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SUPERALPINISTS CONVERGE ON SUPERALPINE PLAYGROUND
Posted on: August 30, 2007
The Charakusa Valley, in the Hushe Region, Karakoram, Pakistan. Some of alpinism's big guns—Steve House, Vince Anderson, Marko Prezelj, Maxime Turgeon, LP Menard, Kelly Cordes and Scott DeCapio—all have goals on K6 and/or K7 in the coming weeks. Last week House, Anderson and Prezelj climbed new routes on Solu Peak (5600m) and Nasa Peak (5400m) to prepare for their bids on the unclimbed summits of K6 West (7100m) and K7 West (ca. 6900m); the other named climbers are trekking into the valley currently. [Photo] Jimmy Chin
Numerous teams of world-class alpinists have chosen the stunning Charakusa Valley of Pakistan's Karakoram as their locus for big new routes this season. Despite incessant rain and snow last week, Steve House (who has made nine trips to the Karakoram), Vince Anderson and Marko Prezelj climbed two new routes in the valley to prepare for their bids on the unclimbed summits of K6 West (7100m) and K7 West (ca. 6900m). On August 29, Maxime Turgeon and LP Menard arrived in the Charakusa, as did Kelly Cordes and Scott DeCapio. The two groups will attempt the same unclimbed west summits of K6 and K7, respectively. As noted in the August 25 NewsWire, Nicolas Favresse and his team established new climbs around K7 basecamp this season.
On August 17, Anderson, House and Prezelj hiked to, and spent the night at, 5100 meters. Over the next two days they made the first ascent of an unclimbed couloir (ca. 3,000') on the far west side of Solu Peak (5600m), one of the smaller spires in the valley that still rises 5,000 feet above the Charakusa Glacier. They camped on a decent shoulder 80 feet from the summit to acclimatize, and returned to K6 basecamp (ca. 14,800') the next day. On August 22 they made another first ascent on Nasa Peak (5400m), just above basecamp, where House, Prezelj and Steve Swenson climbed an eleven-pitch new route on the east face in 2004. This year Anderson, House and Prezelj chose the peak's tallest face (2,800') on an unclimbed blunt arete. They found chossy rock and evidence of previous attempts (rappel anchors) in the first 1,000 feet; above that, they encountered better rock and harder climbing. House climbed runout 5.10 pitches with daunting roofs, then Marko led three consistent 5.10 pitches and one 5.8 pitch to the top. After about nine hours of climbing the three were on the summit at 3:40 p.m. They returned to basecamp that evening to rest. News about their final acclimatization project, on Farol (ca. 21,000'), has not yet arrived.
Turgeon and Menard, who have just arrived at the mouth of the valley, will aim for the unclimbed north face of K6's west summit after a few days of acclimatizing. Although the pair had trouble convincing the Pakistani liason officer of their ability to stay warm at basecamp, the pair are healthy and in good shape to begin working toward K6.
Cordes and DeCapio will attempt the unclimbed west summit of K7, which unsuccessfully has been attempted twice, in 1982 and 2004. Anderson, House and Prezelj's plans to climb this same virgin peak were announced recently; it is unclear whether Cordes and DeCapio were aware of the shared objective. More information about the race to K7 West, and other news from the Charakusa Valley, will be posted as it becomes available.
All three parties aim to make their ascents in pure alpine style. Of House's many trips to the Karakoram, his best known was in 2004 (the 2005 American Alpine Journal calls his trip with Prezelj, Swenson, Bruce Miller, Doug Chabot and Jeff Hollenbaugh "a prolific month of new-routing"). That summer in the Charakusa House climbed five new routes that included his solo first ascent of K7 proper's south face (VI 5.10- M6 WI4 A2, 2400m); more information on the 2004 team's activity is available in Hollenbaugh's Climbing Note in Issue 9.
Sources: Zoe Hart, www.thecleanestline.com