The First Ascent of Kang Nachugo

By Luke Laeser ,

A view of Kang Nachugo in the Rolwaling Valley from the east. Photo by Joseph Puryear

Joseph Puryear and David Gottlieb have made the first ascent of the previously unclimbed peak Kang Nachugo (6,735 meters) in the Rolwaling Himal, Nepal. The pyramidal peak lies on the Tibet/Nepal border and the pair climbed their new route in alpine style in five days reaching the summit on October 17th, 2008.

Puryear and Gottlieb began their expedition in the small town of Shigati (a one day drive northeast of Kathmandu) on September 16th(their expedition lasted for 47 days in all). After Five days of hiking up steep forested valleys they arrived at the small Sherpa settlement of Beding in the Rolwaling Valley. From here they trekked one day further to the seasonal settlement of Na at 4,180 meters where they stayed for the next month.

After scoping the peak, and did some acclimatizing, they first attempted a route up Kang Nachugo’s South Face climbing up to about 150 meters below the summit, but due to poor weather conditions they turned around and made many v-threads back down the face.

Fearing that the weather wouldn’t improve, or lend itself to another attempt on the South Face, they opted for the West Ridge because it might offer more protection and be easier to follow in bad conditions.

Puryear on a mellow section of the ridge crest. Photo by David Gottlieb

They started off early on the 14th so they could get a good head start on the face that reached the West Ridge. Through soft snow, 60º runnels, and challenging mixed sections they finally prevailed after 16 hours. Exhausted, and after a frightening cornice collapse incident they searched for a safe place to erect their tiny tent and get some much needed rest.

Armed with the “Fairbanks Belay” technique (where each climber jumps off an opposite side of the ridge) for the next several days they weaved the up what they called the “Khukuri Blade”, a knife like ridge, completing sections they weren’t sure they could ever retrace. They passed endless snow flutings, climbed many mini-summits with stunning views of the surround peaks like: Cho Oyo, Lhotse and Everest, until they finally reached the summit on October 17th at 1:30 pm. Battling severe cold and numb body parts they returned to their tent after summiting and were hit by a beastly 24-hour storm.

Kang Nachugo from the south showing Puryear and Gottlieb

The next morning — low on food and energy — they opted to rap the South Face after studying pictures on their digital camera. Climbing back up from their camp several hundred meters they chose a point where they thought they could get a good shot down the face using mostly v-threads and minimal rock gear. After about 20 rappels they were able to conclude their epic climb, and celebrate with the locals who were amazed they succeeded in climbing Kang Nachugo.

To read Puryear’s full adventure and see several videos from their climb visit his blogspot site:

Date of Ascent: October: 14-18, 2008

Sources: Joseph Puryear

Comment on this story

Puryear and Gottlieb on the summit. Photo by David Gottlieb

Join the Conversation