September 30, 2023

“The safety devices hardly suffered a serious fall.”

On May 23, 2023, Marek Hoelejic and Matoj Bernat made the first ascent of the northwest face of the six-thousandth summit of Sora in Nepal. The two Czechs completed the route in Alpine style in four days. They evaluated their 1,500m course called Simply Beautiful, which has a gradient of up to 90 degrees in places, with the M6.

Field report by Marek Hulishek

After successfully climbing the Baruntse West Face with the challenging Heavenly Trap route in the spring of 2021, Marek Holeček has decided to return to the Khumbu region again. After months of research and preparation, he chose the previously unflattering 1,300-meter northwest face of Sura Beg, which lies between Ama Dablam and Baronts.

For this expedition, he chose 27-year-old compatriot Mate Bernat, who was the first Czech to climb the 82 Alps. Together, they spent two weeks acclimatizing in the middle of the Himalayas and set up camp on May 13, 2023 at the foot of the northwest face of Sora Peak at an altitude of about 5,500 metres.

Marek was deeply affected by the scene on the wall. Before him stretched a 50-degree slope that became vertical with increasing steepness, resulting in a tower of glacial ice. Above it stretched an overhanging rocky facade that seemed menacing and insurmountable.

View from the Simply Beautiful Line base camp (1500m, M6) at 6000m from Sura Peak. Photo: ©Marek Holijic / mammoth

Favorable weather conditions prompted the Czech climbers to climb the face early the next morning. In good conditions, Marek and his partner managed to cover several meters in height in a short time.

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

Fortunately, Marek found a suitable bivouac in a cave at about 6,000 meters altitude where they could spend the night.

Difficult conditions in essence

Not only did the next day bring about an unfavorable change in the weather, but it also presented the ropes team with difficulty scaling rocks and ice. After a 150-metre ice climb, they reach the rock face, which Marek has already planted at the bottom of the face.

The rocks prove too fragile after only the first few metres, for ice axes to find a foothold. Only with a lot of effort and effort Marek was able to cover about 70 meters with two ropes.

The safety devices were only a mental support, and could not withstand a serious fall.

When he slammed on his partner Matej on the second climb, he fell twice from the fragile wall. Fortunately, the harness was secured so the ropes team wouldn’t fall into the canyon.

Due to the increasingly deteriorating weather, the climbers had to find a temporary spot as quickly as possible. But in this part of the wall there was no plateau to be seen so widely.

After the two try in vain to punch a hole in the wall at a 70-degree angle, their only option is to tie the tent to an ice nail in the wall. As Marek describes, the shelter looked like a garbage bag hanging on the wall. The mountaineers had to spend an exhausting night in this uncomfortable position.

A self-portrait in a bivouac reminds him of a hanging garbage bag.  Photo: Matog Bernat
A self-portrait in a bivouac reminds him of a hanging garbage bag. Photo: Matog Bernat

With the last reserves of strength to climb to the top

The next morning, Marek and Matog find it hard to motivate themselves to climb. Ahead of them was another 80m of rock climbing in loose rock.

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However, withdrawal was not an option as the sections already completed were at least as difficult.

Marek worked 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 trail and continued the two-rope route into the snow. In a crack, they found a suitable bivouac, which Marek said felt more like a four-poster bed compared to the night before.

On May 23, 2023, mountaineers planned to climb the summit. But the last part was also challenging, with her hands aching from the last few days’ exertion and her shoulders sore.

Two hours later, Marek and Matog finally reach the summit and are rewarded with a great view of the surrounding mountain peaks. There was little time to celebrate as the long descent was yet to come. This initially led them through a narrow ridge that fell a kilometer on either side.

Short luck at the summit: Marek Holichick and Matog Bernat are happy with their first ascent of the Northwest Face atop Sora.  Photo: Matog Bernat
Short luck at the summit: Marek Holichick and Matog Bernat are happy with their first ascent of the Northwest Face atop Sora. Photo: Matog Bernat

Even after hours, the valley was slowly approaching. Shortly before 11 pm, they finally reached a small cafe where porters were already waiting for them – real luxury, Marek recalled.

He simply describes Jamil as a pure mountaineering, Jamil’s first ascent across an untouched wall.

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Credits: Cover ©Marek Holijic / mammoth