Cholatse 6.440 - First ascent „JUST ONE SOLUTION!“
We are slowly detaching from the ground again, and with a load of eggs, we are heading from Lukla to Syangboche. Yes, we are going back. Back to the hills, back beneath Honza's fateful mountain. I really don't know what to think about all of this now. I think I might have gone completely mad! After all we experienced here just a few days ago. After all those resolutions that we would never come back! But after spending a few long days in Kathmandu, it started feeling cramped and uncomfortable. We still had a whole week until our departure, and we felt utterly useless there. After consulting with family and friends, we decided to return to Cholatse and try to find Honza's Go Pro camera. And if possible, we'll also attempt to reach the summit. It's definitely a better idea than spending another week down in Kathmandu. Now, we have to count each day, and Subin is arranging a helicopter to drop us just above Namche Bazaar. That will save us about a day of trekking... After a few minutes of flight, we are there. Just me, Radar, and two big backpacks. Well, actually three... The pilot waves goodbye, and the helicopter, loaded with eggs, disappears into who knows where! Suddenly, there is complete silence again, and the two of us stand alone, as if naked, in the middle of the entire Himalayas. It's late afternoon, and everywhere is quiet and calm.
We abandoned our original
plan to climb the virgin south face of Khangri Shar a long time ago. The
situation, morale, and mood are not suitable for it. Now, we are interested in
only one peak... Juraj will have to try it alone, which is not unfamiliar to
him. We send a small bag with supplies to Ďurifuk to Lobuche via a porter. He
assures us he will be there tomorrow evening. We pay him 8,000 rupees! We don't
understand him much, but we trust him... We load everything we need for a few
days in the mountains on our backs, and the next day, we enjoy the begged tea
in the base camp under Cholatse, which has significantly expanded in these few
days. Just a week ago, we were almost alone here...
We pay for coffee, tea, and cookies with a carabiner and continue under the wall. We plan to "camp" about 200 meters above the base camp at an altitude of 4,900 meters. Below the wall, we will have only 300 vertical meters, and most importantly, here we will have absolute peace. There's simply no mood for a big gathering now. In the end, we decide to first explore the area around the stand from where Honza fell and then the impact site below the wall, if we manage to climb up to the ridge. Otherwise, we'll turn around and go up the normal route on the SW ridge. We are so hungry that we can't stand any more delays, and tomorrow, we just have to start! We have already thoroughly studied the wall with Honza many evenings in the tent, debating what strategy a climbing team would have to choose to ascend the steep western wall successfully. We didn't even know if it had been climbed before; I had never looked into it before... At that time, I had no idea that I would ever climb this colossal and completely virgin wall under such circumstances...
The daily routine was like a copy-paste. Every day, between four and six in the morning, we were awakened by the deafening noise of falling seracs in the lower part of the wall. Then a few hours of quiet, and around eleven, projectiles would whistle down the wall, mainly from the left side of the wall. Moreover, just below the summit, there is a wall of massive overhanging seracs. We can't linger in this wall for long. In addition, above the lower serac, the wall provides no opportunity for a break, let alone a safe bivouac.
In our eyes, all of this has
only one solution. On the first day, we need to climb three pitches of steep
ice ramps with a classification of WI4+, M5, and continue with relatively easy
terrain for another 4 pitches to an ice cave that provides safety from falling
rocks and seracs from the upper half of the wall. This entire first section
needs to be climbed between seven and ten in the morning when it is relatively
calm! We get up around five, and on the path, we have walked so many times, we
climb up. The last time was when we went to prepare Honza for transport. I ran
like a madman, wanting to get it over with as soon as possible. I remember
crying a little at times and mainly wanting to be home as soon as possible...
Now we climb more deliberately, trying to drive away dark thoughts. Still, we
can't start climbing before seven; paradoxically, it would be too significant a
risk. We tie in at the beginning of the ice gully, and around half past seven,
we start climbing. After three pitches of climbing freely hanging ramps, I
confidently claim that it was undoubtedly the most technically difficult
section of the entire wall. However, Radar shakes his head and is right...
Around ten, we are in a luxurious bivouac—a spacious ice cave. After about an
hour of adjustments, we set up the tent and have free time until night when we
plan to start climbing. I think that day not a single stone fell from the wall!
Are conditions getting better, or is it just a coincidence?
Spontaneously, we both wake
up around midnight. Our bodies already sense that today is going to be tough!
The wall above us now gives the impression of overhanging, and in the
moonlight, it glistens like a South Bohemian Pond under the full moon. It's
clear to us now that we won't enjoy the firn today. Will we physically manage
to climb in this altitude, sometimes facing vertical ice? Numerous questions
race through our minds, but there's only one answer. This has only one solution!
We have to go nonstop!!! For 14 hours straight, we push through the absolute
physical and mental limit. Occasionally, sections of frozen, blue to greenish
ice are completely vertical, and with each swing of the ice axe, the ice cracks
in all directions. I have never experienced this to such an extent in ice
climbing, and it's essential to adapt quickly. Especially in the vertical
sections, it is very uncomfortable. Fortunately, it's roughly only seven-meter-high
pitches, and the slope always eases off a bit afterward. Still, there's not a
single place where we can comfortably stand. IT'S ABSOLUTELY ICE CLIMBING PORN!
Roughly in the middle of the wall, a section of vertical rocks with difficulty
M4/M5 awaits us. Luckily, it's only one pitch. Climbing on rock takes a bit
more time than on ice. Moreover, the quality of the rock is absolutely terrible
here. More and more pitches follow in completely solid ice. Slowly, it stops
being fun. Hanging on the anchors like monkeys, we desperately try not to slack
off and continue progressing in a certain rhythm… As Špek says - fear is the
best chef! It propels us upward at the maximum possible speed. Sometimes, it's
literally nauseating! Towards the end, we start to slack off a bit from the set
pace. Fatigue is starting to take its toll. A small consolation for me is that
even Radar and the slope are giving in to the set pace towards the end. It's a
win for the arms, but, for a change, the calves are burning. This ascent is starting
to hurt like hell! In 14 hours, we drank maybe three times and ate perhaps one
energy bar. Maybe not even that! Anyway, we started with that intention, barely
bringing any food with us… Around 5 o'clock in the evening, we finally reach
the summit ridge. We leave our backpacks in place and continue to the summit
lightly, which takes about thirty minutes. Stupidly, I didn't even change my
wet gloves, and they freeze to the bone. I can't even hold the ice axe! Such an
Just before dusk, we are on
the summit, where we spend only a few moments. It begins to cool sharply, and
today we will try to descend as low as possible. We return to our backpacks,
and with the approaching darkness, we start descending along the southwest
ridge. In C2, Asis makes tea and offers a spot for the tent. They plan to
continue to the summit tomorrow. We thank them for the offer but decide to
attempt to descend to C1. At an altitude of around 5,900m, we pass the spot
where Honza had his long fall. We briefly inspect the immediate surroundings,
recheck the anchor to which he was clipped, and try to understand what actually
happened. It's entirely intact! I'm so tired that I end up making a mistake
during rappelling and notice the poorly clipped carabiner at the last moment. I
must let go of all other thoughts and concentrate mainly on my descent… I start
to check myself, and Radar is slipping away from me a bit. I still have to
rappel about 80 meters of vertical rock slabs and reach C1. More than a week
ago, Radar and I secured fixed ropes here. It's the most challenging section of
the classic route along the southwest ridge and gave us a hard time! It seems
so long ago now, and so much has happened during that time! No one is here, and
we have the entire C1 to ourselves. In the deep night, we pitch the tent and
are so tired that we fall asleep immediately.
Early in the morning, we
start descending, and without any words, we automatically return to the place
of Honza's impact. After a thorough search of the immediate surroundings, Radar
finds what we came here for… Now we have this peak definitively closed! Despite
all circumstances, I feel a certain relief! All questions disappear with a wave
of a magic wand. Suddenly, I know why I'm here, why I'm doing this! If we hadn't
returned, we would never have closed HONZA'S WAY TO THE LIGHT! H.