Russian climbers Sasha Gukov, Viktor Koval, and Valera Shamalo have completed what’s likely the most difficult route on the north face of Cholatse, an extremely steep 6,440-meter (21,129-foot) peak in the Khumbu region of Nepal.
Details of the new route, including the grade and the style of the ascent, are not yet known, but the location speaks to the difficulty: The route slashes up steep rock and mixed terrain on the right side of the 1,400-meter face, finally joining the 1995 French route on a snow and ice ramp that diagonals across the wall to reach the west ridge.
The team began as a party of five and climbed half the route in early March, but then Galina Chibitok became ill and the entire team retreated to base camp. Chibitok and Sergey Kondrashkin headed for home, and the other climbers started back up the wall the next day. They spent a week on the face and summited March 20.
The Russian climbers had hoped to climb a direct route up the El Capitan–sized cliff on the right side of Cholatse’s north face, but conditions forced them to choose the mixed line farther left.
Last fall, Shamalo was part of a Russian team that climbed a very difficult new route on the northwest face of Siguniang in China. In January 2009, Gukov and Koval, along with two other climbers, completed the first winter ascent of the north ridge of Mizhirgi East, a seldom-climbed, nearly 2,000-meter route in the Caucasus Mountains.
Mountain.ru has a gallery of photos from the Cholatse ascent.
Date of Ascent: March 2010