American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Pakistan, Himalaya, Panmah Muztagh, Latok I, North Ridge, Attempt; Various New Routes on Surrounding Peaks; Repeat of Indian Face Aréte

  • Climbs And Expeditions
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  • Publication Year: 2006

Latok I, north ridge, attempt; various new routes on surrounding peaks; repeat of Indian Face Arête. Last summer my brother Willie and I returned to the Choktoi Glacier with fellow Argentinean, Matias Erroz. Our goal was another attempt on the huge north ridge of Latok I. Although one of our bags, the one containing much of our technical climbing equipment, was lost during the flight to Islamabad, we continued to our base camp on the Choktoi to acclimatize. On June 26, while still waiting for our gear, we attempted a ca. 6,000m peak on the northern rim of the Choktoi Glacier, a little to the right of Biacherahi Towers. The striking line on the south face, which overlooks the glacier, is a 1,000m névé couloir a little to the right of the summit fall line. It is about 30m wide with an average angle of 55°. We named it the Supercouloir. We left base camp around 2:00 a.m. and climbing unroped were on the summit ridge by 6:00 a.m. Here things got trickier, and the rope came out. Willie spent a long time above me before returning to the belay. He'd been thwarted 60m short of the summit by a slabby headwall. Having no rock shoes and a minimal rack, he decided to back off. We descended and were back in camp at 11:30 a.m.

The following day Willie and Matias did a 10-pitch rock route on a tower just behind base camp: Medocinos Route (5.10). On the 30th the three of us tried a two-day ascent of Indian Face Arête, a prominent rock spur on a minor ca. 5,200m peak below the north spur of Latok III. [The ca. 800m route was first climbed in 1990 by Sandy Allan and Doug Scott at British 5c and A2, but they stopped at least six pitches below the summit and made a rappel descent. In 1999 four Italians climbed to about the same high point. Later that year British climbers Sam Chinnery, Ali Coull, and Muir Morton reached the summit via the upper half of the arête, which they gained after climbing a 400m dihedral (A3) on the quasi-vertical west flank—Ed.] We took a sleeping bag, a stove, and food but at the base of the route left most of it and went for a continuous-push ascent. This decision was influenced by the fact the weather had been perfect for 10 days. When we were half way up it snowed, but we kept going and by dark were 120m below the summit. We spent a miserable night in a sort of cave, continued to the top next morning in 30cm of new snow, and rappelled steeply into the west couloir, down which we bum-slid to the base of the route. This seems to be the only time the original line has been followed throughout to the summit. We climbed 16 pitches, up to 5.10a and Al.

On July 10, after a long spell of bad weather, Willie and Mathias climbed Biacherahi North (5,850m) via the northeast ridge, which although technically easy was a nightmare on a dangerously corniced crest leading to the summit. We then went onto the north ridge of Latok I (7,145m) with a portaledge and haul bag, hoping to make a continuous ascent, but it was not to be. There was too much deep snow and too many dangerous mushrooms. We abandoned the climb on July 20 at 5,400m, noting that the north face, to the left, looked well formed, with good ice runnels and little in the way of avalanche danger. We climbed one more new rock route close to base camp at 5.10+ before returning to Skardu.

Damian Benegas, Argentina

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