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Asia, Pakistan, Charakusa Valley, Haji Brakk, Attempt on West Face

Haji Brakk, attempt on west face. From June 28 to July 17 the small Polish expedition of Jerzy Stefanski and I climbed in the Charakusa Valley. We acclimatized with a night at 5,000m and an ascent of Sulo Peak (ca 5,950m) by its southwest couloir, and then we had a week of bad weather. During this time we made plans to try the west face of Haji Brakk (ca 5,985m). Our proposed line was to the right of the Steve House route (2003, first ascent of the peak). It followed a mixed dihedral, then snow slopes to a small ridge, and then a 150–200m headwall. After four hours of approaching we made a bivy at the base of the wall. However, there was rain and snowfall that night, and the next morning we went down to base camp all wet.

We got a forecast for good weather for several days, so we packed our gear and went back to the base of the wall. We decided to bivy higher than before, just below the dihedral. Unfortunately, we discovered that during repacking we had forgotten the gas. It meant defeat at the beginning, but in spite of this we decided to climb. About 3 a.m. we woke, ate a little, and had a cold drink. We quickly climbed the huge dihedral, where the rock was far from perfect and there was mixed climbing up to Scottish VI. The most problematic pitch was a chimney with a waterfall. Because of technical difficulties (about VI+/VII-), Jerzy led with rock shoes; I followed with two backpacks. We got very wet, but at 2 p.m. were on the snow slope. The weather was perfect—too perfect. The snow became heavy. We had to stop and bivy.

When we woke at 1 a.m., the snow was frozen. Above a 65° snow-ice slope, we reached an 80m mixed wall up to 85°. Climbing this was difficult (at least Scottish VI), with only psychological protection. The ice and snow became less safe minute by minute. After three hard pitches, we reached the small ridge at midday. To reach the headwall we would have had to rappel to a 60° snow couloir and climb it for two pitches. Because of bad snow, we first would have had to bivy and wait for the freeze. Because we were dehydrated and out of food, and I was afraid my wet toes were freezing, we decided to retreat. We rappelled to our last bivy, then started downclimbing the couloir Steve House had climbed. It was risky because of stone falls and the bad condition of the snow and ice. About 6 p.m. we reached our first bivy, and the next day we went down to base camp. My toes were frostbitten, but fortunately I lost just nails. However, my climbing in the valley was over.

After several days Jerzy soloed the south couloir of Beatrice (5,800m) in 4½ hours up and down. At the end of the expedition he climbed a new route called the Ski Track on the 400m Iqbal’s Wall, with Nicolas Favresse and Sean Villanueva from Belgium. [See summary above.] Without the Polish Climbing Association (PZA), this expedition wouldn’t have taken place.

Jan Kuczera, Polish Climbing Association