American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Pakistan, Rakoposhi-Harimosh Mountains, Panmah Muztagh, Choktoi Glacier Area, Various Ascents

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2000

Choktoi Glacier Area, Various Ascents. The team was composed of Luca Maspes, Emanuele Pellizzari, Massimo Sala and Gianni Zappa, plus geologist Paolo Biffi. We explored the Choktoi Glacier, which lays on the north side of the Latoks and ends at the foot of the east face of the Ogre. The approach is via the Panmah Glacier, taking a left (as one walks) just before the confluence with the Chiring Glacier. The area offers many climbing opportunities, but the weather was found to be from poor to bad. Very few sign of previous expeditions were noted on the glacier. Two spots for Base Camp were found at the beginning of the glacier, with rock and water, but quite far (from two to five hours) to the main climbable faces. The area offers great mountaineering but not really great rock climbing.

The team stayed on the glacier for 18 days. It snowed on nine of these, and on another three days we experienced bad weather. Massimo Sala and Gianni Zappa climbed an unnamed pillar about one hour from BC, experiencing difficulties up to 6a+. The descent was made with three rappels in an east-facing couloir, then with easy walking on a steep moraine. The ascent and descent was done in a day. Nothing was left behind beside the anchors for abseils. Maximum difficulties were up to UIIA VI+.

Emanuele Pellizzari, Luca Maspes and Gianni Zappa made an attempt on the Indian Face Arête, a prominent rock face about one hour from BC. The route ends on a pinnacle short of the summit of Latok III. The climb took three days. The team climbed three pitches on an afternoon, fixing the line for a successive attempt. Then it snowed for three days. On day one of the real climb, the team added another eight pitches before bivying on a poor and extremely rotten and dangerous snowy ledge. The day after, the team climbed another six pitches and bivouacked on a steep and snowy ledge (after day 1, we had no food). On the last day we climbed one pitch, then made the descent.

The climb is very hard, sustained and sometimes dangerous and difficult. Except for the first 70 meters and two short pitches in the middle, all the pitches are at least UIAA VI and Al. The team placed four bolts on the ascent: two at belays, one for protection on a very rotten part of rock (A2+ and VI) and one because the leader was caught by dark (subsequently, the hanger to this bolt was removed). About two nuts, one sling (for a pendulum) and five stuck pitons were left on the route. We found nasty snow conditions.

The descent on the blank wall is a serious undertaking via rappels that are never shorter than 50 meters and as long as 59.8 meters. Most belays were made with two pitons or one single bolt. The overall difficulties involved 18 pitches up to UIAA VIII- and A3.

On the fifth pitch, we found a Wild Country #3 Friend with a carabiner and tied-off sling. At home, we discovered this was left by the Doug Scott/Sandy Allen party. After that piece, on the same pitch, we found difficulties up to VIII-. We found no further traces of climbing (pitons, scars, etc.). We feel the previous team did not do our line but took a crack toward the left (where the Friend was found) and did another line from then on. On the rappel, 50 to 60 meters from our high point, we found a piton with a sling at a bivouac site plus an empty gas cartridge. Via private correspondence, we determined that this piton was the high point of the Scott/Allen team.

Although the Scott/Allen party claimed a new route, and even though we went higher than they did, we feel our route remains a strong attempt but cannot be claimed as a new line or a summit. The next pitch after the Scott/Allen high point was rated VII and A3 (aid crux of the route).

Part of the team had to return home, but Luca Maspes, before moving into another valley and joining another team (see below), put up a new route (V, 400m) on a peak christened Simo Peak. Descent was made via an easy rock couloir.

Emanuele Pellizzari

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