First Ascent: East Face, K7
Assalaam alaikum everyone! Hope y’all are having a great summer. Everything is splendid here in Pakistan. Hayden, Urban and I are finished with part one of our Pakistani doubleheader and with great success! On July 18 and 19, we climbed the East face of K7 in a ballistic, 49-hour push!
Starting from an ABC below the East face, we began climbing at 11:00 p.m. on July 17. Several hours after sunrise, we arrived at the high point from our attempt in September, 2011. Conditions on the lower route were perfect and reminiscent of last year’s attempt. But at approximately 6,200 meters, an un-consolidated snowpack slowed our progress. It seemed safe, so we pushed onward toward the crux of the route.
Late afternoon on the 18, tensions elevated as the terrain steepened; Route finding became deceptive, and bivy options appeared nil. After reaching an impassible rock section and making one rappel to explore another direction, Hayden and I each lead one consecutive M6 pitch. With great relief, we found a small snow ledge where we were able to dig and chop a place to sit for a few hours.
The three of us used two sleeping bags and shared one ground pad to sit, brew up and doze off for a few hours.
On the 19 we awoke to light snow and made the decision to continue upward. After a few more easy rock pitches and plenty of deep snow, it was time for our Slovenian powerhouse to take over; Urban Novak lead us approximately 200 meters through waist deep snow to K7’s summit.
Some past climbers have sought out the summit of K7 as a means to their salvation. For us, the summit felt anti-climactic. It was merely a place to begin ten hours of repelling. The process of climbing K7 was where we found our fulfillment, most specifically, climbing with our Slovenian friend and his calm wisdom when the shit was hitting the fan. Late in the afternoon on July 18, conditions were grim. We were tired, cold, and snow pelted our faces. The route ahead was unclear, and the three of us spoke about our options for bailing. That was when Urban commented, “But this is what we came for. We knew it would be this way. We must continue.” Urban’s words made the stark misery of the situation seem manageable. After all, K7 was our choice.
Urban has since departed Pakistan, bound for his home, his girlfriend and some free time before continuing his Ph.D. work. Hayden and I are chilling in Skardu, eating as much as possible, sleeping tons and preparing to join Josh Wharton on the Choktoi Glacier for an attempt at another big, scary mountain. We begin hiking August 4. Wish us luck!
Thanks to the Mugs Stump Grant, Polartec Challenge Grant, Lyman Spitzer and all you fine folks for making this summer possible!