After several attempts by talented climbers in recent years, two alpinists from Japan completed the first ascent of the Northwest Face of Kangchung Nup (6089m) in Nepal.
Takeshi Tani and Toshiyuki Yamada estimated the difficulty of their 900-meter route–which they climbed, round-trip from Gokyo village from April 21 to 24–to be ED1: M5 WI4/AI4. They spent one night at the base of the climb, a second night at 5500 meters, and then had another bivy on the descent in the col between Kangchung Nup and Kangchung Shar (6103m).
“The summit ridge was longer than we expected,” Tani told Alpinist in an email.
They descended the easier, safer terrain on the peak’s south side.
A British expedition led by John Hunt was the first to climb the peak in 1953, according to the American Alpine Journal. They reached the summit by the east ridge during a training mission for Everest (Chomolungma).
Tani and Yamada are two longtime friends who have spent the better part of the last eight years climbing together in Canada, where they have also completed first ascents. Tani told Alpinist that the climbing felt similar to what they’ve encountered in the Canadian Rockies around Canmore.
“We are pretty familiar climbing sedimentary rock and ice,” he said. A recent Gripped article also quoted him saying, “I love ice climbing and mixed climbing with choss, so Nepal is the perfect place to climb.”
One of the previous attempts on Kangchung Nup’s northern aspect was made by Czech climbers Martin Klestinec, David Kovarik and Tomas Svoboda in October 2014. They reached a high point about three-quarters of the way up the mountain’s northwest ridge, bivying twice before retreating. In his report for the AAJ, Klestinec wrote:
Due to the poor rock quality, protection was sometimes purely psychological and at other times impossible. Difficulties on steep sections reached WI4 M6. Just beneath the second bivouac we had a lucky break, when we released a large avalanche that completely cleaned the couloir we had just climbed. Above this bivouac, conditions got significantly worse and at around 5,900m we decided to retreat, after 1,200m of height gain.
Tani told Alpinist that the route he climbed with Yamada diverged left onto the upper face instead of continuing directly to the ridge as the Czech team had done.
Another Japanese team, which included the highly accomplished alpinist Yasushi Yamanoi, also tried to climb the ridge in autumn 2016, reaching an elevation of around 5600 meters, Tani said. Yamanoi later shared his photos with Tani and Yamada.
“I think spring has less snow and ice than the fall season,” Tani said. He noted the avalanches witnessed by previous parties and observed that Yamanoi’s photos “are so white” with snow.
“It was really dry conditions this spring, which is safer than usual because there was less avalanche hazard,” he said. “We found a beautiful ice strip middle of the NW face and climbed pretty much straight up to permanent ice. Great conditions like snice make everything different.”
Paul Ramsden and Jim Hall tried a line in autumn 2019 that is farther left on the face. Ramsden wrote that they retreated after about 300 meters when they encountered “thin ice over compact rock resulting in very poorly protected climbing.” Tani said he considers that line to be the “true north face.”
Tani said that he and Yamada still had a couple of weeks remaining on their 39-day expedition and planned to use that time looking for their next objective.