Chiche valley debrief: German new routes in the shade of Nanga Parbat

Posted: Sep 16, 2010 06:31 pm EDT

Germans Christian Walter and Jens Sommerfeld were two of the climbers who ran to help the victims of the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan--Jens actually ended up moving to Islamabad, where he currently lives. Last month, the guys met up again this summer as Christian went for some cool climbs in Nanga Parbat range together with mate Stefan Wolf, just before the floods brought them back to the darkest side of life.

Christian and Jens were members in German Saxony Alpine Club, which performed relief works in Sakargah region after the earthquake that hit Pakistan in November 2005. Two years later they reported on a climbing expedition to Dofana Peak. Three weeks ago, they checked in from Islamabad.

"Besides the high air humidity, the living is quite fine here--no flooding," Christian reported. "While waiting for my departure plane, I've been rock climbing in the limestone crags of Margalla Hills."

"Jens Sommerfeld (the other gentleman from Sakargah) is now living in Islamabad and came up with the idea of opening sport-climbing routes nearby. Together with some friends, they've opened some pitches."

No one since Mummery

"The reason for being here, though, is that we are just back from Nanga Parbat Range. South of Rupal Valley there is a nearly unknown valley called Chiche," Christian recounted. "There is one impressive peak which you can see already from Mazeno Pass. It's not very tall (5,860m) but otherwise beautiful, and beholds an amazing story..."

"Remember Albert F. Mummery? O.K., it was some years before the launch of ExplorersWeb :-). It's widely known that he was lost in 1895, during an attempt to climb Nanga Parbat. Shortly before that, though, he also tried to climb Chiche Peak together with Norman Collie. They failed. And no one else had tried since then, so we did."

Editor's Note: Mummery, Collie and Hastings led the first attempt on Nanga Parbat in a pioneering light-weight expedition back in 1895. Mummery and two Gurkhas were killed in a avalanche while scouting the Rakhiot Face.

"Firsts" collectors

"Team mate Stefan Wolf and I summited at 3:00PM on August 11, after climbing alpine style," Walter stated. "We had set up BC at 3,800 meters and bivouacked on the go at 5,200 meters. Most parts of the route were up to 55º steep. We found some solid ice on the upper sections, but had to fight loose snow on an extremely steep ramp just before the summit ridge."

"Previously, we had bagged three first climbs on nearby peaks which we climbed to acclimatize:

  • Shalmuki at 5,068 meters. The name means "hundred faces', which is a nice rock-climbing target. On August 1, we opened "Breathless", a 450-meter long route of UIAA VII degree climbing (which means "hard severe" in the climbing world), including some very nice crack pitches.

  • Nilo Peak at 4,986 meters (according to our GPS) is quite an easy rock scramble up to UIAA's III degree (difficult). We climbed it on August 4.

  • On August 5, we climbed a third peak on 45º ice ramps and UIAA's III degree on rock. We named it Gerd Markert Peak (4,966m), after a German climber who had died some weeks before.

  • Return to a flooded land

    "The area we were in was less affected by the flooding than others. Certainly, the rivers were difficult to cross since bridges had been swept away, but we managed them all. Once we used horses to cross a mountain stream. The real adventure was to get back to Islamabad though," Christian recalls.

    "We did it in a "block-to-block" manner: Find a car (with fuel), go to next landslide or missing bridge, cross it by foot, find the next car.... It took us 11 cars from Tarishing to Islamabad. Infrastructures are destroyed along the northern areas."

    Snow ramps and cornices on Chiche Peak.
    Image by Christian Walter courtesy Christian Walter
    Last meters before the bivouac at 5200m
    Image by Christian Walter courtesy Christian Walter
    Chiche Peak as seen from Mazeno Pass.
    Image by Christian Walter courtesy Christian Walter
    Opening of "Breathless" route on Shamulki peak.
    courtesy Christian Walter
    Gerd Markert Peak, named after a recently lost German climber.
    Image by Christian Walter courtesy Christian Walter
    Nilo Peak.
    Image by Christian Walter courtesy Christian Walter