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Asia, Pakistan, Latok III, West Face, Attempt

Latok III, West Face, Attempt. In July, Jay Smith, Kitty Calhoun, Steve Quinlan and Ken Sauls attempted an alpine-style ascent of the unclimbed west face of Latok III (6949m) just off the Biafo Glacier in Pakistan. The team made an initial carry of about 700 meters up the snow coulouir at the base of the face to make a cache of food and evaluate conditions, but left no fixed rope. The climbing initially was quite moderate but hazardous due to substantial rock fall once the sun hit the face. After several days’ rest, the team set off for the attempt, climbing as two rope teams of two and alternating leading and hauling. The climbing started as moderate snow couloirs and then turned to steeper mixed terrain with rock quality being less than optimal. Camps were quite difficult to establish as snow fields were very shallow and would barely allow ledges large enough for two small tents. Ten days were spent reaching a high point around 6000 meters, at which point the face turns into a large granite buttress for the remaining 1000 meters. The team was slowed in its progress at this point by several days of storms, during which they were tent bound. Upon reaching the vertical buttress at 6000 meters, the team was disappointed to find the wall devoid of continuous crack systems; it would apparently require a fair amount of aid climbing, although Jay was able to establish the initial portion via a mixed crack/chimney system. Several nights were spent at the base of the buttress while the team fixed ropes, waited out weather and evaluated a diminishing food supply. On the tenth day, with ropes fixed on the buttress, another storm moved in and, in light of limited supplies and the estimated length of time needed to reach the summit, the decision was made to retreat. On day 11, the team reached the base via some 30 60-meter rappels.

Ken Sauls, unaffiliated