American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Pakistan, Redakh Brakk, and Other Ascents

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1997

Redakh Brakk, and Other Ascents. During the Haramosh II Expedition in 1995, we could not help noticing a prominent unknown mountain that dominated the view to the northeast looming up behind the ridge bounding the far end of the Sgari Byen Gang Glacier. Exact location was problematical. The Nushik La is the old pass linking the Kero Lungma and Hispar glaciers, and our mystery mountain appeared to be somewhere nearby. Subsequent study of maps and photos showed the peak to appear much closer to another pass, the Bolocho La. This location was confirmed on the ground during the 1996 trip.

The suspected location close to the Bolocho La meant that we had a choice of three approach glaciers: Kero Lungma, Bolocho, and East Makrong. We chose the Kero Lungma; it seemed to offer plenty of alternative objectives should our primary one prove too dangerous or inaccessible. In the event, our mountain was not readily accessible from the Kero Lungma, but we had a whole glacier-full of mountains to go at, and we had no record of any of them having been touched.

Dave Wilkinson and Colin Wells had all seen the mountain from the Haramosh trip, and fancied a go. Bill Church and Tony Park later joined the team.

Our mountain appeared to be under the magic 6000 meters limit, so Pakistani government permit, peak fee and liaison officer were not required. Our approach followed the south bank of the Kero Lungma Glacier. Base Camp was situated in a small ablation valley, easily reached from the glacier below, but well banked up with old snow. Above it rose a mountain of about 5000 meters (later named “Tsuntse Brakk”—“Small Peak,” an unimaginative but descriptive name). We decided to try this peak as acclimatization and for a view. A short section 150 meters from the top gave a pitch of Scottish Grade 3, and proved quite awkward with only one ax and a ski-stick each. The view from the top was tremendous, but identification of our mystery mountain still proved uncertain.

After a couple of days rest, we decided to walk up the glacier to try and find our mountain. Contrary to the map, the mountain appeared to be the other side of the Bolocho La, and so would not be directly accessible from the Kero Lungma. We had come up the wrong valley!

For further acclimatization and reconnaissance, we decided to bag another small peak above our camp. This was an easy walk up snow slopes with a very short top section on easy rotten rock. We estimated the height as 5200 meters. We called this peak “Goma,” after the plump grouse-like birds (ram chikor) that we found nesting in abundance on its lower slopes. The next day, with an earlier start, we took an exhausting walk up the snowy glacier to the Bolocho La. Our previous impression was confirmed: the Jersy Walla map was incorrect (we stand by this), and our glacier was the wrong one. The Bolocho Glacier was in fact longer than shown, and to get to the mountain from this side, we would have had to cross the pass and descend to the Bolocho glacier, before starting our climb. Having only limited time and resources, we rejected this option, and decided to look for an alternative objective.

Across the glacier from our Base Camp, three small glaciers descended from the “Balchish range,” the group of peaks forming the divide between the Kero Lungma and Hispar glaciers. We chose a pyramid-shaped peak on this ridge, marked as a peak on the map, but with no name or height given. We estimated its height as about 6000 meters—just legal. (We subsequently named our mountain “Redakh Brakk,” Balti for “Ibex Peak,” after the free-roaming beasts that populated the area.) The best approach seemed to ascend the lower ridge of the next peak to the west, then via the intervening glacier to a col overlooking the Hispar, and finally up the west ridge of our peak.

After a few days of unsettled weather, we packed four days worth of food and set off at midday to cross the glacier to a flat bottomed ablation valley shaped like an amphitheater. The next morning, a 4 a.m. start saw us gain the glacier on our right. By 9 a.m., we had reached our col; we also had a luxury camp site. We had only 500 meters of height to gain, and this was a west ridge, so would not get the first sun. An early start seemed unnecessary, so we set off just before dawn, traversing around some bumps on the level ridge to gain the proper foot of our ridge at a narrower subsidiary col. To our left, huge cornices projected out over the Hispar; we climbed by a series of couloirs, traverses and short steps well right of the crest. Conditions were superb. The middle part of the ridge steepened to a 50-meter section at 60 degrees plus. The ridge eased, and led in a series of broad corniced curves to a final cornice barrier. This was demolished with five minutes of old-fashioned chopping with the ax. A quick pull through the gap landed immediately on the summit.

After 10 minutes on the top, a single long abseil brought us back down the steep bit, and we were back in camp by 10 a.m. for a second breakfast.

Bill and Colin went for an old-fashioned col-crossing by returning via the Nushik La to Hispar and Gilgit. Their subsequent account of the descent of the steeper Hispar side, with 45-degree icy slopes traversing under seracs, made the old tales of crossing this pass with cattle hard to believe.

Dave Wilkinson, United Kingdom

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