Ibrahim Brakk, Free Kashmir. Todd Offenbacher, Nils Davis, Sean Isaac, and friends Sean and Shelly Huisman and Hermein Freriksen, arrived in Islamabad on July 7. Sean, Todd and I had decided, after a chance meeting in Canada in 1999, to join forces and make a visit to Pakistan’s Kharidas Valley. Our cook, Ibrahim Munna, and the co-owner and director of Blue Sky Treks and Tours, Ghulam Muhammed, picked us up at the airport, the beginning of their incredible hospitality and friendship.
Sean had researched the topic and gleaned information from Luca Maspes who, along with three other Italians and a Swiss, had been the first climbers to visit this remote valley sandwiched between the oft-visited Nangma Valley and the renowned Charakusa Valley, known by the locals as Tsarak Tsa Valley. To our knowledge, this group, and a group of Korean trekkers, have been the only non-locals to set foot in the valley. This was evinced by the complete lack of impact we discovered.
The Kharidas is a narrow and steep valley, mostly filled with rock-laden glacier, and bounded by moraines. After the five-day travel and hike from Islamabad, we camped near the foot of the valley on a narrow, lush part of the moraine, covered in wildflowers, which had just enough level ground for our five tents.
We spent the next week hiking farther and higher up the valley and glacier, reconnoitering possible lines on the massive walls on the north and south sides. The head of the valley is marked by the 6447-meter Drifica, mentioned in Venables and Fanshawe’s book Himalaya Alpine Style. The weather was remarkably unstable for this area in July and we waited out rain days in our garish red circus-cum-mess tent, playing interminable games of Asshole and poker.
After scoping numerous possibilities on walls and spires from (roughly) 700 to 900 meters, we decided to go for a “warm-up” on one of the higher peaks up the valley, on the north side. The three of us went as light as we could, and started up a south-facing, all-rock, knife-blade ridge with one rope, no hammer or bolt kit, and no pins. We simul-climbed the initial 1,200 feet. The rock was high-quality, featured granite reminiscent of Nutcracker-style climbing. We climbed the subsequent 1,000 feet pitch by pitch through serious runouts and bad rock. The route gradually steepened as we pulled onto the middle of the west face to finish up a technical and loose face and comer. We rapped into an adjacent couloir and descended as night fell.
As it turned out, our “warm-up,” Free Kashmir (V 5.10+) on Ibrahim Brakk, seemed the only good rock in the valley: the massive amounts of rock lining the walls of the north side of the valley were acres of loose, rotten and decomposed granite. We started up two more routes but called off both due to the dangerous and unpleasant nature of the rock. We then pulled out of the valley and spent a few days relaxing in Hushe.
A reconnaissance of the Nangma Valley was our next foray. We spent a week in the Nangma looking for new route possibilities. Believing it unclimbed, we started up a line on Brakk Zang, but bailed after learning that it had been climbed by Sílvia Vidal and Pep Masip some years earlier. Todd and I returned to Islamabad and flew home August 15 while Sean stayed on another week to make a trip up to Bubliomotin and Ultar.