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Huge Khumbu Wall Climbed in 39-hour Push

In late October, Polish Alpine Club (PZA) members Wojtec Kozub, Marcin Michalek and Krzystof Starek began tackling a 1400-meter virgin north face in the heart of Nepal’s Khumbu Himal. The wall lies on Melanphulan (6571m), a peak six kilometers south of Ama Dablam (6812m) that has a distinctly sharp summit and has been climbed only once on record, in 2000.

Their first day, October 30, the trio climbed 300 meters above their advanced base camp (5100m) and dug a snowy tent platform below the crux. The next day, three pitches higher, they determined that there was no hope of bivying above; to reach the summit, they would need to climb in a push. They retreated to their tent and prepared for an alpine-style effort, which they began the following afternoon. They climbed through the crux in the dark and, in daylight, continued up fluted snow and ice, up to 85 degrees. Thin ice on a few “psychologically demanding” pitches forced dangerous runouts. The trio reached the summit ridge after 32 hours of continuous climbing.

The remaining 100 meters on the ridge crossed deadly and unprotectable cornices too menacing to attempt. Disappointed, the Poles rappelled their route, using V-threads already in place at belays. They returned to the tent at 6 a.m., seven hours after beginning the descent. Despite efforts to stay warm, all three climbers developed frostbite on their toes during the 39-hour push. After a brief rest, they returned to advanced base camp.

The Poles graded the 18 pitches ED2/3: AI4/5 85 degrees.

Upon returning to Poland, Kozub, Michalek and Starek won the PZA’s Jedynka award. Other award nominees included the first Polish 9a (5.14d), the winner of the Speed Climbing World Cup, the first Polish climb of Kangchenjunga, and a Polish repeat of Silbergeier (8b+ [5.14a]), a difficult multipitch route in the Swiss Alps.