David Gottlieb and Joe Puryear reached the summit of Takargo on March 12, completing the first ascent of this 6,771-meter (22,215-foot) peak in the Rolwaling Himal. The successful climb capped a remarkable winter trip to Nepal, during which the two American climbers warmed up with about a dozen first ascents of big waterfall ice climbs near the village of Beding.
The two men left Beding on March 4, hoping to climb the west face of Takargo, a huge peak that is often obscured from view by the better-known but slightly lower Chobutse to its west. After three days of trekking, they established a base camp by the Trakarding Glacier, and the next day walked up to check out potential routes. Unfortunately, a dry winter had left the west face dangerously free of ice and snow to cover loose rocks. Still hoping to find a route up the peak, they returned to base camp, packed a week’s worth of food and fuel, and headed out on March 9 to inspect the east face, above the Drolamba Glacier.
After two days of hard work, they had placed a camp at 5,700 meters beneath the east face, and on March 11, having spotted a potential line, they started up the face, aiming to the right of an enormous serac band. The two safely reached a hanging glacier and then traversed far to the left, where they established a bivouac at around 6,400 meters. The next morning, they climbed about seven pitches of steep ice to reach the ridgeline. Now exposed to a cold wind from the west, they traversed the long ridge back north to reach the true summit at around 2:30 p.m.
After descending to their high camp, they spent another night worried about the snow that had begun to fall, but the third day of the climb dawned clear and they safely reached the foot of the mountain. It took another three days of hard hiking to return to Beding, followed by three more days of trekking to reach the road and travel to Kathmandu.
Puryear, now waiting in Kathmandu for his flight home to Washington state, said he’s happy but suffering from the intestinal distress that “always happens to me after returning to the city. We hyper-stress our bodies so hard up there, then come back to the filth and have no defenses to fight it.”
The successful climb of Takargo was Gottlieb and Puryear’s third major first ascent in Nepal in less than 18 months, a remarkable record. All three peaks were in the Rolwaling Himal, a region to the west of the better-known Khumbu mountains. In October 2008, they completed the first ascent of Kang Nachugo (6,735 meters), west of Takargo, and last spring they did the first ascent of Jobo Rinjang (6,778 meters), farther to the north.
Dates of Ascent: March 11-13, 2010