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Gasherbrum V Alpine-Style First Ascent Realized

Posted on: September 22, 2014


The Gasherbrum group. Gasherbrum V (7147m) is second from the right. The third tallest peak in the group, it saw its first ascent this summer when Korean climbers Nak-jong Seong and Chi-young Ahn summited in alpine style. [Photo] Florian Ederer

On July 25, after climbing in alpine style for three days, Koreans Nak-jong Seong and Chi-young Ahn became the first to stand atop Gasherbrum V, the third highest peak in the Gasherbrum massif at 7147 meters. Their historic feat ticks off one of the last remaining unclimbed peaks in the remote Gasherbrum range in excellent style.

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In August of 1978 a 12-man Japanese team attempted Gasherbrum V's summit three times, with team members K. Mukaide, M. Sakaguchi, and T. Sato reaching the expedition's highpoint atop one of Gasherbrum V's sub-summits, East III (7006m). The day before, expedition leader Ryuichi Babaguchi had fallen to his death in a crevasse just below the East III summit. Two years later, a French team made an unsuccessful attempt, approaching from the South Gasherbrum Glacier. Then, in July 2010, a Korean team comprised of Kim Hyung-il, Im Il-jin, Jang Ji-myung and Lee Sang-woo set their sights on the unattempted west face. Deep snow, ice-layered faces, rock fall and, finally, a broken stove turned the team back from 6550 meters after three days. Two years later, Aymeric Clouet, Christian Trommsdorff and Patrick Wagnon made an attempt on the south ridge of Gasherbrum V's main summit after bailing on their original objective—Gasherbrum IV's Shining Wall. With unstable conditions and impending bad weather, the three turned around at 6700 meters. During their descent, the team was hit by an avalanche, which injured Wagnon's ankle. He was carried from base camp by mule.

(Top) Ahn begins the approach from base camp to the base of Gasherbrum V. | (Bottom) Ahn just below the south face. [Photos] Gasherbrum V expedition/courtesy Peter Jensen Choi (both)

This summer, the Korean expeditions arrived at the base of Gasherbrum V, Seong and Ahn intending to climb the northeast face. They reached 6400 meters before descending in bad weather and avalanche conditions. Exhausted but determined, the duo set their sights on Gasherbrum V's south side, arriving at a new base camp on July 20. When considering their shift of base camp mid-expedition, Ahn told altitudepakistan.blogspot.com, "I was worried." With a good weather window descending, Seong and Ahn had almost no time for recovery. Yet the gamble paid off, and Seong and Ahn triumphed.

A bivy at ca. 6550m on Gasherbrum V. [Photo] Gasherbrum V expedition/courtesy Peter Jensen Choi

They picked their way through the fractured glacier for three kilometers on July 23 to reach the foot of the southeast wall. There, they roped up, reaching 6600 meters around midnight following an afternoon climbing in heavy avalanche conditions. Over 20 hours, they had climbed nearly 1900 meters.

The team spent the following day regrouping, exhausted from their efforts. They ate, reenergized and discussed strategies. Then, at 3 a.m. on July 25, they set forth from their bivy, climbing mixed terrain frequented by rockfall. They gained the summit ridge by the afternoon, and stood on the summit at 7:20 p.m. Only after a punishing, 24-hour descent through the darkness of night and daytime avalanches did the weary climbers rest easy in base camp.

Sources: Peter Jensen-Choi, 1979, 1980, 2011 and 2013 American Alpine Journals, altitudepakistan.blogspot.com

(Top) Ahn leads the way at about 6200m. | (Middle) Chi-young Ahn and Nak-jong Seong on the summit of Gasherbrum V. | (Bottom) The Koreans' route up the south face. Ahn told planetmountain.com: "We experienced much falling rock and avalanche conditions during our climb on the south face. The wall was angled about 70 degrees and was comprised of ice covered by snow, creating a nasty crust on which we had to try and protect ourselves, and this significantly affected us, in particular our physical strength. We left Pakistan for home after having spent roughly two months at Gasherbrum V." [Photo] Gasherbrum V expedition/courtesy Peter Jensen Choi
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