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Asia, Pakistan, Masherbrum Range, Charakusa Valley, Hassin Peak and the East Peak of Farol, Attempts

Hassin Peak and the East Peak of Farol, attempts. On August 12 Steve Swenson and I, joined by Hans Mitterer from Germany, hiked up to the base of the west buttress of unclimbed Hassin Peak (ca. 6,300m) at the head of the Charakusa Glacier. Hassin is the local name for the mountain and means “beautiful peak.” The following day we climbed 60° icefields, topped by a couple of rope lengths of near-vertical ice, to reach the crest of the buttress. We wound our way up, linking snow couloirs, dry chimneys, and strips of perfect styrofoam ice, as well as insubstantial slush tucked into the backs of corners. Just as the sun was leaving the mountain, we popped back out on the crest, where a ropelength or two of snow climbing yielded a promising spot for the bivouac tent. The summit was only 800m above; the next day we would leave the camping gear and make a dash for it.

Leaving the bivouac in the morning we climbed a moderate 60-70° snow and ice face, but as the day wore on, it warmed up considerably. By the time we were negotiating the final mixed ground at 6,000m, the sun was on us, rapidly turning the steep summit snow slopes to the consistency of cotton candy. The heat and the altitude were also taking a toll on us, slowing us to a breathless crawl. Though the summit lay less than 300m above, we were unlikely to reach it before dark. Finding safe belay and rappel anchors by headlamp would not be easy, and we were unwilling to commit to spending a night out with nothing but the clothes on our backs. Sadly, we drilled the first of many V-threads in a rare patch of ice and slid down the ropes. We regained the tent just as the sun sank below the horizon. The following morning, still under cloudless skies, we continued our descent, reaching the glacier in the early afternoon, after making a total of 30 rappels, each of 70m.

Steve and I made another attempt on Hassin Peak, but bad weather turned us back before wed crossed the bergschrund. There was not enough time for a third attempt, so on August 22 we turned our attention to a striking ice line on the right-hand Farol Peak (ca. 6,200m). It looked like it might go in one push.

The evening before found us camped on moraines below the triple-summited Farol. By the time the sun rose, we were already cramponing up the lower slopes of our chosen couloir. We had made the approach in predawn darkness, crossing a wasteland of ice avalanche debris. But we were safe now, with nothing but rock walls rearing above, breached by a discontinuous white line. We roped up at the base of a steep curtain of chandeliers that made me feel like I was back at home in the Canadian Rockies. A couple of pitches of steep ice, followed by a short icefield, brought us to the base of what would prove to be the crux. The pitch went slowly, and by the time we were reunited at the belay, it was clear we would be hard-pressed to top outbefore dark. Another pitch of steep, decaying ice awaited, and who cared if it led anywhere or not? It was climbing. From the snowfield at its top we finally got a close view of the blank, overhanging headwall blocking the couloir. As we began the rappels, at least we had the satisfaction of having climbed until we were stopped.

Raphael Slawinski, Canada