History made-First Pakistani ascent of PakPeak FalakSar (5,918m) in Swat

History made-First Pakistani ascent of PakPeak FalakSar (5,918m) in Swat

PC: Dr Najeeb Ansari (Karachi)

Swat, dubbed as Switzerland of Pakistan is known internationally with reference to Malala Yousaf Zai, 2014 Nobel Peace Laureate. Domestically, valley is a favorite tourist spot with many destinations like Kalam, Baharin, Mahodand and Ushu to choose from. However it has another important feature, a mountain which is rightly called as K2 of Swat by the locals. PakPeak Falak Sar (5,918m) is a snow capped, pyramid shaped, beautiful peak  that completely dominates the land scape around it. It is the highest mountain peak in Ushu Valley of Swat and is part of Hindu Kush mountain range.

Third from Left: Ahmad Mutjaba,Hamza Anees & Adnan Saleem

Three climbers mainly from Lahore including Ahmad Mujtaba, Hamza Anees and Adnan Saleem made it to summit of PakPeak Falak Sar (5,918m) and became first Pakistanis to step on it. Ahmad Mujtaba  based in Lahore is an experienced climber who manages his climbing equipment brand. He along with Adnan Saleem, an avid you tuber summited PakPeak MalikaParbat (5,290m) in 2018. Hamza Anees climbed PakPeak Musa ka Musala (4,080m) in 2018 and PakPeak Khusargang (6050m) last year near Skardu, in a daring solo way. They left Lahore on 7 Aug 20 and reached back on 23 Aug 20. Owing to some dangerous developments beyond Camp II on PakPeak Falak Sar they had to spend two nights in a snow cave. Lack of proper communication with the base camp resulted in rumors about their whereabouts after reaching the summit. Thankfully after 48 hrs of chaos, three emerged at base camp safe and victorious.

The mountain itself have relatively short and mysterious climbing history.It was first climbed by W.K.A Berry and C.H. Tyndale-Biscoe of New Zealand in 1957 from its North ridge.The second ascent is unverified and attributed to Dr. Wolf Gang Stephen who reportedly also  climbed PakPeak Distaghil Sar and PakPeak Malika Parbat.In 1968, another ascent was made by a Japanese expedition from Yamaguchi University composed of Yoshiyuki Nagahiro and Toshiyuki Akiyama. According to entry in American Alpine Journal of 1968, after traveling by car from Peshawar through Saidu Sharif , capital of Swat, to Matiltan , they headed up the Falak Sar Valley. They established their base camp at at 3350 m on August 15. On August 20 reached the summit reported to be 5,918m. 52 years later on almost same dates PakPeak Falak Sar (5,918m) received its first Pakistani climbers.

Previous Pakistani attempts on Falak Sar included one in 2014 under veterean mountaineer Lt Col (Retd) Dr Abdul Jabbar Bhatti and another in 2019 by Ahmed Mujtaba and his team.

Who are the Two on K2?

Who are the Two on K2?

 

This winter season on the world’s second highest mountain K2 is historic in every sense.

Widely considered as “the last problem of mountaineering” climbing K2 in Winters had been a distant dream so far.Since late eighty’s only four teams have tried to climb the summit in winter; all without success. It is now almost three decades since first attempt for K2 in Winter was done and no human to date have crossed K2 beyond 7650m altitude in harsh winter of Karakorum.

Currently two Teams are on K2 seeking out to overcome this “Last Great Challenge” .

First one is the ”Western Team” comprising of Spanish and Polish Mountaineers which is lavishly equipped and sponsored, led by 37 year old Spaniard  Alex Tricon.The second team is  a Russian / Kazakhstan / Kirghizstan dominated which can be referred as “Eastern Team”. This team unfortunately is neither well equipped nor sponsored enough .

Despite of the fact that mountain climbing is a team sport which heavily depends on support staff including the accompanying sherpas and logistics people at the base camp it all ultimately boils down to the leadership of a daring mission like that.So how the team leaders of these two different and highly competitive teams compare to each other.

The team leader of Western Team “Alex Txikon”  was born in Spain on December 12 , 1981. To his credit are almost thirty expeditions including fourteen of 8000ers . Most noticeably in 2016 he completed the first winter ascent to Nanga Parbat .With unsuccessful winter climb of Everest in 2017 and successful climb of Nanga Parbat in 2016 in Winter Alex is in good shape to meet this great challenge .

He can be reached at http://alextxikon.com/en

Vasily Pivtsov from Kazikhistan is the team leader of seven member Eastren Team currently on K2. Born on August 16, 1975 in Alma-Ata , in Kazakhstan he has climbed all 14 highest peaks of the world without the use of artificial oxygen. However on Everest he had to fall back for health reasons. The summit of the K2 as his 14th and last eight-thousand he reached on August 23, 2011.Despite the limited resources his team is also poised well to meet the Challenge of K2 in winters. He can be reached at

http://www.russianclimb.com/k2winter/2019/new_team.html 

As both teams move cautiously inch by inch on K2 in harsh winters under their experienced leaders , it remains yet to be seen if this last great challenge is accomplished once for all or will be left for future.

(more…)

Amir Mehdi – The man who was Betrayed on K2

1954 K2 Expedition

Amir Mehdi was a High Altitude Porter (HAP) and climber from Hassnabad, Hunza, Pakistan. He is known for bivouacking at 8100m during 1954 Italian Expedition to K2. Mehdi was born in 1933. He was a participant of 1953 German Expedition to Nanga Parbat. Mehdi returned down from Camp IV due to health issues. Hermann Buhl made first ascent of Nanga Parbat.

Next year, it were efforts of Walter Bonatti and Amir Mehdi that made first ascent of K2 possible. Both of them shifted bottled oxygen directly from Camp VII to Camp IX, late in the night. To their surprise Camp IX was not present at it’s agreed spot. Lino Lacedelli and Achille Compagnoni asked them to go down. Already exhausted, descend to lower camp in dark wasn’t possible. Walter Bonatti and Amir Mehdi bivouacked at 8100m in freezing cold. Mehdi descended next morning, severely frostbitten and had to undergo several surgeries. He lost ten fingers and couldn’t climb again.He was first Pakistani mountaineer to reach a height above 8000m. Mehdi died in early 2000.

PakPeak Payu (6610m)- The First Ascent

Payu, Karakoram

Manzoor Hussain, Major, Pakistani Army, Alpine Club of Pakistan

THE vertical rock and steep ice of 21,658-foot Payu (less correctly written Paiju) was the target of the first all-Pakistani expedition, organized by the Alpine Club of Pakistan. The peak, which rises from just below the tongue of the Baltoro Glacier, had already defied two previous attempts. A joint Pakistani-American expedition, led by Nicholas B. Clinch, abandoned the attempt in 1974 at 18,000 feet after a fatal accident to a Pakistani member, Momin Hamid. The second try was made in 1975 by a French expedition led by Jean Fréhel. The French reached 19,000 feet but gave up when one of the members was swept under an avalanche and broke his leg.

In November 1975 the Alpine Club of Pakistan started preparing our Services Expedition. The members consisted of Squadron Leader Javaid Iqbal deputy leader; Major Bashir Ahmed, Captains Mohammad Ayaz, Amjad Kamal Butt and Saeed Ahmed, Flight Lieutenant Z.H.K. Yousafzai, Captain Doctor Tahir Ahmed, Nazir Ahmed Sabir, Allen Steck and me as leader. Except for the doctor all Pakistanis were young, but with several years of climbing experience. Allen Steck, the famous mountaineer from California, joined us to give instruction in technical climbing.

We flew to Skardu on June 5 and traveled by Jeep to Dassu on the 7th. After recruiting 107 Balti porters, we started the seven-day approach to our 15,000-foot Base Camp, placed in what we named Momin’s Meadow, named for the Pakistani climber who had lost his life on Payu in 1974. After reaching Base Camp on June 14, the expedition carried out a week-long refresher course under Steck’s supervision. The weather was consistently bad with heavy snowfall even at Base Camp.

The first attempt to establish Camp I was made on June 23 in partially bad weather. Saeed, Bashir and Steck started up a snow-and-ice gully that rose from 15,000 to 18,000 feet, 30° in the lower part and up to 50° in the upper portion. At 17,000 feet, just below the proposed site for Camp I, the party was struck by an avalanche. Saeed, who was in the lead, was dashed against the rocks and left hanging on his belay rope upside down below a rock ledge. Allen and Bashir rescued the injured climber and lowered him to Base Camp. A few days later, on June 28, after the fresh snow had avalanched, Camp I was established at 17,200 feet. We fixed 500 feet of rope. An effort to push the route to Camp II on June 30 failed in oncoming bad weather. We withdrew to Base Camp.

On July 6 we finally were able to establish Camp II at 18,500 feet at the top of the gully, above 50° ice as well as rock ledges, where we fixed another 750 feet of rope. That camp had a fantastic view of K2, Broad Peak, the Gasherbrums and Masherbrum. Saeed, Bashir and Allen Steck worked above Camp II, up steep, avalanching gullies and frozen rock until Nazir had to replace Bashir, who was taken ill. The rest of us shuttled food and equipment to Camp II.

Saeed, Nazir, Steck and I established Camp III at 19,600 feet on July 13. The whole route between Camps II and III was fixed with rope. A 300-foot section of difficult rock was encountered there. On July 14 Saeed and Steck started up the initial easy snow to reconnoiter and possibly to climb the last 2000 feet, but the route was much more difficult than anticipated with some 60° ice. They retreated from 20,600 feet, exhausted and with some frost-bitten toes. Saeed descended to Base Camp, eventually to be evacuated by helicopter because of his feet.

I decided to put up Camp IV. On July 17 Bashir, Nazir, Allen Steck and I climbed past Camp III and established Camp IV at 20,100 feet, just below a very steep ice pitch. At 3:30 A.M. on July 19 we headed for the summit. After 17 hours of tough climbing, which included 200 feet of direct-aid on rock, led by Allen, and other good leads by Nazir, we dug a snow cave at 21,400 feet and bivouacked without sleeping bags or food.

In partially cloudy windy weather on July 20, we climbed 50 feet to a snowfield that joins the nearly vertical main summit to the 150-foot- lower east summit. Only the lower top can be seen from below on the Baltoro Glacier. I belayed Nazir as he struggled up the steep ice to the main summit 200 feet above us. Allen decided to sit on the final snowfield and photograph our final climb. Bashir joined us on the summit at two P.M. At three o’clock we began our tortuous rappel to Camp IV, which we reached at midnight. We were all back in Base Camp by July 27. Our good comradeship achieved our success. We are particularly grateful to Allen Steck for his cooperation and guidance.

Summary of Statistics:

Area: Baltoro region of the Karakoram, Baltistan, Pakistan.

First Ascent: Payu, 21,658 feet, July 20, 1976 (Major Bashir Ahmed, Major Manzoor Hussain, Nazir Ahmed Sabir).

 

Source: American Alpine Club