Ines Papert and Cory Richards have climbed a new route on the historic, 1,200-meter north face of Kwangde in Nepal. The German-American duo summited 6,093-meter Kwangde Shar in a four-and-a-half-day round trip, despite lean ice conditions in the Khumbu.
Papert had traveled to Nepal as part of an all-women’s team, including Canadians Audrey Gariepy and Jen Olson from Canada, hoping to climb a new route on the face. Richards joined the expedition as photographer, along with filmmaker Chris Alstrin.
In early January, determining the face was out of condition for a new line, the three women attempted to link two existing routes on the far right side of the wall. Over two days, they climbed to 5,850 meters, reaching the ridgeline atop the face to the right of Kwangde Lho (6,187 meters), the peak adjacent to Kwangde Shar. However, it was too late in the day to continue to the summit.
After this attempt, Gariepy and Olson had to return home, but Papert and Richards teamed up for another attempt. They had spotted a possible new line on the left side of the broad face, and, given the thin conditions and uncertainties about the route, they packed food for five days.
Starting January 9, the two climbers followed new ground for a day and a half. Midway through the second day of climbing, they joined the 1996 French route Extra Blue Sky (1,200m, ED2) and followed this (or a Czech variation climbed in 2000) until a second bivy. Their camps on the face were on tiny ledges or half-carved snow holes, and they suffered through the long winter nights with little sleep. On the third day, they traversed left and broke onto new ground again before reaching the ridgeline.
Now in the sun for the first time in days, they made a brief foray toward the summit before realizing they would not make it before dark, so they retreated to a bivy site on the ridge top. The following day, they climbed for six hours up delicate ground on the northeast ridge to reach the top — only the third pair to summit Kwangde Shar via the north face. They returned to the ridge-top bivy for a second night and then rappelled the face. In all, they were gone six days from base camp. The new line is called Cobra Norte (TD WI5 M8).
The Papert-Richards route is the seventh line or major variation on the north, or Hungo, face of Kwangde Shar and Kwangde Lho. The first, climbed in 1982 by David Breashears and Jeff Lowe, pointed the way toward modern, extremely difficult ice and mixed routes on the lower peaks of Nepal. Lowe called it the finest pure ice climb he ever did.
Papert is widely considered the finest female ice climber in the world. In addition to winning most of the major ice climbing competitions she entered—including beating all male competitors at the Ouray Ice Festival in 2005—she has pioneered routes up to M12 and WI6, and has repeated numerous Alpine testpieces. Richards, a professional photographer based in Canmore, Alberta, is a widely experienced alpinist, with many new routes in the Canadian Rockies.
Dates of Ascent: January 9-13, 2009
Sources: Cory Richards, Winterinnepal.blogspot.com, American Alpine Journal