P 6960, Latok Group. Hoping to climb a technical Himalayan peak using alpine techniques, we attempted P 6960 (22,835 feet), situated between the Ogre (Baintha Brakk) and Latok II, by a route up the northwest ridge. Chris Gilley, John Bennison, American Donald Bouyea* and I arrived in Pakistan on June 3 and reached Base Camp on June 17 after an eight-day walk from Skardu. Twenty porters were used to reach Base Camp (15,500 feet) via the Biafo Glacier. Within another week we had made a carry to the col (18,500 feet) between the Ogre and P 6960. We dumped the gear and enough food to complete the route in a snow hole at the col and returned to Base Camp. The climbing to the col was technically straightforward but involved an interesting icefall and the notorious “Death Alley,” so named by Japanese expeditions using this route on the Ogre in 1975 and 1978. The dangers of Death Alley are huge séracs which threaten much of the way to the col. On June 26 Bouyea and I set out from Base Camp for our summit bid. We used no tents above Base, relying on Gore-Tex bivouac bags and sometimes snow holes. Our first bivouac was between the icefall and Death Alley and the second on the col. From there we took food for five to six days. To leave the col we had to climb 45° slopes and then three ice pitches up to 75° to gain another large snowfield, where at 20,000 feet we made our third bivouac. Unfortunately it began to snow in the night and stormed for two nights and a day. Not having dug a snow hole and finding it impossible to dig one in the storm, we had to retreat to Base Camp. Gilley and Bennison left on a summit attempt on July 1. They reached 21,000 feet with four bivis but had to retreat after a bad bivouac and because of continued difficulties ahead. Above the snowfield where Bouyea and I bivouacked were 45° ice slopes which gradually changed to mixed climbing and mostly rock on the steeper final slopes. I fell ill with hepatitis but the other three attempted the south buttress. This turned out to be very steep and would need much aid climbing. We lacked food and equipment for a serious attempt. We left Base Camp on July 18.
Rowland C. Perriment, England
* Recipient of an American Alpine Club Climbing Fellowship grant.