The Northwest Face of Kangtega Khumbu Nepal

Twin-summited Kangtega towers like a glacier-capped fortress above Thyang-boche Monastery, the heart of the spiritual lives of the Sherpas. Whereas its more famous neighbor to the north, Ama Dablam, represents the epitome of mountain elegance with its clean spire and sweeping ridges, Kangtega is complex, blocky, and forcefully inaccessible from the northwest vantage. Its sheer West Face falls for thousands of feet from the summit plateau, threatened by ice cliffs several hundred feet high. The Northwest Ridge, dividing the steep, icy Northeast Face from the West Face, soars an impressive 6,000 feet to a fore-summit that is separated by a deep and worrisome gash from the edge of the summit plateau. The Northwest Peak, which is slightly lower than the Southeast Peak, rises directly out of the plateau glacier. To reach the main peak from the northwest, the summit plateau must be crossed by passing below the Northwest Peak, and another 1,000-foot, fluted ice face is confronted on the west side of the summit pyramid.

On our summit day in April 1986,1 was feeling sick, so our foursome split into two ropes of two, with Marc Twight and Alison Hargreaves making the more arduous climb to the Southeast Peak, while Tom Frost and 1 contented ourselves with an easier, uproped climb to the virgin Northwest Peak.

This route is long and varied, with surprises at every turn, a lot of moderate climbing, and a truly difficult mixed-climbing crux. There are bivouacs in self-dug snow caves, as well as in an immense natural ice cavern, which we found on the left edge of the summit ice cap, above the headwall crux.

Location; The Northwest Face of Kangtega is located in Khumbu, Nepal, south of Mount Everest, above Thyangboche Monastery (Schneider map "Solo Khumbu" available in bookstores in Kath-mandu).

First Ascent; To Northwest Peak; Tom Frost and Jeff Lowe, April 1986,- to Southeast Peak; Marc Twight and Alison HargTeaves, April 1986 Elevation Cain; About 7,000 feet Difficulty: Grade VI1, AI4 + , Wl4r M6 Time: The first ascent required 10 days round trip from base camp to base camp, A fast, well-acclimatized team of two should be able to cut at least 3 or 4 days from that time. Equipment: Eight or ten ice screws, a dozen rock pitons, a set of Stoppers and a set of Friends, one deadman, full bivi gear

Kongttgo iffioto: JiffLowtj Season: March to May (premonsoon) or September to November (postmonsoon)

Comments: Kangtega is high enough that careful acclimatization is a prerequisite to a successful and safe alpine-style climb A permit is necessary to climb Kangtega. You can obtain the application from the American Alpine Club Expedition Committee, 710 Tenth Street, Golden, Colorado, 80401, USA, or from the American Mountain Foundation, 1520 Alamo Avenue, Colorado Springs, Colorado, 80907, USA. Approach; You will meet your liaison officer and sirdar (head Sherpa), in Kathmandu. They will help with the purchase of food, the arranging of porters, and so forth. From Kathmandu fly—or take the bus to jiri and walk— to Lukla. From Lukla it is a 3-day walk to Thyangboche (13,500 feet), a good place to spend a couple nights acclimatizing. From Thyangboche take the trail north toward Pangboche, but just after passing the convent at the bottom of the hill below Thyangboche, take a trail to the right that leads up into a broad valley and a very comfortable base camp in a boulder-strewn meadow at 14,000 feet (about 4 hours from Thyangboche). Route: From base camp walk up to the toe of the Northwest Ridge and follow the glacier diagonally up and right along the base of the Northwest Face. You will gain several thousand feet of elevation on this glacier, with two or three steeper

247 T The Northwest Face of Kanglega, Khumbu, Nepal

Photos Kangtega Nepal





Northwest fate of Kangtego VII, AI4+, WI4, Mt

Topo; Richard Koísiler

Climbing Kangtega

left; ll the arm between the col at the top of the approach glader ami the Great Notch on the Northwest Ridge, the Northwest Fate route follows a glader tongue and the headwall above—hi about 25 pitches of climbing.

Right: Marc Twlght on the first pitch of the headwall left; ll the arm between the col at the top of the approach glader ami the Great Notch on the Northwest Ridge, the Northwest Fate route follows a glader tongue and the headwall above—hi about 25 pitches of climbing.

Right: Marc Twlght on the first pitch of the headwall

(Photos: Jeff Lowe)

steps and a final short headwall. The headwall leads to a saddle between a little point sticking out from the bottom of a huge tongue of ice that drops from a tiny hanging glacier perched on the side of the Northwest Face. A dozen pitches of A13 to 4 climbing take you to the hanging glacier. Five difficult pitches of steep ice and mixed climbing (varying from Wl4 to M6) ascend the headwall up and right from the hanging glacier into the trough on the left side of the summit ice cap. Another five or six easier pitches (Al3) lead to the major notch in the Northwest Ridge, The pitch out of the notch onto the ice cap is quite difficult (MS), but it deposits you on the huge shelf below the Northwest Peak. Contour around the shelf and some moderate slopes below the Northwest Peak until you can see the ice face on the main peak. From here it is a 400-foot ascent on 45° to 60° snow to the Northwest Peak (A12). To continue on to the main summit, you must lose some elevation as you walk down and across the glacier to the base of the face. Ten pitches of Al3 to 4 ice bring you to the summit.

Descent; Rappel and down-climb back to the notch in the Northwest Ridge. It might be preferable to continue down the route of ascent, but we descended the couloir on the east side of the notch in a dozen rappels to the glacial basin on the other side, then walked north and crossed over a notch in the Northeast Ridge, and finally made twenty or so rappels down the face at the head of the valley above base camp.

Kangtega Peak Secret Entrence

Marc Twight walking across fW ko cap toward tko final ko fnco on Kangtoga's nain peak

Kangtega Nepal Secret

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