On September 3, 2007, Steve Su and I began a nine-week expedition to Pakistan’s Hispar region. We had a number of objectives, including Pumari Chhish (7,350m). Most expeditions gunning for 7,000m peaks tackle snow-covered terrain during summer, for the longer days and higher overall temperatures. Thus they usually leave by mid-August. My idea, based on past experience, was to wait for the traditional late-season weather window. What I did not anticipate was the intense cold.
After delays with British Airways—a common complaint—costing us a week, we arrived in base camp with summer-like conditions almost immediately giving way to fall. Temperatures were no longer warm enough to melt new snowfall, and the mountains were starting to show their winter coats. We had 20 or so days of on and off snow showers before a significant weather window arrived. During this time we attempted several unclimbed 6,000m peaks, only to be driven off by avalanches and poor weather.
Eventually we settled on Peak 6,890m, a majestic summit with a steep rocky south face crowned with Peru-like snow flutings, guarded by hanging seracs, and offering no easy route. We decided to throw ourselves at the route with five or six days of supplies. We ended up spending six days climbing 4,500' of very technical terrain—hard mixed, hard rock climbing, sustained post-holing, and sections of aid. We spent two nights in frigid open bivies. The final evening of climbing saw us well below any possible bivy, and well above our past bivy site. This meant the climb was over. We couldn’t reclimb the technical terrain with our limited supplies, and we still had another 3500' to the summit. With one can of fuel and the temperature getting colder, we retreated on day seven, leaving almost every piece of our hardware for rappel anchors.
We were greeted at base camp by a very concerned liaison officer and cook, who were relieved to end what had become, in their words, “a winter expedition.”
Pete Takeda, AAC