Americans Joel Kauffman and Jarad Vilhauer have climbed a spectacular new line on the South West Face of Lobuje East (6,119m) in Nepal's Khumbu Himal.
The pair spotted a thin ice line in the back of a huge granite diedre while making acclimatization treks up to the Cho La.
Accessing the glacier slope below the runnel required Vilhauer to climb a pitch of M7 up polished rock caused by recent glacial recession. The pair then climbed together for around 300m of 50-60° to reach the start of the weakness.
The climbing now became very steep, bridging in the granite diedre and climbing chandelier formations at WI 5+. More M5 followed, marginally protected by stubby ice screws, and the team finally had to traverse right a few pitches when the line dead-ended just below the North West Ridge.
Eventually, Kauffman followed a 20m horizontal tunnel under a cornice and reached the crest, which was composed of almost bottomless, powder snow.
Two and a half hours later, and 27 hours after leaving camp, they reached the first good flat spot on the entire route, sat on their rucksacks and had a rest before finishing up the final crest to the summit, which they reached at 4.30am.
Kauffman and Vilhauer continued over the summit and down the South East Ridge, which forms the Normal Route up this 'trekking peak'. The route has been named Night Terror VI WI 5+ AI 4 M7 85°.
Last year, Vilhauer took part in an expedition to the Xuelian Range of China, but due to frostnip was unable to accompany the three remaining team members on the first ascent of Xuelian West, which was subsequently awarded a Piolet d'Or.
Lobuje East is one of the more difficult trekking peaks and few people actually reach the main summit. There are several interesting ice and mixed routes, particularly on the East Face, but only two recorded ascents on the west side of the mountain.
In 1991 American Eric Brand and Pemba Norbu climbed the West Pillar direct to the North West Summit (VI 5.10 A3; fixed ropes used), while four years later Carlos Miguel and Eduard Sanchez climbed a second, independent route on the pillar that crossed through the American-Nepalese route at half height. Only one of the 16 pitches was aided, the rest going free up to 6b+.
The photo shows a climber on the final section of Lobuje East's South East Ridge, with Nuptse in the background.
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