First ascent of well-known line on Nepalese trekking peak

Posted by Lindsay Griffin on 06/12/2014
Langshisa Ri from the west-northwest. The central spur drops directly from the summit, the Ukrainians first climbing the couloir between the two lower ribs. The 1994 Slovenian route weaves up the fluted face to the right. Lindsay Griffin.

Despite the political upheaval in their country, Ukrainian mountaineers have been active in the Himalaya this autumn, making the first ascent of the central spur on the northwest face of Langshisa Ri, in the Jugal Himal of Nepal.

Langshisa Ri is a well-known 6,412m summit in the Langtang Valley, and was converted to trekking peak status in 2002.

Japanese attempted the mountain from the south during the 1970s, eventually making the first official ascent in 1982.

Despite the Langtang Valley being a popular venue for unauthorised climbing  during the '70s and '80s, there is no known ascent prior to the Japanese.

The steep and impressive north side of the mountain appears not to have been attempted before autumn 1994, when it became the goal of the Slovenian Vanja Furlan, who organized his entire expedition single handed.

Realizing that the central spur was not suitable for his lightweight, solo, approach, he turned to the west-northwest face.

He took two ropes for a rappel descent of the south face, but did not backrope the climb.

His ascent, to which he gave the simple name of Kanga Chu, two friends, Van Morrison, and the Goat (ED1, 80°), was the first time this side of the mountain had been attempted, the first time the peak was traversed, and the first known ascent of Langshisa Ri in alpine style.

In 1997 Furlan (with Tomaz Humar) was awarded the Piolet d'or for his ascent of the northwest face of Ama Dablam, but sadly he would later take a long and fatal fall while rock climbing in his home country.

Ukrainians Nikita Balabanov, Mikhail Formin and Viacheslav Polezhaiko put base camp on the Morimoto meadow opposite the northwest face, and then an advanced base across the glacier below the spur.

During acclimatization it took them less than two hours to reach advanced base from base camp, but then they were hit by the huge storm that produced the much publicised tragic consequences in the Annapurna region.

A day after it stopped snowing they set off for advanced base.

It took 12 hours, often through waist-deep fresh snow.

Not wishing to waste the good weather window, they began climbing next day, at first climbing the couloir between the two lower ribs, then the left rib, and finally the upper spur.

After five days they reached large snowfields 200m below the summit, the leader generally having to use two tools and a shovel for progress.

Tremendous quantities of snow had to be removed, and protection was often sparse (or non-existent).

On the sixth day, with temperatures down to -20°C, they reached a shoulder high on the southwest ridge, and the summit at 11am.

The same day they descended the south face to 5,700m (down-climbing and rappels from Abalakovs) and the following day returned to base camp, having stretched their five days food to eight.

They have named the route Snow Queen (1,500m, ED, M5 and WI4) after the Hans Christian Anderson tale, the large amount of snow on the approach and route, and the constant cold on the northwest face.

Thanks to Anna Piunova (mountain.ru) for help with this report



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