Glaciologists Burning Kharkas on unnamed Nepalese peak

Posted by Lindsay Griffin on 19/12/2014
Ibai Rico in the diedre approximately half way up the west face of Peak 6,192m. Evan Miles
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Cambridge University research student Evan Miles, with Ibai Rico from Spain, has recently climbed a previously virgin line on an unnamed peak in the Langtang Himal of Nepal, the pair stopped from reaching the summit by 80-100m of loose rock.

Miles and Rico acclimatized by climbing Ganchempo (6,387m) via the south ridge (PD/PD+) from the valley of Nyangtsa Chu to the west, as a prelude to attempting other objectives nearby.

However, deep unconsolidated snow, left by typhoon Hudhud the previous month (the same storm that caused havoc and many fatalities in the Annapurna region) brought on a change of plan and a move north across the main Langtang Valley to the Kimshung Glacier.

In mid November, from a camp at 5,400m on the western edge of this hanging glacier, the pair crossed heavily crevassed terrain to the southeast edge, made a challenging lead through the overhanging rimaye, and started on the west face of Peak 6,192m.

This summit marks the end of the long ridge descending west from 6,567m Dragpoche.

After 250m of straightforward AI2, the pair entered a prominent diedre, which they climbed in six long pitches.

As the terrain did not break naturally into pitches, the climbers often had to move together for 20m before the leader could get a decent belay, resulting in mammoth 80m pitches.

The climbing ranged from excellent quality 65° ice, to perfectly-vertical, thin and poorly protected WI5+.

Some sections could only be protected with questionable pegs, otherwise the two used many screws and a moderate rock rack.

The diedre finished at a notch on the south-southwest ridge, a little short of the summit.

It was now late in the afternoon, and they were faced with a finish over loose rock.

Happy to have completed a route on the face, they left the summit for a future party and rappelled, largely from Abalakovs, regaining their tent at midnight after a 23-hour day.

The following morning they realized the weather and conditions during the climb had taken its toll. Starting out in the dark, they had faced temperatures estimated to be around -25°C, and a bitterly cold strong wind.

Several of Miles's toes were frostbitten, though doctors in the UK expect a full recovery.

The pair are both glaciologists and met last February on a glaciology course in Spitzbergen, where they spent 25 out of the 35 mornings skiing and climbing in the mountains around Longyearbyen before going to daily lessons.

Miles, from Portland, Oregon, is completing a PhD at Cambridge's Scott Polar Research Institute, and is currently librarian of the Cambridge University Mountaineering Club.

He's made four trips to the Nepalese Himalaya, and in August joined Camilo Rada's expedition that made the first ascent of Aguilera on the South Patagonia Icecap. His research is in the dynamics of supraglacial lakes for debris-covered glaciers.

Rico is also a mountain guide, and works as an instructor at the University of the Basque Country. He's made a number of visits to climb in the Fitz Roy group, and also put up new routes in Tierra del Fuego. His main study concerns the small glaciers of the Pyrenees.

The pair were in the Langtang for an autumn fieldwork season, studying some of the glaciers.

In 2013 Miles was on a similar trip when a fire destroyed the research team's expensive scientific equipment, as well as all members' climbing gear.

In memory of this Miles and Rico have named their line Burning Kharkas (650m, TD+, M4 WI5+ 90°, not to summit).
 



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