Zang Brakk, Czech Start Canadian Pinish. I was coming to the end of my summer guiding season in the Alps when I applied for the John Lauchlan Award to pursue my dream of exploring new routes in the Karakoram. After Lilla Molnar—a good friend and solid climber—agreed to join me, we began thinking about an objective. Sean Isaac bestowed his knowledge, and we decided on the Ladyfinger and Hunza Peak.
However, after we arrived and trekked for a long day in the remarkable area of Ultar Meadows, we decided to abandon Ladyfinger and Hunza for safer and quicker approaches in the Hushe Valley. We were fortunate to find a conveniently located and spectacular base camp up the Nangma Valley, above which many talented climbers have left a legacy of hard aid and spicy free climbs. We stumbled upon the unfinished east face of Zang Brakk (4,800m), where a Czech team had abandoned a line earlier this summer. [See note below.] The objective seemed to fit our window of weather, ability, and motivation.
The first day of our ascent, September 19, was blessed with sunshine, and we added two pitches to the Czechs’ initial three. Lilla won the day’s crux with a tricky A2 butt-crack pitch. After waiting out a couple of bad weather days, which provided rest and a chance to scope the summit ridge and descent route, we charged back up to our previous high point in deteriorating conditions on September 22. Wearing everything we had, we climbed mostly 5.10 A1 for the next six pitches. Actually, we didn’t climb so much as extricate plants and harvest dirt. If extreme gardening were an Olympic sport, we’d be medal contenders. The rock itself was brilliantly clean, slightly featured granite. The cracks have the potential to be just as remarkable, with rigorous cleaning.
As we neared the summit ridge it snowed and got dark. We had to traverse the ridge in rapidly deteriorating conditions, climbing up and rappelling down several times before we were able to put the rope away. From the top we descended slowly, with a bit of backtracking, and arrived at base camp 16 hours after we began.
Lilla coined the name Czech Start Canadian Pinish for our route (500m, TD- 5.10 A2,11 pitches) because our guide, Imran, was not used to the small appetites of picky white girls and would often ask if we had “pinished our dinner.” This route would go free at 5.11-. You could replace the A2 pitch with a 5.10+ offwidth with a steep exit.
Jennifer Olson, Canada