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Americans Battle Night Terrors in Nepal

Jarad Vilhauer, Lobuje East, Khumbu Himal, Nepal. On October 30, Vilhauer and partner Joel Kauffman established a new mixed route on the peak’s rarely climbed southwest face. [Photo] Joel Kauffman

On October 30, Americans Joel Kauffman and Jarad Vilhauer climbed a new route on the southwest face of Lobuje East (6119m) in Nepal’s Khumbu region. They established Night Terrors (VI WI5+ AI4 M7 85 degrees) in a 37-hour push from advance base camp, to summit, to base camp.
Often considered a “trekking peak”, Lobuje offers a stiff challenge to those seeking a technical route to the summit.

Kauffman and Vilhauer set off from ABC on October 29 to put up a new technical route to the mountain’s east summit. They scrambled up a few hundred feet of moraine and scree to reach a solid, but polished slab. Vilhauer took the first lead, starting up a discontinuous ribbon of water ice that would take them 1,000′ up the right-facing corner that splits the southwest face. Kauffman was showered in sparks as Vilhauer’s crampons scratched for purchase through the mixed crux and his picks torqued and scratched up the rock.

Traversing right, the duo simul-climbed through a glacier-formed runnel, stemming on fairly solid granite. The next pitch was steep and delicate, with chandelier-like stalactites of ice and a hollow curtain yielding scant protection. The ice petered out as Kauffman took the lead into steep M5, protected with bottomed-out stubbies and a small cam. The terrain eased as they entered a 30-foot-wide snow couloir, allowing them to pause for a meal and to watch the sunset.

Six hours behind their intended schedule, the pair continued up through snow and moderate alpine ice. They traversed right for three pitches after dead-ending at the northwest ridge. By midnight the climbers were nodding off at each belay. Valhauer climbed a 65m pitch of steep alpine ice that took him two hours to complete before Kauffman took the lead and gained the summit ridge. They traversed the ridge and arrived on the true summit at 4:30 a.m. The duo continued along the ridge to the false summit where they met up with the southeast ridge’s Normal Route to descend.

Joel Kauffman, Khumbu Himal, Nepal. [Photo] Jarad Vilhauer

The first ascent of Lobuje East was not recorded until 1984 by Laurence Neilson and Ang Gyalzen Sherpa. While there are several ice and mixed routes up the east face, Lobuje East has only been summited three times from the west. On a 1991 expedition, Eric Brand and Pamba Norbu used fixed ropes to climb the west pillar to the northwest summit (VI 5.10 A3). In 1995, Carlos Miguel and Eduard Sanchez also climbed the west pillar by a 6b+ route with one aid pitch. They intersected with the Brand-Norbu route halfway up.

Sources: Joel Kauffman,,,

Tawoche, Cholatse and Lobuche, Khumbu Himal, Nepal.

[Photo] Joel Kauffman

Vilhauer acclimatizing on Lobuje East’s Normal Route. [Photo] Joel Kauffman