(A) Changi Tower. (B) K6 Main. (C) Link Sar (7,041m) from the southeast, showing the line of the 2019 ascent, advanced base camp, and bivouacs.
©Matteo Della Bordella / American Alpine Journal
MARK RICHEY - STEVE SWENSON - CHRIS WRIGHT - GRAHAM ZIMMERMAN (USA)
FIRST ASCENT VIA THE SOUTHEAST FACE, 2,300M, AI4 M6+ 90°, JULY 31-AUGUST 8 ROUND TRIP FROM AN ADVANCED BASE AT 4,700M.
Another much-coveted problem, this time in the eastern Pakistan Karakoram, Link Sar had received at least eight attempts before 2019. But the difficulties are not just about climbing the peak: the Indo-Pakistan conflict has made this region an on-off affair (largely off) when it comes to obtaining a mountaineering permit.
Steve Swenson first attempted Link Sar in 2001 with a strong American team, and then again, after a number of failed permit attempts, in 2017 with Chris Wright and Graham Zimmerman. Having now discovered a feasible line of ascent, these three decided to reinforce the team in 2019 with the addition of Mark Richey.
Six days after setting out from Advanced Base, they reached the top. During that time they had waited out a 36+ hours storm, and on the summit day recovered from a 35m leader fall due to avalanche and overcome an ungradable final pitch of deep, steep and unstable "Peruvian" snow. A little over two days were then needed to reverse the route. These climbers succeeded because they were persistent, used their 126 years of combined climbing experience, and understood what partnership meant.