CHARAKUSA VALLEY

Posted on: December 1, 2004


Nayser Brakk (ca. 5200m), showing the lines of Tasty Talking (III 5.10+, ca. 300m, House-Prezelj-Swenson, 2004) and No More Tasty Talking (IV 5.10+, ca. 1000m, Prezelj-Miller, 2004), Charakusa Valley, Pakistan. [Photo] Marko Prezelj

Steve House, Marko Prezelj (Slovenia) Steve Swenson, Bruce Miller, Doug Chabot and I visited the Charakusa Valley in the Hushe Region of the Karakoram in July. One of many perks to climbing in the Charakusa is that from one base camp you have access to the rock towers of the lower valley as well as the jaw-dropping alpine objectives of the upper valley. Of these alpine objectives, we had permits for three: Kapura (6544m), K6 (7281m) and K7 (6934m).

Acclimatization began a week into the trip, when damp and cold weather gave way to five days of high pressure. The rock dried quickly and two new routes were established. Tasty Talking (III 5.10+, ca. 300m), on the southeast ridge of the pyramidal Nayser Brakk (ca. 5200m), was completed by House, Prezelj and Swenson on June 31. The route started at a notch in the southeast ridge of Nayser, two-thirds of the way up the peak from where it juts up and out of the Charakusa Glacier. Two days later, on July 2, the integral southeast ridge was completed by Prezelj and Miller and dubbed No More Tasty Talking (IV 5.10+, ca. 1000m).

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Three weeks of unsettled weather hampered further efforts, but during this time, the first ascent of Kapura took place. From an advance base camp (ca. 5000m) on the glacier west of Kapura, Chabot, House and Swenson set out on July 3 and climbed the snow slopes of the southwest face of Kapura to gain a snow traverse leading to a serac barrier on the west shoulder, the top of which provided a bivy site (6100m). The technical difficulties found on the ridge above the bivy involved mixed terrain, a corniced ridge and deep snow. In heavy snow and no visibility they made the summit and returned to their bivy for another night, then descended to camp the next day. Miller and Prezelj, climbing a day behind, made the summit via the same route (V M4, 1500m) on July 5.

Continued unsettled weather pushed into the final two weeks of our stay. This prompted us each to choose what we most wanted from our visit and make that his priority. House held firm to his desire to solo a new route on K7; Chabot and Miller opted to attempt an alpine-style ascent of the 1983 route by which a Japanese team had made the first ascent of the peak; Prezelj, Swenson and I teamed up for the west ridge of the unclimbed K7 West (6858m).

We were all given our chances when a four-day anticyclone moved in near the end of July. Having already made two solo attempts on the south face of K7, one to within "a couple of hundred meters of the summit," House mustered the drive to return to attempt the route in a push. Departing at 5 p.m. on July 24, he climbed the new route (VI 5.10a M6 A2 80 degrees, 2400m) in 41:45, base camp to base camp, making the second ascent of K7 in the process.

Our attempt on the west ridge of K7 West was stopped several hundred meters shy of the summit by an unconsolidated snow pillow. Prezelj triggered a small slab; he stayed with us, but Swenson's pack took the 1000-meter ride to the glacier. We found extensive evidence from the 1982 Japanese attempt of the same route in the form of bolts, pins and fixed cable ladders.

Meanwhile, Chabot and Miller were having better luck over on K7 Main. They completed an alpine-style second ascent of the Japanese route, summiting on July 27 after four days of climbing. Another day was necessary to reach base camp. The Japanese first ascensionists took forty days, 450 bolts and 6500 meters (!) of fixed line to climb the line in 1984. No word on how many days they took to get back down.

At the beginning of August, Prezelj and I returned home. After a brief rest, Chabot, Swenson, House and Miller moved to a new base camp below the Rupal Face of Nanga Parbat (8126m). From August 12 to August 18, Chabot and Swenson climbed the ten-kilometer-long Mazeno Ridge to its intersection with the Schell Route, but they descended without proceeding to the top because of fatigue and deteriorating weather. Meanwhile, House and Miller attempted a new route on the main Rupal Face. The 1970 Messner route takes a line on the extreme right edge of the Merkyl icefield. House and Miller made their third bivy (6800m) at this icefield, made a fourth bivouac at 7200 meters, then climbed to 7500 meters, where health problems forced them to turn around. They descended to the 6800-meter bivouac, spent another night there, and then continued on down the 1970 route. When the rest of the group departed, House stayed in base camp and made a solo attempt on the face, but he gave up below his previous high point and then followed his teammates home.

— Jeff Hollenbaugh, Bozeman, Montana

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