chobutse tsoboje
"The Slovenian Direct" (ED, M5, AI 5), NW Face of Chobutse, upper pitches; (photo/Luka Stražar)

Slovenian Alpinists Nab First Ascent of Himalayan Chobutse NW Face

Two Slovenian alpine climbers made the first ascent of the impressive northwest face of Chobutse (21,935 feet) in Nepal’s Rolwaling Valley. The 5,577-foot route goes free on steep ice and mixed terrain.

Slovenians Luka Stražar and Nejc Marčič completed a massive direct route up Chobutse’s northwest face in a reportedly smooth 3-day ascent. The Slovenian Direct (ED, M5, AI 5) is the first route on the previously unclimbed wall.

The team started up the lower portion of the wall on October 28, with 1,600 feet of soloing on easier terrain. At 2 p.m. on October 30, they stood on the summit. They descended the west face and reached their base camp 8 hours later.

Summit of Chobutse
Stražar, left, and Marčič on the summit of Chobutse; (photo/Stražar)

Two other expedition members descended without summiting. Marko Prezejl and Matija Volontar vied for a first ascent on the south face, but high winds forced a retreat. Stražar and Marčič, too, encountered adverse weather but managed to persevere. Steep, sustained climbing defined the route.

“There were six steep pitches in the central part, where the climbing was rather slow,” Stražar told ExplorersWeb. “The terrain was mixed, and we already had problems with spindrift. Later, we saw that wind high up was really strong, hence the spindrift.”

Chobutse NW face
Marčič climbs through spindrift toward the summit; (photo/Stražar)

Chobutse First Ascent: Logistics and Background

Scouting the line from below, Stražar and Marčič doubted they would find good bivies. As a result, they left their tent in basecamp. Stražar reported the decision helped keep the team light, enabling faster climbing. And they still found safe quarter where they needed it, forging two effective bivies along the way.

Chobutse NW face
Marčič on steep terrain; (photo/Stražar)

Stražar, Marčič, and Prezejl hold seven Piolets d’Or between them. For the group, tackling self-supported objectives on remote high-altitude peaks is a matter of course.

“Not counting the spindrift and altitude, the climbing was fun and interesting,” Stražar said of The Slovenian Direct. “It’s nice to get the arms pumping now and then!”

Slovenian Direct on Tsoboje
Marčič climbing; (photo/Stražar)

Chobutse is also known as Tsoboje or Chobuje. A German team consisting of Wolfgang Weinzierl, Peter Vogler, and Gustav and Klaus Harder first summited it in 1972 via the Northeast Ridge. Unsure whether the mountain’s central or east summit is higher, Stražar and Marčič stood on both.

chobutse tsoboje
The summits of Chobutse above the southwest face; (photo/Michael Wandinger)

 Illness Almost Grounds Nejc Marčič

In the early going, it looked like Marčič wouldn’t stand anywhere except base camp. The 36-year-old fell extremely ill immediately after arriving in the valley, with a 102-degree Fahrenheit fever and throat infection. His condition worsened rapidly; he also developed infections in his ears and throat.

However, he recovered in time to make the push, while Stražar acclimatized with Prezejl and Volontar. His recovery appears cosmically justified — according to Stražar, Marčič’s photos inspired the group to choose Chobutse in the first place.

After seeing the photos, “I instantly remembered the mountain,” Stražar said. “I was there in 2015, and the Northwest Face made an impression with its prominence and symmetry.”

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Sam Anderson

Sam has roamed the American continent to follow adventures, explore natural wonders, and find good stories. After going to college to be a writer, he got distracted (or saved) by rock climbing and spent most of the next decade on the road, supporting himself with trade work. He's had addresses in the Adirondack Mountains, Las Vegas, and somehow Kansas, but his heart belongs in the Texas hill country.