Russian pair make first ascent of the southwest face of Thamserku

Posted by Lindsay Griffin on 23/07/2014
Southwest face of Thamserku showing the Russian route Shy Girl (centre) and their descent route on the right. Provided by Anna Piunova

The most impressive new route climbed in Nepal this spring was Shy Girl, the first ascent of the southwest face of Thamserku (6,618m).

Thamserku is a well-known, if rarely climbed peak in the Khumbu, and clearly visible from several directions. In fact much of the southwest face is seen by Everest trekkers during their approach up the Dudh Kosi towards Namche Bazaar.

Despite being an obvious target, with easy access from Monjo on the Dudh Kosi, there had only been one known previous attempt on the southwest face.

In October 1986 the four-man Spanish team of Jose Manuel Gonzales, Jose Luis Fernandez, Azucana Lopez, and Miguel Rodriguez first climbed to a bivouac at 5,700m in the prominent central couloir and the next day continued through a difficult rock barrier (65°-90°) to a second bivouac in an ice cave at 5,900m.

On the third day they reached 6,300m, where they used hammocks to bivouac. They had been experiencing problems with their stoves for sometime and next morning found the gas had leaked and there was no way they could melt snow.

Reluctantly, they abandoned the climb a little over 300m below the top and rappelled the route, arriving in base camp at 3 a.m. the following morning. 

This spring Alexander Gukov and Alexey Lonchinskiy from St Petersburg, Russia, took the approach east from Monjo towards the standard base camp for the normal route on Kusum Kanguru.

They camped in the valley at ca 4,100m and from there made an acclimatization attempt on Pt 5,572m, which lies on the northwest ridge of Kusum Kanguru.

They failed, descended to Monjo, and then travelled to Island Peak, which they summited, camping for the night at 6,000m.

Returning to the foot of Thamserku, they set off up the southwest face in alpine style, carrying a small tent, without poles, that they could use as a sort of hammock where there was nowhere big enough to cut a tent platform.

The Russian pair took the objectively safer central spur, immediately left of the couloir, slanting up to the crest from the left.

They made six bivouacs before reaching the summit, finding the climbing to be mainly snow, ice and mixed with an average steepness of around 70°, and four pitches of A2 on the steep, rocky middle part of the spur.

From the top they descended the south ridge for seven rope lengths, then made 22 rappels down the southwest face to the glacier. This required one more bivouac.

They measured the height of the face as 1,623m and estimate climbing a total of 1,900m to the summit. The overall grade, Russian scale, was considered hard 6A.

Thamserku was first climbed in 1964 by members from Edmund Hillary's Himalayan Schoolhouse expedition.

Lynn Crawford, Pete Farrell (both of whom would later take part in the famous New Zealand attempt on Jannu's Wall of Shadows), John McKinnon and Richard Stewart reached the summit on November 4.

Approaching the south ridge from the basin to the west, the team climbed a difficult couloir onto the crest of the ridge, and then followed it to the summit.

They found the climbing to be exceptionally difficult, more like a technical ascent in the Andes, with steep flutings, mushrooms, cornices etc. Four camps, 1,200m of fixed rope, and 30m of (rope) ladder were required.

The route has never been repeated in its entirety, though the Koreans, who made the fourth ascent of the peak in 1984, reached the ridge from the east.

In 1979 Japanese climbed well left of the main southwest face to reach the crest of the west ridge, then followed this (for a considerable distance), over a foresummit at 6,341m, to the highest point.

With a couple of ascents from the north, to date there have now been only six confirmed ascents of the mountain.

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



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