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Enshrouded in clouds (center) is K7 West (6858m), Charakusa Valley, Karakoram, Pakistan. Marko Prezelj, Steve House and Vince Anderson made the first ascent of this peak on September 3–just days after Kelly Cordes and Scott DeCapio arrived in the Valley with hopes to bag the same objective. Prezelj had attempted the peak, unsuccessfully, in 2004 while House was climbing the first solo ascent of K7 proper’s south face (VI 5.10- M6 WI4 A2, 2400m). [Photo] Marko Prezelj

Marko Prezelj, Steve House and Vince Anderson–one of many world-class alpine-climbing teams that has descended upon Pakistan’s Charakusa Valley, Karakoram this season (see the August 30 NewsWire)–succeeded in making the first ascent of K7 West (6858m) on September 3, at approximately 4 p.m. in a whiteout. The peak was the team’s secondary objective; they still hope to make the first ascent of K6 West (7100m), their primary objective, later this trip. Although details of the ascent are lacking as we publish this NewsWire, the ascent was made less than a week after Kelly Cordes and Scott DeCapio–who also planned to make the first ascent of K7 West–arrived in the Charakusa. Further news about the ascent will be forthcoming.

Kelly Cordes and Scott DeCapio arrived in the Valley on August 28, between rain showers, as did the notoriously strong Quebecois team of Maxime Turgeon and LP Menard. Though the three teams share several objectives, House expressed that the feeling in the Valley is one of camaraderie, not of tension. In a satellite phone message posted on Patagonia’s, House said: “[the other teams]… have the same objective as Marko, Vince and I, but of course we’re all friendly. There’s not really any room for competition or animosity at this level of alpine climbing. It really wouldn’t do anybody any good anyway.” House also said that weather will be the biggest factor determining which teams are successful, as “[all the teams currently] here [in the Charakusa Valley are] capable of climbing any of these peaks.”

House has made nine trips to the Karakoram; his best-known climb in the region is the first ascent, climbed solo and in a push, of K7 proper’s south face (VI 5.10- M6 WI4 A2, 2400m). Interestingly, House made this ascent while his teammates–Prezelj, Steve Swenson and Jeff Hollenbaugh–were attempting K7 West. The team “was stopped several hundred meters shy of the summit by an unconsolidated snow pillow. Prezelj triggered a small slab; he stayed with us, but Swenson’s pack took the 1000-meter ride to the glacier,” Hollenbaugh said. (More information on the 2004 team’s activity is available in Hollenbaugh’s Climbing Note in Issue 9.)

On this year’s trip, before climbing K7 West, Prezelj, House and Anderson also made an unsuccessful first-attempt bid on the west summit of the triple peaked, 20,700-foot Farol. An objective in its own right (House referred to Farol, which has no non-technical route to the summit, by saying, “There’s no walk-up on this thing”), it also was their final acclimatization project.

On August 24 the team hiked up the glacier from basecamp to 17,000′ through intermittent rain showers. Precipitation of all types: rain, sleet, wet flakes of snow–intense enough at times to wake House–fell through the night. After several hours of indecision the team packed up their still-wet gear and hiked on, their eye on the couloir system leading to Farol’s south ridge and, eventually, to the westernmost of its three summits. When the sun poked out, rockfall and small avalanches began; throughout the day they continually worsened. Disheartened, the team returned to their bivy site on the glacier, where thirty-six hours of more damp weather engulfed them. House said it was reminiscent of “winter in the North Cascades or something in Scotland.” The short weather window that followed on September 1 allowed the trio to begin making progress on K7. They climbed the face, reached the summit (albeit in a whiteout) and descended in a planned four days.