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Author: Vladimir Belousov, Moscow

Kongde Lho – 6187 m
Chronics of our ascent along the route had never been passed before

Dedicated to my friend and colleague Shura on the day of his birthday! Be healthy Sanek!

Not for the first time I was staying on the porch of loggia in Namchebazar and my glance fixed on sharp teeth of the range Kongde. It seemed that altitudes were not high. It was interesting. In the Internet I came across am article of David Breshers. I was pleased to learn that those peaks had been an eyesore not to me only - quicker alpinists had climbed to one of the summits from the north in 1978. The route along the North-Western edge was the easiest from the north face. A little bit later - in 1982, the northern wall "Hugo" had also been conquered. By nowadays 5 routes had been passed along the wall. All of the routes were difficult, they went along ice streams. The relief requires high level of climbing along ice and rocks using tools. Mixt, ice and dry-tooling. That is the specificity of Kongde.

Photo from www.alpinist.com
From left to right:
Red variant - variant of Extra Blue Sky (2000, Scottish 7, Cartwright-Chinnery)
Green line - Extra Blue Sky (1996, французы , ED2, 1200m)
Blue line - Japanese route (ED3: WI6 M5, 1200m, Ito-Nakagawa, 2002)
Red line - (ED2: WI6, 1200m, Breashears-Lowe, December 1982)
Yellow line - Mandala (1150m, Lorenzo-Munoz, 1985)
Light-blue line - Normal Routes Have Nothing Extraordinary (ED2: WI5+, 1150m, Benoist-Gottadi, 2006)

But that was not the end. It may happen, that you, having arrived there with lots of ice equipment, become surprised, coming across such an unhappy picture. The wall can be dry. There can be no ice at all. And what you can do with that? You can extract different optics look carefully for remains of ice on the wall, but vainly. In the places where earlier people could enjoy climbing along ice streams only whitish runs remain. It seems that it is the reason for which most of the routes have not been repeated yet. Only routes Extra Blue Sky and Lowe/ Breashers route were passed more than once, but along different variants.

Kongde - through leaves.

Just like that we found out the northern wall of Kongde Lho. Winter. We did not want to climb pure rocky route at all. Ice had to be dominant on winter in any case. Otherwise, speed of passing the route reduces - it is not possible to run quickly along cold rocks. We looked at the beauty this way and that. We had to put out of our heads the center of the wall. Left part from Extra Blue Sky was not better. We looked to the right from the center of the wall. Certainly, it was not as steep as at the center there, but there was a variant. Sun blinded eyes - it is always almost straight above the range and it is difficult to distinguish anything against its light.

Kongde from Namchebazar

After celebrating the New Year, resting, acclimatizing marches, such an inconvenient pause came, when somebody had to say - "that&rsquos all - tomorrow we&rsquoll set off"
The 7 th of January. 4500 m. Base camp surprised me with its "hospitality". For a long time we were looking for a place for our tent on steep grassy slopes. We put it crookedly. But - we had already got used to it - it seemed that there, near Kongde, is lack of horizontal surfaces. At first we tried to form a place for a tent form a host of stones on the slope - but later gave up the idea - we managed to turn off from the slope only a couple of cobbles.

The wall

Thus, some words about equipment. We got two small gaze balloons, tent "Bibler", one sleeping bag for two men, 60 meters of rope (diameter 8mm), 6 ice screws, so many camalots, 3 anchors. We decided to take three ice tools. Instead of quickdraws we took loops and separately - carabineers. It seemed to be more lightweight. We also principally took shoe covers to warm feet. And didn feel sorry for it. In shoe covers feet didn feel cold even in the hardest conditions.


On the 8 th of January, at bout 8 oclock in the morning, having loaded ourselves, we set off in the direction of the bottom of the wall. We hadn got spilled yet. Our feel, like feet of badly regulated robot stepped somewhere not to the points. It looks as if we could stumble every moment. Horror - and we had to climb with that. We went to the rocky triangular (that way we call a big rocky tower, forming the bottom part of our wall). So, we were going to the triangular and perspectives were changing. Soon we noticed that from the right edge of the triangular something like couloir looked out. And the devil may play any trick - we checked! And there it was way to round the triangular - and, as there was the way round - what for we had to clamber along the rocks.

The beginning of the route

Wide couloir began to converge upwards. It became steeper. Firm became rougher. A little bit later firn was changed with ice and destroyed rocks. We didnt tear in teams. 30 meters of careful not steep climbing lead us to the top of our triangular. It was 10 clock in the morning. I had thought that we would arrive there not early than at 12 oclock. Excellent

In the couloir

Traverse under the rocks

After the couloir we appeared at the bottom of the central rocky zone. We appreciated the height - about 100 meters. From downwards, with the help of binoculars we outlined an ice stream. It was the only place where almost all along the rocky zone ice had been present. Rather long traverse leaded us to the bottom of ice snivel. We took off the rope.

Having appeared there, in the place, we saw that ice was not so good. 10 meters later it disappeared at all - and in two meters to the right a thin stream appeared, along which it was impossible to climb. Ice ended, it was difficult to climb upwards. Shura performed indecently long traverse to the right and along small difficult to notice ledges climbed to the bottom of really excellent ice gutter. The rope. Shura tried to make it straight, making wave, but it fastened at the cornice and remained that way - like trolleybus line. Having put on two rucksacks, I went into acrobatics. With one hammer I tried to do the same as Shura had performed with two. And the rucksacks! Especially the lower one! Dangled Hm!!!

Strip M4

It has been far from the top yet

I didn know how, but I managed to do everything, I climbed to the station and began to breathe, having leaned back on self-belay in the bottom of the angle, covered with ice. I looked downwards and gradually gave the rope. From upwards lenses and splinters of ice fall by continuous stream. When you look down, they more often fall near by yourself, but not to your face. I thought that idea over. And at that time Shura again as hard as he could bit the ice with his slightly dulled jackal and an indecently big lens directed her flight down, having in the crosshair the red beacon of my worldly-wise helmet.

Strip WI4

GGGGGG My head buzzed. I head no ideas, only that, indefinite article "Mlia"!!! It had become quite. And what could happen if I had not a helmet? Not only thoughts became scattered in all directions - what for conceal - brains would smash!

Such vertical strips were hard for the leader of the team and I pulled with the help of ascenders two rucksacks. We operated that way - we climbed synchronously or I with two rucksacks was the second member of the team.

The third rope of rocky zone lead us to a small snow edge, which, by its upper side set against the rocks. We decided to stop there. The time was 4 o &rsquo clock . It was time to communicate. Downwards everything was OK, our team-leader Slava was drinking wine on the loggia and we evened a place for our Bibler. In spite of the fact it was small, it needed as much place as a big adult tent. So - the edges hung down. The night-passing was wonderful, for the first time - the tent was put on almost horizontally. And downwards the fires of Namchebazar were seen

Shura on the first night-passing stop.

Me too, in the same place.

The 9 th of January. Further, in the direction of the edge, the route went traversing snow edges. And, getting closer to the lowering in the ridge, the route goes into an interior angle with ice and destroyed rocks. We counted, there was about 300- 400 meters of traverse and the interior angle was sharply 60 meters long.

Traverses in the direction of the edge

Interior angle in the bottom of the edge

On the edge it was cold and wind was blowing. It was midday. There was an opinion, that we had time to reach the top. But, there was nobody, who got acquainted with that point of view except me. We began to move up along the edge. Rather steep wall fall down to the south. After 100 meters the edge stood up by difficult bulwark, but it seemed there was traverse to the right. We decided to traverse the southern wall - with light climb. Steep ice crests alternated with plates. Dry- tooling, mixt. If we had to climb there having nothing in the arms It could be sad

Hour went by hour and the west began to be covered with crimson. Gloaming. It was time to look for a platform. Shura said - we would make it there, on thaaat edge. It rested two- three ropes up to it. We went by turns. Three ropes later we had not been on the edge yet. Shura, performed he made a station and climbed further, and I, feeling the rope was going - started climbing too. I climbed and some time later saw, that between us there was only wind and rope, tight as a string. Sanek decided not to make a station. But that was not a problem - ice and firn - it was not frightening.

On the station - it was cold and grew dark

We climbed to the edge. It was icy. There was nothing like a platform. Shura waving somewhere aside - he said we would make a platform there. I saw. Understood. Well, we would have sitting night- pass, ok. On the altimeter the altitude was 5900. Straight above us, bristling with rocky blocks an apical tower hang. And sunset was beautiful. Shura shouted through blasts - "Vovan, make a photo!". I made it, just to get left in piece.

Sunset, Shura, for you specially!

By the way we though over the way we would pass the night. Improvisation. Thus, on this ledge we put the rucksack, sat on it thus, we had to cover ourselves with something, otherwise it could become cold. We stood up, put on the tent on us, entrance was down, than again sat down. Oh! We appeared in a house. The sound of a train getting closer, we snatched the tent and tried not to fly away with it. Certainly, it was not Patagonia, but exited too! That time we added gas-jet and a small kettle. All the things needed to be held, it was also necessary to hold the tent, rucksack slipped down from the ledge and one of buttocks grew dumb. We looked at the watches - 6 o&rsquoclock. Now - up to 6 o&rsquoclock in the morning the algorithm didn change. Wind, gas-jet, rucksack slipped, everything grew dumb. A half an hour of semi-consciousness. And everything repeated from the very beginning. There was one special amusement - to go piss. It was for very brave only. As all the team was involved to the process. It was necessary to stood up synchronously, pull off the tent, to expose your body to snow whirlwinds Stop. Snow Snow??? Snow!!! It meant that the weather got bad up to the end?! Br I didn want anything to do - it was better to become covered back! But if there were no forces to suffer - we closed eyes to the situation outdoors

While we were doing such easy manipulations, time stretched slowly, but everything had its end and the night also came up to the end. We had breakfast. Shura with aversion refused to eat muesli. I ate. I was hungry. We also drank coffee. The lovers of coffee - we had bought coffee drink with chicory and performed it was tasty. Although, whatever you may say, but the taste of melted snow become inert!

The tenth of January. We slowly moved, collected our things. I once more remembered about the shoe-covers. All the time out feet were outdoors but neither Shura, nor me got any consequences.

That&rsquos all - we started climbing. We went on the previous day general direction - to the side of the southern edge. An hour later we reached the southern edge, being more accurate - its apical part. Old fixed ropes fluttered in the wind. About 100 meters remained between the top and us. We left the rucksacks and by short rushes climbed in the direction of the top. The gusts of wind were so strong, that we had to hold on to everything we could to counterpoise.

The line of the route

9:30 in the morning. We were on the top. And we did not want to stay on it. Wind there was almost continuous. With great difficulties we managed to shout to Slava (our team-leader) by the walkie-talkie until he heard us. He was sitting on the loggia bestead by Frenchmen and with contented expression told how difficult route we climbed and how steep we are in general. Photo camera. Batteries got cold. From bosom of my clothes I extract warm ones. While they are warm, I made a couple of shots and we run down quickly. Down to rucksacks we descended along known way. There we got tired a little. Moved like boiled. Sleepless night told upon. Decisions were not flash-like at all. We were not getting.

Traditionally on the top

Fixed ropes went down. Old ones. Sanek descended, I belayed him with the help of our rope. Pih - and he was falling. I tried to soften falling as I could. It turned out all right. Old ropes appeared to be rotten. We decided not to risk more and fixed our ropes. 100 meters later we found ourselves on snow-ice edge. Along it we descended synchronously, using the technique of three times. For about 300 meters. Tiredness filled my body with lead. I fall down, then once more I seemed it was not my day. Later I learnt that Shura felt the same. It stormed. Wind blew. The same well-know got closer, we lay down to the edge, hammering beaks of tools into the ice. The next minute it rinses us like washing on the rope. Then everything became calm. We went on descending.

Descending edge

We went down to less steep slope. From that place we went sharply down and to the right to rocky edge - there was very steep firn, down - ice. Crampons were blunt. We carefully descended to the rocks. An hour more of maneuvering along rocky steps, snow fields and that was all. We could put off harnesses.

Southern side

Altitude - 5500 meters above sea-level. It was rather high. We wanted to descend a little bit down - otherwise we would have less force the next day. But Shura got exhausted and could hardly move his legs. With difficulties I persuaded him to descend down to frozen lake. There I could not insist on further descent. Sania put off the rucksack and it was his end decision. Altitude - 5200 m. We descended for 800 meters - not bad. Sun shined, we took off the tent and sleeping bag and dry them in the sun. Everything was covered with hoar-frost after hard night.

We ate almost all provisions we had. The next day we planned to be downwards, in the village. Only muesli and crackers remained. Sugar came to an end. We had some tea and our drink with chicory. We drank, drank and drank.

The 11 th of January. In the morning we, certainly, overslept. We woke up at 7 oclock, set off at 9 in the morning. We traverse the lake along the screes but 200 meters later we hot to rocky faults, that went down vertically to the ice surface of the lake. I suggested to descend and to round faults along the ice. Sania protested - he thought we could sink!!! But we had nothing to do - and descended to the lake. In order to calm my friend I chopped the ice, made a hole. 10 cm, 20 cm, it was impossible to take water. Ice was at least a half of a meter deep! It would surely endure us!!! We put on crampons and making careful irresolute steps tripped to the other bank.

Medeo rests

Look, Shura wears skates

There it was - "foggy bank" - cow foreheads, along which streams flowed. That time they were dry, even and disgusting. We rounded as many of them as we could and in the lowest and the most slightly sloping place descended to the lowest screes. That was all - further it was not difficult. Along the moraine we descended to the place of the base camp. From that place they lead trekkers to Kongde. It was rather hard peak for trekking. We descended further. We got very thirsty. In the morning we dissolved remains of our energy drink and our flasks got empty. We descended without a path. Were looking for it. It seemed it had to be there. According to the map there should be something like road. At last - on the opposite board of the side canyon, we saw an excellent path. Tushing we crossed the canyon to it and relaxed. As it appeared later - too early. We went down and suddenly understood that we had missed the path. We began to look for it. At last we found it. Further descent. Sometimes along the path, sometimes without it. We again were about to miss the stream crossing. So, we had to return back.

According to the words of one of the redactors of «ALPINIST.COM» we had to descend to the valley and then climb up to the pass from which descend to the valley Dudh-Kosi. Planning to do all that in a day we were in a hurry. We descended and descended and the pass was as far away as earlier. By two oclock in the afternoon we almost fall down to the meadow, from which the path to that unfortunate pass had to start. And we had to find it. There were neither marks nor signs. It was something like a miracle that I almost from the first time managed to find something like a path on which the footsteps of cleft-footed prevailed. Along it we successfully reached the saddle of the pass in two hours. Moreover, just before the saddle there was no path again. Having come to the edge we looked to the other side of the pass. There was steep slope, but it seemed it was possible to descend there. And the moment Sanek lifted up a stick with rag and said: "Vovan, what is it?!" Uf we didn miss the pass - it was the saddle. And descent started just from the stick along a narrow ledge!

Apropos - it was 4 o&rsquoclock - time to communicate. We had been in a valley for the second day - it was impossible to communicate with the outside world. And at the moment - oh, miracle, through cracks of RFI - we heard joyful Slava&rsquos voice: "Hurray!!! At long last!!! I have got tired of waiting for you already!!!"

Team Leader Slava!

We had to descend to the valley. Hour and a half later it would get dark. Elevation change down to the village from the pass was about 2 kilometers. If only there would be a path! Along the path it was possible to go at night, by the light of flashes. That was all, we started running. There was the path, and it was good. We run along it, trying to win some time. But that continued only few minutes. The path leaded us to the edge and became indistinct. We tried to understood where we had to go, consulted by the walkie-talkie. As a result we decided to go along the edge. Moreover, there were signs on it. But the path was very bad. It disappeared from time to time. Having got tired to find logics in its direction we surrendered and started descending along the tracks of cut juniper. Some time later the path again started leading us to the edge. Would it go on dodging along it? But we had nothing to do - we followed glades and crushings in the grass. Downwards there were faults.

That was all, it got dark. We took off flashes, but they hardly helped us. 300 meters more and we came to the final. Mist covered the forest. Passing overhanging stone, Shura noticed - "Vovan, they passed the night here". At first I did not pay attention to his words but when we stopped I decided to look at the place where somebody passed night. It was a nice night-passing for lumber-man. There was firewood and soft bedding of dry twigs. We got under the stone, made fire, melted snow. We drank, drank and drank. We had nothing to eat and at the same time we had to restore forces. Fire cheered us up. It was a pity we had no time to descend downwards. We felt that if we had only few minutes more - we would descend down to the village!

The 12 th of January. It was clear morning. Having no stops we gathered and went further. As it was light, we found the path we had lost the previous day and not loosing it we run down and down

Vladimir Belousov

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