We reached out to Graham Zimmerman, author of “Through the Field: The First Ascent of Changi Tower and The Southwest Ridge of K6 West,” in our latest issue, Alpinist 53, and asked him to share additional photos for us to post online. Below is a series of scenes from his story matched with his images and presented as a photo essay. To read the NewsWire about this expedition, check out Passing the Torch: Bennett and Zimmerman’s First Karakoram Expedition.
“Through the mist, the shadows of high peaks loomed over the grassy hillside. Above the pitter-patter of the rain, I could hear Hajji Ghulam Rasool, our cook, speaking to his son-in-law Nadeem while they built platforms and constructed tents with an expertise from decades of expedition work. Rasool was also from Hushe, and as the first part of his name indicated, he was one of the few villagers who had participated in the Hajj, the pilgrimage to distant Mecca. Since the 1980s, Rasool and Steve had gone on many trips together throughout the Karakoram, accumulating an intimate familiarity with the remote parts of the range.”
“…on the first day of August, I moved my hands across the lip of a boulder, one heel hooked in a shallow scoop of stone. Holding my body tight, I grabbed a small edge, released my feet and swung them left to a small foothold, pushing off it as I surmounted the final swath of overhanging rock. Sitting on top, I felt the stone with my hand, and I thought of the path the boulder had traveled, uplifted from deep inside the earth and then tumbled down again from one of the surrounding mountainsides. I gazed up, trying to guess where it came from. To the south, storm clouds were once again building toward a torrent of rain and lightning–as they had for the past six days.”
“As I dragged one tool through a mush of snow, I felt my pick latch on something. I looked down at the piton behind a hollow flake, and then I used my shoulder to bounce test the hidden edge. With my body rigid and my breath held, I closed my eyes. I felt my entire existence shrink to a single point as I opened my eyes, placed my faith in an axe tip hooked on a fringe of rock, and I moved up.”
“…I watched in awe as Scott climbed quickly through a wide-open dihedral, switching between boots and rock shoes, between stemming on edges and standing on slings. Steve and I sat at the belay under a small roof as small pieces of ice and rock flew by. A dark roof capped the top of the corner and sealed off our view of the terrain above. Maybe we’d reached an impasse, I thought. To my surprise, Scott traversed rapidly under the roof and pulled over a ledge, disappearing from sight. A few minutes later, he called out, ‘Rope fixed!'”
“Now Scott trudged ahead toward our next objective, the Southwest Ridge of K6 West. I took off one glove and stretched my fingers out into the cool morning air. I felt a light breeze and my thoughts went back to Steve in base camp, where he was already planning our exit from the mountains. Thirty-two years my senior, Steve was our mentor. Up to this point, he’d guided us through the complexities of climbing in the Karakoram Range. Now with every step forward we were moving onto a new path, where we’d need to make our own choices.”