Alpine style: New route through the west face of Hungchi (7029m)

Charles Dubouloz and Symon Welfringer succeed in an impressive new tour through the wild and previously untouched west face of the Hungchi: Le Cavalier sans tête. The two French alpinists are the first to climb this 7000m peak in alpine style.

Actually, the two French professional alpinists Charles Dubouloz and Symon Welringer the 7952 meter high Gyachung Kang was chosen as the main target. But as is often the case on expeditions, weather and health thwarted their plans.

As a result, it advanced Hungchi (7029m) to the destination of desire. A blessing in disguise, as it turned out later. Because the duo was able to achieve a first ascent in pure alpine style on its wild and still undeveloped west face.

When you embark on an expedition to the other side of the world, things rarely go as planned.
For us, the Hungchi was unexpected happiness.

Charles Dubouloz
The imposing west face of Hungchi with the new route by Charles Dubouloz and Symon Welfringer. Image: ©Mathurin-Millet
The imposing west face of Hungchi with the new route by Charles Dubouloz and Symon Welfringer. Image: ©Mathurin-Millet

Rarely visited, very remote

The Hungchi is located in the north of Nepal near the border with Tibet. Although it is not that far from Everest and the world-famous Khumbu Valley as the crow flies, the remoteness of the 7000m peak is also reflected in its ascents: two in 2003 and one in 2006.

Dubouloz and Welfringer before their goal
Charles Dubouloz and Symon Welfringer in front of the 7029 meter high Hungchi. Image: ©Mathurin-Millet

In contrast to the previous ascents over the southwest ridge, the French duo decided to tackle the still untouched west face. And this in pure alpine style and with all the associated risks.

Uncertainty until the last minute

Since Symon Welfringer suffered from a persistent bronchial infection, the ascent of Hungchi was in jeopardy until the end. At 17 a.m. on May 5, they set out from their forward base camp.

However, the two alpinists made slow progress due to the technical difficulties they encountered on the west face. At 6580 meters altitude, they decided to set up a bivouac and tackle the summit the next day.

Despite Symon's advanced state of exhaustion, they reached the summit of Hungchi at 18:13.30 p.m. on May 35th. There the two of them can not only celebrate their first ascent in alpine style, but also Charles' XNUMXth birthday.

A complex and intense climb took us to the highest point of Hungchi on May 18th. What could be better to celebrate Charly's 35th birthday?

Charles Dubouloz

Descent into the unknown

But the joy at an altitude of 7029 meters was short-lived: the weather quickly changed and strong high-altitude winds and a whiteout forced the two alpinists to spend another night 300 meters below the summit.

When they poked their heads out of the tent the next morning, it was still snowing. This forced Charles Dubouloz and Symon Welfringer to adapt their relegation strategy. Since a third bivouac was no longer an option and retreating along the ascent track was out of the question, the two alpinists decided to descend to the east on the opposite side of the mountain - into the unknown, with no guarantee of reaching the base of the wall.

These three days put our skills and motivation as mountaineers to the test. Such a challenge that will remain an indelible memory in our minds.

Charles Dubouloz
After three days on the mountain, Charles Dubouloz and Symon Welfringer are back at the foot of the Hungchi. In the luggage: A difficult new tour through the west face and the first ascent of the 7000m peak in alpine style. Image: ©Mathurin-Millet
After three days on the mountain, Charles Dubouloz and Symon Welfringer are back at the foot of the Hungchi. In the luggage: A difficult new tour through the west face and the first ascent of the 7000m peak in alpine style. Image: ©Mathurin-Millet

Fortunately, the two mountain guides' decision later turned out to be the right one: after several hours and numerous abseiling maneuvers, they returned safely to the other side of the Hungchi. With her first ascent of The Headless Horseman (1700m), the two mountain guides and alpinists have achieved another benchmark in terms of high-altitude mountaineering in alpine style.

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Credits: Cover photo ©Mathurin-Millet

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