Holecek and Bernat master Northwest Face of six-thousander Sura Peak for the first time

The six-thousander Sura Peak in the Makalu region

And again a piece of true alpinism in the Himalayas. Within four days the two Czechs Marek Holecek and Matej Bernat succeeded in the first ascent of the approximately 1,300-meter-high Northwest face of the 6,764-meter-high Sura Peak (also known as Honku or Hongku Chuli Nup) – in alpine style, i.e. without bottled oxygen, without Sherpa support, without fixed ropes and without fixed high camps.

On the very first day on the wall, Marek was impressed by the steepness. “The initial 50 degrees in the firn was still possible. Then the degrees started to increase and the ground changed to ice of varying hardness,” Holecek announced via satellite phone last Saturday, which can be read on his various social media accounts.     

Bivouac in a “kind of hanging garbage bag”

Marek Holecek (l.) and Matej Bernat
Marek Holecek (l.) and Matej Bernat

On Day 2, the 48-year-old spoke of a “hell on earth.” First, Matej and he mastered a rock barrier that they had identified as a key section of the wall. “The rock was broken, crumbly, and it started to snow. About three o’clock we were near the end of the rock barrier. Difficult climbing in the mix, but somehow it was possible,” Marek said. It was almost more difficult to find a place for the second bivouac in the steeply sloping terrain. They used an ice screw to fix the tent to the upper loop. “From the outside, it must look like some sort of hanging garbage bag,” Holecek described the makeshift construction.

The third day also provided the two Czechs with difficult rock and ice climbing. “In the afternoon, after a terrible battle with the rock barrier, my eyes finally saw the ice cliffs that lead to the summit,” Holecek said. “Our moment of relief was spoiled by the approaching wind and snowfall. We hurried as much as we could, but the wind, the snow that stuck to everything and the cold drained the last of our strength.” At least they found a more comfortable bivouac spot about 200 meters below the summit than the day before.

Smiling with the corners of the mouth down

Yesterday, Tuesday, Holecek and Bernat also climbed the last passage through the wall and reached the highest point at 6764 meters. “The lungs resembled a grunting sentinel and suddenly there was nowhere to climb,” Marek said of that moment. “We are on the top of Sura Peak. Joy? I would hardly describe the feeling like that. Such a smile with the corners of the mouth down.” After all, there was still a long descent ahead of them. Eleven hours later, the two Czechs reached the valley again.

First ascent probably already in the 1980s

Sura Peak was probably climbed for the first time in 1983 by the two Austrians Sepp Egarter and Volker Klammer via the Southwest Ridge – rather illegally, because the Nepalese government had not yet approved the mountain (at that time still called P 6730 with reference to the approximate altitude) located close to the eight-thousander Makalu for ascents. This happened only in 2003, and so the chronicle Himalayan Database lists the ascent of a Spanish expedition led by Alberto Inurrategi in fall 2015 as the official first ascent. In 2019, Nepalese Pemba Ongchu Sherpa and Japanese Hiroki Nakayama opened a route through the Northeast Face.

Simply beautiful

Holecek and Bernat christened their route through the Northwest Face, which they mastered for the first time, “Simply Beautiful.” Simply Beautiful was also their project, because it was pleasantly different from the mass mountain tourism on the eight-thousanders and some lower mountains in Nepal. A real adventure, true alpinism.

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