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Talung 7349m, first ascent via NNW spur

K2 Mountain

Autor: Mikhail Fomin, Nikita Balabanov, Ukraine for mountain.ru
New route name: Daddy Magnum Force

Region: Kangchenjunga, Nepal

Climbers: Mikhail Fomin, Nikita Balabanov (Ukraine)

Dates: 18-Oct – 23-Oct 2015

Altitude difference: 1700m

Length: 2350m

Technical difficulties: M6, AI6, A3 overall route difficulty ED2

In Autumn 2012 we read about British Talung Expedition on David Searler’s blog. Since that time this mountain has been in our minds. No doubts this is one of the most esthetic and logical unclimbed lines you could find in Himalaya. Pure beauty, significant technical difficulty and safe look of the NNW spur inspires every climber who has seen it.

After British attempt experienced Czech climber Marek Holecek also returned here with Zdenek Hruby. Marek’s already tried this line in 2004. Then in 2014 there was an attempt of strong Italian team. The line captured more and more attention of strong teams.

In 2015 after the earthquake our team decided to organize our next expedition to Indian Himalaya. But soon we understood that because of a huge quantity of bureaucratic circumstances we didn’t have enough time to get a permit. So our attention went back to Nepal. Quick research showed that Kanchenjunga region hadn’t been impacted by the earthquake. So there were no doubts which mountain we should try to climb. After our last year first ascent on Langshisa Ri (6427m) NW spur we felt that we are ready for some larger targets and can climb more technical terrain at a higher altitude and Talung seemed to be the ideal choice for us.

After all quests during the way (preparing everything in Katmandu, maoist strikes which made our bus trip to Taplejung twice longer, dozens of leeches on the trek at the end of rainy season) we have established base camp in Oktang (above Ramche) at the 28th of September and spent 2 weeks acclimatizing. We climbed Boktoh peak and slept on the top of it to acclimatize. Then we went to the classic route on Talung (Western slopes). There we went up our future planned descent route up to 7100 and also bivouaced there. So we felt ready for the main target. Then a short period of bad weather came, which was good because we really needed some rest by that time. After 3 days rest in base camp we headed towards ABC under the NNW spur of Talung. For the route we took food for 7 days and gas for 9 days.

At the beginning of acclimatization phase we came up to our spur to look at it and to see the quality of the ice and rock. Even after looking at the first pitches we realized that it would be something like Chamonix mixed climbing but with heavy packs higher than 6000 m and during a week!

So the route starts at 5600m and the first pitch from the bergshrund is actually one of the cruxes of the route. It is very impressive – you begin climbing a thin ice pillar which is just standing near the face (it just grows from the bergshrund), then you should step on the face from it and climb some hard vertical mixed terrain (M6). After that you come up to a rock cornice with icicles hanging from it. You have to switch to really tough aid climbing (about 10 meters of A3 level) using iron hawks and pitons (because the only crack you have is so thin that you cannot place picks of your ice axes inside). And after you cope with cornice you have to climb about 8 meters on thin ice over rock slabs without any chance to place some protection until you reach the hanging belay on iron hawks in thin cracks on the right wall of the chimney you are climbing in.

After such start of the route we understood that the Mountain won’t give us a rest anywhere on the lower buttress because its other pitches also didn’t look easy.

Next three days were full of hard mixed and ice climbing, mainly M5 but some pitches up to M6 and AI6. Often we had thin ice on the rocks without any chances to place protection and thus had some long runouts. In other sections there was super delicate climbing over thin brittle ice on the monolithic rocks with bad protection. Although the granite on the route has a good quality almost everywhere often it’s very poor (no good cracks). So the iron hawks and pekkers (3-4 for the pitch) were our primary pro during this part of the route. On some pitches we had rock slabs covered with steep unconsolidated snow which sometimes took us more time than climbing hard mixed terrain. The end of each day in this part of the route we met in the darkness building a ledge for our small BD Firstlight tent. As the buttress is quite steep it took us near 2 hours every evening to make something flat and big enough to get in the tent without a chance of slipping during the night.

On the third day we have reached the NNW spur and there we hoped to outflank the huge gendarme on the left side of the spur, but that was not possible, therefore we were forced to climb to the right one more pitch of horrible vertical unconsolidated snow over the rock slabs and then we reached totally dry rocky inner corner. There we had another crux pitch with 10-15 meters of aid climbing of A3 and hard mixed climbing. The center of the corner was full of loose blocks and had an overhanging in the upper part. After that we had one pitch of hard mixed of M6 in the same corner. It was also delicate free climbing over loose rock covered with snow. Protection in the corner was often impossible (we did not have such big cams) so sometimes while climbing you had to stretch really hard to farther sides of the corner where it was possible to find some places for gear. The upper part of the corner was covered with unconsolidated powder snow also without good protection. This 100m corner was actually the end of lower buttress and the doors to the spur. There we reached the spur covered with ice and neve.

At this section the relief is much easier in climbing but without any pro. It is more moderate ridge of unconsolidated snow sometimes with steep sections. We had several ice and neve pitches on the spur which we have climbed simultaneously and several mixed sections with quite demanding climbing (mainly M4 but also one pitch up to M6) thankfully with good cracks.

At the fifth day we have climbed the second rock band. Actually this upper rock band was the main question mark of the whole route for us. Because from the glacier it’s impossible to understand what kind of relief is waiting for you there. Here we have met quite hard mixed climbing and often thin ice on the rocky slabs. But feeling the end of the technical part gave us some new power to climb harder and faster. So finally in the evening we have reached the ice ramp heading towards summit ridge. On the ramp we made a ledge for our tent.

At the sixth day we have climbed the ramp and the ridge simultaneously and at 2 pm on the 23rd of October we were standing on the summit of Talung, having climbed the new route on the NNW spur! We came up to the summit in the fog. But in 10 minutes the strong wind blew it away. Our surrounding was like in a dream – East faces of Jannu and South faces of Kangchenjunga! We made some photos and video panorama, ate a traditional summit chocolate bar (and not traditional ice-creams of totally frozen energy gels 🙂 and in half an hour started our descent. That day we went down the West slope to 6700m and bivied there. On the seventh day we have descended to the glacier.

We understood that we were a bit late in our schedule. So not to miss our plane we had to go on the trek without any rest. In 3 days after coming to BC from the mountain we already came to Kandeme village where we could find a transport – local bus to Birtamod. In a day and a half of sitting in buses we were in Kathmandu and even had a time to have steak with a beer in Everest Steak House before our flight home! 🙂

It total for both of us that route showed at the same time how much things we still have to learn in Himalaya, but also it showed how much we already can do. Each of us have lost 10-15 kg of weight after this ascent but the experience and huge motivational charge we received at the end is really worth it.

We have named the route ‘Daddy Magnum Force’. The name is so because we had so many impediments on our way to base camp and on acclimatization phase, but every time we faced some trouble, we recollected a favorite phrase of one of our mutual friends: ‘Guys, Daddy Magnum Force is taking care about you, and this is just like small test from him to check whether you are persistent enough with your intentions’ :)). And so when we were standing on the summit we realized that we definitely were quite persistent and here is the award from Daddy Magnum Force! 🙂

For many detailed images, click link below

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