American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Pakistan, Nanga Parbat, Diamir Face Attempt

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1984

Nanga Parbat, Diamir Face Attempt. Our expedition consisted of Hooman Aprin, Les Ellison, Evelyn Lees and me as leader. After a few days’ delay in Rawalpindi because our liaison officer had not arrived, we were granted permission to leave without him. On September 20 we arrived at Base Camp north of Nanga Parbat in the upper Diamir valley after 3½ days from Bunar Bridge on the Karakoram Highway. We spent two weeks acclimatizing, skiing and climbing on Ganalo Peak and taking loads to Camp I at 15,600 feet. We reconnoitered with light loads to a rock island in the Low Couloir at 17,000 feet. We found the climbing at this time of year to be quite technical as there was only bare 40° to 60° ice and steep loose rock. The fixed ropes from earlier in 1983 were of no use, being 20 feet or more above the ice on the rock walls where the old snow-line had been. After a day’s rest we went back up the gully with full loads, picked up our food at the rock island and continued on up. The climbing was enjoyable on the rock-hard ice but very slow. Often one person led and then hauled loads while the other three jümared. We spent the next two nights bivouacked, hanging in our harnesses, unable to cook or find a ledge even to let us get into a sleeping bag. We got to 18,800 feet immediately below the rock headwall leading to the upper part of the couloir. On the second morning Les Ellison found his feet to be freezing and so with our minimal equipment we all opted to go down. On the fifth rappel, Les was hit by a large rock, which cracked his helmet and shattered the plastic buckles from the back of his pack. He was knocked unconscious briefly. Alone, at the rappel stance, he was held by the anchor and managed to right himself. In great pain in his upper back near his spine, he could use his hands only with much pain. He could not carry a load. Not knowing the extent of his injuries, we decided we must get down in one continuous push while he could still stay on his feet. It took 37 rappels to reach Base Camp at five A.M. Les had to be belayed and his pack first dragged and later split up among the other three of us. This consumed most of our climbing hardware and all our headlamp batteries. After two days’ rest, Les could walk out on his own, supported by our cook. His injuries turned out to be muscular damage and a compression fracture of the scapula. We had to give up because we lacked equipment and food which had been left on the mountain.

Rick Wyatt

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