South face and southwest ridge - Revers Gagnant (ca 2,500m, M4+ WI4+ 90°),
Pierrick Fine and Symon Welfringer (France),
October 16-19 for the ascent.
After the pandemic thwarted plans to travel to Nepal in the autumn, Fine and Welfringer had just two weeks to come up with a new idea. Pakistan was the only country to allow them entry, and after a thorough study of mapping data they opted for the unknown south face of Sani Pakkush, a 6,952m peak in the western Karakoram that had been climbed only once; in 1991 by Germans via the northwest ridge.
This would be a thoroughly exploratory expedition: the south face is big and complex and rises from the head of the Toltar Valley, the upper part of the glacier almost certainly not reached previously by mountaineers. The odds would be stacked against them as October is generally far too late for climbing big mountains in Pakistan.
After more than two weeks of acclimatization, in clear but cold weather they climbed a difficult snow/ice/mixed spur on the far-left side of the face, with two bad bivouacs, before stopping early on the third day at a comfortable site on the crest of the southwest ridge. Next day, seven hours of hard work through inconsistent snow took them to the summit. On the fourth day they returned to their 4,100m base camp, downclimbing and rappelling the route of ascent.