11/6/12 - Capping a remarkable double-header of new routes on 7,000-meter peaks in Pakistan, Kyle Dempster and Hayden Kennedy climbed a new line up the Ogre (aka Baintha Brakk), only the third ascent of the giant peak in 35 years. Accompanied by Josh Wharton up to their second bivouac, where Wharton was halted by altitude sickness, the two men followed a circuitous line up the south face of the 23,901-foot peak.
Dempster and Kennedy had already done one remarkable new route this summer in Pakistan: the first ascent of the east face of 22,749-foot K7, above the Charakusa Glacier, along with Slovenian Urban Novak. After hiking out of the mountains and resting for a few days, they headed up the Choktoi Glacier for the second part of their expedition. Waiting for them was Wharton, who had hoped to attempt the north face of Latok I, but was left alone when his partner decided to bail.
On August 18, the trio headed up toward the Ogre, climbing an ice fall that gains a broad basin between the Ogre I and Ogre II. After a rest here, they started up at 1 a.m. on August 19, climbing easy ice, snow, and mixed ground up a ramp system to the right of the main south face. This led to a crucial leftward traverse to reach the top of a huge serac band. Here, Kennedy led a crux 50-meter pitch of horrendously bad rock; he called it "by far one of the worst pitches of climbing I have ever done." Easy ice then led to their first bivouac. The next day, more easy ice led to deep, unconsolidated snow and difficult mixed climbing.
At about 6,900 meters (22,637'), with Wharton showing signs of serious altitude illness, they decided to stop and chop a small tent platform for a bivouac. (Wharton had not had the advantage of acclimatizing earlier on a high peak as Dempster and Kennedy did.) In the morning, Wharton said he felt well enough to wait for the two others as they climbed the final 600 or 700 feet to the top. All three knew there was substantial risk in this decision: What if Wharton got sicker while they climbed? What if the others failed to return and left Wharton with no ropes or gear to descend on his own? But the decision was made, and on August 21, around dawn, Dempster and Kennedy headed to the top.
Enjoyable mixed climbing on red granite led to a waist-deep snow wallow and the final ridge leading to the top. After a quick celebration, Dempster and Kennedy descended to Wharton, who was now even sicker, and helped him prepare for the descent. The three men carefully rappelled and down-climbed, with the healthy pair guiding Wharton as closely as possible. They spent the night on a small rock platform partway down, but during the night their tent blew down, leaving them exposed. The next day, they continued rappelling, and it wasn't until dark that they reached the glacier. On August 23, they returned to base camp, six days after leaving.
The Ogre was first climbed in 1977 by Sir Chris Bonington and Doug Scott, part of a large British team. Scott broke both legs during the descent, beginning one of the great self-rescues of climbing history, with the entire team making it down alive. Despite many attempts, the peak wasn't climbed again until 2001, when Thomas Huber, Urs Stöcker, and Iwan Wolf did the first ascent of the south pillar.
Visit Black Diamond's blog for Kyle Dempster's first-person account of the Ogre climb and more photos.
Dates of ascent: August 19–22, 2012
Sources: Hayden Kennedy, blackdiamondequipment.com