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Debrief: Chad Kellogg and David Gottlieb first ascent of Pangbuk Ri

Posted: Dec 05, 2011 02:12 pm EST

(Angela Benavides) In our last report, American Chad Kellogg had just commenced "the trip of a lifetime" that would include four back-to-back expeditions culminating in a speed climb of Everest without oxygen next spring.

For starters, Chad planned a first ascent on Pangbuk Ri, a 6,625 meters peak in Nepal's Khumbu. With him was no less than American David Gottlieb, partner of late Joe Puryear.

After a long trek in Chad and David reached BC on November 1st. Four days later they set up ABC at 17,700 ft. The plan was decided: a direct route up the south face, in alpine style, under the full moon on November 9.

So how did it go?

Here a debrief of the climb, to the true summit and traverse to the opposite side, in alpine style. Pics and new route topo attached.

Prize of admission

The men dug a tent platform at the foot of the south face. At 18,700 ft the spot marked the first obstacle: an ice-waterfall pitch which looked very thin - and proved dangerous - dubbed by Chad 'the prize of admission'.

"At home near your car the pitch may have gotten a rating of WI4+R," Chad reported, "but at 19,000 ft with a pack on I gave the pitch an alpine ice 5 rating."

Overcoming the section the climbers rested one day, and then commenced the definite summit push.

50 deciding hours

The summit climb began on Thursday November 10, under a full moon and the weather window still open.

"Having stowed the minimal essentials we left our tent, pads and sleeping bags behind," Chad recalls. "We started up toward the first ice pitch at 4 am."

The day was spent relentlessly working frozen ropes amid constant rock fall, with David taking an ice chunk on the helmet. The planned route reached a dead end and a new line was embarked on up ice runnells and overhanging sections until darkness fell.

"We just kept climbing until one runnel lead to four more, only one of which offered hope of continuing up," Chad reported. "We were in danger of hitting a dead end in the dark after 2,500 ft of climbing. At this point nerves were getting frayed and cameras were stowed."

The climb went on.

David's lead up the runnell, which ended under a snow mushroom, was followed by a rappell into the void with no certain end, and a touch of good luck.

They found themselves in the right summit runnell, and a point of no return crossed as they continued up.

Get all the (thrilling!) details of the climb here.

"We gazed around at the giants"

The climbers were on the verge of exhaustion when Chad noted that "there was something different."

"We were on the summit ridge after 22.5 hours. The moon was up and the full moon illuminated the Himalaya as we gazed around at the giants in the surroundings. We decided that we had better find a crevasse or a bergschrund to hide in until sunrise."

"Finally, the light began to grow in the East as the sun began to rise. We each drank a liter and had two water bottles for the day in our packs. We geared up and were walking towards the true summit at eight am."

"We stood on the summit and took photos for about thirty minutes. Cho Oyu, Everest, Lhotse, Makalu, Malungtse and Lobuche Kang were all visible clearly from the summit."

"We were then faced with the question of the best way down."

Night descent on the other side

Descent was no less exciting. The guys chose to rappell down the opposite side of the mountain, among seracs and crevasses. Having no idea where they'd end up, they used all gear they had, until night fell again - without the aid of the moon this time.

"The ropes began to get stuck with the coming of nightfall," Chad wrote. "My headlamp was nearly dead so I used it sparingly for placing anchors only."

"Being on the West side of the mountain meant that the moon light would not reach us for several more hours. We had been on the move for nearly 40 hours at this point and things began to get interesting."

"My calves began to lock up from over 3,500 ft of climbing on my front points with very little water. David had to climb up on several occasions and free the stuck end of the caught rope."

After 14 hours of descent, they had reached the base of the face.

"Feeling physically spent and hallucinating freely David and I began the ten mile walk along the glacial hills covered with loose talus," Chad wrote.

"The moonlight was upon us and we could both navigate without the use of our dead headlamps. The talus was covered with two feet of snow making the walking treacherous and painfully slow."

"After five hours of slow headway and many rest stops we decided that the only way we were going to make it to Base Camp was to jettison our packs. It had now been 45 hours on the go. We were reaching into new areas of both mental and physical endurance."

It would take 5 hours more to clock 50 hours, close the amazing climb, reach BC, and have a huge breakfast at the foot of "their mountain."

Specialized in new routes and/or first ascent on Himalayan 6000ers, David Gottlieb used to partner with the late Joe Puryear. He is also a top mountain & climbing photographer. David and Joe bagged the virgin summit of Nepal's Lunag Ri two years back and compiled a useful list of surrounding peaks for future climbers. Last October, Joe and David were preparing another first ascent, of the 6,771-meter Takargo peak, when a cornice broke off and Joe fell to his death.

Chad Kellogg has climbed extensively througout the states and South America, with a number of new routes from Alaska to Argentina, and a large number of first ascents in China. He made speed climbs on peaks such as Mount Rainier (2004) and Denali's West Buttres (solo speed record) in 2003.

Latest in February he soloed Aconcagua's south face via a new route. An attempt to speed climb Everest this spring w/o 02 failed due to congestion on the ropes. Chad will renew the attempt next spring, again w/o supplementary O2, via the SW route.

The first ascent on Pangbuk Ri (6,625m) is the first check of "the trip of a lifetime" Chad Kellogg set out on in October, and that will include four back-to-back expeditions culminating in a speed climb of Everest without oxygen in the Spring of 2012.

The plan in a nutshell:

-In January Kellogg will be in Patagonia to climb in the Cerro Torre region.
-February Chad will attempt a speed ascent of Aconcagua round trip from the road as training for Everest.
- Returning home for ten days Kellogg will regroup for Everest in March and then head to Nepal.
- Acclimatizing prior to Everest on smaller peaks in the Khumbu region.
- April: Chad Kellogg will be carrying loads and establishing camps in preparation for his Everest speed ascent in May.

A former climbing ranger at Mt. Rainier National Park, Kellogg has worked as professional mountain guide with Alpine Ascents, Mountain Madness and Cascade Alpine Guides.

#Mountaineering #topstory #feature

The new route by Chad Kellogg and David Gottlieb on Pangbuk Ri south face.
Image by David Gottlieb, SOURCE
Bivy at the base of the face.
courtesy Chad Kellogg, SOURCE
To the "prize of admission" water ice pitch.
courtesy Chad Kellogg, SOURCE
David trying to reach the adjoining ice flute after reaching a dead-end up a snow runell.
Image by Chad Kellogg courtesy Chad Kellogg, SOURCE
Pangbuk Ri summit, November 11, 2011, about 8AM. All pics over CONTACT A.
courtesy Chad Kellogg, SOURCE
CONTACT A 3D map of Pangbuk Ri.
courtesy ExplorersWeb.com