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Italian-Spanish Pair Climb New Route on Ama Dablam

Franceso Fazzi and Santi Padro’s new route on Ama Dablam (6812m), Free Tibet 2065 (V+ M5+ 80 degrees, 1500m), follows the 1985 Japanese Route for part of its length before veering left into new terrain up the headwall. [Photo] Santi Padros

Franceso Fazzi and I arrived in Nepal with the coming of the Nepalese new year, 2065.
After concluding the endless Kathmandu-ic permit obtaining processes, on April 14, we land in the hectic Lukla airport. After four days of hiking, we reach our new basecamp at 4600m–already breathless! Without resting, we continue up to 5200m and after a night’s sleep, deposit our gear at 5500m. We then descended to basecamp for a day to relax our tired calves and change our sweaty socks.

A new and frenetic challenge awaited us. We climbed back up the mountain to sleep a night at 5500m–followed by other at 5900m which we named Fantastic Nest of Eagles. There, I met Slovenian Peter Tomko. (Ed: Differing acclimatization levels between partners led to a switch). Thanks to beautiful weather, he and I reached the summit in seven hours, ascending the peak’s Southwest Ridge (VI 5.9 60 degrees, 1500m, Bishop-Gill-Romanes-Ward, 1961). Three hours of uncertain abseiling using fixed “ropes” (though that might be a generous term), brought us safely back to camp two.

Traversing away from the Japanese Route of 1985 onto new ground. [Photo] Courtesy Santi Padros

Collecting all our gear and dreaming of future challenges, we descended to basecamp.
Reunited, Franceso and I, after having studied all faces of Ama Dablam, decided on the west. There appeared to be a gap between the Japanese route of 1985 (VI 5.7 65 degrees, 1400m, Ariaki-Sakashita, 1985) on the west face and the Japanese route of 1980 (VI 80 degrees, 1600m, Fukushima-Kato-Ogawa-Teranishi-Tomika-Tsubai, 1980) which ascends the northeast face then crosses the northwest ridge to ascend the west face to the summit (see Alpinist Issue 10 for an Ama Dablam Mountain Profile). The center of the face appears unclimbed, so we traced an imaginary itinerary over terrain yet to be discovered.

Two days later, on April 30, we left basecamp carrying a light tent, sleeping bags and food for 4 days. We settled into the first bivouac (5350m) at the base of the west face, protected from rockfalls by a large block. On May 1, we climbed the first part of the route, adjacent to the Japanese route of 1985 for a time, until we veered left over a serac to settle down for our second bivy. The following day, without encountering extreme difficulties, we climbed for 11 hours over variable terrain, overcoming various pitches of mixed UIAA V-V+–exhausted by the high altitude.

That night deposited 15cm of fresh snow, with temperatures dropping to fifteen degrees below zero before the morning sun began to warm us. Another long day’s effort followed–high altitude, fresh snow and the occasional bad weather spell didn’t help make the progression a fast one. Although we simulclimbed for 300m, the following 300m required three pitches of mixed climbing and another five of moderate ice and snow. Finally, on the evening of May 2, accompanied by a vanishing sun, we reached the summit of Ama Dablam–only to fall flat into our sleeping bags within our minuscule tent below the imposing presence of the neighboring Everest. The next day we descended the Southwest Ridge back to our basecamp.

We are unaware of any previous route covering this ground, so we are naming our new route Free Tibet 2065 (V+ M5+ 80 degrees, 1500m).

Descending the fixed lines on Ama Dablam’s Southwest Ridge (VI 5.9 60 degrees, 1500m, Bishop-Gill-Romanes-Ward, 1961). The Southwest Ridge is the peak’s normal route, and, as is obvious from the tangle of ropes, frequently climbed. [Photo] Courtesy Santi Padros