Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Exploring the Greater Ranges

It has been 2 months since James and I walked out of the Khane Valley in Pakistan's Karakorum Range so it's about time I fill you folks in.

Before getting into the story and events of the expedition, I’d like to mention that this trip was inspired by the death of our good friend and climbing partner Cory Hall who was killed in a climbing accident in Peru. In honor of Cory’s contagious sense of adventure, we decided to team up and put together, in the best style possible a Cory Hall worthy adventure! This involved buying Royal Enfield motorcycles in Delhi, riding them to the India/Pakistan border, traveling by bus to the Karakorum, climbing in the mountains, traveling back to India to collect our bikes again and work our way toward the Indian Garwhal for more climbing and biking before heading home.

Here is the story.

On September 13th, 2015 James Monypenny and I (Max Fisher) crossed the Wagha Border from India into Pakistan and for the next month traveled north into the Karakorum by motorbike, bus, jeep and foot to explore and climb in the Khane Valley.
Below is an account of our experience traveling and climbing in Pakistan.
I was excited to get out of India but unsure of how I would feel in Pakistan. It wasn’t long before I felt really comfortable. In Muslim culture a guest is considered a gift from god, so as a foreigner you a treated very well. People often buy you food and help you hassle free. This hospitality followed us throughout the country.
The Khane Valley is located approximately 1.5 hours up the Hushe River Valley by jeep. Once there you will find exceptional hospitality and porters to help carry your food and gear up to base camp. You can even get a camp chief if you want!
Speaking with the local’s we learnt that we were the 8th expedition to climb in the Khane Valley. There is so much in this area that remains unclimbed.
We moved up the valley and established our base camp at 3800m. This location has been used by previous expeditions and is known as Boulder Camp and has
After we got settled in we went out exploring for potential objectives as well our main objective “Tangra Tower.” Walking up the goat trail to the glacier I was think, “wow, this is so similar to Patagonia but we are already higher then Fitz!” Laughing I mentioned this to James since he and I climbed Fitz together a few years ago. We saw numerous objectives for alpine climbing during our exploration and approaching Tangra saw a several lines that could go up the 900m south face.
That night we were both excited to move higher into the valley and get an advanced base camp set up so we could get out climbing. However, there was a different plan ahead that we had little control over. The next day James started feeling sick. Eggy burps = Gardia. So, instead of moving up, James managed the sickness and I tried to stay busy bouldering and cooking good food. Then it snowed for 3 days and I was left to read, cook, drink mate and try not to go to stir crazy while waiting for the snow and gardia to go away. With antibiotics James recovered in a few days but the snow persisted. Regardless we organized food and gear and set up our advanced camp at around 4200m at the base of the Khane Glacier. Two days later we set out for our first objective, Twin Peak II.
Twin Peak II cannot be seen from down in the valley as Meligo blocks the view. During our exploring adventure early on it came into view and I wanted to climb it. The north face was covered in ice and snow and approximately 1000m long. We set up a bivy camp and planned to start moving by 4am. We started out slogging through the knee-deep snow up 200m to the base of some friendly yet steep seracs. 
We then climbed 3 long pitches of brittle 85 degree glacial ice to a small glacial plateau. We again slogged to an ice and snow ramp that lead us up to the upper headwall. Climbing on precarious snow cover rock and thin ice for a few hundred meters brought us to a beautiful 300m, 75 degree section of neve that we simultaneously climbed. At the top of the neve was another steep section and then more precarious snow. Reaching 5000m for the first time, I was feeling the effects! As we climbed the next few hundred meters the sun started to set and our pace, mine especially, decreased. Around 200m from the summit we decided to retreat, rappelling for several hours before staggering back to our bivy and falling asleep.
The next day was the first sun we had seen in 5 days. We slowly made our way back to our base-camp to eat and rest before heading back into the hills for an alpine capsule style attempt on Tangra Tower’s 900m south face. With our gear in place we just needed the window!
 After a nice day and a half of rest we headed up to Tangra. We made our way to the base of the wall and got established just as the sun was setting. Being late September/early October the nights were quite cold and we decided to wait for the sun to climb. This slowed us down for sure as we climbed for around 6hrs each day. 

We also under-estimated how much fuel we would need and this ultimately forced us to turn back before reaching the summit. After using the last of our fuel and getting worked on the squeeze chimney after 12 pitches of C2 5.10+ we opted to go down and return to Khane Village for warm food and incredible Balti hospitality!
Huge Thanks to MEC, LOWA Footwear, Mountain Equipment, Gore-Tex, V12 Outdoor, The Mount Everest Foundation and the British Mountaineering Council for their support! 
Photo's by James Montpenny and Max Fisher
After traveling back to India I headed to meet up with Ashlie while James went para-gliding in Bir India. Ash and I headed into the Indian Garwhal for a 14 day motorcycle/mountaineering adventure. We started in Ranikhet at the NOLS India branch where we were meet with wonderful hospitality and a relaxed environment!

Once we had our food and gear all sorted we said good bye and headed north to Badrinath, a holy Hindi town and walked into the hills there for 9 days. Here are some of our photos.

Photo's by Ashlie Ferguson and Max Fisher

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for writing and sharing the story Max! Was thinking of you and your adventures. Sounds like it was a great time and well done with the photos. Say hi to ash for me!