a New Route on Dzasampa Tse

Posted on: December 22, 2015


Mathieu Detrie following M4 terrain. [Photo] Nangpai Gosum collection

In October, four French climbers, Mathieu Detrie, Julien Dusserre, Pierre Labbre and Mathieu Maynadier, traveled to Nepal with the goal of climbing one of the three 7000-meter summits of Nangpai Gosum (also called Pasang Lhamu, after the first Sherpani to climb Mt. Everest). They spent three days attempting the south ridge of Nangpai Gosum I (7351m) but retreated from 6400 meters because of unfavorable conditions. The team decided to salvage the expedition by attempting the nearby northeast face of lower Dzasampa Tse (6295m).

Dzasampa Tse is a minor peak next to the Nangpai Gosum group and nearby Cho Oyu (8201m), the sixth highest mountain in the world, along the border of Nepal and China. The subpeak was originally climbed in October 2004 by two Slovenes, Tadej Golob and Urban Azman, who were part of a larger Slovenian expedition that made the third ascent of Nangpai Gosum I. The pair climbed the southwest face by a route they named Mali Princ (TD+ M5, 600m).

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After settling on the new objective, the French team elected to climb the peak in successive days in two teams of two. Dusserre and Detrie made the first attempt. The pair left base camp at 2 p.m., slogging for three hours across a moraine, its boulders still unstable from last spring's earthquake, and bivied below the northeast face. Early the next morning, October 17, they roped up at the bergschrund below the wall and climbed a 60-meter pitch, then climbed a long snow ridge with occasional M3 sections of 70 degrees to a gully with WI4+ ice.

Julien Dusserre at the base of the route at sunrise. [Photo] Nangpai Gosum collection

Higher was the route's crux, a steep WI5 ice gully. The climbing here had thin ice and was difficult to protect with screws. They continued up, climbing 100 meters of 70-degree ice, then traversed around the summit serac. Above was a flat tedious section blanketed with two feet of unconsolidated snow, a tricky bergschrund crossing in loose snow, and the final summit ridge. At about 3 p.m. the pair was just a few dozen meters below the summit, but decided to descend because it was late and ominous clouds were building. They descended the southwest face, making ten rappels down ice and rock slopes to a col, then downclimbing to base camp in darkness.

The next day, October 18, Labbre and Maynadier repeated the route, climbing faster by following the tracks from the previous ascent. The climbers named the route A la Verticale de la Peine, which Dusserre says is best translated as "Approach Punishment." The name originated from the dangerous and difficult hike across the unstable moraine to base camp.

Mathieu Detrie and Julien Dusserre on the summit ridge of Dzasampa Tse. The Sumna Glacier, location of the team's basecamp, is visible in the background. [Photo] Nangpai Gosum collection

Sources: Julien Dusserre, Pierre Labbre, publications.americanalpineclub.org, YouTube

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