Asia, Pakistan, Karakoram, Panmah Muztagh, Peak 5,200m, the Partition, to Subsummit

Publication Year: 2008.

Peak 5,200m, the Partition, to subsummit. During the summer of 2007, Luisa Giles (British, 25), Sarah Hart (Canadian, 27), and I (Canadian, 28) established a 900-meter free climb in the Karakoram. The route is on a possibly unclimbed 5,200m granite peak on the south side of the Choktoi Glacier, near the base of Latok III. This is the westernmost of two similar north-facing rock buttresses joined by a high col and ice couloir. The eastern of these two peaks holds the Indian Face Arête, established by Doug Scott and Sandy Allen in 1990.

In mid-July a weather window allowed for a one-day reconnaissance, during which we spotted a left-trending line of corner and ledge systems on the east face. This face appeared to possess superior rock to the north-facing ridge crest. We climbed the first few hundred meters before altitude sickness and gastrointestinal problems turned us around. A second single-day attempt was thwarted by bad weather, although we managed to further our high point.

During the next weather window we completed the route over three days, including a planned and an unplanned bivouac. We followed a series of cracks to a system of left-trending ramps, which ended as the face steepened. We spent the first night at this junction. The second day we followed a steep corner system on clean granite (200m of continuous, high-quality 5.10) to reach an upper groove on the east face. This groove kicked back and allowed for some fast simul-climbing over 300m of left-trending lower-angle slabs. The terrain steepened again and we followed face cracks and shallow corners to the ridge crest. Another 200m to 300m of ridge climbing on more fractured granite brought us to a sub-summit at ca 5,200m at 4 p.m. The true summit was a few hundred meters away, and would have required crossing a number of loose corner systems to reach. Due to lack of time and a perceived absence of quality climbing ahead, we stopped at this point and descended.

The descent roughly reversed the route. A stuck rope on an early rappel wasted the remaining two hours of daylight, and required cutting one of the ropes. A series of rappels aided by moonlight brought us back to our stashed bivy gear by 11 p.m., and at this point we decided to stay on the wall for a second night. After finishing the descent, we devoured a breakfast of fresh bread, jam, boiled eggs, tea, and coffee brought to us by our worried base camp cook.

During the climb we found two old pieces of rappel tat (one low on the route, the other about two-thirds of the way up). It is possible that a previous party had reached the summit of this peak by another line, but it is unlikely that our line had been climbed before.

The route went free with 19 full 60m rope lengths, including many fantastic pitches of 5.9 and 5.10 climbing and roughly 300m of simul-climbing over moderate terrain. The Partition (900m, TD 5.10b) was named in honor of the 60th anniversary of Pakistan’s independence, and also because the Indian Face Arête is situated on the adjacent peak—a metaphor for the geography and politics of India and Pakistan.

We also made several attempts on Peak 5,700m, whose northeast ridge was our original objective. However, early reconnaissance showed the rock quality to be generally poor, with exfoliating loose granite.

Jacqueline Hudson, Canada