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Six Young Guides Make First Ski Descents in Central Nepal

by thesummiters.com
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In the heart of Central Nepal, nestled amidst the rugged Himalayas, a tale of adventure unfolds. It’s a story of six intrepid French ski mountaineers who sought not just peaks to conquer but the exhilaration of being the first to ski down uncharted slopes. This gripping narrative began with aspirations aimed at Ratna Chuli (7,035m), yet destiny beckoned them toward a more thrilling, untrodden path.

Maud Vanpoulle, Victor Colombie, Aurelia Lanoe, Firmin Fontaine, Damien Coelho-Mandes, and Bastien Levy—these spirited adventurers were driven by a shared passion for exploration and a thirst for new challenges. Their journey commenced with seeking guidance from seasoned climbers Paul Grobel and Jean Annequin, veterans who steered them toward Ratna Chuli. However, destiny seemed to have other plans.

Six Young Guides Make First Ski Descents in Central Nepal
Six Young Guides Make First Ski Descents in Central Nepal

Ski Descents | Lower but wilder

Annequin, having conquered Ratna Chuli in the early years of the millennium, shared insights gleaned from that momentous ascent and directed the younger enthusiasts towards this enigmatic peak. The anticipation was palpable, but fate intervened, nudging them onto a different, equally enthralling course.

Pooling their skills and resources, the six mountaineers formed an alliance, forging bonds akin to old friends despite their limited collective experience in high-altitude terrain. With the exception of Lanoe, who had previously ventured on a ski expedition to Gasherbrum II, their aspirations were not fixated on scaling the highest or most arduous peaks. Instead, they sought summits that aligned with their abilities, amidst untouched, raw wilderness.

Their journey unfolded like a tapestry woven with determination and camaraderie. Setting forth from Pokhara, their expedition diverged from the well-trodden trails, venturing toward Himlung before veering northwest. What awaited them was not just a quest for summits but a test of resilience, skill, and adaptability.

Ski Descents | Low expectations, great results

Despite initially modest expectations, the expedition exceeded their aspirations manifold. Their triumphs included three unprecedented ski descents, the potential discovery of uncharted summits, and successful ascents culminating in thrilling ski descents down precipitous slopes.

Their saga commenced with the conquest of Upche (6,100m), a peak that challenged their resolve and belief in themselves. Despite lingering doubts, they persevered and conquered the summit, carving through the snow with grace and determination. However, the unforgiving altitude proved taxing for Bastien, who, grappling with altitude sickness, temporarily retreated to the valley below. But true to the spirit of adventure, he emerged reinvigorated, ready to face the challenges that lay ahead.

Their ambitions soared higher as they set their sights on the unexplored, unknown realms. Their rendezvous with Hulang Go (6,687m), a peak obscured in obscurity, presented an opportunity to etch their names in the annals of exploration. Battling biting cold and treacherous, unyielding snow, they pressed onward, climbing slopes that seemed to defy gravity. With skis strapped to their backs, they ascended 50º inclines, a testament to their tenacity and skill. At the pinnacle, a vista adorned by Annapurna, Dhaulagiri, and the expansive Tibetan plains unfolded before them. Their descent, a thrilling symphony of grace and adrenaline, marked a conquest against the elements and the unknown.

Ratna Chuli

But their ultimate goal, Ratna Chuli, loomed on the horizon. Patience became their ally as they waited for the tempestuous winds and bone-chilling temperatures to relent. Their ascent of the formidable west face commenced at the stroke of 2 am, shrouded in darkness yet fueled by determination. The summit greeted them in near-silence, with winds whispering tales of conquests past. All six stood united at the pinnacle, surveying the world below with a sense of triumph that words couldn’t encapsulate. And then, with precision and finesse, they carved through slopes ranging from 40º to 50º, skiing down in unison, leaving behind a trail of indelible footprints etched upon the pristine, snow-covered canvas.

Ratna Chulli | Google Maps
Ratna Chulli | Google Maps

Their journey was not just about peaks conquered or descents mastered; it was a testament to human spirit, resilience, and the unyielding pursuit of the unknown. Theirs was a saga woven from threads of determination, camaraderie, and the unquenchable thirst for exploration, leaving an imprint not just on the snow-laden slopes but on the very essence of adventure itself.

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