This month, Romanian climbers Cosmin Andron and Cristina Pogacean quietly made the first ascent of Gandharva Chuli (6248m). Located in the Annapurna Sanctuary of Nepal, the snowy peak is only permitted to expeditions who hire Nepali porters and cooks. Andron and Pogacean, with the help of eight Nepali companions, established the Romanian Route between May 2 and May 6. The line climbs moderate mixed ground to the snowy southwest ridge and continues to a giant rock triangle that intersects the west ridge to the summit.
The team set up base camp on May 2 near the confluence of the Modi Khola and the river that runs from Singhu in the north. The following day Andron and Pogacean, along with three porters, made an advanced base camp at 4448m on a grassy shoulder of a rocky ridge just before reaching the glacier.
On May 4, the two climbers set off over the glacier and through mixed terrain before reaching the snowy ridge leading to the obvious rock triangle on the west ridge. Around 12:00 p.m. clouds moved in. Two hours later they were in the midst of a lightning and snowstorm. They continued marching upward but eventually decided to bivouac just before hitting the snowy southwest ridge. All through the night, heavy snow continued to fall.
Waking late after an uncomfortable evening to good weather, the duo decided to find a better bivy spot higher on the ridge and inspect the snow conditions. They climbed a couple hundred meters up the southwest ridge and dug a platform big enough to erect their tent and take a rest day. Avalanches broke loose in all the gullies and faces around them throughout the day.
Conditions on the morning of May 6 were clear and cold. The two climbers decided to head for the summit, leaving their tent at 3:30 a.m. They continued up the southwest ridge to its intersection with the west ridge that connected to the summit. Once they gained the knifeedge west ridge they short roped each other with very limited protection in unstable and thin snow until reaching a wider, more manageable section.
At around noon, the wind picked up slowing their progress greatly. The last 30 meters to the summit steepened from 55 degrees to 65 degrees. That in combination with high winds and spindrift slowed their pace. It took the climbers nearly four hours to reach their final stopping point a short distance below the summit.
Following a discussion with their cook and the discontent from the locals about their planned ascent of a sacred Nepali mountain, both Andron and Pogacean decided not to stand on the actual summit.
The climbers also left their route without a grade. “We did not rate it as the complexity of weather, location, snow conditions and particular conditions on the [summit] day are not consistent nor traveled enough,” Andron says. “So we [can’t] get an objective appraisal as it would be in the Alps or with trade routes in North America.” However, Andron described it as the “Swiss Route on Les Courtes combined with the Cosmiques Arete on Aiguille du Midi (have them stacked and expanded a bit).” He also noted that, while the whole route was reversible and could not be considered “ED” by the French Alpine System, the altitude, remoteness of the peak and the fact that the terrain above was totally unknown to them made Gandharva Chuli’s difficulties “not negligible.”
Andron and Pogacean completed their new route and first ascent with the help of Purna Tamang (cook and sirdar); Hasta Magar (porter), Sohit Ghale (porter and waiter); Sukram Tamang (porter), Dawa Tamang (porter), Ram Shresta (porter and kitchen help), Wanchu Sherpa (member), Lok Bahadur Gurung (member).