French Climb South Spur of Nemjung

Graziani leading steep mixed ground above 6,500 meters during the fifth day of climbing. Photo by Christian Trommsdorff.

Yannick Graziani bypassing a tower during the second day of climbing on the south face of Nemjung. Photo by Christian Trommsdorff.

French alpinists Yannick Graziani and Christian Trommsdorff have climbed the south spur of 7,140-meter (23,425-foot) Nemjung in Nepal. The two climbed the route in a six-day round trip, reaching a high point of approximately 6,900 to 7,000 meters atop the south face, but they did not continue across the long easy ridge to the peak’s summit. 

Graziani and Trommsdorff had hoped to climb nearby Manaslu but could not acclimatize sufficiently because of too much snow and poor weather. Before starting up Nemjung, they had only three nights above 5,000 meters, followed by a 12-day period of stormy weather. The two waited three full days after the storm ended for conditions to stabilize, and then started up the south face of Nemjung. 

Above the fourth bivouac on Nemjung’s south spur. Photo by Christian Trommsdorff.

Tromsdorff at the duo’s circa 7,000-meter high point on Nemjung, with a view to the 7,140-meter summit in the distance. Photo by Yannick Graziani.

The duo bivied four times during the 2,300-meter ascent (ED+) and once during the descent. They climbed 45 pitches of mostly ice, mixed, and snow, with just a few rock pitches, weaving among towers and gullies. Graziani and Trommsdorff reached the top of the south face at 2:15 p.m. on October 15, but another bivy would have been necessary to continue to the summit and back, and Trommsdorff was feeling weak after being hit in the helmet with an ice chunk the day before. “I felt in a kind of shock state, although I didn’t lose consciousness,” he said. “Later, during the long way down, I would have several moments of ‘absence,’ in particular when dropping Yannick’s backpack!” 

Nemjung appears to have been climbed by a Japanese team in 1983 for the first—and perhaps only—time. A British expedition attempted the south face and west ridge in 1994. 

The south face of 7,140-meter Nemjung with the French pair’s climbing route and bivouacs marked. Photo by Christian Trommsdorff.

Graziani and Trommsdorff have formed one of the strongest Himalayan partnerships of recent years. In 2005, along with Patrick Wagnon, they made the first ascents of Chomo Lonzo North and Central (7,540m) in Tibet, with very difficult climbing over 7,000 meters. In 2006, the two completed the first ascent of 7,350-meter Pumari Chhish South in Pakistan. Trommsdorff said their line on Nemjung was “maybe the most beautiful we have ever done, certainly the most continuously steep,  sustained, and constantly exposed, although no pitches were as hard as the hardest ones on Chomo Lonzo or Pumari Chhish.” 

Dates of Ascent: October 11-16, 2009 

Sources: Christian Trommsdorff, American Alpine Journal

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