Cho Polu and a First Ascent in the Himalaya

David Goettler, Lucien Boucansaud, and Guillaume Pierrel have just climbed 6,700m Cho Polu in the Khumbu Himal via Jordi Corominas and Elena Maria Parga’s 2011 route. The route goes straight up the steep west face, finally joining the south ridge to reach the summit. Goettler, Boucansaud, and Pierrel needed 10 hours to top out in light alpine style.

Cho Polu had been climbed only three times before, but it has an exciting climbing history.

The line climbed on Cho Polu by David Goettler, Lucien Boucansaud, and Guillaume Pierrel.

The line climbed on Cho Polu by David Goettler, Lucien Boucansaud, and Guillaume Pierrel. Photo: David Goettler


Hillary and partners in 1954

In the spring of 1954, Edmund Hillary led a team from the New Zealand Alpine Club to the region, together with some British climbers. The expedition team climbed several peaks in the region.

In a book published two years later, Hillary wrote that Kiwi climber Norman Hardie made the first ascent of Cho Polu on June 3, ascending in poor visibility via the north ridge from the east. But years later, Elisabeth Hawley from the Himalayan Database asked Hardie for more details and Hardie told her that he didn’t think he had climbed Cho Polu, but rather a different nearby peak. Hardie said that he didn’t know its name, “if it had any.”

Later, Hardie wrote a letter to Hawley. He explained that in 1960 he returned to the area and examined the peaks in good weather. “I looked carefully at Cho Polu in clear conditions and I now think that we didn’t climb it in 1954, although we completed all the difficult sections, and there were in fact a few difficulties. If you are writing historical notes, I prefer you to be brief and state something like ‘partial ascent from the north in poor visibility, summit not reached’,” Hardie wrote. In his era, honesty was the norm.

The first ascent?

According to Hawley’s notes, the first official ascent of Cho Polu was on November 12, 1999, by Guenter Jung, Olaf Rieck, Gerhard Ruelker, and Markus Walter, members of a German party. They climbed by the west face on the Hardie Col-north ridge-north face route.

But in 1999, Hawley received a fax from Catalan climber Nil Bohigas. “First of all, I would like to congratulate you on your professional skills and good sources of information, because until recently, only my friends knew of my ascent of Penthangtse and Cho Polu in 1984,” Bohigas wrote.

“I did them without permission,” he continued. In the long fax, Bohigas explained his climbing adventures in the area, including the first ascent of Cho Polu. He described light alpine-style climbs with only limited equipment during the autumn of 1984. Bohigas summited Cho Polu by the northeast ridge, adding that he “always thought that someone had climbed those peaks before me.”

His first ascent was on November 1, 1984.

The third ascent of Cho Polu was by Jordi Corominas on November 21, 2011.

There had been three unsuccessful attempts on the mountain, in 1958, 1995, and 2002.

Goettler and partners on Cho Polu.

Goettler and partners on Cho Polu. Photo: David Goettler


First ascent of an unclimbed 6,140m peak

Mikel Zabalza, Iker Madoz, and Juan Vallejo made the first ascent of a 6,140m peak on October 8, 2023, according to Diario de Navarra. The climbers have named the peak Phurbi Txiki. The name is a reference to a slightly smaller target for acclimatization before their main goal, 6,637m Phurbi Chhyachu. The trio is about to start that ascent, likely this week.

Phurbi Chhyachu (also written as Phurbi Ghyachu) is located in the Jugal Himal, southeast of 6,966m Dorje Lakpa, on the Nepal-Tibet border. Zabalza, Madoz, and Mikel Inoriza climbed Dorje Lakpa in October 2021, in alpine style.

Phurbi Chhyachu.

Phurbi Chhyachu. Photo: Suman Greenheart


In the spring of 1958, a Japanese party led by Kyuya Fukata made the first reconnaissance of Phurbi Chhyachu, but they did not climb the peak.

The first ascent of Phurbi Chhyachu was by a big Japanese party led by Ichiro Yasuda. A total of 16 climbers topped out (without O2) after ascending the southwest ridge between May 1 and May 3, 1982.

According to the Japanese party, the snow ridge was very steep and they fixed ropes all the way to the top. Their route was the southwest ridge, the only route that they believed possible.

Zabalza, Madoz, and Vallejo will climb in light alpine style.

Kris Annapurna

KrisAnnapurna is a writer with ExplorersWeb.

Kris has been writing about history and tales in alpinism, news, mountaineering, and news updates in the Himalaya, Karakoram, etc., for the past year with ExplorersWeb. Prior to that, Kris worked as a real estate agent, interpreter, and translator in criminal law. Now based in Madrid, Spain, she was born and raised in Hungary.