Back from Pakistan!

Sunrise on K6 and a few unclimbed gems...
 In my Junior High school years the Hollywood film ‘K2’ was an inspiration… of sorts, and after my first viewing of the movie an image of the “savage mountain” became unmovable from my memory; a portrait burned in my mind’s eye – perhaps the beginning of subconscious planning..? The first time I saw it for real was from a distance while perched atop a spire bordering the Charakusa Glacier in Pakistan. The mighty beast was tucked away behind another giant, Broad Peak and barely visible, but none-the-less its’ presence was unmistakable! For some reason a phrase from the film rattled through my mind “I’m not leaving my best friend to die on some f**king mountain”, Taylor screams this to H as they epic away Hollywood style during the climax of the film. It seemed funny to me as Matt McCormick and I stood, barefoot in the blazing sun praying for a cloud while soaking up the success of climbing one of the Charakusa Valley’s gems – Nayser Brakk (ca 5200m); a perfect pyramid of granite, iconic, formidable and perhaps the best rock peak in the area for acclimatization. We had just arrived in the valley; I had the flu from travel, but could not stand to see another sunny day slide by without climbing! We had supplies for a month, and big objectives. Along for the ride were Will Meinen, our guide Fida Hussain and his assistant Abbass Javed.

Short video of McCormick and me climbing the British Route on Nayser Brakk (ca 5200m).

Children of Haldi.

McCormick handing out school supplies in the village of Haldi.

Before our travels began the few random folks I discussed the trip with seemed mortified at the prospect of visiting Pakistan, particularly to go rock climbing. I’ll admit a bit of trepidation, but was hardly convinced we would see, or even concerned about…well…you know…”them.. the Taliban” as a few put it. Will Meinen, being a Canadian had to drive across the CN/US boarder to meet Matt and me for our flight outa Boston. He said the customs officer at the gate was so harsh with disdain in regards to his Pakistan Visa and travel plans that it made his mother cry. What we found from the people of Pakistan was nothing but hospitality! From tourism based professionals and residents of the larger cities – such as Islamabad – to the families of farmers living in the mud huts of a village of 500, honest and welcoming.

Basecamp - K7 Pillar on left, K6 on right.

 Nuff said about all that. Yes we did climb, hike and have a great adventure. No we did not walk away with the raddest alpine send of the year, but we did have some success! A few repeat summits and one new summit we dubbed Fida Brakk (ca 5350) – it seems the tradition to name the summits in honor of your local guide - a close neighbor to Fathi Brakk. Honestly we had intended on the route as another “warm-up” for the real deal across the valley. But she pretty much gave us full on battle! We thought one long 24 hr push, but spent the better part of two days up there (July 6-7) finishing up in the snow and rain – much of the terrain looked simul-climbable. What we got was mostly consistent 5.10R climbing with many pitches to 11+R and one possible 5.12- pitch (a pure beauty – splitter tips crack to funky face climbing, with great ledge fall potential)…yay! But seriously, the route looked chill from the ground; it follows a steep snow couloir to an obvious ridge line feature with a sweet spiked summit. We found no evidence of previous travelers and named our new rig The Jenga Spur, V+ 5.11+R A.0, 1050m. We had one 70 foot rappel and a tension traverse on the way up, but other than that the beast went free.

Fida Brakk (middle of three spikes on left) Fathi Brakk (just right of Fida), and Nayser Brakk (on right) - basking in full moon light.
The line of ascent on Fida Brakk (ca 5350m).

McCormick at ABC under Farol Peak. Note the pot-pan stereo.

 We experienced the best weather the first few weeks, and then it was pretty much one and half to two days of sunny skies followed by a buildup and eventual dumb for three to four days. This cycle crushed our chances at the K7 Pillar, but we still had a great time and made a few new friends along the way!! A full on 3-4 part blog roll will come out in September via Mountain Hardwear, so stay tunned.

Self portrait on the drive out, shortly before they let me drive the remaining 6 hours back to Skardu.

Also, this trip would not have been possible without the support from: The Copp/Dash Inspire Award, The Shipton/Tilman Award, Mountain Hardwear, Sterling Ropes, Petzl, Metolius, Julbo, Evolv and LaSportiva!! Thanks y’all!!

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