A Third Try at Dhaulagiri’s NW Ridge

8000ers Dhaulagiri
Left to right, Marius Gane, Horia Colibasanu, and Peter Hamor in Kathmandu. Photo: Peter Hamor

Peter Hamor of Slovakia and Horia Colibasanu and Marius Gane of Romania are returning for their third attempt at a new route up the Northwest Ridge of Dhaulagiri.

High winds thwarted them in 2019 and their second attempt ran into bad timing when COVID-19 began to spread through Nepal while the climbers were acclimatizing in the Khumbu Valley. The swift nation-wide lockdown stuck them in Kathmandu for weeks.

Since then, they have patiently bided their time in Europe. Thankfully for them, “the year 2020 went by very fast,” says Hamor.

The upper slopes of Dhaulagiri poke above a cloud sea, with the new planned route in red. Photo: Wikipedia; Route line: Alpine Climbing

This time, the climbers come kitted not just with ropes and hardware but also with negative PCRs and documents of vaccination. However, they will still have to quarantine for six days. Hamor left for Nepal yesterday, while Horia, who had a plane ticket for March 22 in anticipation of skipping the quarantine, is trying to move his flight forward.

“I expected that I would be able to set off for the mountains right away,” he told ExplorersWeb. His confusion reinforces the recent uncertainty for climbers about COVID safety protocols in Nepal, among other issues. Once done, the climbers will move to Pokhara and acclimatize in the Annapurna area.

During their struggles, their new route has remained untouched. “It’s a beautiful ridge, which, even after almost 70 years of climbing history, is still unclimbed,” Hamor enthused after their first attempt.

“The idea of ​​trying to climb the last logical line to the top of one of the most beautiful mountains in the Himalaya has been in my head since 2009 when I first saw it,” he added. “It’s a beautiful straight ridge starting with a nearly 500m vertical rock barrier ending in a menacing protruding glacier.”

Colibasanu belays at a mixed couloir leading to Dhaulagiri’s NW ridge in 2019. Photo: Peter Hamor

Back then, the team managed to overcome the rock barrier and reach the actual ridge at approximately 6,000m. “The terrain on the ridge was much milder, and we were convinced that nothing could stop us,” Hamor recalls. “We needed only a few days of good weather to end our journey…on top.”

Unfortunately, the relentless wind didn’t give them a chance. Three times they tried, and three times they were beaten back. They eventually summited, sure, but via the normal route. By now, however, they know the route and will come to the mountain armed with ample patience, in the hope of adding a page to the story of beautiful  Dhaulagiri.

The Northwest Ridge is seven kilometres long and involves 4,000m vertical from the Japanese Camp to the summit. It’s a major challenge even for veteran Peter Hamor, who completed his 14x8000m quest without supplementary oxygen in 2017.

Horia Colibasanu has summited six 8,000’ers, also without oxygen, and received the Spirit Of Mountaineering Award after his heroic attempt to rescue his partner, Iñaki Ochoa de Olza, high on Annapurna.

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About the Author

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides

Senior journalist, published author and communication consultant. Specialized on high-altitude mountaineering, with an interest for everything around the mountains: from economics to geopolitics. After five years exploring distant professional ranges, I returned to ExWeb BC in 2018. Feeling right at home since then!

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