Piolets d'Or - Pumari Chhish East (ca 6,850m)

Pumari Chhish East (ca 6,850m)

©Victor Saucède

The first ascent of Pumari Chhish East, Hispar Muztagh, via The Crystal Ship (1,600m, 6b A2 M7) on the south face and upper west ridge, from June 25-29. The route was rappelled.

 Since 2007, Pumari Chhish East, the lowest and probably the most technically difficult of the Pumari Chhish group, north of the Hispar Glacier, had received five attempts from the south. For the sixth known attempt, Christophe Ogier, Victor Saucède, and Jérôme Sullivan from France opted for the middle-left of the four large rock pillars, a line envisaged in 2009 by three Canadians, who climbed the initial snowfield before retreating due to illness.

The three French climbers chose to go early, making the approach in May with a view to attempting the face in June, when the alpine terrain would still be well-frozen. However, it snowed on 26 days of their 27-day wait at base camp, though during this period they acclimatized by spending a night on nearby Rasool Sar (5,980m). They then received a forecast for a seven-day weather window, and after allowing one day for the face to shrug off recent snow, set off, climbing the initial 700m snowfield at night.

On the 700m pillar above they employed big wall techniques, with the leader hauling while the two seconds jumared. Aid was often used to surmount overhangs or to remove large snow formations plastered onto the cracks, but generally they climbed as free as possible under the conditions. The first three bivouacs were poor, exposed, and uncomfortable, but the fourth day took them through the remaining difficulties, which included two vertical 6b rock pitches at 6,600m (led in rock shoes), to a relatively spacious shoulder. Next day they climbed through the summit mushroom and were on top at 10 a.m. Waiting at their last bivouac until mid-afternoon, when the sun disappeared from the face, the three began rappelling the route, reaching the snowfield at nightfall and advanced base around midnight.

The jury felt this to be an elegant line, a line of strength that was full of uncertainty, on one of Pakistan’s big unsolved problems. It is not the easiest option on the mountain, but the steepness and sustained high level of difficulty made it one of the safest, rising almost directly to the summit. The ascent was very much a collective effort, displaying great team spirit in line with the Piolets d’Or Charter.

2023 Organizers