Little new was achieved in the Khumbu this spring but on the trekking peak of Lobuche East, four climbers from Odessa in the Ukraine added a hard rock route to the east face.
Lobuche East (Lobuje East, 6,090m, and incorrectly marked as Abi on the official HGM-Finn map to the Khumbu) is considered one of the more difficult trekking peaks.
Although an ascent by the standard route is often quoted as AD, not so many people reach the true summit.
The east face rises ca 900m from the screes northwest of Lobuche village on the trek to Everest Base Camp.
Starting right of centre, Yuri Kilichenko, Petro Pobebeghnyi, Makcym Perevalov, and Yuri Vasenkov first climbed an ice couloir (up to 70°) behind an initial buttress separated from the face, then followed this with four 60m pitches up the steep lower rock wall.
Difficulties here were A2/A3 and 6b, with around 40% of the climbing on aid.
The angle now eased, the team set up a bivouac, and the same day fixed their climbing ropes up to the base of the second steep section. They spent two nights at the bivouac site to recover from the exertions of the first day.
Up to this point they found traces of a previous attempt; three or four old bolts with karabiners on the lower wall, and slings, bolts and karabiners at the first bivouac site. They estimate these to be around 10 years old.
The four climbed the second wall in four 60m pitches up to 6b, making a second bivouac just below the east ridge. Here, they were forced to break into their emergency provisions; a can of moral-boosting red caviar.
Next day they finished up the top section of the east ridge (straightforward climbing over rock, ice and snow) reaching the summit at 1:30pm and descending the normal route, in bad weather, to the village of Lobuche the same day.
The route has been named Two Arrows Flight, because looking up at the two steep sections from below they realized they would have to climb both in a direct line.
About 40% of the route was climbed in rock shoes, the rest in more conventional boots. The rock was generally compact, but with many detached blocks, which the climbers had to negotiate carefully. A few bolts were placed at belays and an overall Russian grade of 6A awarded.
The four then went to attempt the second ascent of the 1995 Russian Route on the south face of Ama Dablam, but were thwarted at the base by repeated avalanches and stonefall. Instead they climbed the normal route up the southwest ridge.
Fred Beckey made the first attempt on Loboche East in 1955, reaching a foresummit on the southeast ridge where many climbers still stop today. This was the same expedition on which Beckey made the first ascent of Pharilapcha.
The first ascent may have been made in 1979 by Japanese, but it was definitely climbed by an American-Nepalese duo in 1984 via the southeast ridge.
Over four days in late October 1984 Todd Bibler and Catherine Freer climbed the east ridge, reporting rock difficulties up to 5.8. In the meantime the two remaining members of their team, Renny Jackson and Sandy Stewart repeated the original route up the southeast ridge. Bibler and Freer used their tracks in descent.
However, Americans Gunlogson and Miller, climbing the route over five days in 1990, reported difficulties of 5.9 and A1.
In the spring of 1986 Nobel Prize winning physicist and accomplished American mountaineer Henry Kendall, with fellow countryman Jeff Lowe, climbed a snow/ice couloir on the left side of the east face. Alison Hargreaves and Mark Twight repeated it a few days later.
The East Face Couloir (TD, Scottish 5) exits onto the southeast ridge and some subsequent ascensionists have found it can be very thin.
In September 1990 two Czech brothers and accomplished rock climbers Michal and Miroslav Coubal forced a route directly up the centre of the steep slabby rock wall of the east face, creating Ave Maria, all free at VIII-, in a five-day alpine style ascent.
Two years later, in September 1992, and on their third attempt after fixing some ropes, Koreans Kim Jae-soo, Lee Sung-chun and Park Young-sik started left of Ave Maria, slanted up to join it after a few pitches, then moved left, climbing 20-50m from the Coubal route before crossing it again near the top.
They climbed 13 difficult pitches before caught by bad weather, but continued up the remaining six and a half to the top of the face without incident.
The new Ukraine route lies roughly midway between Ave Maria and the East Ridge.
Thanks to Rodolphe Popier for help with this report