American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Pakistan, Masherbrum Range, Honboro Peak West, First Ascent; "Bukma Peak," Ascent by South Ridge; Mirkasia Peak, First Ascent

  • Climbs And Expeditions
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  • Publication Year: 2008

Honboro Peak West, first ascent; “Bukma Peak,” ascent by south ridge; Mirkasia Peak, first ascent. The Honboro Group and Shimshak (Mango Gusor) Mountains are located on the other side of the deep Hushe Valley from the better-known Charakusa and Nangma valleys. Andrzej Gluszek, Wojciech Kozub, and I visited these mountains from July 20 to August 25. Our main target was the highest summit in the range, Honboro Peak (6,454m), which is likely still unclimbed.

For access to the massif, we chose the Thalle Valley, running along the western flanks of the range, and established base camp in Olmo village at the mouth the Bukma Valley, which leads to the north and west slopes of the mountain.

During acclimatization we visited the Thalle Glacier and ascended a nameless and probably unclimbed peak (ca 5,800m). After passing the difficult front edge of the glacier, we camped in a cirque at about 5,200m. A steep 300m gully led us to a wide pass on the west side of the mountain, 400m below the summit. An easy snow ridge followed by three pitches of 60° ice and mixed (M3+) on the summit pyramid brought us to the snowy top. We called the mountain Mirkasia Peak.

Now we turned to our main target. After two days’ walking we put our tent on Bukma Glacier below the amazing 1,600m north face of Honboro Peak. Our plan was to climb the left side of this wall, to a wide pass between Honboro and the 6,000m peak to its left. We estimated this section of the wall to be 900m high.

After four days of waiting for good weather, we climbed the wall (M4 60°) in eight hours. Because of great danger from falling rocks and ice, we climbed most of the route unroped. From the pass, at 5,700m, the rest of the route did not look as straightforward as we’d expected. In full sun, snow conditions were too bad to continue, so we decided to wait for evening. At 2 a.m. we began to climb toward the summit, but at 7 a.m., in beautiful weather, horrible snow and lack of protection 300m below top, along with a huge threatening cornice, forced us to retreat. In late afternoon, as consolation, we climbed for two hours in poor snow to the summit of Honboro’s 6,200m neighbor. A sling on top informed us that the peak was not virgin, but the views of K2, Gasherbrum IV, and numerous other mountains rewarded our effort. After seven rappels and a lot of scary downclimbing, we returned to our tent the next day.

Our last option was the southwest ridge. It appeared to be rocky, which seemed safer than the poor snow we had been climbing. The shortest approach was from Khasumik Glacier. After six days of bad weather, avoiding the Khasumik Icefall to the left, we reached the edge of the Khasumik cirque. We established camp at 5,200m on the opposite side of the glacier from the west face of Honboro. A large serac threatened the beginning of our route; 200m of steep ice and 300m of mixed ground would gain the pass, and then about 2km of unforeseeable terrain would lead to the top. Because of the unstable weather, we planned to climb as quickly as possible without bivouac gear.

We began the climb after a day’s rest. After climbing a cone-shaped ice field beyond the reach of the serac, we faced difficulties up to M5. Long sections of bad rock make this route not recommended for future ascents. After nine hours of climbing we reached the ridge. A steep icefield led to the first subpeak in three hours. From here, finally, we could see the rest of the route. In our way were two crags and the steep summit pyramid. We passed the first obstacle easily by snow on its right side. As we were climbing the next one, darkness fell. Poor rock in M5 terrain significantly slowed our climbing. When we reached the base of the summit pyramid, it was midnight. We stopped for a few hours of rest, melted some snow, prepared soup with couscous, and shivered in thin down jackets for four hours until dawn. The remaining 200m was not difficult, but our fatigue made it seem a long way. Finally, we stood on Honboro Peak West (6,430m). The east summit was 200m from us and no more than 20m higher, but the corniced snow ridge between the peaks was not inviting. We decided that the west summit was the logical end of our route on the southwest ridge. Dark clouds were gathering, and we had a long way to descend. Strong winds prevented us from stopping to brew up, and darkness fell as we built our first rappel station near the pass. At daybreak, after 53 hours (including our rest stop), we stood back on the glacier in heavy snowfall. A huge avalanche rolled down from the serac across our approach line before we had returned to the tent.

This area holds the possibility for many interesting first ascents. However, the best time for activity is probably in autumn or spring rather than in summer. During our climbs, the 0°C isotherm jumped to 6,000m, a major factor in causing the fractured rock.

Lukasz Depta, Poland

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