Karakoram first ascents - Part One

Posted by Lindsay Griffin on 13/09/2010
New Italian routes on Farol West. Daniele Nardi

In a season marred by widespread poor weather and catastrophic flooding, the relatively few expeditions that made it to Pakistan's mountains have met with little success. However, several parties climbed interesting new ground in the Hushe region.

Two teams attempted a new line on the West Face of K7 West (6,858m) in the Charakusa Valley. At the time of writing it is believed that the Russians Vjacheslav Ivanov and Oleg Koltunov climbed the quasi-vertical granite wall, which tops out at about 6,200m. However, it is not known whether they continued up the long and complex mixed ridge above to the summit.

Italians Lorenzo Angelozzi and Daniele Nardi were not so lucky. They had spent around 10 days on the face, completing eight pitches (270m) up to VII+ and A2/A3, when rock fall destroyed their portaledge.

K7 West has been climbed twice. In 2007 the all-star American-Slovenian team of Vince Anderson, Steve House and Marko Prezelj climbed the South Face in a three-day alpine style ascent. The impressive 2,000m route had difficulties of 6b+ and WI5. The same line was repeated the following year by Slovenians Rok Blagus, Ales Cesen and Luka Lindic.

Returning to 2007 and in that year Nico and Olivier Favresse, Adam Pustelnik and Sean Villanueva almost completed a line on the West Face of K7 West, right of the Italian attempt. They climbed 1,200m at 5.12+ (redpointed) with only five metres of A1, reaching easy ground some 300m below the top of the wall.

After 15 days on the face (seven stuck in storms) climbing 26 pitches in capsule style, lack of food and a forecast of eight days bad weather forced then down from their high point. They named this formation the Badal Wall and went on to create several fine free ascents on neighbouring big walls. In 2008 Nejc Cesen, Rok Sisernik and Miha Hrastelj attempted a route towards the right side of Badal Wall, retreating from c5,700m after 1,400m of climbing up to 6c and A2.

Once safely back on the ground Angelozzi and Nardi turned their attention to Farol West (6,370m), although at the time they were unaware of the peak's name and believed it to be unclimbed.

In fact there have been several routes climbed on the three main Farol peaks, with the highest summit, Farol West, first climbed in 1991 by British climbers, Ian Stewart and Neil Wilson via the 1,000m South Face.

The Italians most likely climbed a new route, following a steep snow/ice couloir and some mixed ground on the West Face.

They climbed line in a single push of 32 hours round trip from base camp, with 21 hours needed for the ascent. Technical difficulties were M4/M4+, WI4 and 5c/6a. The c900m route has been named Telegraph Road.

Later, the pair climbed a small, and most likely previously virgin rock spire at the base of the South South West Ridge of Farol West, naming it Punta Margherita.

Their 400m route up the South Ridge, Open Eyes, was rated IV WI5 M5 V/V+.

Four Portuguese climbers found themselves stranded in Islamabad, with washed out bridges, road blocks and bad weather preventing land or air access to Skardu.

Persevering, they hired a jeep and managed to battle their way through, first to Skardu and eventually to the Hushe Valley.

Leopoldo Faria, Bruno Gaspar, Rui Rosado and Ana Silva also hoped to climb big walls in the Charakusa Valley, but having spent so much time accessing the region, opted for the nearer and more southerly Nangma Valley.

There, they attempted a new route on a formation dubbed the Babar Wall, not far from the famous spire of Amin Brakk. After four days of effort, climbing and cleaning a crack system, they were on easy ground just two pitches below the summit when Faria snapped a hold.

The resulting 12m fall broke his wrist and damaged ligaments in a foot. The team retreated (with some difficulty) having climbed 550m up to 7a+.

Two, predominately all-women teams also scored success on neighbouring mountains, and their ascents will be reported shortly.

The photograph shows Farol West (6,370m) with the probable new routes; Telegraph Road leading to the summit, and Open Eyes to the small rock spire of Punta Margherita.



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