On 6 September, at 17:45 Vince Anderson and I stood on the windless summit of Nanga Parbat after six days of climbing. We had climbed a new, direct route on the Rupal Face. Famous for being one of the biggest, if not the biggest, wall in the world and because it saw its first ascent in 1970 by Reinhold and Gunther Messner.

The Rupal Face of Nanga Parbat with the Anderson-House line of September 2005 shown

Photo source: grivelnorthamerica.com










Vince and I started at 4:00 on 1 September carrying 16kg of equipment each. We had pared the equipment to the minimum we thought was necessary. We carried a 1kg tent and one synthetic sleeping bag that I sewed especially for this route. We had the minimum of food and fuel. Our rack consisted of 3 cams, 10 nuts, 9 titanium pitons, 5 ice screws, and 10 runners. We climbed on a 8mm rope and carried a 5mm static rope to use for the many rappels back down the face. Each was cut to 50 meters long.

The first two nights we followed the route climbed by myself and Bruce Miller in 2004. (to 7,500m, no summit). On the third day, searching for more of an adventure than merely completing the 2004 line and dealing with more snow on the wall that we found in 2004, Vince and I headed straight up the prominent pillar in the center of the face.

That day we climbed many pitches. (We lost count around 15, and if you counted the simulclimbing it was probably more than 30) After 18 hours of climbing we finally reached a place where we could bivuoac.

I was most nervous about the next day. So far we had climbed a mostly-safe, beautiful direct line. But the photos I had and the reconnaisance I had done had revealed no easy way through the rock barrier above us. After several hours of mostly moderate ice climbing which we soloed, we took a break just below the key section. I was hoping for an ice line that we could climb quickly. And after a deep breath, I set off to the right, and was rewarded by the site of a grade 3 or 4 icefall above us. I was so happy, and so keen to make this section go as quickly as possible, I soloed the 50 meters of steep ice with my pack while Vince waited below. At that moment I felt like I was flying above the mountains, I was so happy to find this key passage. After climbing the pitch I lowered the rope to Vince and belayed him up to me.

I stayed in lead for the rest of the afternoon and the coming night. As quickly as possible we climbed up through several more steep (but not as serious) steps of ice. Conditions were excellent, but we needed to find a bivuoac soon.

This is when we had our closest brush with disaster. We were simu-climbing with me in the lead and I was trying to get on top of a narrow ridge in hopes of discovering some place to set the tent. While mounting the cornice, it broke out from underneath me. Me feet swung free and one of my ice axes pulled out. By luck my other ice tool stayed put and I got my feet back in and quickly swung over onto the other side of the very narrow ridge, which unfortunately was just as steep on the other side. The big pieces of hard snow hit Vince and fortunately he did not get pulled off. If he had I am sure my one tool would not have held both of us and my last ice screw was more that 20 meters below me. It was a very dangerous moment.

In the end we were able to cut off the top of the ridge just 20 meters higher and pitch the tent in a very small and exposed (but flat) place.

In the morning we rapelled back to the main ice gully and continued to our high bivuoac at approximently 7,400 meters. This day was tiring only because of the altitude as the technical difficulties eased the higher we climbed.

Summit day was physically one of the hardest days I have ever had in the mountains. We had climbed for five days with very limited chance for recovery. Fortunately the weather was perfect. But I was not sure that we would succeed until we arrived just below the south summit at over 8,000 meters and could see the last easy meters to the top.

The descent ran late into the night. We made mistakes and climbed slowly. Nearly losing our 5mm rope at one point and having difficulty with the rappels which seemed to be always getting tangled and stuck.

In the morning we packed as soon as we could and organized for the descent. Our plan was to rappel the steep wall below us to the Merkyl Icefield where we would join the 1970-Messner route and follow that route to the base of the wall. The weather was still good, but during the afternoons the clouds showed some sign that would end soon.

We made many rappels that day and down climbed as much as possible. We continued late into the night. Finally halting about 2,000 meters lower than we started (approx 5,500m) when Vince dropped his headlamp and my batteries began to fail.

The next day we sluggishly made our way down to the valley, meeting our Liason Officer and several excited locals near the 1970 basecamp in the early afternoon. After one full day of rest we had to pack up and trek out in order for Vince to make his flight on the 14th which would allow him to get to work as a guide examiner on 16 September.

Nanga Parbat, 8125m. The Central Pillar of the Rupal Face. 1-8 September, 2005. Anderson/ House. (4,100m, M5 X, 5.9, WI4).

Note that if you measure the face from the Bazhin Glacier right where the face starts, it is 4,125 meters. Some people measure the face as 5,000 meters, but to get 5,000 meters you have to measure from the village of Tarshing where you start the trek to basecamp. 4,100 meters seems to us like an honest measurement of the amount of climbing on the face.



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