From November 28 to December 3, 1982, David Breashears and I made the first ascent of the North Face of Kwangde (20,323 feet) above the village of Hungo in the Khumbu region of Nepal. The face is 4,500 feet high and composed of tongues and smears of thin white ice over boilerplate granite slabs. The average angle (taken from the Schneider map) is 65°, exceptionally steep for an ice route. In the morning we would peek out of our BAT tents to see the sun rise over Makalu's pink granite. During the day we could trace the trade route over the Nangpa La into Tibet. In the afternoon, fingers of cloud crept up the valleys toward Cho Oyu, Everest, and Lhotse. Supper was accompanied by alpine glow on the top of Ama Dablam. We spent the fourth night hacking a cave from the hard ice of an old cornice just below the summit. Inside the coffin-sized hole we wondered if the wind would rip our home off the mountain, but we arrived on the summit early the next morning, convinced that we had completed what would become a hard modern classic climb. We descended in two days via the South Face, over a notch in the Southeast Ridge, down its East Face, and finally around the toe of the Northeast Ridge to Hungo. The weather was good during the climb, with temperatures of 15*F during the day and -5* to -10°F at night. Moderately high winds and spindrift early in the climb made us feel like salmon swimming upstream.
A unique climb with a character all its own, our route on the Hungo Face is,
Haago fact af Kwangtk
overall, the finest pure ice climb I have ever done. Although a Spanish team succeeded in climbing a less direct and easier line on the right side of the wall in the mid-1980s, so far as I know, our central route remains unrepealed—although there have been several attempts.
The climb is characterized by reptilian tongues of white ice that flicker down over compact granite slabs on the lower 2,000 feet of the face. These tongues are not present in the wanner months, generally appearing in December and lasting into March. In many places the wall presents long, poorly protected pitches of thin, porcelainlike ice over steep rock.
We spent four days and nights on the 4,500-foot-high face during the first ascent, and another day and a half on the descent back to the tiny village of Hungo, which serves as a base camp below the North Face. A well-acclimated team of two might be able to cut that time by 30 percent to 50 percent by traveling extremely light and fast.
Location; The Hungo Face of Kwangde is located above the village of Hungo, Khumbu Himal, Nepal (Schneider map "Khumbu Himal," available in Kath-mandu).
First Ascent; David Breashears and Jeff Lowe, November 28 to December 2, 1982 Elevation Cain: About 4,500 feet, from approximately 16,000 feet to the summit at 20,323 feet Difficulty: Grade VII, W16 VS Time: 4 to 6 days round trip from Hungo
Equipment: Extra-long rope(s) (100m double ropes are best),- a dozen or so rock pitons from thin blades to a l" angle,- one set of wired nuts,- one set of Friends or TriCatns,- eight or ten ice screws; bivi gear (including single-point suspension enclosed hammocks} Season: December to March
Comments: Kwangde is (mis)classified as a "Trekking Peak" by His Majesty's Government of Nepal, so you must get a permit in Kathmandu before you can climb. Although Kwangde is not high by Himalayan standards, climbers should take all the precautions to acclimatize and avoid altitude illness. Approach: Travel by air or foot from Kathmandu to Lukla. Porters or yaks can be arranged in Lukla to carry your gear and food to Namche Bazaar and on to Hungo, a 2- or 3-day walk. Route: From the village of Hungo there is an elevation gain of around 5,000 feet through rhododendron forests and grassy hillsides to the crest of the moraine at the base of Kwangde's face. With full loads, expect it to take 5 to 7 hours—if you are already acclimatized. It is probably worth establishing an advanced camp below the face and making a few carries from Hungo to the advanced camp for purposes of acclimatization. There are four major tongues of ice in the lower wall in a more or less direct line beneath the summit. The route takes the second tongue from the left. The first 1,800 feet is often very thin, squeaky,
Jeff Lowe ot the top of the thin, rotten-ke crux of the Huago Foce of Kwongde
(Photo: David Breashears)
245 ▼ The Northwest Face of Kangtega, Khumbu, Nepal friable ice over crackless rock. In several places you will need to run out the lead more than 200 feet to find a belay. This section up to the site of the first bivouac for the first ascent has ice to 90° (W15). Above the first bivouac site is somewhat lower-angle, but very thin and poorly protected, ice. This leads to a snow ledge that jogs left around the lower part of the central rock band and then back right 300 or 400 feet to the only ice break in the upper part of the central band. The first ascent party bivouacked again here. Very thin, detached vertical ice provides a long pitch over the steepest part of the central rock band, and is the Crux of the climb (Wl6 VS). From here, ascend a narrow and increasingly steep gully/chimney to the left of a black rock prow in the upper left center of the face to yet another hammock bivouac at the top of a lower-angle slope. The final section of the face consists of WI3 to Wl5 climbing on 50° to 85° ice diagonally up and right to a junction with the Northeast Ridge a few hundred feet below the summit. A fourth bivouac is possible here, From this point, easy 5th-class rock climbing up the Northeast Ridge leads to the highest point. Descent: From the summit, drop off the South Face in a slightly easterly diagonal direction, making rappels and down-climbing the ice face for 1,000 to 1,500 feet to arrive at an almost-flat hanging glacier. Follow the hanging glacier east to the notch between Kwangde and Kwangde Nup. A few rappels and a lot of down-climbing on the East Face below the notch bring you to the basin between the peaks. From here it is an arduous and intricate route-finding job down around the toe of the northeast ridge of Kwangde and through the bush-choked slopes above Hungo. Eventually you will connect with woodcutters' trails that will take you back to the village
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