The west aspect of Pakistan’s K7 West, showing Dreamers of Golden Caves (VI A2 M5, 1600m). Nejc Marcic and Luka Strazar established the new route in four days last month. [Photo] Charakusa 2011 collection
Slovenians Nejc Marcic and Luka Strazar climbed a new route on K7 West (6858m) in the Charakusa Valley, Pakistan. The duo completed the alpine-style ascent of Dreamers of Golden Caves (VI A2 M5, 1600m) in four days, between September 6 and 9. This likely marks the second route to reach the summit and the third ascent overall of K7 West.
The peak’s climbing history began in 1982, when a Japanese team attempted K7 West via the west ridge. They left behind bolts, pins, fixed-cable ladders and an unclimbed summit. In the past decade, the Charakusa Valley has emerged as a “superalpine playground,” known for excellent rock quality and new route potential.
In 2004, Slovenian Marko Prezelj, Steve Swenson and Jeff Hollenbaugh made the second attempt on the west ridge. The team also turned back below the summit, bailing because of high avalanche danger and the loss of Swenson’s pack. A Belgian-Polish team (Olivier and Nico Favresse, Sean Villanuava and Adam Pustelnik) put up two stout big-wall climbs in the K7 base camp area in 2007. In the same year, Maxime Turgeon went on a solo alpine adventure on Farol East (6350m).
Two years later, Italian alpinists climbed eight days in a row to reach the top of K7 West’s southwest pillar at 5700m. The west face of K7 West was climbed during a 2010 Russian expedition to the area. The wall tops out at 6200m, and it is unclear whether they continued to the 6858-meter summit proper.
Prezelj returned to the valley during the busy 2007 season with Steve House and Vince Anderson. They competed against Kelley Cordes Scott Decapio in a friendly “race to K7 West.” On September 3, Prezelj and his team made the first ascent via the south face. They summited in a whiteout during a four-day push, camp-to-camp. Their route was repeated the next year by the Slovenian team of Rok Blagus, Ales Cesen and Luka Lindic.
Njec Marcic and Luka Strazar, with K7 West in the background. [Photo] Zdenka Mihelic
This September, Sovenians Marcic and Strazar arrived in the Charakusa Valley as part of an expedition lead by Urban Novak. At 26 and 22 years old, this was their first Himalayan experience. Thought the primary objective of the expedition was the main summit of K7 (6934m), the two climbers were captivated by the dramatic prow of K7 West.
The resulting route, Dreamers of Golden Caves, consists mainly of ice in the lower section, and sections of rock and mixed climbing above. In the hope of avoiding overhanging seracs, the trio chose a route along the south-southwest ridge. They left base camp at 3 a.m., and started up the peak after a two-hour approach over a scree field. They spent the day climbing up to the south-southwest ridge, where they bivyed that evening. The next day presented the most challenging climbing; Marcic and Strazar made 250m of progress through mixed terrain along the ridge. From this point the team had to downclimb and traverse a short section below the seracs and to the right of the ridge. They reached the summit and descended their new route to base camp by the end of the following day.
A climber traverses a ridge on Dreamers of Golden Caves, K7 West, Pakistan. The 1600m route follows the south-southwest ridge and reaches difficulties of A2 M5. [Photo] Charakusa 2011 collection
The establishment of Dreamers of Golden Caves has garnered excitement from the Slovenian climbing community. “It is great to see that classic alpinism in Slovenia has a promising future,” Prezelj said. “Here is a strong generation of young alpinists who are willing to push their limits and have fun in the mountains.”
The four expedition members climbed a total of nine routes during their time in Charakusa, including repeats of Nayser Brakk (5200 m), Sulu Peak (5950 m) and Beatrice (5800 m). And with the successful close of their 2011 expedition, the young Slovenians said that this is their first, but not their last, visit to the Himalaya.
Charakusa 2011 expedition members Nejc Marcic, Luka Strazar, David Debeljak and Urban Novak. The team climbed a total of nine routes in the Charakusa area in September. [Photo] Zdenka Mihelic