American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Pakistan—Karakoram, Rakaposhi, Second Ascent by New Route, Northwest and Southwest Ridges

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1980

Rakaposhi, Second Ascent by New Route, Northwest and Southwest Ridges. The first ascent of Rakaposhi (25,550 feet) was made in 1958 by Mike Banks and Tom Patey. Since then all other attempts had ended in failure. The Polish-Pakistani expedition 1979 had six Pakistani men, led by Lieutenant M. Sher Khan and two Polish women and five men, led by Ryszard Kowalewski. After the Japanese gave up on the north buttress, the Poles and Pakistanis started up the northwest ridge, which had been reconnoitered to 19,700 feet in 1964 by an Irish expedition. Base Camp was set up at 12,500 feet in a side basin of the Biro Glacier on June 5. Though the site seemed safe, on June 14 an ice wall collapsed on the big snow terrace of Rakaposhi. A gigantic ice avalanche fell into the Biro Icefall. The wind generated by it, though it stopped still 1½ to two miles away, destroyed the tents in Base Camp and covered the valley walls with a thick layer of wet snow down to 21,000 feet. Camp I was established on June 6 at 16,100 feet at the foot of the northwest ridge. The climbing difficulties began there; some 10,000 feet of rope were fixed above that point. Camp II was placed at 19,000 feet on June 19. The route continued along the ridge. Four gendarmes were bypassed on the right. On June 26 Camp III stood at 20,350 feet on the shoulder of the Nun’s Head. The route slabbed under the top of the Nun’s Head and descended 200 feet onto the roomy snow terrace below Rakaposhi’s summit pyramid. Camp IV was placed at 21,325 feet on the edge of the terrace on June 28. It took six to eight hours to traverse the terrace to a col at the end of the southwest ridge, where Camp V was set up at 23,300 feet on June 30. On July 1 Kowalewski, Sher Khan and Tadeusz Piotrowski climbed to the summit of Rakaposhi in 18 hours. The next day, after a miserable night with six in the tent, Andrzej Bielun, Jacek Gronczewski and Jerzy Tillak climbed to the top in only six hours. On July 5, supported by no one above Camp III—Camps IV, II and I had been evacuated because the porter train was to arrive on July 9—the two women, Anna Czerwinska and Krystyna Palmowska, fought their way up to the summit through wind and drifting snow. They went unroped because it was too cold for one to wait for the other. These two women, who had worked as much and as hard as the men, did the second highest “ladies-only” climb, the highest having been the ascent by Halina Krüger and Anna Okopinska of Gasherbrum II in 1975.

Józef Nyka, Editor, Taternik, Poland

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