CANADIANS SEND UNEXPECTED SUMMIT IN THE LATOK GROUP

Posted on: September 10, 2007


The Outside Penguin (TD+: V, 5.10, A1, M3, 1200m) on the south face of Point 5750, which is located just southwest of Latok II (7108m), Latok Group, Karakoram Range, Pakistan. Frimer and Ken Glover chose this route after an unusually wet season complicated their rock-climbing objective, located on the southwest face of a large gendarme nearby. [Photo] Jeremy Frimer

Backed by the AAC's Lyman Spitzer Award and Mountain Equipment Co-op, Ken Glover and I had planned to make the first ascent of a feature just under and southwest of Latok II (7108m), Latok Group, Karakoram Range, Pakistan. We facetiously named this gargantuan gendarme "Latok II and three-quarters" (ca. 6500m); its southwest face presents a 1500-meter wall of near-vertical, unclimbed granite. But with the summer of 2007 being unusually wet, our rock-climbing objective was shrouded in verglas and powder, rendering it too full-on for the likes of us.

While the Alaskan contingent of our expedition (Sam Johnson and Ryan Hokanson) made an attempt on the NW ridge of Latok II, we Canadians sought a less-snowed-up objective, settling on Peak 5750. This rock peak is located two bumps down the ridge to the southwest of Latok II. Italians may have climbed the peak in 1977, and Americans Doug Chabot and Jack Tackle climbed it from the north in 2000. Its previously unclimbed south face rises 1200 meters out of the talus-covered Baintha Lukpar Glacier and appeared to have some of the best granite in the valley. At the tail end of one of the few high-pressure systems of the season, we started up the rightmost of twin buttresses on July 30. We chose a light and fast approach, not for the sake of purity but rather out of laziness (which, in turn, necessitated some degree of speed). Thus we scoped the line of weakness, which appeared to weave a devious path through three steep headwalls; and we struck a balance between weight and comfort for bivy gear—one sleeping bag, two down jackets, a siltarp and a Jetboil functioned as our communal load.

Jeremy Frimer climbing the hidden chimney system on Pitch 6 of The Outside Penguin. This feature unlocked the first headwall. [Photo] Ken Glover

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After an initial broken section we reached the base of the first headwall. We snuck our way through this obstacle with a face traverse, a short downclimb, a corner crack, a slab traverse and finally a hidden chimney system. With the second steep headwall looming above we traversed for two pitches to a ramp system before slipping behind a prow to find a hidden corner. Above the corner moderate terrain led to a comfortable bivy. Serendipitously we found a moderate solution at each daunting wall.

On our second day, 700 meters up the face, we hoped for a quick, sun-bathed dash for the summit but our progress—through threatening weather—was slower than expected. After soloing up moderate terrain past false summits, we reached the base of the third and final headwall. Our streak of luck appeared to end when a long, broken pitch led to a steep cirque with no obvious line of weakness. Straight up presented thin, vertical cracks; to the left stood a complex prow blocked by an overhanging wart of granite; to the right was a crackless buttress. Ken scouted the right option, launching into ledge-fall potential on an unprotectable face. He wisely retreated as the difficulty ramped up. Next, I tried the left prow. By stemming past an ice-chocked corner I reached the base of the overhung wart, where our luck returned. A moderate ramp allowed us past the once-hidden side of the wart, beyond which the crux pitch gave way to the feature's top. Ken then led two mixed pitches with our one pair of crampons to the summit, as snow began to fall.

Frimer on Pitch 20, approaching the final headwall on the second day of the climb, July 31. [Photo] Ken Glover

We descended immediately by scoping the "over-the-top" possibility, a line that we thought would lead into easy descent gullies. Several steep chasm traverses blocked the way to easier ground, however, rendering the line far more involved than anticipated. Instead we began rappelling our line of ascent; shortly thereafter, darkness and a powerful snowstorm swept in. I withdrew to that safe place within, disengaging from my surroundings as Ken went first on a series of rappels. At the first half-decent ledge, we endured a miserable bivy as the storm raged at us. At 3 a.m., we opened our eyes (not to be mistaken for waking up) and brewed hot drinks for the remainder of the horrid night. The third day allowed us to continue our descent, again finding that any quick-and-easy ideas turned out to be complex and dangerous. Thus, we continued rapping and down climbing our line of ascent.

We reached the base of our new route, The Outside Penguin (TD+: V, 5.10, A1, M3, 1200m), that afternoon (August 1) in the pouring rain, after some 800 meters of rapping, overjoyed for having made the most of what the weather gods had permitted.

Frimer, just below the summit of Point 5750, looking for something to rap off of. He and Glover descended through a storm in the dark to the first decent ledge and "endured a miserable bivy." [Photo] Ken Glover



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