Kyajo Ri – October-November 2023
The Great Chossy Gully; The Moraine of Misery; and worst of all…The Gravellator. These were all distant memories now. We were at Camp 2 on Kyajo Ri and all that stood before us was the magnificent summit cone of rock and ice.
Looking up from Camp 2 in the moonlight at 03.00am, we could make out the main features and obstacles that we would have to overcome. First, a gently steepening snow-cone that would take us to the vertical rock-band. Here, the fixed ropes that would lead all the way to the summit started. After that, an elegant ‘S-Curve’ of steep snow and ice cunningly bypasses even steeper ice and rock on either side. At the top of the S-Curve, another smaller rock band would bring us onto the final exit slopes and then – the summit itself.
Time to go. In silence and by the light of our head-torches we made our way upwards towards the rock-band. Now progress was slow, as only one person at a time could be on each steep and tricky section of rope. Crampons sparking on rock in the darkness gave an extra air of drama as one tried to place them carefully on small holds. But in the end it was just a matter of getting stuck in and pulling hard on the handle of the jumar as each person inched their way upwards.
A couple of hours later, and the first hint of daylight meant that the headtorch was now superfluous. The sky first turned every shade of blue as it got lighter, and then every shade of yellow and orange as the sun made its mark. Meanwhile, patterns of clouds took on similar hues making the sky even more dramatic. The array of jagged peaks to the south, covered in snow and ice, just looked better and better with every step upwards.
Finally we were on the summit slopes, and a little while later, at what might have been a respectable breakfast time at home, we all stood on the tiny summit. With not much room to move, great care was needed as we took group photos and selfies facing this way and that. Then after a few minutes of reflection and appreciating the stunning views, it was time to reverse the process and start heading down. In reverse order, and still one at a time, we fitted our Figure-8 descenders and abseiled easily back down the way we had fought so hard to come up.
A couple more hours later and we were all back at Camp 2. It seemed over so quickly.
But that would make a Kyajo Ri expedition seem like something of a ‘one-trick pony’ – a brief summit cone with not much else to justify the three week trip. Nothing could be further from the truth.
During our 14-day acclimatisation trek we had spent time in the bustling Namche Bazaar along with Everest Base-Camp trekkers and other tourists. We had trekked on the quieter paths to the stunning Gokyo lakes. We’d made a dawn ascent of Gokyo Ri and watched sunrise over Everest from 5300m. We had crossed the steep an inhospitable Renjo La pass, also at 5300m. Then we had descended the most beautiful, peaceful and rural valley past the village of Thame to Mende. After this, a magnificent trek up a tiny yak trail through ‘Glencoe-on steroids’ brought us to our Base Camp.
There had been so much that we had seen well before even reaching Camp 2. Kyajo Ri’s summit day was just the icing on the cake.