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Wednesday, December 17, 2008


A great thing about visiting mountain ranges you've read about and dreamed of all your life is to discover mountains you'd never even heard of. Visiting the Khumbu, I was interested to see Everest and Lhotse and Ama Dablam in the flesh, as it were, as well as lesser-known peaks that I'd written about but never eyeballed, like Kwangde and Tawoche and Kangtega. But there were also surprises, like Kwangde Nup, with its a gorgeous rock buttress splitting the north face, first climbed by Alex Lowe and Steve Swenson way back in 1989. And then there's this icy needle, spotted from the hills near the Thame monastery, looking due east past Kangtega. If there's ever a peak that gives one the urge (in the memorable Mick Fowler phrase), this is the peak. But what is it?

I had to consult with Lindsay Griffin, keeper of all mountain knowledge, who e-mailed the answer promptly: It was Melanphulan, of course, a.k.a. Peak 6,571m. The peak received its first known ascent in 2000, by Supy Bullard and Peter Carse. The AAJ note describing this climb pointed to a previous photo of the ice pyramid, by Ace Kvale, in the 1996 AAJ. The caption for the full-page photo was simply: "Unnamed, unclimbed, Khumbu region." As far as I know, it still has only one route.

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