Charakusa Area, Fathi Brakk, Parhat Brakk and Beatrice, Ascents. Jimmy Chin, Evan Howe, Brady Robinson and Doug and Jed Workman, guided by Ibrahim Zahid of Hushe, base-camped in the Charakusa (Tsa’racksa) Valley. The team climbed three significant new routes over a period of 55 days, as well as throwing their fair share of disc, bouldering and cragging.
Jimmy and Brady entered the valley in late June ahead of the others, anxious to get on the rock. As the others hiked into the valley in early July, Jimmy and Brady were finishing up a new route on Fathi Brakk. This 3,000-foot monolith was first climbed in the summer of 1998 by an Italian team from the southwest. Jimmy and Brady’s committing and direct line up the north face was completed in three days and entailed a variety of climbing including face, crack, ice and aid. Success was attained in a 24-hour push after two other attempts to complete the route. Future parties can be assured an adventurous time navigating through loose death blocks and sleeping on sloping, wet bivies. Some weeks later during very wet weather, the team was appalled to watch rockfall scour the bottom of the route.
Brady and Jed then teamed up for the previously unclimbed Parhat Brakk (5300m). The twin tower to Fathi, Parhat was attempted by Americans Angela Hawse et al in the summer of 1995. In contrast to the loose stone on Fathi, Parhat proved solid with exquisite crack climbing. Over two weeks of climbing and extensive gardening, they were able to free much of the route up to 5.11, including a stout bombay fist crack through a roof that Brady floated. After 360 meters, the weather deteriorated and they aided four pitches, foregoing the all-free attempt. After excessive coffee on day 10, Jed, determined to fire a dyno, whipped into a comer three times. Upon completing the sequence, the two continued up the final four pitches, leaving the redpoint for the future. Perched upon the summit needle far above the glaciers, their cameras buzzed with electrical current, prompting a hasty rap back to wall camp. Their adventure was not over, however. Upon reaching the base of the wall, a catastrophic serac avalanche deposited 30 feet of ice upon their imminent descent route. The airblast pasted Robinson with ice and sent their haulbags careening down the glacier. Back in BC, the rest of the team was assembling makeshift probes and rescue gear before a radio call put their minds at rest. Considering the luck they had had, Jed and Brady named their route Tavis Ridge (VI 5.11 A3, 850m) after the luck charms (tavis) Zahid had given them at BC.
Meanwhile, across the valley, Doug, Evan, and Jimmy were climbing a new route on the southeast face of Beatrice (5950m). This 800-meter wall was first climbed by a 1998 British expedition in two teams by separate routes. Doug, Evan, and Jimmy ferried 250 kilos of gear 1000 meters to the base of the wall over a period of nine days. An advanced camp was established on the glacier at 5150 meters. Over five days of wet weather, they fixed 300 meters of rope and established a wall camp before descending to BC for respite.
During this hiatus, both climbing teams and Greg Mortenson of the Central Asia Institute convened at BC. Mortenson, acclimatizing for the Gondagoro La and a service project on the Baltoro, was accompanied by Little Karim and his son. A goat was sacrificed for the festivities that followed and the next day everyone departed for their respective projects.
Committing to the wall, the Beatrice team moved into wall camp and continued linking cracks toward the summit. Low pressure continued to tease them until the temperatures dropped and snow began falling in earnest. Wet snow rimed to the face as a meter of snow buried tents in ABC. They quickly found themselves cowering in their portaledges. Warm daytime temperatures sloughed snow down the face. As the avalanches bombarded the flies, the team supported the structure of their homes by pushing out with their feet. Two days later, the skies cleared for Doug’s birthday and his lead. The following day they jugged 180 meters of fixed line and climbed another 200 meters to the top of the wall. Snow-draped loose blocks guarded the summit, which has yet to be reached by any wall climbers. They called their route Wanderlust (VI 5.10+ A3).
Also of note was the expedition’s desire to help the Balti people, who were incredibly hospitable to us throughout our stay. Jimmy and Brady, prompted by Greg Mortenson of the CAI, performed skits at the local elementary school in order to teach “Leave No Trace” ethics to the children. Doug, Evan and Jed helped the residents of Hushe haul grass out of the hills to store for winter feed for livestock. The locals enjoyed seeing Americans be porters for once.
Considering the war in Kashmir, a mere 100 kilometers away, and death threats toward Americans from Islamic fundamentalists, we were pleased to experience nothing but hospitality and enthusiasm from the Pakistani people. We all left regretfully, very anxious to return to our new-found friends and mountains.
Evan Howe, Douglas and Jed Workman