Remarkable solo climbing in the Khumbu

Posted by Lindsay Griffin on 30/12/2008
The Amphu Group seen from the north north west. Jordi Tozas

The Spanish climber Jordi Tozas soloed two routes in the Amphu Group of Nepal's Khumbu region, one of which at least is most likely to be new. However, these were simply preparation for much bigger goals.

Tozas refers to his peak as Amphu Gyabjen (or Amphu Gyabtsen) but this is the name given to a relatively minor 5,630m top at end of the North Ridge of Ama Dablam immediately south of Chhukhung village. Tom Bourdillon and John Hunt first climbed it during preparations for the 1953 ascent of Everest. To its east are three unnamed summits on the Schneider Map that lie between the Chhukhung and Amphu Glaciers, north east of Ama Dablam and immediately south of the Imja Glacier and Island Peak.

The highest is 6,238m. To the south is 6,146m and to the east 6,205m. Although likely to have received unauthorized ascents in the past, as have many of the lower peaks in the Khumbu, Pt 6,238m only received its first known ascent in the Spring of 2008. Alexander Graeber and Olaf Reick reached the summit on the 20th April, while Erik Jahne, Karen Mahlhase and Christian Pech followed their footsteps the following day.

This German team established a base camp at 4,990m at a small lake below the Chhukhung Glacier and then fixed a total of 1,400m of rope on the North West Ridge of Pt 6,238m (which begins at c5,400m). The second summit party removed all fixed rope and none of the climbers saw any trace of a previous ascent.

Reick actually had a permit for what the Ministry of Tourism refers to as Amphu I, a 6,840m peak rather further to the east between the 5,780m Amphu Lapsa (pass) and Baruntse. The German used this to make the first ascent of what he prefers to call Amphu Middle (because it lies between the two lower summits).

Tozas arrived at Chhukhung in early November and based himself at a lodge in the village. On the 6th he climbed Amphu South (Pt 6,146m) via the Chhukhung Glacier and an ascent of the glaciated West Face. On the 9th he climbed Amphu Middle (Pt 6,238m) via the North Face and upper North West Ridge. This gave an excellent route, almost 1,200m high and with an overall grade of TD. There was ice climbing up to 80° and mixed ground to M4.

On the accompanying photograph the left-hand line is Tozas's route on the North Face of Amphu Middle (6,238m). The pointed summit immediately left is Amphu East (Pt 6,205m). The right-hand line is the upper section of Tozas's route on the West Face of Amphu South (6,146m). Right again is the fluted fin-like summit of Pt 6,246m.

Tozas then made remarkable attempts to solo the South Faces of both Nuptse and Lhotse but realized that given the prevailing dry conditions on the walls, this would be a difficult task. He first climbed a new variant up a gully and mixed ground on Nuptse, right of the spur taken by the Original 1961 British Route, to arrive on the latter at 6,300m.

From a bivouac at 6,500m he saw that a difficult rock barrier on the line of the British Route towards the main summit would make his ascent problematical. Instead, he decided to continue towards Nuptse East (7,795m) via the line inaugurated by Valery Babanov and Yuri Koshilenko in 2003. On the final rock buttress at c7,600m he realized the difficulties were too great for his lack of rock gear and lightweight attempt, so he descended.

He later attempted the center of the South Face of Lhotse (8,516m), following the line tried by Slovenians and others, and completed to the summit ridge by Japanese. But found the entry to the big Y-shaped couloir at 7,400m blocked by difficult rock barriers where he expected snow. Again, feeling that the ground ahead was too time-consuming for the minimal equipment carried, he retreated.

Tozas's preparation for these attempts started with some excellent solo ascents in the Alps during the summer, where he made what are most likely the first solos of Naia (700m: IV/4+), the large couloir on the Aiguille Verte above the Charpoua Glacier leading to the breche between the Aiguille Sans Nom and Pointe Croux, and Griff ins Licht (1,800m to the summit via the upper section of the Lauper Route: bolted 7c, M4 and 80°) on the right flank of the Eiger's North Pillar. He followed this with a short but productive spell on 6,000m peaks in India before travelling to Nepal.



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