Pioneering in the Rolwaling – Part 1 of 2

Part 1 of 2: Recently reported by Alpinist Magazine, Alan Rousseau and Tino Villanueva wrapped up their second expedition in the Rolwaling Himal with the support of the AAC’s Lyman Spitzer Award and Beal ropes.

The following report and stories are the words of Alan Rousseau:

Photo by Alan Rousseau.
After a seven-day trek with porters we arrived at our 5,300-meter basecamp, below the West face of Pachermo (6275m), which would be our first objective. We had planned to start off on some objectives a bit further up the glacier, however the new snow that fell mid October and caused the deaths in the Annapurna region had still not settled out. So we avoided walking thru deep drifts over a rock glacier and decided to focus on the terrain close by for the start of the trip.

Photo by Tino Villanueva.
Photo by Alan Rousseau.

We watched the West face of Pachermo for a couple days, took a recon mission up to the start of the technical sections, and gave our bodies a chance to acclimatize. Then, on our fourth day in basecamp we set off to attempt Pachermo via the (to our knowledge) previously unclimbed West face. We felt confident the line would go and decided to climb it light with one 60-meter Beal Joker 9.2mm rope. The climb involved 4000’ of technical climbing with difficult sections that reached up to AI4, M5. It started off with firm neve, water ice runnels, and solid granite. However, as often is the case in the greater ranges, the real difficulties began high on the route where, deep trail breaking through faceted snow in steep terrain was the norm.

Photo by Alan Rousseau.
We topped out after 12 hours of climbing (mostly simul-climbing), summiting in the dark. With building winds, we descended the standard climbing route of the North Ridge, as planned. 40+ mph gusts and ambient air temps nearing zero made the descent a bit more full value than we had hoped for. On the rounded portion of the ridge we dropped a bit to the east side of the crest in hopes of an escape from the frostbite inducing gales coming from the West. Counter productively, the east side cliffed out on us, and we had to regain the ridge crest to continue our descent. We wandered back into base camp around midnight on Halloween, still with enough energy for a little Halloween celebration the next day.

Pachermo Route Profile. Photo by Tino Villanueva.
After a couple days resting, and observing the West face of Tengi Ragi Tau, our second objective, it looked like there would be a gap in the winds that would allow us to climb. We seized the moment by gearing up and heading to T.R.T. However, the high winds were very present when we started to approach the base. Blowing snow was causing an almost constant avalanche that funneled down our approach dihedral. Four very cold hours were spent hunkered below a large boulder waiting for the winds to drop. When they didn’t, we decided to give it a few days. The amount of new loading and presence of hard slabs made us nervous to get on the face.

We wanted at least 48 hours for the face to settle. To make the most of the waiting period, we decided to get to a lower elevation than our base camp to fully recover from Pachermo. So without any further delay, we began the trek down to Thame (3800m) that afternoon. This involves going over Teshi Lapta Pass (5775 m), then descending 2,000 meters into the Khumbu Valley. No small feat, especially to reverse, but we still had over two weeks left of the trip. So we fortified our camp, packed up our bags and headed to moderate elevations with hopes of feeling strong again.

Continue reading to discover what happened when they got back on Tengi Ragi Tau: 
Pioneering in the Rolwaling – Part 2 of 2

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