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Asia, Pakistan, Karakoram, Ghujerab Mountains, Koksil Sar I (6,176m, Polish Map; 6,152m GPS), West Flank and Northwest Ridge; Koksil Sar II (5,909m GPS), West Ridge; Koksil Sar III (5,888m GPS), Southeast Flank

Koksil Sar I (6,176m, Polish Map; 6,152m GPS), west flank and northwest ridge; Koksil Sar II (5,909m GPS), west ridge; Koksil Sar III (5,888m GPS), southeast flank. The Karakoram Highway is probably the longest construction site in the world. Our journey north was interrupted by the crossing of the Atabad Lake, where we found that in Hunza-speak there is no word for boat. After modest acclimatization in Shimshal, we continued up the Highway to Koksil (4,100m) on the Khunjerab River, 12km before the Khunjerab Pass. From there we walked south up the Koksil Valley, branching right at 4,500m to the Third Koksil Glacier, where we established base camp at 4,600m. From there Ulli Fechter, Harry Grün, Birgit Walk, and I moved to a high camp at 5,300m, near the head of the glacier below Koksil Sar I. We left this camp at 4 a.m. on August 4 and started up the west flank of the northwest ridge, finding good conditions on the initial 40-50° snow face. Taking a direct line, I was soon ahead of my three friends, who had decided to follow a less direct route to a col on the ridge. I reached a rock barrier after 400m of ascent, the first place suitable for a short rest. Here I used a back rope to protect a leftward traverse over brittle rock. I then saw Harry almost level with me but separated by a rock ridge from the couloir I was in. I climbed the couloir a short distance and waited.

After half an hour there was no sign of the others. They are all experienced mountaineers, so I opted for the summit. After reaching the northwest ridge, I continued up névé to a steep ice pitch below the cornice. Here I climbed two back-roped pitches, using V-thread anchors to get past the ice and through the cornice to the summit plateau. Now all I had to contend with was knee-deep snow, and I reached the top at 3:15 p.m., my GPS reading 6,152m. I began a straightforward rappel descent and at 5,900m found rappel anchors from my three friends. When I get back to the tents, I found that Harry had injured a tendon. Two days later Ulli and Birgit made a second attempt and were successful, taking a different, lower, line to reach the crest of the ridge.

That was only the start. There were two more high, unclimbed peaks in this massif and, though not marked as over 6,000m on our sketch maps, were not much lower. On the 8th Klaus Adler, Brigitte Hantusch, and I climbed to a high camp at 5,450m in the west branch of the Third Koksil Glacier and on the following day reached the summit of Koksil Sar III, which we measured as 5,888m. We made our ascent via snow/ice slopes on the southeast flank.

While I was climbing Koksil Sar I, Klaus had attempted Koksil Sar II, retreating only 40m below the summit because he lacked the hardware he needed. On the 10th I tried this peak alone from the 5,450m high camp. The crevasse danger did not appear great, and Klaus’s track was still visible. This involved climbing directly to 5,717m Jacky Chhish [a.k.a. Koksil Sar VI, first climbed in 2000, see above] west of the summit, descending east to the col between it and Koksil Sar II, then following the west ridge of the latter. Above Klaus’s high point I again back-roped, as the final section was a steep, sharp, icy arête in poor condition. On the summit I had visual and radio contact with base camp, and the GPS read 5,909m.

With this phase of the expedition over, we returned to Karimabad, where all but Harry and I continued home. The two of us decided to make the trek from Hispar to Arandu, over the Nushik La (a.k.a. Nauschilak La). The trip was arduous and the crossing of the 4,990m pass far from easy: steep névé, a rotten cornice, and rockfall. English-speaking locals on the south side were amazed to see us, and subsequent research suggests we may have been the first party to complete this traverse since 1980.

Markus Gschwendt, Austria