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The Phantom of the Opera - Kajo Ri 6189m - Khumbu, Nepal
Photo by arch. E. Bonino
Punta Khanchhya, Dawa Peak - Khumbu, Nepal
Photo by arch. E. Bonino
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Khumbu new climbs

17.02.2010 by Planetmountain

At the end of 2009 Enrico Bonino, Nicolas Melis and Francesco Cantù establised three new routes in the Khumbu valley, Nepal.

As previously reported, in November 2009 the Italians Enrico Bonino, Nicolas Melis and Francesco Cantù carried out the first ascent of "Ramri Keti" (1100m, WI5+/M7/5a) up the North Face of Hama Jomjuma (5970m, Khumbu, Nepal). When Cantù had to return to Italy, Bonino and Melis opted to remain in the Khumbu region to carry out some further exploration, which resulted in 'The Phantom of the Opera' (800m, ED+, WI4+, M6+, 6b/A1, A2, V) on Kajo Ri 6189m and 'M’han dato 5 al modulo di misto...' (600m, ED-, WI6, M7, A2, X, IV) on Punta Khanchha 5850m. Bonino's trip report is published below.


NOT ONLY 8000ers... travels in the Khumbu to unexplored mountains, new routes and plaisir alpinism
by Enrico Bonino
Last year I attempted a new route up the buttress between Dawa Peak and Renjo Pass together with Stefano della Gasperina. We didn't reach the summit because I didn't feel well and we were forced to abandon our attempt after circa 250m. Fresh from our ascent of Hama Yomjuma we felt on form and decided therefore to complete the route. It was 1 December. Khanchhya, our super porter, helped us transport gear to the base of the glacier where we spent a night in the tent.

The next morning we set off and after the first section which I already knew the route revealed itself to be much harder than expected, with a series of drips like icefalls, each topped by a roof which barred the way. At that altitude, difficulty is synonymous with time and not speed. We reached the summit in last light and a good part of the descent was carried out at night, illuminated by an almost full moon. Fortunately the gully was direct and we encountered no problems establishing belays for the abseil. The only hiccough was an ice axe hammer which broke while planting the final peg... which would cause quite a few problems in the upcoming days. We named the summit after our porter, Punta Khanchhya, while the route is called "M’han dato 5 al modulo di misto" (600m, ED-, WI6, M7, A2, X, IV).

We had roughly a fortnight left in the Khumbu and although we began to feel tired we still wanted to climb and discover things new. One possible option was the British route on Cholatse, a marvellous snow crest on an imposing and isolated mountain. But after having climbed two new routes on two unclimbed summits, we were unconsciously driven to make this three. Our next objective was decided as soon as Nik mentioned the North Face of Kajo Ri which we'd seen when trekking up the valley. After a first failed attempt due to further damage of the ice axe, and a second failed attempt, we were demoralised and almost tempted to wander about with the elephants in the Chitwas park. Then, in MacGyver style, we repaired the axe with some wire and duct tape and set off for another attempt. This time we spent a whole day avoiding the large looming serac by passing the rock barrier on the right. The heavy rucksacks and climbing difficulties stopped us from climbing swiftly and, as expected, we stopped to bivvy on the glacier at mid-height. We hoped to pitch a tent, but instead we slept out in the open, beneath the stars and wedged between the ice and rock. The second half of the climb furrows through a face which is predominantly rock and (this year) only a few lines of wind-pressed snow. Exhausted from the previous day and the other climbers we decided to climb the easiest and most logical gully which led us to ridge, circa 120m short of the summit. Seeing how little gear we had left for the descent we chose to stop the route there and begin to equip the belays for the abseils. We spent another night in our "5 star hotel" on the glacier and the next morning we reached our porters in the lodge at Machermo. According to the local population despite numerous attempts no one has climbed the entire face prior to our climb, which we have called 'The Phantom of the Opera' (800m, ED+, WI4+, M6+, 6b/A1, A2, V).

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