American-Slovenian team climb erroneously attributed Scottish peak

Posted by Lindsay Griffin on 28/11/2014
The west face of Chugimago and the line of the American-Slovenian route. Domen Kastelic
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In Nepal's Rolwaling Himal Slovenian Domen Kastelic and American Sam Hennessey have made the first ascent of the west face of Chugimago (aka Chukyima Go, 6,258m), a fine pyramidal mountain, the first ascent of which has historically been attributed to a 1952 Scottish expedition. But was it?

After spending three days below Chugimago, inspecting the west face, and then climbing the trekking peak Yalung Ri (5,647m), which also gave a great view of their objective, Kastelic and Hennessey returned to the main valley, where in mid-October they received a forecast for a three-day weather window.

They moved up to the bottom of the face, but were surprised by light snowfall.

Rather than get their tent and gear wet before the start of the climb, they sheltered beneath an overhanging boulder, before setting off next morning by torchlight.

The face is around 900m high and they took a line left of centre.

On the first part they were hampered by deep snow, but the middle section provided excellent alpine ice and mixed.

Fresh snow in the upper face slowed them down but they eventually reached the upper north ridge and pitched the tent before sunset.

Leaving the tent in place next morning, they set of for the remaining 150m to the top.

However, the sharpness of the ridge, drifted snow, and a few rocky steps meant it took a full three hours.

From the small summit they could clearly see that Chugimago was a technically challenging mountain on all sides.

They returned to the tent and descended their route, then made it back down to the valley the same day.

Difficulties were rated 90° and M4

They then focused on their next ascent, but a three-day storm, the same that caused the much publicised tragedy on the Annapurna Circuit, stopped them.

After two weeks of unstable weather, and no foreseeable long term improvement, they left the Rolwaling.

Chugimago was brought onto the permitted list of peaks in 2002, and whilst dealing with formalities at the Ministry in Kathmandu, Kastelic and Hennessey were told the mountain was unclimbed.

However, they had already ascertained the peak had first been climbed in 1952, an ascent that impressed them when viewing possible lines from the summit.

In 1952 a Scottish party led by Tom Mackinnon climbed three peaks in the area, which have historical been attributed to Chugimago, Ramdung (ca 5,925m) and Yalung Ri (the Scottish party gave no names).

Study of their admittedly vague articles, sketch maps, but more usefully photos from that period, reveal that their third summit was not Chugimago but Peak 5,794m (and Yalung Ri more likely to be Yalung Ri North).

Several attempts on Chugimago were reported in the 1970s, and on one a German team retreating 200m from the top of the north ridge.

While Chugimago's location makes it likely to have received one or more unauthorized ascents, none appear to have been reported, giving Kastelic and Hennessey the first official, if not the first absolute, ascent.



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