2004 Golden Piton Awards: Solo Climbing

Steve House, Southwest Face of K7
The Frenchman Jean-Christophe Lafaille made two bold ascents —using some fixed rope and camps, but also climbing completely alone — on a new route up Makalu 2 in Nepal in May and a December ascent of 8027-meter Shishapangma in Tibet. But American Steve House, advocate of light-and-fast alpine-style climbing and vocal member of the so-called Brotherhood, bested even Lafaille’s efforts, walked his provocative talk, and soloed a highly technical new route on 22,775-foot K7 in Pakistan.

The essence of style: House climbed in pure alpine style on a nearly 7000-meter peak that had been climbed only once before, in 1984, by a Japanese team that placed thousands of feet of fixed rope and 450 bolts or pins.
The essence of desire: House tried the route five times over two years, all solo, before succeeding.
The essence of commitment: House climbed the 9000-foot route in a single push, 42 hours round-trip from basecamp, with no bivy gear.

House attempted K7 several times in 2003, making it to within 2000 feet of the summit before retreating in storm. Last July he got within a few hundred feet before backing off complex rock climbing in the dark. That round-trip took 50 hours. Undeterred, he rested and then set off again a week later, leaving his 14,500-foot basecamp in late afternoon. He carried just eight pounds of carefully selected gear, including 80 meters of 5mm rope; a handful of carabiners, nuts, titanium pitons, and one ice screw; two ice tools; a titanium stove and energy food; and a parka but no sleeping bag.
House began with 800 feet of 5.6 to 5.10 rock climbing, then moved onto snow and ice as darkness closed in. He reached his 2003 highpoint around dawn, intersecting the old Japanese route, and carried on to a rest stop at about 22,000 feet, where he brewed up and warmed in the sun. Complex gendarmes near the summit took nine and a half hours to bypass, with a pure aid section and mixed ground up to M6. Crotch-deep snow on the lower-angle sections added to the exhausting puzzle, but by 7:45 p.m. House was on top, 27 hours after leaving the ground. He descended all night, rappelling on his thin cord and carefully downclimbing, and reached the base by mid-morning.

 

K7 from the southwest. House linked the obvious snow feature to the exposed final ridge. The lower rock bands are not shown.

 


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