Thamserku, Khumbu, Nepal
As Russians Alexander Gukov and Alex Lonchinsky left a Nepalese hiking path frequented by tourists on May 3, a few of the trekkers shouted warnings at the backs of the climbers, cautioning them that their direction would not lead them to Namche Bazaar. Instead, they climbed for eight days to the summit of 6623-meter Thamserku and back down again. Their 1900-meter route marks the first ascent of the peak’s southwest face.
Thamserku, in the eastern Himalaya, has only seen a handful of summits since its 1964 first ascent, and its prominent southwest face remained an unclimbed, intriguing line for many years. In 1980 a nine-man Japanese team reached 6300 meters on the face before escaping onto the western ridge and leading to the summit from there. Six years later, a Spanish foursome reached the same highpoint, but a leak in their gas lines leached all of their remaining fuel, and with no way to melt snow for water the group retreated. Climber Jose Manuel Gonzales lamented in the Himalayan Journal, “So near the summit and yet so far…”
Some 28 years after the Spaniards’ failed effort, Gukov and Lonchinsky set out up the face on April 27. They carried a small tent, sans poles. After thieves absconded with their guylines prior to departure, undermining the structure of the tent, they planned to use it like a kind of hammock when the slope did not allow for the construction of a bivy ledge. The Russians made a total of six bivys during their climb. They ascended on a slope of an average 70 degrees, encountering snow, ice and mixed terrain. They graded their climb, Shy Girl, a hard Russian 6A (NCCS VI).
Writing to mountain.ru after their climb, Lonchinsky stated, “On the day when we planned to reach the summit, the weather got worse at 9:00 a.m., and it reached its climax when I got to the crest, three pitches from the top.” But, rising the next morning at 3 a.m., they reached the summit in three and half hours. “Though it was windy, there was sun and excellent visibility,” Lonchinsky wrote. The duo made a safe descent.