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All climbers talk about karma, and when you make an international climbing trip to attempt a virgin peak you hope the good karma comes with. Steve House and Vince Anderson recently returned from Pakistan where they made a bold attempt at Kunyang Chish East (24,278 feet). Fighting the bad karma: poor weather, traveling headaches — you name it — they came within 1,000 feet of the summit.
Here’s House’s email about the trip:
Hi, Vince and I just returned from Pakistan this weekend. We had a tough go of it this year (bad weather mostly) but still managed to get within 300 meters/1000 ft of the top of Kunyang Chish East, at 7400 meters, one ofthe highest unclimbed peaks in the world.
On the way to basecamp we had four separate road wash outs to contend with.This set us back both in time and in our budget as we had to hire people to help us porter our gear and food around each roadblock. We had another one on the way out, all of these seem to be tied to the unusually wet summer we experienced, which was a general theme all along.
Once at the road head we had to deal with a new problem, un-seasoned porters.The problem is that there have relatively few expeditions climbing in this valley.So the men that hire on as porters are,relative to other porters in Pakistan, very inexperienced and there forevery high maintenance. Besides needing a lot of help, they had a lot of extraneous demands: 1 sirdar per 20 porters, 1 yak (for meat) per 20porters, etc. And on top of it all they charged us about double whatthe going rates are on the Baltoro and near Nanga Parbat. This caused our budget to instantly swell to 20% over our total. I can’t blame themfor wanting more money, its hard work, but a day of portering cost us$50 per load, almost US wages!
Once we arrived in basecamp, with three friends along for the first stage, we attempted to climb a 6,000 meter peak above basecamp, but came up short due to bad weather. After Katharine, Ian, and Chris left,Vince and I tried to acclimate on “Ice Cake Peak”, a 6,400m (21,000′)peak on the other side of the valley. After two weeks of attempts, wehad only reached 5,900m. We were hampered by bad weather and high winds, which left much of the route dangerously avalanche-prone and kept us well away from the summit.
With less than 10 days remaining in basecamp, we decided that we had togo for it and try to climb Kunyang Chish. We weren’t properly acclimated, but we were simply running out of time. With a decent, but not great, weather forecast, we started up on the 10th of September.The climb up went relatively smoothly as all but one pitch of it wasvery easy, or at least easier that I thought it would be. After the second day we surpassed previous team’s high points and made our thirdbivy, 600 meters/2,000′ below the summit under clear, but windy skies.The next morning was brilliantly clear, but incredibly cold and we headed out as soon as the sun was up.
We took six hours to climb 300 meters and reached the top of the face atabout 2 pm. We were basically stopped right there on the ridge-crest by a steep step on the ridge that we could not get around. To the right was a massive cornice, to the left was steep and blank rock. So Vincetried for some time to figure to figure out a way to climb directly up the edge between the snow and the rock.
With no real gear, bad rock, strong, cold winds, and tired bodies we turned around sometime between 2 and 3 pm. In hindsight we both agreed that our lack of acclimatization contributed to our turn around. Wewere both really cold (and got colder on the ridge) and I wasn’t keeping any kind of food or liquid down at all. I have no regrets about turning around, as I still have a feeling that had we continued, something bad would have come of it.
The next day we did about 10 raps to regain our second bivy, and there it started to snow really hard. After about an hour (of wishfulthinking) we called a halt to our descent and re-pitched the tent on thetiny spot. Thus began a very sleepless and stressful bivy. It continued to snow hard all night and we had to dig ourselves out onceper hour. At 5 am it cleared and we quickly crammed our sodden gearinto our packs and started to rappel. Good thing too, because by thetime we were stepping off the face 8 hours and many, many rappels later, it was starting to snow again. This was the worst bivy I’ve had since that night on the summit of North Twin with Marko a few years ago.
The way home continued to be stressful. Another road washout, jeeps showing up 7 hours late, vans that weren’t there at all….We arrived inIslamabad a mere 15 hours before our flight left. Needless to say, we didn’t have time to visit the new AAC school or track the Patagonia earthquake relief supplies. However we were happy to get on that plane to London. And for Vince the adventure continued stateside…lost ipod, cancelled flight, non-functioning credit card which resulted in a night on thefloor at DIA, a shuttle ride from DIA to Montrose, and to top it off, a fine case of the touristas. When it rains it pours. And now we should have some bad luck/bad weather karma built up, so our next trip will be full of green lights and sunshine (right?).
Okay, talk to you all soon.