Success on Cholatse
Editor's note: Nancy Hansen is an Alpine Club of Canada Ambassador who has recently returned to Nepal to attempt a summit of Cholatse with her partner Ralf Dujmovits. Follow their story on our blog, and read some of Nancy's previous adventures here.
Springtime in the Himalayas
My partner, German alpinist Ralf Dujmovits, and I climbed the south-west ridge of Cholatse (6,440m/21,123') from April 7 to 14, 2017. It is a beautiful peak in the centre of the Khumbu area of Nepal. When Cholatse is climbed, it is normally in the autumn, but we decided to give it a try in springtime. Overall, we found good conditions with some challenges thrown in—penitentes for miles (see photos of these mini-but-relentless obstacles below), bottomless crevasses, and one pitch of mostly unprotected slab climbing with crampons. Our camps were all memorable and comfortable, and the views were spectacular. As is normal in the spring season, we had blue skies every morning, followed by cloud and mist in the afternoon. Unfortunately, on our summit day, the cloud and mist arrived early, and turned to snow by the time we were on the summit. We were not rewarded for our efforts with any views, but it’s all about the journey, right?
We had the mountain to ourselves. Technically, it is supposedly a bit harder than Ama Dablam. In North American terms, I would say it is about equivalent to the Harvard Route on Mt. Huntington, but with Denali’s height.
I’ll spare you the rest of the white-out descent photos. It ended up being a pretty long day and we got back to the tent just after dark. The following day, we descended from our high camp all the way to Na La Lodge with real beds and food. Just as well — it snowed almost 20cm overnight. Descending the route with that much new snow would have been time consuming and dangerous.
We reunited with our friends Don, Michelle and Chip in Namche Bazaar. Don and Michelle had completed the Three Pass Route (highly recommended, they say), and Chip was waiting for Ralf and I while we climbed Cholatse.
If you haven’t been to Nepal, you ought to consider adding it to your bucket list. The mountains are beautiful, the culture is fascinating, and the people of Nepal are as genuinely nice, friendly, hard-working, and helpful as they are reputed. You can get any level of support desired. The lodges are comfortable and clean, and they keep the trails spotless.
Going in spring means fewer crowds. The skies are normally blue in the mornings, but it clouds over most days in the early afternoon. In autumn, the skies tend to stay bright blue all day long, but there are a lot more trekkers. Don’t miss it! You too will fall in love with Nepal. If you are not convinced, watch a hilarious video of Michelle ploughing the potato fields behind two sobjaks (cow-yak cross).