French close the door in Nepal Himalaya

Posted by Lindsay Griffin on 31/12/2010
The upper half of Close the Door. Maxime Belleville

Close the Door is the name of a superb new ice/mixed line to the South East Top of unclimbed Lunag I (6,895m) in Nepal's Rolwaling Himal.

Young French alpinists Maxime Belleville, Mathieu Detrie, Mathieu Maynadier and Seb Ratel climbed the 1,200m South East Face of Lunag I with two bivouacs, at 5,800m and 6,200m, and difficulties of IV/5 and F5.

On their third day the four climbed into the night on insecure ground to reach the top of the face at a distinct snowy point of c6,830m, a little to the southeast of Lunag I on the ridge leading towards Jobo Rinjang.

They camped the night just a few metres below this top, but next day, faced with a difficult descent down their route, and already feeling tired, elected not to continue the relatively short distance northwest to the main summit.

A combination of down-climbing and 22 rappels got them back to base camp the same day.

Prior to this the four had acclimatized with a north-south traverse of Peak 5,777m south of the Lunag Glacier, and an attempt on the shapely 6,478m mountain that lies on the frontier ridge southwest of the Lunag Group. This peak had been named Jobo LeCoultre by the Swiss-French team that claims to have summited it in 2009.

The four French climbed the left side of the North East Face to reach the South East Ridge (800m: III/4+), stopping below a small gendarme at c6,200m that appeared unfeasible to turn.

They noted that the upper section of the ridge, the final part of the 2009 line as marked at the time on photographs, looked extremely difficulty and well-endowed with enormous mushrooms.

The Lunag Massif, a collection of high peaks that form the Nepal-Tibet border south west of the Nangpa La and Cho Oyu, is generally unnamed on maps. It was the Swiss mountaineer Stéphane Schaffter who asked the Ministry of Tourism to open the peaks in 2004, and the name Lunag Ri was agreed.

It wasn't until 2008 that Schaffter attempted one of the summits, the fine 6,778m pyramid at the end of the two-kilometre-long corniced snow and ice crest running east from Lunag's main summit and forming the cornerstone of the Lunag and Nangpa glaciers. He referred to this as Jobo Rinjang.

Schaffter planned an ascent in the autumn of 2009, but went first in 2008 to prepare for this by fixing 1,000m rope to 6,000m on the South Ridge. However, in the spring of 2009 Americans David Gottlieb and Joe Puryear climbed the peak in a fine alpine style push up the face to the left.

The Americans proposed naming the summits Lunags I to V, and attempted to traverse the ridge northwest to Lunag I, but found it too difficult and committing.

That autumn Schaffter turned his attention to Lunag I, and tried the South West Pillar, a fine objective just left of the French line. However, he found the route subjected to stonefall and gave up at 6,100m.
 



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