Polish Climbers Share Details of New Chobutse Route

This fall, Wadim Jablonski and Maciej Kimel of Poland opened a new route up the northeast pillar of 6,686m Chobutse, in Nepal’s Rolwaling Valley. It was a remarkable achievement, especially considering that a year ago, Kimel had more pressing issues to deal with — such as walking again. He told us all about it in an interview with ExplorersWeb.

the climbers with their blue climbing ropes crossed on their chests.

Maciej Kimel and Wadim Jablonski.

The accident

“I had a climbing accident in Poland’s Jura in May,” Kimel explained. “I fell on a trad route, ripping out all gear (three Friends and one nut) from the wall, and hit the ground.”

The climber broke his L1 vertebra. Doctors told him he would need to rest for at least five months and of course, forget about expeditions that year.

“I knew that was BS,” said Kimel. “After one month, I started riding a bike and working out at the gym. It was tough, but I am grateful for my decisions.”

Kimel says he was fully recovered and fit when he headed for Nepal. “My physiotherapist said that my back was ok and that I should go there and do it.” What Kimel did not know was how his back would handle the strain of the climb.

The climb

The team wanted to climb a new route on a 6,000m peak. But they had little time, so they needed one easily accessible from a village, which allowed simple logistics. He asked around for suggestions. Five-time Piolet d’Or winner Paul Ramsden told them about Nepal’s Rolwaling Valley and mentioned Chobutse. Otherwise, they did not have much info.

a climber in the middle of a rocy wall partially covered in fresh snow.

On a mixed section. Photo: Maciej Kimel


When they finally stood in front of the peak, “the first thought that came to mind was that there was no way we could make it to the top,” Kimel wrote on social media. “I felt fear and terror, I had never felt them so intensely before.”

With their time constraints, they went for a short acclimatization, then headed straight for Chobutse.

Luckily, Kimel wrote, all his fears disappeared the moment he climbed the few first meters up the chosen rock pillar.

“All that was left was the pure joy of climbing and being in such a beautiful place,” he said. “Despite the heavy bags and poor protection, I knew that this was the place I wanted to be.”

the climber as seen from the side, with the sunny valley behind him.

Photo: Maciej Kimel

Single push, alpine style

“We climbed the route in alpine style and without knowing the wall,” Kimel told ExplorersWeb. “We had time for only one attempt, so we focused completely in order not to make any mistakes.”

The climbers' legs wrapped in their sleeping bags on a snow ledge wide enough for them, and the glacier surrounded by peak sat their feet.

A cold, tentless bivouac. Photo: Maciej Kimel


They set off from Advanced Base Camp at 4,900m on Oct. 14 and spent their first night at 5,750m. The next day, they reached 6,500m and bivouacked in a snow cave. They summited a day after that. Kimel described the mainly snow and ice route as follows:


The most dangerous section was the snow ridge starting at 6,100m. There was no protection and the snow was weak, with the ridge reaching 70 degrees in places. On the lower part, the snow was excellent and the climbing was a lot of fun. The difficulties came with the strong winds and many powder avalanches.
The first bivouac was very hard because we slept on a ledge without a tent, and the wind was so strong, we could not even light the stove. We spent a night-long fight to make it to sunrise.
The descent was much more dangerous and complicated than we thought. We thought it would take us a day, but it took three days, in horrible terrain over seracs and large, loose rocks.
the route, marked in red on a photo of Chobutse, goes up a spur.

Route topo. Photo. Maciej Kimel

Just breathe

They graded their 1,600m-long route M5 WI4 R/X. The climbers named it Just Breathe. Asked why, Kimel said:

“When we got to the place where we set our Advanced Base Camp, we met a Buddhist monk. We spent many hours with him, and he told us about Buddhism. He would say that every time we felt fear, or had a negative feeling, there was just one thing we had to do: ‘Just breathe.’ ”

the climbers and the monk smile in BC, holding tea cups.

The Polish climbers with their Buddhist monk friend in Advanced Base Camp. Photo: Maciej Kimel

Next, winter Trango

Kimel will have a new occasion to practice his breathing soon. He already has plane tickets for Pakistan in February. Kimel will again attempt the first winter ascent of Trango Tower with Michal Krol. Last year, he and Krol launched a first attempt with Janusz Golaband reached 5,600m.

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides graduated university in journalism and specializes in high-altitude mountaineering and expedition news. She has been writing about climbing and mountaineering, adventure and outdoor sports for 20+ years.

Prior to that, Angela Benavides spent time at/worked at a number of local and international media. She is also experienced in outdoor-sport consultancy for sponsoring corporations, press manager and communication executive, and a published author.