Five representatives of the Spanish Women's National Climbing Team have recently returned home after making three probable first ascents in the Pakistan Karakoram north of Hushe
Their main success was on Sebas Peak (5,860m). Together Simon Elias, an accomplished guide, Maider Fraile, Miriam Marco, Maialen Ojer, Patty Trespando and Asuncion Yanguas climbed the North West Ridge in a 19-hour round trip from base camp.
The 900m route, graded D+ (IV 75°), was made more difficult by poor visibility, and by the time the six reached the summit it was snowing.
Sebastien Alvaro, well known mountaineer and long time producer of the Spanish adventure film series Al filo de lo Imposible, had noted this peak, which looks like a giant witch's hat when seen from Hushe, during his Karakoram wanderings.
Alvaro has been heavily involved with bettering the lot of the Hushe people through an NGO project, so local people had named the peak in his honour.
The Spanish dedicated their ascent to Vanessa Addison, the 34-year-old British climber who moved to Benasque in the Pyrenees eight years ago and had been a member of the National team since 2008. She was killed last February by an avalanche while icefall climbing.
Sebas Tower lies in the Masherbrum mountains off the Gondokoro Glacier. The Spanish also climbed two more peaks in this region, on one of which they were accompanied by their high altitude porter Mohammed Hassan. This peak was named Baushul by local people and gave 850m of rock and ice to a c5,610m summit.
Prior to these ascents arguably the most important female ascent in the Karakoram was made in the nearby Nangma Valley, when a strong CIS all-women team made the first complete repeat of any established route on the great 1,250m West Face of Amin Brakk (5,850m).
Marina Kopteva, Anna Yasinskaya and Galina Chibitok reached their 4,385m base camp on the 22nd June and started climbing the first three pitches on the 27th.
Progressing in capsule style, the three women reached the top on the 19th July, having made the second complete ascent of the 1999 Czech Route.
During the late 1990s several attempts were made on this vertical rock wall before the first ascent in 1999, when two parties, climbing separate routes, reached the top
The Spanish Pep Masip, Miguel Puigdomenech and Silvia Vidal overcame 1,650m of climbing at 6c+ and A5 in a 34-day is capsule style push, to create the cutting-edge Sol Solet in the centre of the face. At much the same time Czechs Marek Holecek, Filip Silhan and David Stastny climbed further right to complete Czech Express at 7b+, A3 and 70°.
One year later two more Spanish, Adolfo Mandinabeitia and Juan Miranda, climbed an independent line - 1,550m (31 pitches) at 6b+ and A5 - to complete Namkor. In 2004 a six-person Russian team climbed close to Namkor until bad weather forced them right onto the Czech Express, which they completed to the top. Valery Rozov made a spectacular BASE jump from c300m below the summit.
Kopteva and Yasinskaya, both born in 1981, are Ukrainians and regular climbing partners living in Kiev. Galina Chibitok (born 1977) is a Russian from St Petersburg.
Prior to the expedition Kopteva had completed the first female solo ascent of Marcheka in the Crimea. This 335m route (6a and A2) was put up in 1972 and considered for some time the hardest route in the Crimea.
Kopteva's solo is most likely the first female of a big wall on the great limestone faces of the Crimea. She completed the line with one bivouac on the face, and although the ascent was certainly not cutting edge in absolute terms, it was a small step forward for women's climbing in the CIS.
Chibitok is a particularly tough big wall climber, who amongst other routes made the first winter ascent of the 1,200m Sakharov Route (6c and A3), the hardest on the West Face of Pik 4810 in the Karavshin.
Thanks to Anna Piunova (www.mouintain.ru) for help with this report.