On the 11th November, Hiroyoshi Manome (43), Yasuhiro Hanatani (leader, 36) and Tatsuya Aoki (28) summited what must be one of 2012′s greatest Himalayan achievements – the South Pillar of Kyashar.
Located in the Hinku Valley in Nepal and topping out at 6769m, the South Pillar has seen the attention of numerous strong teams in the last decade including Andrew Houseman (see EpicTV interview here with Andy) and Marek Holecek.
This was Yasuhiro (Hana) Hanatani’s 8th expedition to Nepal (including the first ascent of the West Face of 7,140-meter Nemjung) and he kindly took the time to speak to us about his ascent. “This time was the most compact and simple. We hired only five porters at Lukura as we planned to stay at the lodge in Tangnag”. The South Pillar of Kyashar has the enormous advantage of starting right by the village of Tangnag allowing a moderately easy base camp life!
On the 2nd November, shortly after arriving at Tangnag, they acclimatised on Mera Peak (6476m), which lies opposite Kyashar and allowed them to get a better look at the line they were intending on Kyashar. “I looked at the beautiful pyramid in fascination” wrote Hana, “We realized that the route was technical and difficult. I thought that it was typical ridge climbing and we’d need a week for the ascent. So we had to accept the idea of carrying heavy backpacks for food and fuel. Of course I normally like to climb light and fast but that kind of ridge climbing does not make for light and fast – we would be going heavy but as fast as possible!”
Leaving on the 6th November from Tangnag they headed up to the base of the pillar at approx 4550m.: ”It was easy and not too steep for rock climbing (up to 5.8) until just under the traverse band at 4900m. After we climbed the traverse band we headed up about 200m of gully (up to 5.9). The upper part was very loose but we stopped at 5200m for our bivy after 17 pitches of climbing. We were so tired but satisfied to achieve the long day jumaring with such heavy backpacks!” commented Hana.
The following day they climbed a 70m rock band to reach a higher glacier on the ridge. This would lead them to the upper part of the wall which was loose but not too steep, and at 5800m they set up their second bivouac.
“On the third day it was steep and loose rock climbing all day,” Hana told us. “Seven pitches of rock climbing up to 5.10a. Only the crux part was solid rock, only that part was fun! But almost all of it was so scary. Finally we reached about halfway up the wall where the snow and ice started. We named it the ‘Suberdai’ (the Slide). Unfortunately on the way to the ‘Suberidai’ Aoki was hit by rockfall on his cheek and we bivouacked half way up it on a mushroom-shaped snow ridge”
On their 4th day on the route they finally found good conditions and really started to enjoy the climbing. A total of six pitches up to 5.8, M5 would take them up the rest of the Suberidai and up a mixed wall. The good conditions would not last though and quickly returned to “terrible sugar snow” that can be a nightmare to make any decent progress on. Having fought their way with the loose snow ridge enough for the day they spent a full two hours trying to make a bivy spot, now at 6350m.
Day 5 would prove a turning point. Faced with unconsolidated sugar snow ahead of them they were also at a point of no return on the route. Once they started to climb there was very little chance of being able to reverse the snow and therefore the rest of the route. “Finally we decided to go. We knew the climbing would be tough but I believed in my ability and experience. It took us a full day to climb a mere five pitches. It is difficult to express the grade though, but I can only say that that was the crux and the most difficult part of the whole climb. There was sugar deep snow up to 80 degrees with poor or no protection.”
This was an amazing feat of commitment and perseverance after already climbing for four days on such an intimidating line. Climbing 80 degree sugar snow is about as mentally and physically full-on as you can get in the mountains!
Leaving their bivy site at 6500m they rapped down to access a mixed wall for two pitches (5.9, M5) that would lead them to hard glacier ice for another two pitches; which must have been a relief after the previous days’ activities. Reaching the final summit snowfield they topped out at around 4 o’clock smiles all round and taking in the view.
Descending down the West Ridge they bivied at about 6250m before continuing their descent the following day and reaching Tangnag at midnight. “We called this route ‘The NIMA Line’ because NIMA means sun in the Sherpa language and during the climb the sunshine was out every day and kept us warm and happy’.
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