American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Pakistan, K6

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1971

K6. At the beginning of June our young expedition (average age 24) from the Academic Section, Vienna, of the Austrian Alpine Club (ÖAV) arrived in Pakistan. We were Dietmar Entlesberger, Gerhard Haberl, Christian von der Hecken, Helmut Krech, Erich Lackner, Gerd Pressl, Fred Pressl, Heinz Thallinger and I as leader. On June 16 we finally managed to overcome monstrous difficulties with the authorities in Rawalpindi. (They were given permission in turn for Khiangyang-Kish and Malubiting and had it withdrawn before they were allowed to go to K6.—Editor.) We flew by chartered plane to Skardu and reached Kapalu after a 65-mile, exciting Jeep ride. Two days later we crossed the Shyok River on an inflated-skin raft and marched up the Hushe valley to Kunde with 100 porters. From there we went east up the Nangmah valley, where on June 21 we set up Base Camp at 14,100 feet at the edge of the Nangmah Glacier. The K6 group are mountains of wild beauty, a nameless world of hard, red-brown granite, somber ice walls and shattered glaciers. K6 itself, seen from the south, presents no peak, but climbs endlessly into the sky, without the elegance of Masherbrum or Chogolisa. It is a broad, massive, threatening bulk. This mountain had been attempted three times previously, the last time by Italians in 1969. Wolfgang Axt called it perhaps the “most difficult Karakoram 7000er”, and G. O. Dyhrenfurth called it “an ideal work zone for the youthful extremist.” The first, days’ reconnaissances brought us to the conclusion not to follow the Italian route on the southwest wall and revealed an hitherto unkown glacial basin that descended east from the peak into the Nangmah valley. From the basin a narrow hanging glacier on the southeast face rose to the “K6 shoulder” and ended on the southeast ridge. Camp I was set up at 16,750 feet on June 24. The route led from there to a 17,400-foot col, where we fixed 800 feet of rope. Steep, objectively dangerous ice couloirs and difficult rock climbing led in the next days to Camp II (19,350 feet); some 1100 feet of additional rope was fixed. On June 30 Lackner, Gerd Pressl and I pushed on to the shoulder at 21,650 feet and established Camp III at 22,000 feet at the beginning of the southeast ridge. After a six-hour climb the next day along the heavily corniced ridge we stood at the foot of the summit tower. Although only 800 feet below the top, K6 was not yet beaten. Exhaustion from the exertions of the past days, insufficient acclimatization (we had been in the region only ten days) and insufficient technical rock-climbing gear brought our improvised lightning attack to an end. Catastrophic weather forced us back to Base Camp, where for two weeks daily snowfalls prevented our getting beyond Camp I. Finally the attack went on. After post-holing, we dug Camps II and III out of the snow. On July 16 Gerd Pressl and I climbed, in part with direct aid, the first perpendicular section of the summit tower, a tremendous effort, and left fixed a 350-foot rope. It was in part UIAA V+, A2. Late that evening Haberl and von der Hecken greeted us in Camp III. Despite threatening weather on July 17, we decided to try our luck. On two ropes in snow squalls and mist we worked up to the top of the fixed rope, struggled up a steep ice and rock couloir (similar to the Matterhorn north face) and climbed the ice-covered final rock cliff. By afternoon we four stood on the summit of K6 (23,890 feet). For ten days we could not even consider a second summit attempt. Lackner, Fred Pressl, Krech, Entlesberger and I reached Camp III on July 27 but in the night the weather went bad. With the greatest difficulty we managed to evacuate the camps but the ropes remain fixed on the mountain. We left the region at the beginning of August.

EDUARD KOBLMÜLLER, Österreichischer Alpenverein

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