Dhaulagiri: Still Wild and Lonely with just Eight Climbers

Compared to the recent events on Annapurna, involving loads of ropes and O2 canisters dropped from helicopters, hesitant climbers, and delayed pushes, Dhaulagiri is for the moment the domain of old-fashioned mountaineers climbing simply.

The Slovak-Romanian team is inching their way up the highly difficult NW Ridge. Even on the normal route, four other climbers have reached 6,200m without a single fixed rope or a footprint other than their own.

This photo of the impressive spur leading to the NW Ridge, published by Federico Bernardi on his Montagna Magica blog, was shot by Federico’s father Alfonso from an aircraft in 1975.


The hardest part of the NW Ridge is probably the lower, vertical spur rising 600m from Base Camp. While the upper part of the ridge has been climbed before — some standard routes end up on it — no one has ever completed the entire line from the ground.

That’s the goal of Peter Hamor, Horia Colibasanu, and Marius Gane. Today, they have reached one of the most difficult parts of the ascent, a horn-shaped passage toward Camp I, above 5,000m, according to Colibasanu’s friends at home.

“The team makes daily progress of about five [!] vertical metres,” they said about the highly difficult section. The climbers are also fixing rope on the passage, “a measure they are taking to be safe, both on the way up and on the way down.”

Ecuadorians Esteban “Topo” Mena and Carla Perez had originally planned to go for the NW Ridge as well, but the sudden loss of their third member, Cory Richards — who flew to Base Camp, saw the mountain. and went home — left them with a difficult decision. After giving it some thought, the pair decided to climb the normal route, as fast and light as possible.

“We have joined forces with Jonathan Garcia and Stef Troguet,” Perez wrote. “Together, we slept two nights in Camp 1 at 5,850 m and we touched Camp 2 at 6,450m.”

United by a common route and a common language. Left to right, Stefi Troguet, Jonatan García, Carla Pérez, and Esteban “Topo” Mena.


“It has been good times up there,” added Perez. “Laughing to shit our pants, with fear of the seracs on the way to C1, tired from opening the trail with heavy backpacks, several small falls in crevasses, but super happy.”

Her partner, Esteban Mena, added: “Dhaulagiri is one of the most astonishing peaks that I have ever visited. Now is time to take things with humility, play the best with the hand we’ve been dealt, and let the mountain guide the path.”

The Ecuadorians are planning for a quick ascent, with only one more rotation, followed by waiting for a suitable summit window. They hope that photographer Tommy Joyce, currently recovering from a nasty cold, will join them the next time they go up.

There is no one else on the mountain’s normal route so far, so they have had the whole mountain to Camp 2 to themselves. Troguet also mentioned that there are no fixed ropes yet.

The situation will change soon since Dhaulagiri teams are starting to fill Base Camp. Sophie Lavaud and part of her all-women team arrived yesterday (some members are climbing Annapurna first) and Carlos Soria will join them soon.

The Ecuadorians’ lonely camp on the Dhaulagiri Glacier. Photo: Tommy Joyce


Mena and Perez will not be part of the potentially large gatherings in Base Camp, because they have decided not to move their tents from the original location at the so-called Japanese Camp (4,200m), lower down the glacier. It lies at the beginning of the Japanese route up the peak’s North Face, closer to the NW Ridge.

That means a much longer trip to Camp 1 but in turn, they will enjoy the solitude and have a front-row seat of the spur where Hamor, Colibasanu, and Gane are climbing. “We shared a couple of beautiful moments with Peter, Horia, and Marius,” says Perez. “Many stories to hear and much to learn from this valuable team that we admire.”