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Home » Climbing Notes » NANGA PARBAT, RUPAL FACE


During eight days in September, Steve House and I completed a new route
on Nanga Parbat’s Rupal Face. The route climbs a more direct line to the
summit on more technically difficult terrain than the 1970 Messner Route
to the left and the 1985 Polish-Mexican route to the right. After weeks
of waiting for good weather and climbing conditions, we started our
climb on September 1. We left our base camp at 3680 meters with a bare
minimum of equipment and six to eight days’ worth of food and fuel. Our
packs weighed roughly thirty-five pounds each.

The route itself started in earnest at around 4000 meters on the Bazhin
Glacier. Above the glacier’s toe we gained a rock buttress that offered
protection from the numerous avalanches roaring down the face. We
followed this rock buttress to a height of about 5000 meters, where we
traversed out right to a bivy below the next rock buttress at 5100
meters. Climbing this buttress via an ice vein the following day proved
to be the technical crux. On one pitch, I tired halfway up and lowered
off to let Steve finish it without a pack. We climbed about 300 meters
this day in ten hours of climbing, and we bivied above this buttress in
a semiprotected spot on an outcropping.

After watching several huge avalanches roar by our camp during the
evening, we set off early the next morning and hurriedly traversed below
the dangerous, serac-threatened gullies. Once more we gained a rock
buttress that, although technically more difficult than the adjacent ice
slopes, offered more protection from falling seracs. Here we were
pleasantly surprised to find high-quality mixed climbing followed by ice
runnels. We continued climbing for hours into the darkness as we
searched for a decent place to bivy. After a few more trying pitches
(Steve vomited–for good reason–when he finished leading one in
particular) and a big traverse to a hanging glacier, we found a
sheltered bivy under a severely overhanging serac at more than 6000
meters, and enjoyed some much-needed rest.

Late the next morning we continued up this hanging glacier on easy snow
and ice until we reached the base of yet another rocky headwall. We
approached with trepidation. At nearly 6500 meters we were pleased to
find a section of easy waterice ascending the left-hand side of the
headwall–a key passage to the completion of the route. As soon as we’d
climbed it, we searched for a bivy on a snowy ridge to our left. Just
before Steve gained the ridge, the snow collapsed beneath him, and he
narrowly missed taking a whipper. He caught himself with one axe planted
into the snow above the break line. We managed to carve out a spot just
wide enough for our small tent on this narrow ridge at 6800 meters, an
exhilarating bivy site.

The next day saw us climbing a few pitches of moderate ice and then
endless snow slopes to 7400 meters, very near the intersection with the
Messner Route. After a poor night’s sleep, we left at 3 a.m., carrying
one pack that contained four liters of water, one liter of SPIZ (an
energy drink), and several GUs and organic food bars. Although we
started with two fifty-meter ropes, after two easy mixed pitches right
above camp, we abandoned one and continued with a single five-mil cord
to facilitate rappelling on the descent. We climbed slowly, taking only
a few, short breaks. The weather, with warm temperatures and no wind,
could not have been better. At 4 p.m. we gained the 8000-meter
foresummit of Nanga Parbat, and the final way to the top was obvious and
easy. We took our longest break here as I had a much-needed nap while
Steve dried out his socks in the afternoon sunshine.

Less than two hours later, we stood on top of Nanga Parbat’s 8125-meter
summit, elated and near exhaustion. We spent fifteen minutes reveling in
the glory of our ascent before starting down. Darkness overcame us as we
down climbed and rappelled back to our high camp, which we reached at 3
a.m., twenty-four hours after starting.

The next day and a half we descended the Messner Route to return to our
base camp, where we celebrated the completion of our 4100-meter route
(VII 5.9 M5 WI4).

Vince Anderson, Ophir, Colorado