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Kiwi Makes Solo FA of Karim Sar

Karim Sar (6180m), Karakoram, Pakistan, photographed from base camp and showing Pat Deavoll’s line of first ascent. The climb follows a gully hidden behind the ridge then winds up exposed traverses and debris-littered gullies. [Photo] Patricia Deavoll

Patricia Deavoll of New Zealand made a solo first ascent of the previously attempted but unclimbed Karim Sar (6180m), Karakoram, Pakistan. During her three-day round-trip push from advanced base camp in mid-June, Deavoll climbed with partner Paul Hersey to a high camp at 5100m before continuing, alone, to the summit.

Hersey, after being sick at Base Camp, was too ill to climb, so Deavoll, unwilling to abandon the mountain without an attempt, prepared to start solo. Feeling slightly better, Hersey accompanied Deavoll to ABC (4200m) with the intention of belaying her through the lower rock bands. However, upon reaching the rock bands, Deavoll and Hersey were able to ascend a gully, avoiding technical ice above the rock. Hersey followed Deavoll to High Camp and spent the night in a pack liner, then waited for Deavoll to return from her summit bid before returning to ABC.

On summit day, Deavoll climbed a rock band and consolidated snow before entering a labyrinth of exposed traverses and debris-littered gullies. At one point she was forced to descend 100m to traverse through poor snow to reach seventy-degree ice on the summit ridge. Summiting in good weather at midday, she retraced her route back to camp at 5100m–where she spent the night before returning to ABC.

Deavoll declined to grade the route, which had been attempted in 2007 by the Italian climber Ivo Ferrari.

“The main obstacle for me was route finding and the enormous size of the face, and I guess, having the confidence to go on by myself knowing my partner was not up to coming to look for me,” Deavoll said.

Paul Hersey climbs a snow gully on Karim Sar. [Photo] Patricia Deavoll

Choosing Karim Sar as an objective was the result of two earlier expeditions to nearby Beka Brakai Chhok (6940m). In 2007, Deavoll was denied that summit when her team attempted a difficult route. It was on this expedition that she first spotted Karim Sar from a distance. In 2008, a seven-day storm shut down the team at 6000m, and conditions were so disastrous that they retreated from 6400m. Simone Moro climbed the peak later that season. This year, when Deavoll’s planned expedition to the unclimbed south face of Kampire Dior (7000m) was canceled due to the Taliban’s occupation of the nearby Swat Valley, Karim Sar seemed a worthy objective.

Sources: Patricia Deavoll, Paul Hersey, Asghar Ali Porik, Nazir Sabir,

Editor’s Note: This article was amended on November 16, 2009 to more accurately reflect Hersey’s condition and support.

Deavoll on the first ascent of Karim Sar. [Photo] Patricia Deavoll