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Asia, Pakistan, Nanga Parbat Range, Laila Peak, First Ascent

Laila Peak, First Ascent. Our German team of five made the first ascent of Laila Peak (5971m) in the Rupal Valley. (This peak should not be confused with the famous Laila Peak in Hushe Valley.) The peak is situated at the right end of the Rupal Valley and can be seen from Nanga Parbat Latoba base camp as a rounded white dome. But Laila Peak is more like a long wall rising up from a big but hardly accessible glacier plateau. The unseen south face is a very steep rock wall, while the north face is covered with ice. The icy north face looks very attractive but finding a good route to access the big plateau would seem to be the hardest part. The Rupal people told us about one former serious attempt to climb the peak.

We established base camp below Mazeno Camp at 3950 meters on July 2. First we tried to find a way through the crevasses directly to the smaller plateau which, we hoped, would allow access to the big plateau. We failed. Next we climbed up a beautiful ice ridge directly to the big plateau but could not manage to enter the plateau itself because of a big crevasse between the end of the ridge and the plateau. So we went down again. On July 6 we explored an access route to the lower plateau using a moderate debris gully, putting up one tent (Camp I) here (4600m). Two days later we all moved to that camp. From there we had to climb a big slope to reach the only point from which we could cross the bergschrund to the 40° ice wall leading to upper plateau (5100m). Bad weather stopped us there for one day. On July 11, we went up. Miss Henrike Suess and Thomas Berthold gave up at 5500 meters, while Miss Anne Riedel, Christian Walter and Thomas Niederlein reached the summit at 4:30 p.m. after crossing a lot of bergschrunds, steep snowfields and crevasses. The average steepness of the route does not exceed 40°, but we had to climb some tricky pitches that were up to 60° or partial vertically. Abseiling and climbing down took us another six hours.

Some days later Walter and Riedel climbed Rupal Peak (5642m). On the ascent they climbed a new route via the steep northwest ice col; they took the normal east route for the descent. Suess and Berthold used the east route to summit.

The area is a nice playground for lightweight expeditions like ours. The approach is easy: you can reach the base camp within only two days’ drive and two days’ walk from Islamabad. And all summits except for Nanga Parbat itself are a little bit lower than 6000 meters, which means you don’t need a permit, Liason Officer, etc., so an expedition can be made very cheaply. The valley is frequently visited by trekkers, but only one to two parties a year attempt peaks other than Nanga Parbat, and nearly all of them attempt Rupal Peak via the normal route. Incomprehensible, because there are lots of virgin peaks and faces.

Christian Walter, Germany