Asia, Pakistan, Nangma Valley, Shingu Charpa, East Face
Shingu Charpa, east face. While planning our expedition back home, I could not get over the fact that it seemed prudent to plan 20 days for our new route on Shingu Charpa’s east wall. But looking at the photos, that’s what my experience suggested. This wall is strongly defended not by one crux but by a set of hard problems. Perhaps for that reason our predecessors did not reach the top. They solved some problems but were not ready to solve the following ones. And we do not blush to say that it was not easy for us either, psychologically or physically.
Mikhail Davy, Alexander Shabunin, and I spent 21 days on the climb, and another three days descending; we had 11 different bivy sites. Our route gained 1,600m, with a mix of free climbing and aid on rock, as well as pitches of ice and mixed. We graded it ABO 7a (6c obl) M5, but this is just one indication of the difficulties.
For one, we had a small team, and each climber had no time to recover his breath, notwithstanding his position on the rope. For another thing, although the wall pretended to be silent during our reconnaissance, it revealed a cruel temper during our First night in the portaledge. A thousand tons of rock (I do not exaggerate) flew by, brushing the portaledge’s edge. And that happened not just once or twice. Night rockfalls similar to the collapses on the Petit Dru and falling ice after the morning sun’s appearance forced us to adapt if we did not want to be ground to dust. The seconds usually jumared with heavy packs so we could avoid hauling bags that might dislodge rocks, and we had to search with great care for protected bivy sites. Sometimes we raced all day to reach the next sheltered corner.
Although we free climbed a lot, this route is not suitable for a pure free ascent. We found a layer of sand on the edges and huge, hanging loose blocks. The cracks are muddy and grassy or covered with a crust of burr-shaped crystals. Indeed, such rock is hard for aid climbing too.
The weather was horrid. Either we are losers or it is the general rule for the area now, but we dealt with much cold and snow. It was always about 0°C, the most tiring temperature. In winter, at -30°C, you can wear enough clothes and heavy boots to keep dry and warm. But we climbed in rock shoes or light boots that were all the time soaked.
I believe I understand why the Ukrainian and American teams did not get to the summit by the north ridge. [Editor’s note: Both attempts were in 2006.] It was so distant and they faced ice and mixed terrain when they felt their moral and physical strength was on the wane. We only managed to win the summit on our second push. During the First one we climbed five pitches from a bivy where we thought the summit was close, but then realized we did not have time to return before nightfall. It wasn’t easy to force ourselves to repeat an attempt early the next morning. We were almost out of food—our daytime menu had been reduced to tea in the morning and a package of soup for three men in the evening. We faced the sad prospect of a starving descent. But Finally we did it! It was time well spent.
Alexander Klenov, Russia/Kazakhstan