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Takargo: Rolwaling’s Hidden Gem

Gottlieb-Puryear (80 degrees, 900m), the first route to reach the summit of Takargo (6771m), Rolwaling Himal, Nepal. Americans David Gottlieb and Joseph Puryear climbed the line on the east face in alpine style over two days, March 11-12, after deciding the western flanks were too dangerous to attempt. Though not as technically challenging as the headwall below, the long and protectionless ridgewalk to the summit (and back) was the mental crux. [Photo] Joseph Puryear

As first reported in the March 18, 2010 NewsWire, Joseph Puryear and David Gottlieb have made the first ascent of Takargo (6771m), the tallest peak of its group in the Rolwaling Himal of Nepal. Though the Americans spent just two days climbing the east face to the summit, Puryear considers the alpine-style ascent “one of our biggest overall mountain climbing efforts ever.”

Gottlieb and Puryear were first to climb two other major peaks in the area: Kang Nachugo (6735m) via the south face and west ridge in October 2008, and Jobo Rinjang (6778m) in the Khumbu Himal via the direct south face in April 2009.

Puryear leading the bergschrund on Takargo’s east face. [Photo] David Gottlieb

On their 2008 expedition, Takargo surfaced as one of two options for the Americans, who had hopes of bagging a big, unclimbed peak in the Rolwaling Himal. They settled on Kang Nachugo, more prominent and easily accessible, and climbed it in alpine style over five days. Though their expedition was over, Takargo never left their minds. More than just a “cool looking peak from every angle,” as Puryear has called Takargo, it remained one of the last major unclimbed mountains in the region.

While leaving Nepal in late autumn 2008, the climbers also noticed numerous waterfalls beginning to freeze. Soon they began discussing “the dream”–an ice-climbing trip paired with an attempt on Takargo. It took less than two years to return.

Gottlieb and Puryear spent more than three weeks in February climbing enjoyable water-ice routes near Beding. This extended stay supported their bigger objective by allowing them to acclimatize, fine-tune their skills at higher altitude, and build friendships with locals, Puryear said. “Gaining their approval and blessing, so to speak, was important for us in our journey.”

In early March, they began their “alpine-style approach,” carrying minimal gear and food without relying on porters. Arduous glacial travel in snowy conditions brought them to the base of Takargo after about five days. When an effort to scout a line on the mountain’s west face turned up serious doubts about route hazard, the team moved base camp to the other side of the peak, below the east face at 5700m.

On March 11, Puryear and Gottlieb began their ascent up varied terrain: rock, ice, hanging glaciers, faces and ridges. They encountered the best–and most difficult–climbing on the steep alpine-ice headwall that led to the summit ridge.

Puryear and Gottlieb topped out the sub-summit of Takargo on March 12 but still faced another challenge: traversing the ridge to the main summit and back. Though the section was not technically difficult, the climbers were exhausted by cold, altitude and merciless wind. Careful ridge climbing led them to the summit at 2:30 p.m. After completing the Gottlieb-Puryear (80 degrees, 900m), the descent and voyage back to Beding took three days.

“Takargo was both easier and harder” than Kang Nachugo and Jobo Rinjang, Puryear said. “It was easier because the total amount of vertical gain on the climb itself was much less and we spent less time overall on the mountain. It was harder because of the overall effort involved and much more technical climbing at a very high elevation on Takargo. Also, climbing the peak in mid-March made for obviously much colder temperatures and lots of extra snow.”

Conditions and route quality aside, Puryear considers the peak a hidden gem, eclipsed by other peaks in all directions, particularly Chobutse to the west. “It sits surprisingly hidden from so many different angles, making it difficult to explore,” Puryear said. Even so, he added, its grandeur makes it “hard to believe that no one had set foot on it before us.”

Sources: Joe Puryear,,

Gottlieb tackling the headwall at ca. 6500m. [Photo] Joseph Puryear

Takargo’s summit ridge. [Photo] Joseph Puryear

Puryear (left) and Gottlieb on the summit of Takargo, March 12. [Photo] Joseph Puryear collection