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Japanese Trio Solves 58 Pitches of Ridgeline Trickery in Pakistan

Posted on: October 8, 2014


A Giri-Giri Boy route-finds while attempting to reach the summit of K7 West in Pakistan's Charakusa Valley. After 58 pitches, Ryo Masumoto, Takaaki Nagato and Katsutaka "Jumbo" Yokoyama topped out on a sub-summit. [Photo] courtesy Katsutaka "Jumbo" Yokoyama

Grade VI 5.11c C1 M5 70 degrees—a grade almost as long as the gentle but very complex ridge climb it describes. The line, located in Pakistan's Charakusa Valley, ambles almost 60 pitches up the west end of the K7 massif. This summer, Giri-Giri Boys Ryo Masumoto, Takaaki Nagato and Katsutaka "Jumbo" Yokoyama pushed up the southeast ridge for four days of convoluted route finding, aiming for the 6615-meter summit of K7 West. They descended from the top of a sub-summit they refer to as Badal Peak, still one kilometer and 515 vertical meters short of their goal. Still, their 1600-meter line made them the first to reach the top of Badal's historically sought-after apex.

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Though Badal is not a well-defined summit on the ridgeline to the top of K7 West, it has garnered attention from numerous climbers over the years. It presents a climbing style distinct from that found on the upper portions of K7 West, with very few sections of mixed terrain. Additionally, when viewed from the ground, Badal presents a significant bump along the ridge, Kyle Dempster explained in an email to Alpinist, pointing out the prominence of the Badal highpoint in the Charakusa skyline. As a result, the sub-summit has received attention over the years. In 2007, Nicolas and Olivier Favresse and Sean Villanueva established Badal Wall (5.12+ A0, 1200m), which topped out below the sub-summit. Then, in 2010, Italians Lorenzo Angelozzi and Daniele Nardi completed eight pitches before rockfall ruined their portaledge. That same year, a Russian team comprised of Vjacheslav Ivanov and Oleg Koltunov made an attempt on K7 West below Badal, climbing in capsule style to the left of Nardi and Angelozzi, but retreating before reaching the summit.

The team works their way up beneath splitter blue skies. [Photo] courtesy Katsutaka "Jumbo" Yokoyama

This July 25, the Giri-Giri Boys began working their way up the ridge towards K7 West on mild terrain. Prior to their summit push, the team climbed the first eight pitches of their line, fixing six ropes along the way. "Before starting this expedition, we hadn't thought [of] doing such a long fixing.... As we checked this ridge, this looked [to be an] extremely long way. So we decided to fix all our ropes on the way to save the time," Yokoyama told Alpinist. "Although [we were] following a fairly gentle ridge, the ridge itself was totally complicated, so we had to rappel six times to find correct way."

The Giri-Giri Boys' ridgeline climb toward K7 West's summit. From this vantage point, Badal appears as the most prominent point, making it an appealing objective. [Photo] courtesy Katsutaka "Jumbo" Yokoyama

Having fixed the first eight pitches, the trio set off for their push, carrying two ropes and five days of food. After climbing 58 pitches over four days, they hadn't drilled a single bolt and had reached the Badal highpoint and mixed terrain that would have led them to K7 West's summit. But with poor weather, dwindling food supplies and unstable ridgeline conditions, they elected to descend, a choice that was solidified by a festering knee injury incurred by Masumoto when he slammed into the wall while jumaring.

Speaking to the climb's grade, Yokoyama commented that they "estimated the grade of each pitch as lower than we felt [to factor in] high altitude." Although the 58 pitches involved many moderate sections, the "the lowest nine pitches are pretty steep (two pitches of 5.10+, one pitch of 5.11a, one pitch of 5.11c and two pitches of 5.10-)," Yokoyama said. "Pitch 42 was excellent C1 following a perfect splitter on a very clean face—I'm sure it will go free at 5.12+."

The Giri-Giri Boys celebrate atop the Badal sub-summit. [Photo] courtesy Katsutaka "Jumbo" Yokoyama

The line produced many dead ends that forced the trio to backtrack, Yokoyama said, "But I believe this kind of trickery [is] the fun of ridge climbing." The trio, who has climbed and worked together for several years, maintained an air of positivity. "[W]e know very well each other, [and are] always equal," Yokoyama wrote. "[O]n this trip, we had no stress, always laughing, enjoying even just being at BC. [We] fixed the order of lead by playing Janken (rock-paper-scissors)."

Sources: Kyle Dempster, Jon Griffith, Katsutaka "Jumbo" Yokoyama, alpinist.com, thebmc.co.uk

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