The south face of Pangbuk Ri with Kellogg and Gottlieb’s routeline. [Photo] David Gottlieb
On November 11, David Gottlieb and Chad Kellogg made the first ascent of Nepal’s Pangbuk Ri (6716m) in fifty hours, camp to camp. They reached the summit via the South Face (VI, AI5, M5,1400m) in just over twenty-six hours of climbing. Then the pair descended the face opposite the one they climbed, before hallucinating their way through a ten mile hike back to their base camp.
Planning for a long push with difficult climbing, the pair travelled lightly. They packed only down pants and jackets, a stove, water, headlamps and thirty bars for food. A nearly full moon along with a decent weather window meant they could climb through the night. As the sun warmed the face above, rock- and icefall showered them as they picked their way upwards. The danger from rockfall almost turned them back when debris from above cracked Gottlieb’s helmet as he soloed up the face. Finding protection in an alcove, they roped up for a few pitches of vertical AI5 and M5 steps that led them to the upper 2,000 feet of near vertical climbing.
Chad Kellogg climbing above David Gottlieb on the first ascent of Pangbuk Ri. Gottlieb described this terrain as “typical for the ascent.” [Photo] David Gottlieb
From there, they intended to take a leftwards trending line towards the summit. But the pair were forced to the right after deciding their intended line was impassable. They found a route through snow mushrooms, rock blocks and, according to Kellogg, “whipped ice from the wet snow avalanches that shed in the afternoons. We just kept trying to unlock the keys to the problems as we came across each one. There were many vertical ice pitches capped by unconsolidated snow and ice overhangs that had to be cleaned.”
Kellogg told Alpinist, “At 21,000 feet we had to make a rappel into another fluting, blindly in the dark. At the end of the rappel we recognized features that we knew from studying the route. We were in the runnel that we originally wanted to climb, but that we could not initially get into. That was a high moment when we thought that the route would finally go, eighteen hours into the climb.”
After twenty-two and a half hours of climbing later Gottlieb and Kellogg reached the summit ridge. They holed up in the protection of a crevasse for four sleepless hours and waited for the sun to come up. Then they continued up the ridge to the summit. The two decided to descend the face opposite the one they climbed. Kellogg says, “There were three free-hanging, full rope-length rappels off of seracs that were notable. On these sections I put in two v-threads for peace of mind in case one failed.”
Gottlieb and Kellogg on the summit of Pangbuk Ri (6716), the pair are slightly over halfway through their fifty hour push at this point. [Photo] David Gottlieb
The descent took fourteen hours. It was longer, more difficult and more dangerous than expected. After forty hours and 3,500 feet of climbing, Kellogg experienced calf cramps from dehydration. Both climbers were physically and mentally tired, and when they reached the base of the face they still had ten miles to hike back to camp. Dehydrated and exhausted, they arrived back at the cook tent as the sun rose for the third time since they started the climb.
Gottlieb on the descent. Sometimes Kellogg put in two v-threads for extra protection. [Photo] David Gottlieb