K7 West (6,615m), Northwest Face, Dreamers of Golden Caves

Pakistan, Masherbrum Range, Charakusa Valley,
Author: Luka Strazar. Climb Year: 2011. Publication Year: 2012.

You never forget your first Himalayan experience. Charakusa was mine. Our first problem was visas. We were unable to obtain these in Slovenia and eventually were forced to go to Rome. Driving home with our visas, which we received on the last possible day before the flight, I wondered if this 20-hour ordeal might be the biggest adventure of the expedition. Instead it turned into one good story in a series of many.

During the dark morning of September 6, Nejc Marcic and I heard our cook say “chapattis” and later “Inshallah,” as we left base camp at 4,200m on the Charakusa Glacier. But the ascent did not begin well. Due to darkness and inattention, we lost an hour finding our way to the glacier. That made us even more nervous, until firm snow and speed restored some of our confidence. Higher up the wall steepened, and we started belaying. Searching for passages, climbing steep ice and rock, and lugging heavy packs defined our first day on the mountain. Shortly after sunset we reached the ridge and a good bivouac spot. Exhausted we quickly fell asleep.

The second day wasn’t much fun. We climbed many annoying icefields, with hard ice separated by steep rock. A strong sun and dehydration slowed us, so that we only accomplished about 300m. But we found a good bivouac spot, where we melted a lot of water and prepared for the next day’s push to the summit.

As we left our bivouac, we worried whether the final serac would be climbable. The weather was still good, but the forecast was for it to worsen during the day. We traversed under the huge serac, and as we approached the ridge, an easy passage revealed itself. We shouted joyfully. Heavy breathing and slow walking took us up the final slopes, and we were smiling again. It started snowing during the descent. On the fourth day we returned to base camp.

Luka Strazar, Slovenia

Editor's note: Marcic and Strazar, traveling with minimal equipment, initially climbed ice runnels and mixed terrain left of the monolithic, lower central spur. From their second bivouac they realized that a direct ascent of the headwall above would be too difficutl, so they descended some distance and outflanked it on the right, traversing below part of the large sreac barrier that threatens the faces on each side of the spur. They reached the summit at 7 a.m. on day three. They named the route Dreamers of the Golden Caves (1,600m, VI/5 M5 A2), because, being young and having little money, they are always dreaming of a way to finance themselves. This is only the second route to the summit of K7 West and the third ascent of the mountain. It was awrded a 2012 Piolet d'Or. The four-man Sovenian team also climbed many other routes in the valley, incuding a 300m variant (at the top) to the southwest ridge of Naisa Brakk (900m of climbing, 5.11-, Anderson-House-Prezelj, 2007), by Marcic and Urban Novak, and a possible new route up the left-hand dihedral on Iqbal's Wall (David Debeljak and Novak).