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K7 Expedition Map
Balti porters making tea - Karakoram Himalaya, Pakistan - Photo by © Jimmy Chin
Balti porters making tea
Karakoram Himalaya, Pakistan
Photo by © Jimmy Chin

K7 Expedition

Date June-July 2001
Location Cherakusa Valley, Karakoram, Pakistan
Objective To summit K7 via the South Face
Team Conrad Anker - author, climber and member of The North Face Team
Jimmy Chin - climber and member of The North Face Team
Brady Robinson - climber

Expedition Summary

by Conrad Anker
July 1998
Spansar Peak is a 20,000-foot granite peak with a striking 7000-foot of ridge. Peter Croft, Galen Rowell and I enjoyed a month of climbing granite towers just past the junction of the Cherakusa and Chogolisa Glaciers. After the climbing we spent the day viewing the upper valley, with the magnificent west side of K7 on the east and the massive north face of K6 to the west dominating the scenery. The granite buttresses of K7 spoke to my sense of mountain aesthetic.

July 1999
Jimmy Chin and Brady Robinson climb the Husband and Wife, two granite towers opposite Spansar Peak, the peak Peter and I had climbed in 1998. At the head of the valley K7 sat silent and proud, the peak of the Cherakusa valley. The detailed west face of K7 rivets Jimmy and Brady. Could a line be climbed? Would permission be granted? Jimmy inquires and K7, first climbed by the Japanese seventeen years hence and closed since, would be open.

Imagine a mountain, a mountain of one's dreams of any shape size one that appeals to your aesthetic sense of proportion and balance. A mountain of graceful sweeping lines, one jagged and precipitous, with a bit of ice and snow for balance. To share a vision of a climb is sufficient to bring us together, having never climbed anything longer than the east buttress of El Cap.

June 2001
After the 10 days of handling our baggage, being shaken on buses, and hot dusty trails we arrive in the high alpine meadow. All the while meeting, conversing and living with our Pakistani and Balti friends. Our home for the next month under the shadow of K7 is a fine place to be. We explored the boulder fields surrounding camp and Jimmy and Brady stretched out a slack line. Eventually we had to come to terms with what we came for: K7.

From perch on the glacier we listened to the mountain. When was it dormant? How much snow would endanger the slopes? The coldest time of day was when the darkness and silence encompassed the cirque. This was the time, the alpinists quarter. We climbed a steep ice runnel to a saddle at the base of the South East Buttress. From this small flat spot we looked up to the cracks we would be following. One pitch, a sucker pitch, began with a small seam, which widened into a wide crack. Jimmy thrutched his way up this odd sized crack. I led a pitch that began with some crumbly hook placements and a thin crack. If we had not been in a frozen climate, then it would have been a fine free climb. Brady earned the classic alpine pitch - fine granite leading to a soft, wet crenelation of snow. Misery finds it's usual haunts: iced up cracks, loose blocks, hanging icicles, dripping roofs with a motivation saving handcrack in between. After 4000 feet of climbing, a storm pinned us to the side of the mountain. After the first day, we snuck in a pitch, perhaps the finest ice climb I have done anywhere. It was a chimney leading to three distinct roofs - each calling for a willingness to run it out. We managed two more pitches in rugby conditions - snow and wind driving small spindrift avalanches off the surrounding runnels and we huddling for warmth. Back at the Cabana we did what any trio of rational alpinists would do: we rationed food and climbed pitches in our imagination. After a week of being pinned to the same spot our meager food left us weak and thinking of what most rational folks would be doing.

Meanwhile in camp, Ali and Zahid would listen in once a day as we forecast the weather from our cramped accommodations. For our friends in Hushe, the weather we lamented was much needed for the fields and forests. What was in greater need: water for the villagers or a dry high pressure for the alpinists? How was our luck with the weather going to pan out? In the end the weather was luckier, keeping us from visiting the summit. The climbing we did was wonderful and that is the reason we travel to the mountains. Yet at times when one doesn't attain one's goals there are tiny lessons to be found amidst the toil. We learned about others and their way of life; their dreams, worries and aspirations. We had patience with the clouds, realizing that it' not that bad. We learned that three of us do fit in a ledge built for two. We were reminded what our loved ones mean to us.

November 2001
The journey Jimmy, Brady and I set out for didn't have the outcome we had hoped for. The expedition was a success in that we returned as friends and we had the chance to be with the Balti people. We had a fun and happy expedition. Now looking back, we realize the world as both we and our friends in Pakistan accepted it has changed dramatically in September. For Jimmy, Brady and myself, our view on these climbing trips are a means of sharing and learning. The goal in an infinitesimal way may help with acceptance and tolerance. The people we know in Hushe, Kaphalu, Skardu and Islamabad are wonderful and caring. They are good ambassadors for their country. I always think of my friends in Pakistan and keep their smiles close to my heart as proof that kindness and understanding between people is very real. Similarly, the few western trekkers and climbers the Balti encounter, are peaceful and understanding. I think of my Balti friends and dream of climbing in the Karakoram in the future. May we realize this dream in a peaceful, friendly world.

Expedition Gear List

Outerwear Equipment Tekware Ascentials
Ama Dablam Jacket
Mountain Light Jacket
Ama Dablam Pant
Radiant Red Point Jacket
Free Climb Jacket
Summit Jacket
Windstopper Guide Glove
Prophet 65
Elephants Foot
Cat's Meow Endurance
Jingas Bivy
Ambition 35
Base Camp Duffel
Aurora Zip Neck
Aurora Tight
Cirque Top
Micro Stripe Beanie
Eternity Stripe Beanie
Coyote Ridge
Ultra 100
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