An Attempt on Kyasharby Andy Houseman Aug/2011
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Here he tells UKClimbing.com about his recent trip to Kathmandu and his attempt at, and subsequent retreat from, an unclimbed line on Kyashar (6769m), Hinku valley, Nepal.
We'd wake to stunningly clear mornings only for rough storms to blow in around midday. Avalanches would cascade as the mountains shuck off the previous day's storm then they'd inevitably vanish again under a heavy cloud of snow.
A brief lull in the previous day's weather had tempted us to leave base camp at just after midnight. We'd set out wanting to salvage something from the trip after accepting our original aim – the unclimbed South Pillar of Kyashar – wasn't going to happen.
We watched with little surprise from 5800m as grey towering clouds gathered force in the valleys below for the hellish afternoon thunder, hail and snow storms we'd been watching for a fortnight.
We'd traversed under the massive south face of Kyashar for a second time on the long climb up to the col between Kyashar and Kusum Kanguru to attempt the west ridge. The first had been an acclimatisation foray, a sleepless night at altitude full of headaches and nausea.
Instead of the 15 minutes we'd expected, it had taken us a couple of hours just getting to the buttress from the col – wallowing up a short ridge covered in deep, unconsolidated snow.
The West Ridge was the line taken on the first ascent of the mountain in 2003. The ridge itself was a straight forward snow and ice climb, but guarded by a 120m shattered rock buttress – the initial crux.
The previous ascensionists had taken a line somewhere up the steep part of the buttress directly in front of us, but with snow-choked cracks and covered ledges we couldn't rock climb like they had.
Needing to find a way through the buttress I'd taken a vague grove system and was locked into a high stakes game of Jenga, playing with two ice axes and a pair of crampons while battling constant spindrift pouring down from the storm. Quite frankly I was scared. I was totally committed and just hoped I'd find something that constituted a belay soon.
Every tool and crampon placement felt like a gamble.
It's not the type of climbing I like, it's not fun, it's a total mind game and at that moment it was winning. Bailing was very tempting.
Eventually I found a good belay and soon a wide-eyed Nick Bullock stood next to me muttering something along the lines of "fuckin' hell youth".
In the zone, wanting to get warm again and the frights from the last pitch momentarily forgotten, I grabbed the rack and started up a groove to the right when there was a loud crack of broken rock and a scream.
A desk size piece of rock plummeted away into the murk below. Instinct took over and I screamed before I pressed into the rock, making myself small. Cowering under my helmet with eyes closed I waited for the inevitable barrage to continue.
The wait and eerie silence was broken to my utter relief when Nick shouted up not to worry, it was only half the belay ledge he was stood on. I thought at least the mountain had crumbed from below us and not above.
I'd had enough. I was over it. I wanted out. Cautiously I continued, slow and insecure as before, up the same useless snow over the same useless choss, not a blob of neve or ice anywhere. Still swinging, as though in ice, at every placement, I hoped to enlarge the holds.
Finally the ground eased and it ended. An overhanging boulder felt like a safe house and I sat for a few minutes having a quiet word with myself.
Digging in beneath our rock, we settled in for an amazing lightening show before waking in the morning to the usual sunshine and incredible views across the mountains of the Khumbu. That moment made the expedition and the toils of the day before worthwhile.
After a slow start Nick sets off ploughing a track through thigh deep snow towards the West Ridge. It didn't take long to realise in those conditions we weren't going to make the summit that morning and get back down before the afternoon storm rolled in again.
Having pushed our luck a bit too far yesterday and with no more food to sit it out we came to the same silent decision, no discussion was needed. We did what we should have done yesterday and started descending.
Back in base camp we wondered if we made the right decision, then we were almost glad when Kyashar became enveloped, our decision not to push it out for another day firmly justified.
This article was written by Andy Houseman with editing by Daniel Johnson and Jack Geldard.
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