The mountain Dhaulagiri I is the seventh highest mountain in the world, and the highest mountain residing entirely within Nepal.
Height: 8,167m (26,795 ft)
Location: In the Dhaulagiri him, Central Himalayas, Nepal.
First Climbed: 13 May 1960 by a join Austrian, Swiss and Nepali expedition.
Climb Time: 40+ days.
Best Time to Climb: Pre-monsoon (March to mid June).
Dhaulagiri sits at the pinnacle of the Dhaulagiri Himal or massif, which stretches for 120km (75 mile) between the Behri river in the west and the Kali Gandaki river in the east.
Dhaulagiri translates as the ‘dazzling, white, beautiful mountain’ from Sanskrit. It fits the name perfectly. Its jagged, snow-bound, triangular pinnacle is an incandescent white, further emphasised by the clouds that cluster below its summit. Between 1808 and 1838, Dhaulagiri was thought to be the world’s highest mountain. It was superseded in 1838 by Kanchenjunga (8,586 m/ 28,169 ft) and then the true pinnacle of the world, Mount Everest (8,848m/ 29,029ft), in 1852.
However, Dhaulagiri’s sheer faces, isolation and sudden, dramatic elevation changes make it one of the most desirable mountain challenges in the world. And it lives amongst good company. Across the Kali Gandaki gorge to the east is Annapurna I (8,091m/ 26,545 ft), the tenth highest and most dangerous mountain in the world.
The first ascent, on 13 May 1960, followed a decade of unsuccessful attempts. It was the second last of the eight-thousanders to be climbed.
Austrian Kurt Diemberger and five others from Switzerland and Nepal successfully ascended via the North-east Ridge. A week later, two other Swiss climbers, Hugh Weber and Michel Vaucher, also reached the summit. However, it would be a decade before the next successful ascent.
Most ascents of the mountain follow North-east Ridge, where there are some fixed ropes en route. Base camp is on the north side of the mountain; approximately ten days trek from Beni. Unlike the first ascent, the standard route now ascends the ice field that leads directly to the summit.
A far harder challenge is the highly technical climb up the South Face.
Attempted solo by Tomaz Humar in 1999, he climbed the sheer 4,000m (13,100 ft) face over nine days, describing it as his ‘nirvana’. However, he descended down the easier opposite face a little short of the summit to avoid dying of exposure.
Most deaths on these slopes are caused by avalanches, which consist more of ice than snow. The first death was in 1954 and there have been a total of 70 since. Before 1990, the death rate was 31%, though now it is considerably lower (around 11%).
Among the deaths are a number of famous mountaineers. Seven climbers in the 1969 American expedition died this way in 1969 (the worst Nepalese disaster to date), as did the famed British climber, Ginette Harrison, who was killed in 1999.
Lou Reichardt, the only survivor of the 1969 expedition, described their avalanche as ‘a scene painted in white of indescribable violence’.
Trekking around Dhaulagiri.
The primary trek around Dhaulagiri is inventively named the ‘Around Dhaulagiri trek’!
It is an idyllic, and often quiet, hike through a wilderness far less trampled than many other comparable circuits. Lasting around 12 days, and covering 102 km (63 mile), this trek typically heads from Beni (839m/ 2,753 ft, the trek’s low point) in the south to Marpha in the north.
The high point is the French Pass at 5,354m (17,566 ft), unless you choose to summit a peak en route!
A bus ride from Pokhara to Beni and a flight back there from Jomoson (near Marpha) is the typical way to get to and from this adventure. It can be completed with or without a local guide.