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Italians Swarm Unclimbed Faces in Nepal

The final ramp of Phantom of the Opera (M6+ WI4+ 6b [5.10d] A2, 85 degrees, 800m), a new line on the northeast face of Kyajo Ri (6186m), Khumbu, Nepal. Enrico Bonino and Nicolas Meli climbed to the summit ridge at 6050m. The climb was one of three major pushes that the Italians made in the region in November and December. [Photo] Bonino/Meli collection

Having completed a 40-day expedition to the Khumbu region of Nepal, three Italian alpinists–Enrico Bonino, Nicolas Meli and Francesco Cantu–have established new ground on three massive alpine faces.

The first was an incomplete line up the north face of Hama Yomjuma (5970m), just above Lungden Village. The next was a new route on the previously unclimbed Peak 5850m near Dawa Peak. Most recently, they climbed to the summit ridge of Kyajo Ri (6186m) via its northeast face. Bonino believes that all three lines were climbed on faces with no recorded routes.

In mid-November, the trio was traveling through Lungden to Renjo Pass and bigger objectives when they spied a technical gully on Hama Yomjuma. They decided to give it a try. Ascending to a high point on the face took the team three days, November 19-21. They named their progress Ramri Keti (VI WI5+ M7 5a [5.8], 1100m), which climbs the middle of three gullies. Five pitches of mixed and rock climbing in the lower gully led to a snow couloir that opened into a snowfield before narrowing into another, steeper gully. The trio climbed 12 pitches of moderate but runout ice and mixed terrain until a last M7 pitch just after the second bivy. But hopes of reaching the summit ended abruptly when “a massive rock barrier” blocked their passage and Cantu dropped the haulbag that contained their bivy gear, Bonino said. They rappelled the face on fixed nuts and pitons.

“The three of us have never climbed at such a difficult grade in high altitude,” Bonino said of his M7 pitch on Hama Yomjuma. “It is just the will and the fun of going up that allowed me to overcome.”

Francesco Cantu on Pitch 2 of the upper section of Ramri Keti (VI WI5+ M7 5a [5.8], 1100m), Hama Yomjuma (5970m), Khumbu, Nepal. [Photo] Bonino/Meli collection

Later that month, Cantu left for Kathmandu, and Bonino and Meli set up camp just below Renjo Pass “to finish a new route I started last year on the side of Dawa Peak” with Stefano della Gasperina, Bonino said. On December 1, they climbed four pitches of loose mixed terrain and snow slopes, which brought them to the base of an ice gully. Though steeper than expected, they climbed about 10 more pitches to the top of M’han Dato 5 al Modulo di Misto (WI6 M7 A2, 600m) that evening and rappelled by moonlight. They named the summit Peak Khancha.

Their plan was then to climb Cholatse’s (6440m) normal route to acclimatize, then to attempt a new route on Chackung peak (7036m) near the southeast face of Cho Oyu. But problems with porters and their local guide persuaded them to find new objectives. En route to Gokyo, the pair stopped in Machermo village where they discovered the massive east and north faces of Kyajo Ri.

Bonino climbs a wide gully on Day 2 of The Phantom of the Opera. [Photo] Bonino/Meli collection

They first attempted Kyajo Ri’s northeast face on December 8, but turned back that same day when two ice axes broke at the shaft. After repairing them with duct tape and metal wire, they returned on December 11 and scaled a huge rock dihedral just right of the water ice they had attempted earlier in the week. On the 12th they climbed to the northwest ridge at 6050m via mixed climbing, couloirs and one overhanging section that Bonino found “elegant.” Darkness upon them, they rappelled from the upper ridge without summiting, returning to their bivy for another night. They graded the 800-meter route M6+ WI4+ 6b [5.10d] A2, 85 degrees.

The Italians fly home this weekend but will return next season to attempt their original objectives. “The fun is not over yet,” Bonino said.

Sources: Enrico Bonino,,

Meli on M’han Dato 5 al Modulo di Misto (WI6 M7 A2, 600m), Khumbu, Nepal.