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After an unsuccessful expedition to climb the north face of Masherbrum (7855m) with Slovenians Marko Prezelj and Matija Jost, I made a solo expedition to the Charakusa Valley in the eastern Karakoram. On July 31 I climbed a new route on an unnamed and unclimbed peak that I called Hajji Brakk (ca. 5985m) after my good friend and cook, Ghulam Rasool, who became Hajji this past year. (Hajji is the title given to those Muslims who have made the pilgrimages to the Muslim holy sites in Mecca and Medina.) I hiked to a bivouac on the glacier just below the bergschrund on July 30. The next morning, I began my day at 3:01, and crossed the schrund at 3:16. By 6:30 a.m. I had climbed 600 meters of ice (45? to 65?) on a broad ice face to what had looked like an ice-choked chimney system from below. The ice turned out to be very sublimated, so I opted for a more direct and drier mixed chimney to the left and started the self-belayed climbing. The first three self-belayed pitches were sustained (5.7 to 5.9) and felt difficult at the altitude. I then soloed for a few hundred more feet on easier, but loose and exposed, terrain to the shoulder just below the summit rock tower. I soloed as far as was comfortable up the rock tower on beautiful alpine granite and started belaying when the climbing got to the 5.7 range, which again felt difficult with the altitude and big boots. I reached the summit at 4:48 p.m. and started down at 4:50. I made sixteen rappels on rock gear and ice v-threads and did a lot of down climbing in the dark to get to my bivy on the glacier at 10:20 p.m. The route (from bergschrund to summit) was 1200 meters long, and I completed the ascent and descent (via the same route) in nineteen hours. After the Hajji Brakk ascent I made four attempts on another, higher peak, but reached a maximum elevation of 6200 meters due to consistently poor weather.

This valley is the most amazing alpine area I have ever seen. The variety of objectives, from rock towers to super-alpine objectives, is unmatched. Most of the peaks are under 6500 meters, which means no permit fee and no liason officer, and with just a two-day walk from the end of the road, this is a very affordable Karakoram expedition. I’ll be back.

— Steve House, Mazama, Washington, USA