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Alpine Style: Two Austrians make the first ascent of Gimmigela East's North Face
Posted on: January 25, 2017
This photo shows Gimmigela East (7005m) from a vantage point above the team's base camp. Hansjorg Auer wrote, "Our plan of putting up a base camp with a direct view to the mountain was shut down by our porters. They all stopped in Camp Pangpema, the base camp for Kangchenjunga (8586m). We convinced five of them to shuttle up our loads a little bit higher during a few days." [Photo] Elias Holzkenecht
On November 8-10 Austrians Hansjorg Auer and Alex Blumel climbed the previously untouched North Face (M4, 85-degree ice, 1200m) of Gimmigela East (7005m), the subpeak of Gimmigela Chuli (7350m) in Nepal. It was only the third ascent of Gimmigela East after Japanese teams climbed the peak's east ridge in 1993 and 1994.
"I guess we were also the first people to reach this mountain from the Nepal side," Auer said, citing past records in the American Alpine Journal and the Himalayan Database.
Gimmigela wasn't originally on the climber's radar. "Actually the plan was to attempt an unclimbed 6500-meter peak in Nepal but I didn't get the permit for it," Auer said. "So my agent in [Kathmandu] told me I should have a look in the Kangchenjunga Region—he grew up there and knows the region very well. The lack of information in general and just a handful published alpine-style climbs in the whole Kangchenjunga Region got me even more psyched and curious to find out more. The mountains on the border to Sikkim, India, are a great choice to escape 'the crowds.'"
This photo was taken just before the climbers entered a small hidden couloir that led up to the bottleneck of the line. [Photo] Hansjorg Auer
This photo was taken at around 6550 meters, with Blumel following the final moves of the short rock section. [Photo] Hansjorg Auer
Of this photo Auer wrote, "Looking down at around 6800 meters. It was already late afternoon and we were happy that we reached the sun. The wind was blowing very hard and the second night turned out to be not an easy one." [Photo] Hansjorg Auer
Auer shared with Alpinist what he told the American Alpine Journal: "I was really amazed by the remoteness of the Kangchenjunga Area. There are still some great lines to do, especially in this corner from Gimmigela following the border to the north. Also the east side of Kangchenjunga is not really explored a lot... [Regarding] Gimmigela East's North Face, I couldn't understand why this face was not climbed before. It's such a nice king line on this 7000-meter subpeak of the main summit. Maybe it was because of the long approach or simply because this area doesn't get [many] visits [by] teams focused on alpine style... The biggest question marks before attempting the mountain were the pretty windy conditions and the lack of bivy spots on the face itself. Therefore we were lucky to find amazing conditions on the wall and also our tactic of being as light and fast as possible turned out to be the right thing."
Summit shot with Auer, left, and Blumel. [Photo] Hansjorg Auer
A press release from the team reads:
After five days of long trekking through the jungle along the Tamar River and subsequently following the higher plateaus of the Ghunsa Valley [the climbers] placed their base camp a little bit farther up [from] the classic Pangpema Base Camp, one of Nepal's most treasured sites.
The long trek to base camp. "The local people reinstalled the old bridge after the new one got swept away by a massive landslide just couple of weeks before during the heavy monsoon rain of [the 2016] season," Auer wrote. [Photo] Elias Holzkenecht
Getting acclimatized near base camp. [Photo] Elias Holzkenecht
The pair started the acclimatizing trips on Drohmo's South Ridge (6850m) and after three nights at 5900 meters, they started up on November 8.... Due to a wet monsoon with high precipitation they found the 1200-meter high face in perfect conditions. After two bivies—[with] the second one on the final summit ridge [challenging] them a lot due to the small spot being totally exposed to strong winds—they reached the summit on November 10, at 7.30 a.m. A cold, windy but clear morning allowed the duo to see far into the great mountain range of Sikkim and to the unexplored East Face of Kangchenjunga (8586m).
"It was one of those expeditions where it all came together perfectly. A great project, an even greater friendship, a fast and light alpine-style first ascent, and a 'King Line' on a 7000-meter peak in one of the most remote places of the Himalayas," said [Auer].
Celebrating the new route back in base camp. [Photo] Elias Holzkenecht
Auer and Blumel can appreciate this success, as they've endured as least one adventure together before that did not turn out so well, when they lost their friend Gerhard "Gerry" Fiegl while descending Nilgiri South (6839m) in 2015.
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