Lucien Boucansaud Soloes Pumori

It’s been a great Nepal season for Chamonix guide Lucien Boucansaud. After climbing Cho Polu with David Goettler and Guillaume Pierrel, he left his partners and soloed the always difficult Pumori (7,138m) on October 28.

The French climber set off on his own up the normal route which, as he described, “is anything but normal.” It starts on the south face, then traverses to the north col and on to the northeast face.

Pumori in a sunny day.

Pumori. Photo: Lucien Boucansaud

Total immersion

“It takes good reading and total immersion in the mountain to find the best route that bypasses the seracs and crevasses and minimizes the risk,” he noted.

Boucansaud has succeeded on a mountain that had earlier defeated Simone Moro, Pemba Sherpa, and Datuk Sherpa. That trio had launched a single, non-stop push from base to summit but turned around 100m from the top because of high avalanche danger. That same avalanche hazard forced Boucansaud to abort at 6,700m on his first attempt. As he explains, Pumori’s summit area is a snow dome where wind slabs may remain dangerous for days, even a week after the last snowfall.

The climber kneels down and hides his face bahind his hands and against the ground as if crying.

Boucansaud kneels on the summit of Pumori. Photo: Lucien Boucansaud

Avalanche risk

The climber says the route’s real difficulties started after Camp 1 at 5,700m.

“It crosses an exposed corridor and a very unstable rock spur over 500m high where you have to check at every move if the rocks will hold,” he wrote. “Then comes the snow and ice, with a trying part up to the north col at 6,600m. Here, I zigzagged between walls of compact ice with a few steep passages.”

Snow-loaded section with seracs.

Navigation is complex on Pumori, especially for a solo climber with no ropes on the route. Photo: Lucien Boucansaud


Finally, as the route continued up the NE face to the summit, the terrain turned easier but it was hard to properly assess the avalanche risk.

Boucansaud is the first and only climber to summit Pumori this fall. It was a true solo ascent since he was completely alone on the mountain. He was previously in the Himalaya as a member of Marc Batard’s team, when they tried to open a new route to Everest’s Camp 2 across the flank of Nuptse.

The climber takes a selfie while looking to the other side, toward the grey mountains of Tibet.

Boucansaud on the flat, windswept summit of Pumori, looking toward Tibet. Photo: Lucien Boucansaud

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.