Early season Karakoram first ascents

Posted by Lindsay Griffin on 16/07/2011
Climbing above the Boesam Pir. Francois Carrel

Although few climbers are operating in the Pakistan Karakoram this summer, there have been early season successes on two peaks thought to be previously unclimbed, one in Shimshal and a second north of the Baltoro Glacier.

Accomplished French mountaineers Yannick Graziani and Christian Trommsdorff have been joined this summer by the Russian Alexei Bolotov with a possible goal of a new route on the South West Face of K2.

The Frenchmen reached the Baltoro in June after a trek from Hushe over the Gondokoro La. They then descended to the Trango Group, where in three days of glorious weather they climbed Great Trango (6,286m).

After this they were joined by Bolotov and headed up the Dunje Glacier, east of Trango Tower, to the peak at its top, Kruksum, which is around 6,500m.

During their ascent they spent a night at 6,100m and two nights just 100m below the summit, in order to acclimatize, before descending and heading up to Concordia, below K2, Broad Peak and the nearby Gasherbrum Group.

Here, a week of solid bad weather forced them to abandon their initial plan - an attempt on the legendary West Face of Gasherbrum IV (7,925m) - and instead try the unclimbed South West Ridge of Broad Peak (8,047m), a long route at high altitude but better suited to the conditions.

In two days of fine weather, they enjoyed great climbing up the West Face to reach the South Ridge at c7,100m, However, they were now pinned down by a storm. Over two days it deposited one and a half meters of snow, though their bivouac site, on the east flank of the crest, was sheltered from strong winds.

After a third night at the bivouac site, there was an improvement in the weather, and with Graziani a little ill, they took the opportunity to bail, reaching base camp in two epic days that they would "prefer not to talk about".

The team is now resting and deciding whether to return to Broad Peak, or move on to K2, where in 2007 Bolotov was one of the successful summiteers on the Russian expedition that forced a new direct route up the West Face.

Much further west in the Shimshal region, and at a considerably lower altitude, a multi-national team, led by local Pakistan guide Mirza Ali, climbed what is thought to be a previously virgin 6,000m peak in the Ghujerab Mountains.

The 20-year-old female mountaineer and sister of Ali, Samina Baig, Arshad Karim also from Shimshal, Jens Franke and Christoph Nettekoven from Germany and Malgorzata Skowronska from Poland trekked for two days north of Shimshal in the steps of the 1925 Visser expedition.

After crossing the 5,090m Boesam Pir (pass), they descended to the Sok Sok-in-Dur Valley, where they set up base camp. A high camp was established in late June at 5,200m.

Relatively little information exists on previous ascents in this area, though in 2005 Abdullah Bei and Francois Carrel made presumed first ascents of the peaks immediately north east and north west of the pass (both c5,700m).

All climbers in the multi-national team left camp at 3:30am on the 26th, reached the summit at 11am, and were back at camp by 1:30m. There were moderate difficulties on snow slopes and a few falls into deep crevasses. The crux was the last pitch, led by Ali; steep soft snow with precarious cornice formations.

The view from the top was extensive, encompassing most great peaks of the range, from Batura in the west to K2 in the east.

Snow conditions seem to have proved the major problem on this ascent, perhaps confirming recent reports that this summer in the Karakoram has been the warmest for 20 years.

This adventure, organized by Pakistan Youth Outreach, was dubbed the Gender Equality Expedition, and the summit named Koh-i-Brobar (Mt Equality: 6,008m GPS reading).

Baig's goal is to inspire women, not only those of Pakistan, to become active participants in all fields of society. She hopes that by being a young female, she will encourage more women in Pakistan to take part in extreme sports, and that her expeditions will encourage the youth of Pakistan to explore its beautiful mountains.
 



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