Direct North Face (VI AI5 R, 1500m), Tawoche (6501m), Khumbu Himal, Nepal. Giri-Giri Boys Fumitaka Ichimura and Genki Narumi climbed the line over three days in late November, making the first recorded ascent of the north face proper. [Photo] Genki Narumi
There are few peaks as prominent in the Himalaya as Tawoche (6501m), which hugs the standard trekking route through the Khumbu Himal to Everest Base Camp. And there are few unclimbed faces with such striking potential as Tawoche’s north face proper.
As first reported in the December 21, 2009 NewsWire, Japanese Giri-Giri Boys Fumitaka Ichimura and Genki Narumi climbed that wall–in alpine style and winter conditions–to establish what they call the Direct North Face (VI AI5 R, 1500m). The line climbs to Tawoche’s northern summit and involved serious objective hazard, to the point where Narumi said, “We are very happy we could climb this and come back safely so we can do other climbs. ”
The climbers arrived in Nepal on October 30. They stayed in a lodge in Thukla and established advanced base camp just below the face. On November 21, they made their first attempt. After simulclimbing to ca. 5500m, the pair headed right with hopes of bypassing a steep rock band above. Continued efforts to find a weakness brought them too far west, and when night settled in, they bivied without a tent on a small ledge at 5700m. Traveling fast and light with limited food and fuel, the pair decided to retreat the next day and prepare for another attempt.
Ichimura works up steep ice at ca. 5500m. The team found some sections unprotectable. [Photo] Genki Narumi
Later that week, on November 26, they again climbed to the rock band. Instead of traversing, they forged up and right through hard-to-protect terrain under serac threat. Again with no tent, the climbers were especially susceptible to spindrift. Falling chunks of serac debris struck Ichimura and Narumi in the knees that evening, escalating fears but without consequence.
Ichimura follows up alpine ice at ca. 6100m on Tawoche’s north face. Sections low on the route were susceptible to serac fall; higher up, they also found high-stakes climbing on loose rock and soft ice. [Photo] Genki Narumi
The next day they climbed more alpine ice, some very dangerous–“too soft to use ice screws,” Narumi said, “and rock was loose,” bound only by frozen snow. They climbed into the night, finally chopping out a small bivy ledge at 9 p.m.
On Day 3, they simuled up moderate ice and sugary snow to the northern high point, where Narumi celebrated his first Himalayan summit. He and Ichimura began descending that day into the east gully. By the next afternoon, both climbers were back in Pheriche.
Both Ichimura and Narumi climbed the route entirely free, without the use of jumars.
Mountain historian Elizabeth Hawley told the Japanese climbers that Tawoche’s north face proper had only been attempted once previously, in 1989. That team reached 5300m.
Narumi and Ichimura celebrate atop Tawoche’s northern summit. [Photo] Genki Narumi