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Asia, Pakistan, Karakoram, Masherbrum Range, Hushe District, Las Damas Primero, Baush-ul, Spanish System – Very Good System, Cholon, Second Ascent but First to Highest Point

Hushe District, Las Damas Primero; Baush-ul, Spanish System – Very Good System; Cholon, second ascent but first to highest point. Under the direction of mountain guide Simon Elias, a female national climbing team from FEDME (Spanish mountaineering and climbing federation) made three ascents from the Hushe Valley. Maider Fraile, Miriam Marco, Maialen Ojer, Patty Trespando, and Asuncion Yanguas spent a month living with the women of Hushe, getting to know their personal needs. In the area at the time were paragliders Thomas de Dordolot and Ramón Morillas, who were helpful with aerial exploration of potential access to the peaks. And then there was the well-known mountaineer and film maker Sebastien Alvaro, creator of the series Al file de lo Imposible, who with his film crew, Mariano Izquierdo and Esther Sabadell, were responsible for documenting the expedition. The main objective was a fine spire west of the lower Chogolisa Glacier; locals had dubbed this Sebas Tower as a tribute to Alvaro for his help with bettering the lot of Hushe people through an NGO project. Alvaro had noted this peak as an attractive objective on previous visits.

In order to acclimatize, Elias, Fraile, Ojer, Trespando, and Yanguas first made the ascent of a rock needle immediately northeast of Hushe Village. The 850m ascent took place over three days, June 28, 29, and 31, was graded 6c+, 6b obl., and named Las Damas Primero (Ladies First). On August 3, and from a camp at 4,550m, Elias, Fraile, Marco, Ojer, Yanguas, and Sabadell, with local porter Hassan Jan, made the possible first ascent of Baush-ul (5,810m) via a 1,100m snow route at AD named Spanish System – Very Good System. Las Damas Primero lies on the west flank of this peak, which forms the (southern) cornerstone at the Hushe-Charakusa junction.

Elias and all five members of the climbing team now turned to “Sebas Tower,” unaware at the time that this peak had been climbed in 1993 during a UIAA International Camp led by the Dutch guide Edward Bekker, who had named it Cholon. Bekker, Evelyne Binsack, Jorg Witz (all guides), plus Andreas Daffner and Julian Neumeyer climbed the west ridge at D/TD but were stopped by a huge cornice 15m below the summit. The Spanish team repeated the west ridge on August 13, approaching from the lower Gondokoro Glacier, camping at 4,900m, and then climbing for a continuous 19 hours to reach the top. They managed to climb through the cornice, which they found difficult, and then on for a further pitch to the highest point. The 900m route was graded D+ (IV and 75°).

The Spanish climbers’ map marks this peak as 6,050m, and the recent Polish sketch map by the famous cartographer Jerzy Wala gives the height 6,294m. The UIAA team felt they reached an altitude of ca 6,000m. However, the Spanish climbers carried an altimeter that they matched several times during the trip with GPS readings, and recorded a height of 5,860m on the summit, an altitude the paragliders also confirmed as more likely.

Elias felt that the expedition exceeded expectations due to the great enthusiasm of the participants. One year had been spent in preparation—improving technique by winter climbing in the Alps and Pyrenees. The three-year womens climbing project will end in 2011, hopefully with another trip to Pakistan.

Francesc Estorach, Director de Comunicación, FEDME, Spain