Today’s outing wasn’t successful. Freddie and I left Dzongla at 3:30 in the morning. We had studied the face of Cholatse and had come to the mutual decision that it looked even better than last year with even more snow. But what we then determined is that the snow was pretty loose and that the entire face was covered with a layer of that loose snow.
Up until 6 a.m. we battled our way up, hoping it was going to get better. After the first snowfield we found the couloir was also loose so that’s when we finally just didn’t go any farther. The rocks are covered with snow so they don’t offer any secure holds. We had to give up. With these conditions it just doesn’t work and it’s also rather dangerous.
Now we are back in Pheriche where we’re considering new plans. One thing is certain: This year the conditions on the north faces are poor. Last year we were on Cholatse a month earlier, and we had perfect conditions. That was right before the typically unpredictable spring variations in weather start. These seasonal variations means it’s snowing nearly every day and it’s accumulating. It’s exactly this snow that is still on the north faces – and staying there.
Again, we have learned something new. It’s always important to try but you have to also realize when it’s not possible. Last year, a Korean team fell to their death on Cholatse in November. You can never underestimate faces like this even if you have, like myself, climbed them twice before. It makes me even more aware how much luck I had to have good conditions right then. And when I think about how great the firn was that I encountered on the south face of Shisha Pangma I have to admit how much luck I had.
That’s exactly the challenge on mixed faces. You have to be at the right place at the right time and then take advantage of it. This time it just doesn’t seem to be the right time to climb north faces in the Khumbu. We’ve decided to take a rest day tomorrow to analyze what we are going to be able to do. This’ll be the first day since I’ve been here in Nepal that’ll I’ll do nothing and just relax. It’s been a week now that we’ve been out and about in the Khumbu doing things everyday.
Last year it was just taken for granted that we’d climb the north face of Cholatse but this year the conditions aren’t letting us do that. All we can do is remember how cool it all was last year!
But, no matter, we’ll keep our chins up. There’s lots to do here in the Khumbu Valley. We are certain to think up new ideas!— Ueli Steck Translated by Therese Iknoian