7/23/13 - In the aftermath of the horrific massacre of climbers and support staff at a Nanga Parbat base camp in June, some expeditions elected to continue with their plans in northern Pakistan. Now the news of some major successes has begun to trickle out of the mountains, including two important new routes and a successful ascent of Nanga Parbat.
In the Hispar Glacier region, the Swiss-Austrian team of Simon Anthamatten and brothers Hansjörg and Matthias Auer have made the first ascent of Kunynag Chhish East, a little-known but spectacular, 24,275-foot peak that had been the object of at least half a dozen expeditions, and had seen a couple of serious attempts.
The southwest face of Kunyang Chhish East is a very steep rock and ice wall that towers more than 8,000 feet above the glacier. Anthamatten and Hansjörg Auer made two attempts without Matthias Auer, whose travel and acclimatization was delayed by a thumb injury just before his planned departure. They reached 7,000 meters (ca 23,000 feet) before poor weather sent them down.
All three climbers joined the third attempt, which succeeded on July 18. Although details of the ascent are not yet known, they are likely to have followed a similar line to that attempted by a Polish team in 2003 and by Vince Anderson and Steve House in 2006, slashing to the right across the face to reach the ridge about 1,000 feet below the top. The two Americans climbed to the top of the southwest face, but were stopped on the ridge by a very difficult step and inadequate acclimatization.
Meanwhile, in the Baltoro region, an Italian-Swiss expedition has completed a new route on Uli Biaho Tower, the stunning rock pinnacle first climbed in 1979 by a powerful American team. Matteo Della Bordella, Luca Schiera, and Silvan Schüpach climbed the west face of the tower, after first attempting a new route left of the south arête, climbed by an Italian expedition in 1988. The trio gave up on this attempt after two days because of poor weather. Using the same approach couloir, they then moved onto the west face and reached the summit on July 21. The new route required 18 pitches above the approach gully, of which the last three were shared with the 1988 route. Most of the route went free at 5.10 or easier, with just one short section of aid in a waterfall.
Uli Biaho Tower (20,043 feet) was first climbed by Americans Bill Forrest, Ron Kauk, John Roskelley, and Kim Schmitz in 1979, an ascent considered one of the pioneering big-wall climbs of the Himalaya and Karakoram.
On Nanga Parbat, meanwhile, a Romanian expedition that decided to stay on the mountain after the terrorist attack that killed 11 people at the Diamir base camp has successfully climbed and descended the 26,660-foot peak. The Romanians climbed the Schell Route, on the left side of the Rupal Face, on the opposite side of the mountain from the Diamir Face.
Dates of ascents: July 2013