Rare Portuguese first ascent in Pakistan Karakoram

Posted by Lindsay Griffin on 07/10/2013
Daniela Teixeira completing one of the thin traverse pitches during the first ascent of a new line on Kapura. Paulo Roxo
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Portuguese alpinists Paulo Roxo and Daniela Teixeira climbed a beautiful new route on Kapura in the Pakistan Karakoram, reaching a sub-summit at the end of mountain's long southwest ridge.

Roxo and Teixeira made their ascent from an advanced base camp towards the head of the West Nangmah Glacier.

They made two bivouacs at the same location - one on the ascent and one on descent - and named the line Never Ending Dreams (1,300m, M4 and 70°). This is the first time a route has been attempted on Kapura from the Nangmah Valley.

Situated on the watershed between the popular Charakusa Glacier to the north and Nangmah Valley to the south, Kapura (6,544m) has three ridges: northwest, south-southeast leading towards K6 West, and southwest. It also has three defined tops; north (the highest), central and south.

The first known and authorized attempt on this peak took place in 2001, when a Dutch team tried the northwest ridge from the Charakusa, accessing the crest via the southwest flank from the Second Charakusa Cwm.

The attempt was abandoned ca5,800m due to very deep, unstable snow. The climbing had been generally AD in overall standard; snow/ice up to 60° and one rock pitch of UIAA IV/V.

If was left to the all star American team of Doug Chabot, Steve House and Steve Swenson to make the first ascent in July 2004. They climbed the southwest flank to gain the northwest ridge at 6,100m, where they bivouacked.

Next day they overcame difficulties of M4 and impossible-to-protect, near-vertical névé to reach the highest point. They were followed next day by Bruce Miller and Marko Prezelj.

On 30-31st of the same month, in a 32-hour continuous ascent and descent, Slovenians Tine Cuder and Matej Mejovsek climbed the very steep west face direct (Tourist's Way, 1,500m, ED2) from a camp at 4,900m in the Second Charakusa Cwm. There is little information but it is assumed they reached the main summit.

There have been no more ascents of the main summit but in 2008 Czechs Jan Doudlebsky and Marek Holecek made the first ascent of the south top by climbing a steep couloir on the west face.

After reaching the col between central and south tops, the two Czechs turned right and summited the latter. Wild Wings (1,300m) required two bivouacs, and had difficulties of WI5+, M7 and 70°.

Roxo and Teixeira, who in 2010 became the first Portuguese to summit a virgin Himalayan peak when they climbed Kartik in the Garhwal (India), had no firm plans on entering the Nangmah Valley, but spotted the objective on their first reconnaissance trip.

They acclimatized on the route by climbing to the 5,700m col at the start of the southwest ridge, which they dubbed Alam's Col after the son of their Pakistan cook. They admit that this compromised their goal of a completely pure alpine-style ascent.

After a spell of bad weather they received a forecast that promised good, clear, almost windless weather for nearly a week and set off at 3:00am to climb the objectively dangerous 500m approach to the col, while it was well frozen.

Once at the col they erected a small bivouac tent and rested until 1:30am the following morning, when they set off for the summit.

Climbing the face forming the right flank of the ridge, they found 60-65° hard ice beneath a thin layer of snow, and had to make traverses around a rock band a little above half-height. These were probably the most difficult pitches, as a thin snow covering overlaid granite slabs.

The day wore on, but realizing that they would most likely have to descend at night, they trusted to the forecast and continued, reaching the top of the ridge at 6:00pm.

Here, they stood atop a small but distinct, previously-virgin forepeak. Beyond, the ridge dropped into a notch before rising a little way to the south summit perhaps 30-40m above. Abseiling from Abalakovs and rock pegs, they reached the col at 3:15am, after a nearly 26-hour day.

They wisely elected to rest here all day, rehydrating and eventually leaving at 3:30 the following morning, so they could descend from the col while the terrain was still frozen.

They did not carry a GPS above the 5,700m col, but knowing the distance they abseiled, and using simple trigonometry, they calculate their summit to be at least 6,350m. Looking across at the main summit from their high point rather confirmed this.

Holecek guessed the south top to be ca 6,200m but seems to have underestimated its height.



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