American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Pakistan, Masherbrun Range, Masherbrun, Northeast Face, Attempt

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2007

Masherbrum, northeast face, attempt. In late June a strong Russian expedition under the noted leader of the Russian Big Walls Project, Alexander Odintsov, set up base camp on the Yermanendu Glacier for an attempt on the futuristic northeast face of Masherbrum (7,855m). This face is as impressive and as hard as the north face of Jannu, climbed by the Russian team in 2004. It is 3,000m high, and the crux will undoubtedly be the near-vertical yellow rock band starting around 7,000m. A reconnaissance in 2005 led the Russians to believe the wall would be very difficult but possible. However, it failed to reveal the objective dangers.

Immediately after arrival at base camp, Odintsov became seriously ill with hepatitis and had to be evacuated by helicopter. Later Michel Michailov was injured falling into a crevasse. Alexander Ruchkin, who was the first to summit Jannu in 2004, took over as leader and, having decided that the lower northeast face was severely threatened by avalanche and serac fall, switched to an approach via the north ridge to the right. The weather was unhelpful, and work on the route had to be carried out at night or during early morning. Eventually they established an advanced base on the ridge at 5,800m. However, after repeated snowfalls, Ruchkin realized that there was no safe way forward, and they abandoned the objective in mid-July. Interviewed later, the climbers stated they had no intention of returning, leaving this awesome project for the next generation.

The north ridge itself is a superb and elegant goal that has been attempted three times. Japanese tried it in 1975 but retreated from 5,500m, when they found the start too threatened by serac fall. Another Japanese expedition started up in 1985 but, finding the upper glacier dangerous, made a long traverse right to the northwest ridge and climbed it to the summit. A strong American-Slovenian team tried the face in 2003 but retreated in dangerous avalanche conditions from 5,900m

Lindsay Griffin, Mountain INFO, CLIMB Magazine

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