New Alpine-Style Routes On 6,000m Peaks in Nepal

The French team has acclimatized by opening new routes on some Khumbu 6,000'ers. Photo: Pierrick Fine

While most climbing teams are independent groups that are self- or privately funded, some national climbing associations — especially in Europe — sponsor “national alpinist teams”.

These usually combine the leadership of a veteran climber with promising young guns. The best-known is the Polish team, thanks to their plans for Winter K2. But almost all climbing federations have training programs for young alpinists to develop their skills and acquire experience in distant ranges.

This week, two teams with the French Federation of Alpine and Mountain Clubs (FFCAM) and the Spanish Federation for Climbing and Mountaineering (FEDME) have opened new routes on 6,000m peaks in Nepal.

New French routes in the Khumbu

France’s GEAN (National Group of Alpine Excellence) team is currently acclimatizing in the Khumbu. Leader Steph Benoist has previously opened routes on Annapurna’s South Face and Nuptse and is an expert on the Grandes Jorasses in the Alps. His group has already opened a route on the NE ridge of Nare Ri Shar (6,005m), a satellite peak of Kangtega.

The 700m route mounts mostly snowy terrain but includes some rock pitches. The team has rated it as D in UIAA grading and named it ‘Sugar Ridge’.

Pierrick Fine (on the right) takes a group selfie of the French GEAN team. Photo: Pierrick Fine

To complete their acclimatization, they have also climbed the normal route on 6,440m Cholatse. In their latest report, Pierrick Fine wrote that the team, also including  Pauline Champon and Pierrick Giffard, was feeling “well-acclimatized, well-trained and well-warmed up”. They are ready to go for more as soon as conditions improve.

Fine, by the way, has to return to France by November 26 to receive his Piolet d’Or for the first ascent of Pakistan’s Sani Pakusk (6,952m).

FA on Dorje Lakpa’s south side

Meanwhile, Mikel Zabalza, one of Spain’s best high-altitude climbers ever, leads the FEDME team. He has over 38 international expeditions, from the Himalaya to Antarctica. This includes several 8,000’ers, Gasherbrum IV’s NW Ridge, and many new climbing and big-wall routes around the world.

Iker Madoz (left) and Mikel Zabalza at a bivouac on Dorje Lakpa. Photo: Diario de Navarra

Zabalza, together with Iker Madoz and Mikel Inoriza, completed a new route up Dorje Lakpa (6,966m). They climbed alpine-style, in tough, deep-snow conditions. Theirs was the first route on the peak’s south side, they told Diario de Navarra. The mountain had seen several previous ascents, but only via the classic route and the West Face. Zabaza himself had attempted the mountain 30 years ago.

Three other team members — Ander Zabalza, Ruben San Martin, and Javier Guzman — tried a different route but bad weather eventually forced them back.


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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1 month ago

Angela, lets give ALL the GEAN climbers their due. The four you name climbed Nare Ri Shar. Another four, Gabriel Miloche, Louis Pachoud, Anouk Felix-Faure and Thomas Arfi, climbed Cholatse.

1 month ago
Reply to  Apy

Also of (minor?) interest, a large (12 members) French team under the guidance of Chamonix guide Tristan Knoertzer climbed Panbari 6980m, which had only been climbed once by a Japanese expedition in 2006. Only 4 actually summited by they all had a great time skiing down.