Marek Holeček: “The safety devices would hardly have held a serious fall”

On May 23, 2023, Marek Holeček and Matěj Bernát made the first ascent of the north-west face of the six-thousander Sura Peak in Nepal. The two Czechs completed the route in alpine style within four days. They rate their 1500-meter-long route called Simply Beautiful, which has a gradient of up to 90 degrees in some places, with an M6.

A field report by Marek Holeček

Nachdem Marek Holeček in spring 2021 the west face of the Baruntse successfully with the demanding route Heavenly Trap Having climbed through, he decided to return to the Khumbu region again. After months of research and preparation, he chose the previously unclimbed 1300 meter north-west face of the Sura Peak, which lies between the Ama Dablam and the Baruntse.

For this expedition he chose the 27-year-old compatriot Matěj Bernat from, who was the first Czech to climb all 82 four-thousanders in the Alps. Together they spent two weeks acclimatizing in the central Himalayas and set up camp on May 13, 2023 at the foot of the northwest face of Sura Peak at about 5500 meters.

Marek was deeply impressed by the sight of the wall. Before him stretched a 50-degree incline that became vertical as the steepness increased, leading into a tower of glacial ice. Above it stretched an overhanging rock face that seemed threatening and insurmountable.

Marek Holeček succeeds with 'Simply Beautiful' on the first ascent of the north-west face of Sura Peak9
View from the base camp of the Simply Beautiful line (1500m, M6) at the 6000 meter high Sura Peak. Image: ©Marek Holeček / mammoth

Favorable weather conditions prompted the Czech climbers to tackle the face early in the morning the following day. With good conditions, Marek and his partner managed to cover many meters in altitude in a short time.

The sun provided some warmth, but by midday exhaustion and burning lungs were starting to set in. Added to this was the pain in the shoulders from the constant looks up and the movements with the ice picks.

Luckily, Marek found a suitable bivouac spot in a cave at about 6000 meters where they could spend the night.

Difficult conditions in the crux

The next day not only brought an unwanted change in the weather, but also presented the rope team with demanding rock and ice climbing. After a 150 meter long ice climb, they reached the rock face, which Marek had already instilled respect at the foot of the face.

The rock proved to be extremely brittle after just the first few meters, so that the ice axes could hardly find a footing. Only with a lot of effort and effort did Marek manage to cover about 70 meters in two rope lengths.

The safety devices only served as mental support, they would hardly have withstood a serious fall.

When he belayed his partner Matěj on the second climb, he even fell twice off the fragile wall. Luckily the belay was secured so that the rope team did not fall into the valley.

Due to the increasing deterioration of the weather, the two climbers had to find a bivouac spot as quickly as possible. But in this part of the wall there was no plateau to be seen far and wide.

After the two tried in vain to punch a hole in the 70-degree wall, their only option was to attach the tent to an ice screw in the wall. As Marek describes, the bivouac resembled a garbage bag hanging on the wall. The two alpinists had to spend an exhausting night in this uncomfortable position.

Selfie in the bivouac that reminded him of a hanging garbage bag. Image: Matěj Bernát
Selfie in the bivouac that reminded him of a hanging garbage bag. Image: Matěj Bernát

With the last reserves of strength for the ascent to the summit

The next morning, Marek and Matěj found it difficult to motivate themselves to climb. Before them lay another 80 meters of rock climbing in brittle rock.

However, retreat was not an option as the sections already completed were at least as challenging.

Marek fought his way up the next two pitches for several hours and, according to his own statement, reached his mental and physical limits. Exhausted and hypothermic, the duo finally reached the end of the rock passage and continued the route with two rope lengths in the ice. In a crack, they found a suitable bivouac spot, which Marek said felt like a four-poster bed compared to the previous night.

On May 23, 2023, the two alpinists planned to climb the summit. But the last part was also challenging, as her hands cramped from the exertion of the past few days and her shoulders hurt.

After two hours, Marek and Matěj finally reached the top and were rewarded with a magnificent view of the surrounding mountain peaks. There was little time for celebration as the long descent was yet to come. This first led them over a narrow ridge that dropped a kilometer on both sides.

Brief luck at the summit: Marek Holeček and Matěj Bernát are happy about their first ascent of the north-west face on Sura Peak. Image: Matěj Bernát
Brief luck at the summit: Marek Holeček and Matěj Bernát are happy about their first ascent of the north-west face on Sura Peak. Image: Matěj Bernát

Even after hours, the valley was slowly approaching. Shortly before 23 p.m. they finally reached a small teahouse where the porters were already waiting for them – a real luxury, as Marek recalls.

He describes Simply Beautiful as pure alpinism, a beautiful first ascent through an untouched wall.

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Credits: Cover ©Marek Holeček / mammoth

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