American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Pakistan, Nanga Parabat, Rupal Face, Winter Attempt 1990-91

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1992

Nanga Parbat, RupalFace, Winter Attempt 1990-91. Our joint Anglo-Polish expedition flew to Gilgit on November 24, 1990. We were leader Maciej Berbeka, Jacek Berbeka, Andrzej Osika, Andrzej Samolewicz, Wojciech Szczerba, Zbigniew Terlikowski, Dr. Krzysztof Witkowski, Poles, and Sean Smith, Jon Tinker, Simon Yates and I, British. We hoped to make the first winter ascent of the direct Rupal route, first climbed in 1970 by the Messner brothers, Felix Kuen and Peter Scholz. Despite several attempts, no one has made a second ascent of the route. We arrived at the “Polish Base Camp” in the Rupal valley on November 29. With fine weather and experience from the 1988-9 Polish attempt made good progress. On December 1, we established Camp I at 4700 meters below the Wieland Rocks and fixed rope to a temporary camp at 5400 meters. We set that camp up on December 5. Soon the weather broke and progress to Camp II above the Wieland Icefield was slow. However, the climbing conditions were generally good with hard ice between 5500 and 6100 meters. On December 19, Base Camp was flattened by a pressure wave from an avalanche high on the Rupal Wall. Fortunately no one was hurt. We finally established Camp II in an ice cave at 6100 meters at the site of Camp II of the 1970 climb. The weather was then very unsettled and several feet of snow fell, confining all to Base Camp until January 3, 1991. We renewed our efforts to push the route to Camp III at 6800 meters below the Merkl Icefield. Repeated pairs extended the way up the Welzenbach Spur, struggling with increasingly high winds and deteriorating weather. By January 13, we ground to a halt at 6600 meters and made a general retreat from the mountain. With 14 days left of our planned 60 days at Base Camp, Maciej Berbeka suggested a radical change of plan. On January 17, we switched to the Schell route on the left side of the Rupal flank, planning to climb to 7000 meters alpine-style before making a summit bid. The Berbekas, Osika and Tinker climbed to 6600 meters, leaving 200 meters of fixed rope on the crux rock buttress, before descending in high winds. A summit attempt was not possible in the continuous bad weather and so Base Camp was quit on January 27. The journey back to Gilgit took six days as roads were blocked by rock slides. Whilst in Gilgit, we experienced an earthquake of 6 on the Richter scale which killed several hundred people in northern Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Nikola Kekus, Alpine Climbing Group

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