As reported in the September 4 NewsWire, the accomplished alpine team of Marko Prezelj, Steve House and Vince Anderson has ticked three new routes this summer, most recently K7 West, in Pakistan’s Charakusa Valley. Since then weather has kept the team away from their main objective, the unclimbed K6 West (7100m).
K6 (7282m), the tallest peak in the Charakusa, first was climbed in 1970 by an Austrian team via the southeast ridge; it has seen no ascents since. Prezelj, House and Anderson have planned to tackle the northwest face of the west peak. In a September 6 satellite call from Pakistan, House said that recent storms have deposited heavy precipitation, making the proposed aspect of the peak particularly challenging and dangerous, as sunlight rarely reaches the face to “clean it” of recently fallen snow. Further details will be reported as they become available.
In the same phone transmission, House relayed details of the team’s successful first ascent of K7 West. Their first day of climbing was all on rock. A few hundred feet of scrambling over scree and tumbled boulders led to seven pitches of technical climbing, with difficulties up to 5.10. Though the leader sometimes climbed with a pack, the first-day heavy loads of rock gear, un-spent fuel and un-eaten food sometimes required one team member to climb a pitch twice, as the leader was sometimes forced to leave his pack at the belay. At the top of the rock spur, a large ledge let the team cache much of their rock gear. A short traverse led into a snow gully and a fine, sheltered bivy site.
The second day began at 4:30 a.m. After several hundred feet of simul-soloing over easy ice terrain, Anderson took the lead on what House referred to as the “best climbing on the whole route,” including an excellent mixed pitch. Prezelj led through several ropelengths of stepped waterfall ice, leaving House the final block of the day. The climbing eased, and the team began looking for a bivy site. This proved futile and the team spent two hours of chopping through the 35-degree slope to construct a ledge large enough for their tent.
The third day dawned with weather that was “a little funky… not ideal, but not bad.”
They began a long, sloping traverse to a ridgeline that would eventually connect with the summit ridge. A few hours of easy ice turned to three pitches of moderate terrain punctuated with body-length rock steps, which turned into 60-70 degree pitches of “very old, very hard” ice. After a short break atop the ridge, House led into increasingly difficult snow conditions. Double cornices and bizarre snow gargoyles and mushrooms made for slow going. However, after the collapse of a “UPS-van sized mushroom,” the ice climbing became substantially easier.
Upon reaching the summit ridge, the team walked through powerful winds and intermittent “giant, cotton-ball cumulus clouds” that gave no more than thirty feet of visibility. The team reached the summit in the middle of one such cloud, pulled out their camera gear and a small Pakistani flag given to them by a man in the nearest village, when a break in the clouds showed them that they were still fifty feet from the true summit. A short hike brought them to the top at 4 p.m. After navigating back through the strange snow on the ridge, twelve rappels brought them to the previous evening’s bivy site.
The fourth day began at 8 a.m., with eleven rappels to the first night’s bivy site, followed by a further nine rappels to the glacier. The team returned to base camp in the evening to find that their camp cook had prepared them a celebratory cake–not an easy task on a kerosene stove with no oven.
This is not the first trip to Pakistan for any of the teammates. As noted in the September 4 NewsWire, of House’s many trips to the Karakoram, his best known was in 2004, when he climbed five new routes that included the first ascent of K7 proper’s south face (VI 5.10- M6 WI4 A2, 2400m), solo. During that same summer, Prezelj, with House and Steve Swenson, established Tasty Talking (III 5.10+, ca. 300m), on the southeast ridge of the pyramidal Nayser Brakk (ca. 5200m). Two days later, on July 2, the integral southeast ridge was completed by Prezelj and Bruce Miller and dubbed No More Tasty Talking (IV 5.10+, ca. 1000m). Later in the season, House and Anderson attempted a new route on Nanga Parbat’s Rupal Face; a detailed and personal account of that season’s new routing can be found in an Alpinist 10 article, “The Way.”