ITALIANS CLIMB CHINESE FACE OF GASHERBRUM II

Posted on: July 30, 2007


The Chinese face of the Gasherbrums. (A) Gasherbrum I (8,068m), (B) Gasherbrum II East (7,772m) and (C) Gasherbrum II (8,035m). The northeast pillar of Gasherbrum II falls directly from the summit pyramid for 2,000m to a glacial plateau, below which and clearly visible, lies the ca. 900m black rock pillar, which gives the crux of the route. After fixing to the glacial plateau and establishing a camp, the pillar was climbed in three days during mid July from base to summit by Daniele Bernasconi and Karl Unterkircher, with Michele Compagnoni traversing to the Normal route just below the top. All three then descended the far (Pakistan) side of the mountain. The prominent spur on the left side of the face was climbed in 2006 by Cedric Hahlen, Hans Mitterer and Ueli Steck, who continued west along the skyline ridge as far as the summit of Gasherbrum II East. [Photo] Ueli Steck

In summer 2006 a nine-member German-Swiss expedition including Cedric Hahlen, Hans Mitterer, Stefan Siegrist and Ueli Steck approached up the Shaksgam river in Chinese Xinjiang, entered the North Gasherbrum glacier and reached the East Nakpo glacier. From here, they planned to attempt the northeast pillar of Gasherbrum II (8035m). This elegant line begins with a ca. 900-meter rock buttress leading to a glacial plateau at 6000 meters. Above, a steep spur of snow and ice rises directly in a compelling line to the summit. Few have seen this side of the mountain, though the Chinese face and northeast pillar became well known to discerning mountaineers through the photographs taken by Kurt Diemberger during his visits to the area in 1982 and 1983. The German-Swiss team spent sometime observing the route, only to find the approach seriously threatened by huge ice avalanches cascading from the many large serac barriers on either side of the upper pillar. In the end they opted for a much safer line up a spur on the left side of the face, leading to the crest of the east-southeast ridge left of 7772-meter Gasherbrum II East. Hahlen, Mitterer and Steck climbed this route to the top of Gasherbrum II East (the second ascent of this peak) but did not continue to the main summit (see the September 22, 2006 NewsWire).

In the summer of 2007 it was the turn of a Spanish-Italian expedition under the auspices of the Spanish TV series Al Filo de lo Imposible. On reaching base camp Josu Bereciartua, Jose Carlos Tamayo, Juan Vallejo and Mikel Zabalza decided against the pillar but Italians Daniele Bernasconi, Michele Compagnoni and Karl Unterkircher were definitely up for it and spent three days climbing and fixing the lower section—the steep, black, rock pillar below the plateau. Here the climbing was sustained at 5.5 with two pitches at around 5.7, and a total of 1200 meters of rope was fixed. Although access to the pillar was indeed found to be objectively hazardous, once on it the line was considered quite safe. After acclimatizing at 6000 meters, the three climbers descended to base camp before a summit push.

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This took place on July 18. The Italians first regained their camp on the plateau, and then climbed the spur above to a bivouac at ca. 7,000 meters. Next day they continued up, with Bernasconi and Unterkircher reaching the summit at 8 p.m on the 20th. Compagnoni (the nephew of the famous first ascensionist of K2) appears to have traversed off to the Normal Route at 7850 meters. The team then opted for the most logical, easiest and fastest descent; down the Normal route on the southwest ridge and along the South Gasherbrum glacier to the popular Gasherbrum I and II base camp in Pakistan. Having made an impressive north to south traverse of the mountain, they were now able to relax with friends from another Italian expedition before walking out to Skardu.



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