Exciting attempts on Chamlang and Hongku Chuli

Base camp at the foot of Chamlang

“I’m fine. The mountain is traversed”, Frederick II said on 17 August 1786. Reportedly these were the last words of the Prussian king. Even though it is not known that he chose them on his deathbed because he had a passion for mountains, many climbers would subscribe the statement of “Old Fritz”, as the King was called at that time. The traverse of a technically difficult mountain is still considered a special achievement. Not far from the eight-thousander Makalu in eastern Nepal, two teams are currently trying their hand at traverses.

The professional climbers David Göttler from Germany, Hervé Barmasse from Italy and the Colombian Andres Marin, who lives in the USA, have set themselves the goal of crossing the three peaks of the seven-thousander Chamlang. The trio already set up their base camp at the foot of the mountain last weekend. According to Hervé, their acclimatization is completed. Last week, the three climbers had got used to the thinner air in the mountains around the village of Chukhung in the Khumbu region.

Scott and Co. abandoned the traverse in 1984

Hervé Barmasse (r.) and David Göttler

Two legendary climbers got the idea of the Chamlang traverse in 1981: The South Tyrolean Reinhold Messner and the Brit Doug Scott had then scaled the 7,180-meter-high central peak of the mountain to acclimatize for Makalu. Scott returned to Chamlang in 1984 – also in preparation for Makalu. With his son Michael, the Frenchman Jean Afanassieff and the Nepalese Ang Phurba Sherpa, he climbed to the 7,235-meter-high east summit and then on to the central summit. “The main summit of Chamlang at the westerly end of this long, flat-topped mountain was still three and a half miles away and would have been a fine climb, but we did not want to draw too heavily on our reserves before our attempt on Makalu and so we descended,” Scott wrote later.

Like Scott and Co. once, Göttler, Barmasse and Marin now want to use Chamlang to prepare themselves for an eight-thousander project – next spring on Cho Oyu. The first ascent of the 7,321-meter-high main summit of Chamlang was made in 1962 by the Japanese Soh Anma and the Nepalese Pasang Phutar Sherpa. The Himalayan Database has recorded a total of 18 summit successes so far.

Stitzinger and Möller on Hongku Chuli

Planned route on Hongku Chuli (in the background Makalu)

According to this mountaineering chronicle, the 6,833-meter-high Hongku Chuli near Chamlang is still unclimbed. Even there a traverse is planned during the next weeks. The German climbers Luis Stitzinger and Manuel Möller – with whom I was en route in 2014 during the successful first ascent of the 7,129-meter-high Kokodak Dome in western China – want to climb via the Southwest Ridge to the summit and then descend on the West Ridge. “Thrilling combined terrain, an esthetic line and much loneliness are waiting for us there,” Luis wrote on Facebook. “Hongku Chuli looks somehow dwarfed by the colossal West Face of Makalu but is in fact one of the highest unclimbed peaks in Nepal.”

Update November 2019: Both expeditions failed. Göttler, Barmasse and Marin abandoned their attempt on Chamlang due to bad weather. Luis Stitzinger and Manuel Möller also broke down their tents. ” Hongu Chuli remains unclimbed,” Manuel wrote on Facebook. “With the weather conditions and my energy reserves after two days on the long ridge to the summit, we decided to turn around ~300m below the summit. I was not sure if I would have made it back from the summit to our tent on 6,400m, carved out from the ridge.”

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