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The Western Karakoram in winter conditions. The Batura Muztagh from the northeast showing the distant high peaks of (A) Muchu Chhish (7453m), (B) Batura IV (7594m), (C) Batura I (7785m), (D) Batura II (7762m), (E) Batura III (7729m), (F) Sani Pakkush (6952m), (G) Seiri Porkush (6872m), (H) Kampire Dior (7143m), (I) Pamiri Sar (7016m), (J) Kuk Sar I (6943m) and (K) Kuk Sar II (6925m). The lower peaks closer to the camera and on the right side of the image lie immediately south of the Chapursan Valley. [Photo] Lindsay Griffin

The two-man team of Bruce Normand (a Scot residing in Switzerland) and Markus Walter from Germany made a series of attempts and ascents in the Western Karakoram of Pakistan this past summer. The pair began with an unsuccessful attempt on Batura II (7762m), one of six high points on part of the watershed ridge separating the Batura Glacier to the north from the Hunza valley to the south. Batura II has the cachet amongst some as the highest unclimbed summit in the world. The only known previous attempts have been made from the south: in 2002 by Walter and five fellow countrymen, who were defeated by bad snow conditions at 7100 meters, and in 2005 by Simone Moro and Joby Ogwyn, who were able to do no more than climb Batokshi Peak (6050m), which gives access to the start of Batura’s south face.

Unseasonably heavy precipitation in June forced Normand and Walter to shovel a lot of snow, even at base camp beside the Muchuar Glacier. The logical line on the mountain follows the route taken by the German team that made the first ascent of Batura I (7785m) in 1976, but in the upper section of the face the pair left this route to climb a ramp through the summit headwall. Encountering heavy snow but good weather, they were able to establish Camp 3 at 6600 meters relatively quickly. Above, they were stymied by dangerously unconsolidated slopes, after which an attempt to follow the 1976 route to Batura I also ground to a halt above 7000 meters in hip deep snow.

Conceding this was not the year for Batura II, the pair used their remaining time to travel north along the Karakoram Highway and make a rapid sortie into the Yashkuk Glacier, which lies to the north of the Batura range and is accessed via the long Chapursan valley. In the space of eight days Normand and Walter made alpine-style first ascents of three attractive and none-too-easy 6000-meter peaks, one in each of the three major branches of the Yashkuk. All involved snow in the upper sections that was deep, steep and difficult to protect. First, on July 5, came Nadin Sar (6211m), the dominant peak of the upper Chapursan climbed via the northeast ridge. On the following day they made the first ascent of Jahangar Sar (5800m) and on July 8 the very shapely Caboom Sar (6186m) via the east ridge. Finally, on the 11th they climbed a granite peak of 6096 meters via a snow/ice couloir on the east face. This was named Mamu Sar (Uncle Peak) as a tribute to Gunter Jung, one of Walter’s climbing partners on his 2004 Nanga Parbat expedition. At 64 years of age, Jung became the oldest person to reach the summit of that 8000-meter peak but sadly fell to his death during the descent.