Ski Mountaineering World Cup, Kilian Jornet Burgada, Emelie Forsberg and Laura Orguè win the Font Blanca in Andorra

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The first stage of the ISMF Ski Mountaineering World Cup 2016 took place at Font Blanca in Andorra last weekend. While Saturday’s Individual race was won by Kilian Jornet Burgada and Emelie Forsberg, Sunday’s Vertical race was won by Burgada and Laura Orguè Vila.

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Ski Mountaineering World Cup 2016 Photo by © ISMF During the first stage of the Ski Mountaineering World Cup 2016 at Font Blanca, Andorra. Individual race.

A last-minute snowstorm In Andorra forced the organising committee of the ISMF Ski Mountaineering World Cup to change plans last weekend and prepare a new race track for Saturday’s Individual race, run three times by the women’s Junior class and four times by the other athletes. Despite strong winds and the storm, the new formula resulted in some really tough challenges with Michele Boscacci, the Italian champion, trying to clinch his second victory right until the very end. After three rounds in the lead, he was forced to give in to to the all-out attack of Spain’s Kilian Jornet, who won in 1h 23’48”. Second place went to Michele Boscacci – 1h23’59”. In the race for third place, it was Swiss Werner Marti (1h24’50”) who won the day, with just 8” over the French Mathéo Jacquemoud. They were followed by Xavier Gachet, Anton Palzer (first Espoir), William Bon Mardion, Rémi Bonnet (second Espoir), Robert Antonioli and Martin Anthamatten.

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Ski Mountaineering World Cup 2016 Photo by © ISMF During the first stage of the Ski Mountaineering World Cup 2016 at Font Blanca, Andorra. Individual race.

The women’s challenge (also run in four rounds) was won by Sweden, with Emelie Forsberg the first to hit the finishing line in 1h 43’15”. She shared the podium with Spain’s Claudia Galicia Cotrina, in 1h 43’25”. Third place went to Spain’s Laura Orgué Vila – 1h 44’12”-, fourth place for Jennifer Fiechter. Fifth place for the French Laetitia Roux. The French champion, who has returned to competitions after a long recovery from injury, led the race after the first round, then lost ground just before the end. Sixth place went to Garcia Ferres Marta, and seventh place (first Espoir) for Alba De Silvestro. Martina Valmassoi, Nahia Quinciones Altuna and Mireia Mirò Varela made it into the top ten as well.

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Ski Mountaineering World Cup 2016 Photo by © ISMF Kilian Jornet Burgada and Michele Boscacci during the first stage of the Ski Mountaineering World Cup 2016 at Font Blanca, Andorra. Individual race.

In the Junior class, first success of the season for France’s Samuel Equy in 1h30’38”, ahead of Davide Magnini in 1h31’22” and Inigo Martinez de Albornoz Marques – 1h34’00”. An Italian duo won the women’s Junior race with Giulia Compagnoni in first place with 1h22’45”, followed by Giulia Murada – 1h24’02”, while third place went to France’s Lena Bonnel – 1h24’44”.

ISMF Skimountaineering World Cup 2016 – Font Blanca – Individual Race

Sunday’s Vertical race in Arnisal was marked by Spaniard Kilian Jornet who, after his individual race win on Saturday doubled his takings with a gold medal in the first vertical race of the year. On the Andorran snow and under a beautiful cloudless sky the former Olympic cross-country skiing champion Laura Orguè Vila won the women race. The route featured a positive altitude difference of 730m, the same as the senior men, senior women and junior men events, while the junior women competed on a track with 500-m altitude difference.

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Ski Mountaineering World Cup 2016 Photo by © ISMF Individual race Men’s podium at Font Blanca, Andorra of the Ski Mountaineering World Cup 2016: Michele Boscacci (2), Kilian Jornet Burgada (1), Werner Marti (3)

Right at the start of the race Italy’s Michele Boscacci tried to steer clear of the pack and took the lead. In the final part of the competition though, the Catalan and the young Swiss talent Remi Bonnet caught up and overtook the Italian. The Catalan ace won in 26’50”, Bonnet finished second (first among the Espoir) in 27’14”, while the Italian athlete won bronze in 27’22”. The day’s top ten included Martin Anthamatten, Anton Palzer, Mathéo Jacquemoud, Werner Marti, Robert Antonioli, Lorenzo Holzknecht and Valentin Favre.

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Ski Mountaineering World Cup 2016 Photo by © ISMF Individual race Women’s podium at Font Blanca, Andorra of the Ski Mountaineering World Cup 2016: Claudia Galicia (2), Emelie Forsberg (1), Laura Orgué Vila (3)

In the women race, thanks to her skills as a trained cross-country skier, Laura Orguè Vila won the event in 32’10”, ahead of Emelie Forsberg (32’43”) and Victoria Kruezer (32’45”). The fourth to cross the finish line was Claudia Galicia Cotrina, followed by Marta Garcia Farres. They were followed by Laetitia Roux, Katia Tomatis, Jennifer Fiechter and Alba De Silvestro. Once again the young Italian was the first Espoir.

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Ski Mountaineering World Cup 2016 Photo by © ISMF During the first stage of the Ski Mountaineering World Cup 2016 at Font Blanca, Andorra. Individual race.

In the Juniors category, Davide Magnini and Giulia Compagnoni raised their national flag high as both struck gold. The young CS Esercito athlete completed the men’s race in 29’06, getting the better of Arnaud Gasser and Samuel Equy. For her part, Compagnoni raced to the finishing line in 22’50”, beating teammate Giulia Murada and Austria’s Verena Streitberger.

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Ski Mountaineering World Cup 2016 Photo by © ISMF During the first stage of the Ski Mountaineering World Cup 2016 at Font Blanca, Andorra. Individual race.

The ISMF World Cup continues on 30 and 31 January with the second stage in Italy’s Valtellina Orobie.

ISMF Skimountaineering World Cup 2016 – Font Blanca – Vertical Race

Nanga Parbat: team join forces on Kinshofer route. Nardi and Bielecki ascend but are stopped by fall at 5800m

The latest updates concerning attempts at the first winter ascent of Nanga Parbat (8125m) Pakistan. On the Diamir Face Daniele Nardi, Alex Txikon, Ali Sadpara, Adam Bielecki and Jacek Tcech have decided to join forces along the Kinshofer route, and Bielecki fell, fortunately without hurting himself. Elisabeth Revol and Tomek Mackiewicz are working their way up the Messner route, as are Simone Moro and Tamara Lunger who have established their Camp 2. On the other side of the mountain, on the Rupal Face, a Polish expedition led by Marek Klonowski has established Camp 2 at 6200m along the Schell route.

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Nanga Parbat in winter, Daniele Nardi Photo by © archivio Daniele Nardi

Daniele Nardi, Alex Txikon, Ali Sadpara, Adam Bielecki and Jacek Tcech have opted to join forces and fix ropes together along the Kinshofer route. The agreement was made as both teams plan on climbing the same route and since the Poles have now abandoned the initial idea of ​​attempting the route in alpine style. Nardi and Bielecki climbed to circa 5800m yesterday, just below the Kinshofer Wall when Bielecki fell circa 80 meters. Due to the accident both returned to base camp.

Nardi, Txikon and Sadpara had hauled all necessary equipment onto the mountain. Monday morning Nardi, Bielecki and Tcech ascended to Camp 1, aiming to recover the gear stashed at 2700m by Txikon and Sadpara. The plan was to fix ropes to the Kinshofer Rocks, located between 5950m and 61250m. Tcech descended on Monday from 5400m after having deposited his gear, while Nardi and Bielecki continued.

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Nanga Parbat in winter, Daniele Nardi Photo by © archivio Daniele Nardi

“We were 200 meters below the Kinshofer Wall and a further 200 meters below Camp 2” explained Nardi. “We had climbed very quickly, even considering our heavy loads. We stashed the excess gear at 5700m and began climbing: Adam took the lead, we had circa 400m of ropes, he crossed the icy gully and belayed at circa 5800m. I heard him hammer in a peg and saw him prepare an anchor, then something happened and he fell. He tumbled for circa80m During the sudden fall there was nothing I could do but lock off the rope and wait for the load. I was sure that the two ice screws we’d driven into the hard ice would hold the fall. Fortunately Adam fell down a face that had no protruding rocks. I then lowered him to the previous belay. Had he broken something it wouldn’t have been easy to carry him down, luckily though he walked away with some bruises after having lost some gear. We’d almost reached the easier section and while for a moment Adam considered continuing, I was sure we’d better descend. We returned to Camp 1 and then Base Camp, where I attended to his wounds. During the descent Adam smiled and thanked me. We’d just faced difficult moment together. We’ll celebrate now. ”

Nardi and Bielecki joined Txikon and Sadpara at Camp 1, from where the latter plan to set off towards Camp 2. This year the Kinshofer route is extremely icy and has very little snow, making conditions more difficult compared to last year. In the next few days the team will decide how it intends to proceed.

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Nanga Parbat in winter, Daniele Nardi Photo by © archivio Daniele Nardi

NANGA PARBAT WINTER 2015/2016
At present various expeditions are attempting the first winter ascent of Nanga Parbat. On the Diamir Face, apart from the newly combined team composed of Nardi, Txikon, Sadpara, Bielecki and Tcech, there are Simone Moro and Tamara Lunger, attempting to climbed the 2000 Messner route. A few days ago the Italians established Camp 2 between 5700m and 5800m. France’s Elisabeth Revol, Poland’s Tomek Mackiewicz and Pakistan’s Arslan Ahmed Ansari are currently attempting the same route. The Nanga Dream Justice for All expedition is operating on the Rupal Face. Led by Marek Klonowski and composed of 7 Poles and 2 Pakistani mountaineers, this expedition is attempting the Schell route and today they confirmed that Camp 2 (6200m) has been established, that they have fixed ropes and that in two days time they will return to the mountain.

Psycho Vertical, Torre Egger, Patagonia first repeat in 29 years. Interview with Korra Pesce

From 7 to 9 January 2016 Tomy Aguilo, Corrado Korra Pesce, Roland Striemitzer, Iñaki Coussirat and Carlitos Molina made the coveted second ascent of Psycho Vertical, the route first ascended in December 1986 up the southeast face of Torre Egger in Patagonia by the Slovenians Janez Jeglič, Silvo Karo and Franček Knez.

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Psycho Vertical, Torre Egger, Patagonia Photo by © Corrado Pesce Roland Striemitzer preparing to leave the summit of Torre Egger after the second bivy during the first repeat of Psycho Vertical.

Almost 30 years. 29 years and one month to be precise. This is how much time has elapsed since the first ascent of Psycho Vertical, the legendary climb established in December 1986 up the SE Face of Torre Egger by the Slovenian alpinists Janez Jeglič, Silvo Karo and Knez Franček. This superb trio is widely considered one of the strongest of all time, so much so that during these last three decades the bold ascent had never been repeated. That is, until early this January when, curiously and completely by chance, two teams gathered at advanced base camp gunning for the coveted first repeat. The first team was comprised of Argentina’s Tomy Aguilo, Italy’s Corrado Korra Pesce and Austria’s Roland Striemitzer, while the Argentines Iñaki Coussirat and Carlitos Molina made up the second team. The five climbers set off independently from one another on January 7, but when they reached the summit at 22.00 on 8 January they had forged into a single, close-knit team. Before that though the five bivouacked on a ledge big enough for only two, breached plenty of aid and succeeded in the first alpine-style first ascent of this mythical route. After a second bivouac just below the summit, they five then began the descent at 5:30 on January 9 along the American route and returned to El Chalten later that day. A fairytale finish to this little jewel in mountaineering’s crown, with which the three Slovenians left their mark, not only in Patagonian climbing history, and inspired generations of climbers.

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Psycho Vertical, Torre Egger, Patagonia Photo by © Corrado Pesce Korra Pesce making the first repeat of Psycho Vertical, Torre Egger, Patagonia


Korra, first of all, why this route?

I first found out about the aura this route is shrouded in when reading the book Patagonia by Gino Buscaini and Silvia Metzeltin. Then, a few years ago, just before nightfall I found myself at the foot of the E Face of Cerro Torre and the SE Face of Torre Egger. I couldn’t believe what I saw and felt overwhelmed by those two towers illuminated by moonlight. Just the thought of ​​attempting any of those super-routes motivated me to return to Patagonia again and again. But not only, they also motivated me to try to learn all I could in order to repeat a route like this.

What did you know about the climb beforehand?
The Slovenes Silvo Karo, Janez Jeglic and Francek Knez climbed the obvious line of corners and cracks up the SE Face of Torre Egger. It is one of four climbs established by this dream team of some of the best climbers of all times. We imagined that the rock might be better here than on their other routes, which to-date are still all unrepeated. Psycho Vertical was the line that seemed to offer the best chance of success when climbing light. In addition it has a really cool name, just like the others, so much so that Britain’s Andy Kirkpatrick used it for his book, even though he never even touched the route. This suffices to explain how much this incredible route has captured the imagination of all those who love extreme climbs.

Did you travel to Patagonia specifically for this route?
I can’t say it was the goal of the season. I traveled with my usual 23 kg of luggage, my dreams and crazy ideas weigh little so almost everything was possible. Especially since when Tomi and I team up we can aspire to climb difficult things. I don’t know if this route had been attempted in the past. Rolando Garibotti suggested we give it a go and Ermanno Salvaterra had told me that he’d recommended it to others. So I guess they’ve been plenty of climbers who’ve had this route in mind.

Tell us quickly about your climbing partners?
My partners were Tomas Roy Aguiló who lives here in El Chaltén, he has an impressive list of ascents to his name and we get on really well. We have a similar climbing vision and this greatly contributed to our success. Roli is Austrian, has been a mountain guide for a year, and is a beast of a man! For personal reasons Tomi initially couldn’t come so I contacted Roli, who was already here in Patagonia with other climbers, but he wanted to try Torre Egger since he hadn’t climbed it yet. Tomi then managed to get some time off and so we immediately thought of doing something difficult. And Roli told us that he was game for anything…

How did things go initially?
Before we left we tried to figure out how to make best use of the good weather. Slap bang in the middle of several beautiful days the forecast was for a couple of days with strong winds. So we set off from El Chalten on 6 January in beautiful weather, approached the Norwegian camp and bivvied there. Our plan was to use the next windy day to climb the sheltered lower section of the route and use 8 January to summit. If all went according to plan, we’d have half a day on 9 January to descend before the wind picked up again, and in the end this is exactly what happened. We followed this timetable and this was crucial to our success.

After 29 years though, you suddenly discovered that you wouldn’t be attempting the route alone, but instead you’d be sharing it with two other alpinists…
When we reached the Noruegos camp we knew we’d meet Carlitos and Iñaki, two highly talented and fearless Argentines. We didn’t know what they wanted to climb but at least once before at El Chalten they’d mentioned they wanted to attempt the route, it was Carlitos’ dream. They were worried they’d have to do some extreme mixed climbing, for which they felt they weren’t good enough, but were nevertheless confident that the 5-day weather window predicted by the forecast service we usually use would suffice to complete the route. Our forecast though was less optimistic. In any case, we suddenly found ourselves at the Noruegos camp not only with the burden of having to climb an impressive, unrepeated route, but also the additional pressure of having to deal with another team… I told myself that this was just another problem to add to the equation. We packed our rucksacks and set off a few minutes before them, ours ropes ready to be uncoiled from our packs just like any other day on Aiguille du Midi, where beating others to a climb can prove vital. Let’s just say I’m used to doing this sort of thing and my partners played along, knowing full-well that it was important for us not to get stuck behind another team.

So when did you decide to join forces?
Roli quickly climbed the first, by no means easy, 3 – 4 pitches in the gully, then at the foot of the face proper Tomi took the lead. Eight pitches of predominantly aid climbing slowed us down. The Argentines reached us and seeing that leading all the pitches after having waited for ages at the belay would have jeapordised their ascent, we offered to fix ropes on the aid pitches. And so we were five. Although this could have some advantages, I only saw the drawbacks and just the thought of hitting them with rockfall or a block of ice was really stressful.

But…
The fact that 65% of this double team was comprised of Argentines ensured that stress gave way to a very jovial atmosphere.

Tell us about the first bivouac…
It was late afternoon I tried to reach the first two places on this extremely vertical face we hoped would be suitable for a bivy. We decided to stop at the foot of an overhanging dihedral and while I fixed the ropes on the next pitch the boys cut a ledge that wasn’t bad for two, but for five… no comment. It was a tough night, but we were happy because the clouds in which we found ourselves for several hours dissipated and the wind we heard howling through the Col of Conquest calmed down.

The difficulties of the route? You described it as “maybe the toughest route i have ever climbed.”
The climb was difficult from start to finish and I’ve never had to climb so much aid. The countless wet and verglas covered cracks made us sweat and cleaning the ice out of the cracks on the upper section wasn’t always obvious. I dry tooled my way along the upper corner, just like I often do at home on Mont Blanc and this proved extremely useful. If I’d have to give a grade I’d say 950m 6b A3 M8, 90° ice.

And then you reached the summit.
Once below the summit mushroom we knew we were close and I was overjoyed to reach the top for my second time.

The first ascent of the Slovenes in 1986… what do you think about it now, after having repeated the line?
It was impressive, just like all their other climbs. Theirs was definitely one of the best partnerships ever. It was an honor to be able to repeat their route, we feel extremely fortunate to have succeeded.

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Psycho Vertical, Torre Egger, Patagonia Photo by © Corrado Pesce Psycho Vertical, Torre Egger, Patagonia

Silvo Karo wrote “Some day the routes may be climbed free, solo and in one day. This is a natural development, a kind of staircase where every new step follows the older one. ” What is your next step in Patagonia.
Silvo Karo explained really well how things work with regards to mountain climbing and innovation. They’d perhaps realised that this climb, given the right conditions, could be done lighter style. Thirty years were needed. Which leads me to believe that there is little room to improve on what they achieved with great skill and ability. I’m happy to savor the fact that we managed to repeat their route, I don’t think we did anything particularly innovative, for years now climbs, even difficult ones, have been done in light style. Since 2005 with El Arca de los Vientos, via the first ascent of Venas Azules by the Norwegians, it’s been a few years now that alpinists can dare climbs of this sort. For me, the next stage is to add more problems to the already complicated equation that these titanic faces represent. Perhaps on Cerro Torre, where the rock is worse.

Stralasegne, new mixed climb up the North Face of Pala di San Martino, Dolomites

On 20 and 21 December 2015 Renzo Corona and Flavio Piccinini made the first ascent of Stralasegne (500m, M5 and 1 section M6) a new mixed alpine climb up the North Face of Pala di San Martino (Pale San Martino range, Dolomites). The report by Renzo Corona.

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Stralasegne, Pala di San Martino, Pale di San Martino, Dolomites, Renzo Corona, Flavio Piccinini Photo by © archivio R. Corona, F. Piccinini Making the first ascent of Stralasegne (500m, M5, 1 section M6) Pala San Martino North Face (Dolomites)

Over the last few years I’ve looked at the Pale di San Martino mountains with different eyes, scrutinizing not only the rock climbs, those with climbing shoes and chalk, the weave their way up slabs, arêtes, overhangs and pockets. Ice climbs are all the rage in the Dolomites, not only in the Western Alps, new drips have been climbed in the Brenta Dolomites recently… so surely there’s something in the Pale massif?

While making my way around the plateau in winter I always glance at the Pala di San Martino. It’s a true north face: it never gets the sun, is hidden from view and is almost unnoticed even when skiing down the Pala gully. As they rip down the couloir they’ve hardly got time to stop and look upwards… ahh, these riders…

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Stralasegne, Pala di San Martino, Pale di San Martino, Dolomites, Renzo Corona, Flavio Piccinini Photo by © archivio R. Corona, F. Piccinini From the bivy, during the first ascent of Stralasegne (500m, M5, 1 section M6) Pala San Martino North Face (Dolomites)

I’ve already climbed this beautiful and severe face in the past, up some new routes, there’s also the classic Solleder, wedged between one water streak and the next… so do these really never come into condition?

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Stralasegne, Pala di San Martino, Pale di San Martino, Dolomites, Renzo Corona, Flavio Piccinini Photo by © archivio R. Corona, F. Piccinini Making the first ascent of Stralasegne (500m, M5, 1 section M6) Pala San Martino North Face (Dolomites)

Take one, take two… I keep my eyes on the line, on that white streak that goes all the way to the summit, is it snow or ice? But it doesn’t stretch all the way down to the base. One year I decide to give it a go: gosh it’s cold… one pitch and then I’m done. The next year I wait a bit longer and then together with Flavio (Piccinini, Ed) we give it another shot. He climbs well, he’s one of the youngest Aquile di San Martino mountain guides, one of the best. We climb another five pitches, snow and a bit of ice, then we rappel back down, we’ve got to go to a colleague’s wedding.

The next year the face doesn’t freeze at all. Can it really be that conditions are never right? We’ll wait… is what we tell each other.

In mid-December I go to for a reccie, no snow but, hey, a white streak plummets from the summit, to within 50m from the ice… We’ve got to check it out: come on Flavio, this is our chance!

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Stralasegne, Pala di San Martino, Pale di San Martino, Dolomites, Renzo Corona, Flavio Piccinini Photo by © archivio R. Corona, F. Piccinini On the summit of Pala di San Martino (Dolomites)

Beautiful. I feel like a child with his favorite toy: hard snow, ice, rock… we reach the cave, we’d been here before. It’s comfortable and in any case we’d never get to the summit in time. And so the odd one out, the haulbag, transforms into a welcome companion: a bivy in the heart of the North Face, with the sun setting over the Pale mountains… words fail.

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Stralasegne, Pala di San Martino, Pale di San Martino, Dolomites, Renzo Corona, Flavio Piccinini Photo by © archivio R. Corona, F. Piccinini Renzo Corona and Flavio Piccinini at the Aquile bivouac, summit of Pala di San Martino (Dolomites)

The next morning brings with it the roof pitch, Flavio even clocks up some air time, after which we continue quickly upwards, following this streak of ice and vertical snow. Beautiful, it’s hard to believe we’re in the Dolomites. The last pitch is easy… followed by snow and then… the summit. There’s the new Aquile bivouac… what a shame, I would have loved to sign the book, we’ll do so in spring. We enjoy the sun, fill our lungs with this crisp mountain air, then we head back down, abseiling into the shadow of the North Face.

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Stralasegne, Pala di San Martino, Pale di San Martino, Dolomites, Renzo Corona, Flavio Piccinini Photo by © archivio R. Corona, F. Piccinini Stralasegne (500m, M5, 1 section M6) Pala San Martino North Face (Dolomites)

The name? Flavio says he’s been thinking about it for a while: Stralasegne, which in dialect means the drips of water that fall off roofs.

Cerro Kishtwar and Chomochior, new climbs in the Himalaya by Kennedy, Novak, Pellissier and Prezelj

In October 2015 alpinists Hayden Kennedy (USA), Urban Novak (SLO), Manu Pellissier (FRA) and Marko Prezelj (SLO) made the first ascent of the East Face of Cerro Kishtwar (6173m), as well as climbing a new route up the South Ridge of Chomochior (6278m) in Indian Kashmir Himalayas.

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Cerro Kishtwar, Chomochior, Kishtwar, Hayden Kennedy, Urban Novak, Manu Pellissier, Marko Prezelj Photo by © Marko Prezelj Cerro Kishtwar – Chomochior

Inspired by photos taken a year ago by Slovenia’s Marko Prezelj during the first ascent of North Face of Hagshu in the Indian Himalayas, on 10 October an international team comprised of Prezelj, his fellow countryman Urban Novak, Manu Pellissier from France and Hayden Kennedy from the USA met in Delhi with their sights set on two peaks in the eastern Kishtwar massif: Cerro Kishtwar and Chomochior.

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Cerro Kishtwar, Chomochior, Kishtwar, Hayden Kennedy, Urban Novak, Manu Pellissier, Marko Prezelj Photo by © Marko Prezelj First ascent of Cerro Kishtwar’s East Face

After hiking through the Darlang Nullah valley they established base camp at the mouth of the Chomochior valley at 3900m. Advanced Base Camp was established a three-hour high further up valley and just before the forecast spell of bad weather arrived they managed to examine Chomochior and Cerro Kishtwar close up, noting that there was very little snow and ice on the faces, especially the lower halves which were completely dry. It snowed from 21 – 23 September and the rainwater flooded the campsite, forcing the four to sophisticated system of drains and dams to protect their tents.

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Cerro Kishtwar, Chomochior, Kishtwar, Hayden Kennedy, Urban Novak, Manu Pellissier, Marko Prezelj Photo by © Marko Prezelj Marko Prezelj, Manu Pellissier, Urban Novak, Hayden Kennedy on top of Cerro Kishtwar

On 26 September conditions had improved sufficiently for the four to return to ABC, where they fixed their broken tent before Pellissier returned to BC due to chest pain. The next morning greeted Kennedy, Novak and Prezelj with perfect weather and the trio set off towards the south ridge of Chomochior. Progress was slower that expected as they broke trail through the fresh snow and they excavated a small bivouac site on a broad saddle between Cerro Kishtwar and Chomochior. The next day they followed the ridge, at times past exposed and technically climbing, to make their second bivy at circa 5900m at the end of the snow-covered rocky ridge. The next morning they left their gear behind and reached the 6278m high summit at 11:00 and then quickly abseiled down the eastern slopes to the the lower third of the mountain, from where we descended along the ascent route. The reached ABC that day, and after drying their gear returned to BC the following afternoon. The 1400m line has been graded D+ and is only the second ascent of Chomochior, after Roger Everett and Simon Richardson climbed the west ridge back in 1988, before the area was officially closed to foreigners.

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Cerro Kishtwar, Chomochior, Kishtwar, Hayden Kennedy, Urban Novak, Manu Pellissier, Marko Prezelj Photo by © Marko Prezelj Chomochior (6278m): South ridge, D+, 1400m, Hayden Kennedy, Urban Novak, Manu Pellissier, Marko Prezelj, 27 – 29/09/2015

Three days of rest followed before returning to ABC, this time in the company of Pellissier who, after receiving from his chest pain, had climbed two 5000ers together with the guide Bagwal Thakur and the cook’s assistant Bhupender Kumaar Thakur. The four opted for a line up the east face where, although steeper, they expected less fresh snow and more favourable conditions for climbing than on the nearby NE Face.

They set off on 5 October and mainly rock-climbed almost 300 metres of the wall, past difficult terrain and evening snowfall which hampered progress. After digging out a narrow ledge they pitched their two small tents where they spent the first night, the next morning they jugged the two pitches they had fixed the previous evening and then continued past steep and softened ice corroded by sun to a long ramp of hard ice and a long systems of steep corners. Night fell and it was only at two o’clock did they crawl into their sleeping bags on a small ledge dug into the steep snow. Day 3 broke with fine weather and the four climbed continued upwards, traversing diagonally onto the NE Face to avoid some difficult aid. The summit was reached late at night, and while Pellissier and Prezelj set their tents on the summit, Kennedy and Novak set theirs up one meter lower.

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Cerro Kishtwar, Chomochior, Kishtwar, Hayden Kennedy, Urban Novak, Manu Pellissier, Marko Prezelj Photo by © Marko Prezelj Cerro Kishtwar (6173 m), east face: Light before Wisdom, ED+ 1200m (5.11, WI6, M6, A2). Hayden Kennedy, Urban Novak, Manu Pellissier, Marko Prezelj 5 – 8/10/2015

The next day the descended via abseil down a couloir on the left part of the east face; due to the three days clear weather conditions on the mountain had changed considerably and the descent was described as being more like canyoning than descending an ice route on a six-thousander, as they only set up one Abalakov anchor during the 1200m descent.

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Cerro Kishtwar, Chomochior, Kishtwar, Hayden Kennedy, Urban Novak, Manu Pellissier, Marko Prezelj Photo by © Marko Prezelj Cerro Kishtwar (6173 m), east face: Light before Wisdom, ED+ 1200m (5.11, WI6, M6, A2). Hayden Kennedy, Urban Novak, Manu Pellissier, Marko Prezelj 5 – 8/10/2015

Timing and adaptability to conditions had been key and commenting after the ascent, Novak stated “After a successful descent from the summit, the view on the wall from below revealed very different conditions. We caught the perfect time for climbing, because after we descended, the bottom part of the face had no more ice which had enabled us – in spite of its questionable quality – a successful ascent”.

The new route has been called Light before Wisdom and graded ED+ 1200 m (5.11, WI6, M6, A2). The first ascent of the mountain was carried out in 1993 by British alpinists Mick Fowler and Stephen Sustad, while in 2011 David Lama, Stephan Siegrist, Denis Burdet and Rob Frost climbed a new route up the NW Face.

Talung NNW Spur climbed by Nikita Balabanov and Mikhail Fomin

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From 18 – 25 October 2015 the Ukrainian mountaineers Nikita Balabanov and Mikhail Fomin made the first ascent of the NNW spur of Talung (7349m) in the Kangchenjunga region of Nepal. The 2350m long new route has been called Daddy Magnum Force and graded M6, AI6, A3 overall route difficulty ED2.

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Talung, Himalaya, Nepal, Nikita Balabanov, Mikhail Fomin Photo by © Nikita Balabanov, Mikhail Fomin Urkrainian mountaineers Nikita Balabanov and Mikhail Fomin making the first ascent of the NNW Spur of Talung (7349m), Himalaya, Nepal, from 18 – 25 October 2015

This autumn the Ukranian mountaineers Nikita Balabanov and Mikhail Fomin set their sights on what they have described as “one of the most esthetic and logical unclimbed lines” in the Himalaya, the long and difficult NNW Spur of Talung in Nepal’s Himalaya.

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Talung, Himalaya, Nepal, Nikita Balabanov, Mikhail Fomin Photo by © Nikita Balabanov, Mikhail Fomin Urkrainian mountaineers Nikita Balabanov and Mikhail Fomin making the first ascent of the NNW Spur of Talung (7349m), Himalaya, Nepal, from 18 – 25 October 2015

Inspired by the 2012 British Talung Expedition by Gavin Pike, James Clapham and Dave Searle – and by successive attempts by Czech alpinists Marek Holecek and Zdenek Hruby and by the Italians Daniele Bernasconi, Mario Panzeri and Giampaolo Corona – the Ukrainians established BC at the end of September. Acclimatization was successfully carried out during the next fortnight, on Boktoh peak and, importantly, up to 7100m on Talung’s normal route which they planned to use during their descent.

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Talung, Himalaya, Nepal, Nikita Balabanov, Mikhail Fomin Photo by © Nikita Balabanov, Mikhail Fomin Urkrainian mountaineers Nikita Balabanov and Mikhail Fomin making the first ascent of the NNW Spur of Talung (7349m), Himalaya, Nepal, from 18 – 25 October 2015

A short period of bad weather coincided with 3 days of rest, after which they headed off to ABC below the NNW Spur. Knowing they would have to deal with “Chamonix mixed climbing but with heavy packs higher than 6000m” they took food for 7 days and gas for 9. The first pitch above the Bergschrund at 5600m proved to be one of the cruxes of the route, a thin ice pillar followed by some hard vertical mixed terrain (M6) with very run-out protection. Over the next three days difficulties eased off only slightly.

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Talung, Himalaya, Nepal, Nikita Balabanov, Mikhail Fomin Photo by © Nikita Balabanov, Mikhail Fomin Urkrainian mountaineers Nikita Balabanov and Mikhail Fomin making the first ascent of the NNW Spur of Talung (7349m), Himalaya, Nepal, from 18 – 25 October 2015

On day 3 they reached the spur proper and were faced with a second crux: tenuous A3 aid followed by difficult mixed and then loose rock, which all led to somewhat easier ground. Despite hard mixed climbing on thin ice they gained height rapidly, breaching the obvious second rock band on day 5. Motivated by this success, on day 6 they simul-climbed along the ridge to reach summit at 14:00 on 23 October.

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Talung, Himalaya, Nepal, Nikita Balabanov, Mikhail Fomin Photo by © Nikita Balabanov, Mikhail Fomin Urkrainian mountaineers Nikita Balabanov and Mikhail Fomin making the first ascent of the NNW Spur of Talung (7349m), Himalaya, Nepal, from 18 – 25 October 2015

The top was covered in fog but 10 minutes later the strong winds blew away the clouds, offering stunning views onto the East faces of Jannu and South faces of Kangchenjunga. After half an hour on the summit they started down the western slope, bivying at 6700m and then descending safely to BC the next day, having been on the mountain for 7 days in total and just in time to rush to Kathmandu and catch their flight home.

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Talung, Himalaya, Nepal, Nikita Balabanov, Mikhail Fomin Photo by © Nikita Balabanov, Mikhail Fomin The line taken by Urkrainian mountaineers Nikita Balabanov and Mikhail Fomin during the first ascent of the NNW Spur of Talung (7349m), Himalaya, Nepal, from 18 – 25 October 2015

Balabanov and Fomin’s remarkable success on this important prize comes in the wake of their first ascent of on Langshisa Ri (6427m) NW Spur in 2014. Commenting after their ascent, they stated “It total for both of us that route showed at the same time how much things we still have to learn in Himalaya, but also it showed how much we already can do. Each of us have lost 10-15 kg of weight after this ascent but the experience and huge motivational charge we received at the end is really worth it.”

Jakob Schubert claims Zillertal’s first 9a

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On 17/11/2015 Jakob Schubert freed Companion of Change, the first 9a in the Zillertal, Austria.

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Jacob Schubert, Zillertal, Austria Photo by © Elias Holzknecht / Woodslave Productions Jacob Schubert making the first ascent of Companion of Change, 9a in the Zillertal, Austria.

Ever since the advent of sports climbing the luscious green Zillertal valley has been one of the Austrian crucibles of this sport. Driven by the likes of Gerhard Hörhager and Markus Schwaiger, its routes have got continually become more and more challenging, and although in 2008 Kilian Fischhuber added an 8c+, the magic 9a grade was still lacking. That is, until last Tuesday when Jakob Schubert, after having placed 3rd overall in the Lead World Cup 2015, freed a long standing project at the Bergstation crag bolted originally by Hörhager and Schwaiger.

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Arco Rock Legends 2015 Photo by © Giulio Malfer Arco Rock Legends 2015 – Jakob Schubert & Kay Rush


COMPANION OF CHANGE
by Jacob Schubert

The competition season has ended and it’s now time for rock climbing. I didn’t waste much time after Kranj and went pretty much straight to Zillertal to try a long-standing project at Bergstation.

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Arco Rock Legends 2015 Photo by © Heiko Wilhelm Jakob Schubert

I have been coming back to this route once in a while for some years now. Last year I got really close to sending it and this year it was one of my big winter goals to finally finish it.

After coming home from Kranj on Monday, I drove to Zillertal on Tuesday and did the first ascent of this great project on my 3rd try of the day. The first 9a of the Zillertal valley!

Seeing that it’s such a long time ago since I first saw this route and that so much has changed since my first try and the send, I’m giving it the name Companion of Change.

It’s always hard for me to grade routes but I’m going with 9a on this one, although it felt really hard and could be 9a+, too. Let’s see what repeaters will say.

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Jakob Schubert, Bügeleisen, Maltatal Photo by © WOODSLAVE productions Jakob Schubert climbing the boulder problem Bügeleisen sit 8C at Maltatal, Austria.

Lachit Valley: Poles climb new routes in Pakistan’s Tagas mountains

The Polish Tagas Expedition comprised of Tomasz Klimczak, Maciej Bedrejczuk, Marcin Wernik and Maciej Janczar climbed new routes in the Lachit Valley, Karakorum, Pakistan. The trip report by Klimczak

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Lachit valley, Tagas mountains, Karakorum, Pakistan: Dream Walker – fun ice gullies Photo by archive Tomasz Klimczak

Between 18/08/2015 and 02/10/2015 our Polish expedition visited the unexplored region of Tagas Mountains in Pakistan’s Karakorum. The area is located near the village of Lachit, south of the K6 massif. We were the first expedition that received a permit to enter Lachit Valley as it is under military control.

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Lachit valley, Tagas mountains, Karakorum, Pakistan, Tomasz Klimczak, Maciej Bedrejczuk, Marcin Wernik, Maciej Janczar Photo by © archive Tomasz Klimczak Lachit valley, Tagas mountains, Karakorum, Pakistan: Polish Couloir – looking down from upper section

Our expedition consisted of four members of the Polish National Alpinism Team: Tomasz Klimczak, Maciej Bedrejczuk, Marcin Wernik and Maciej Janczar. We knew each other very well, having climbed the main north faces in the Alps and many winter routes in Tatra Mountains together.

Exploration
During our one month stay in BC we explored two arms of the Lachit Valley. This is surrounded with beautiful mountains, approx. 6000m high, and we e took many pictures and aerial films with a drone. We also managed to climb two virgin peaks. The first summit was an easy acclimatization ascent, which we called Goat Peak 4991m.

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Lachit valley, Tagas mountains, Karakorum, Pakistan, Tomasz Klimczak, Maciej Bedrejczuk, Marcin Wernik, Maciej Janczar Photo by © archive Tomasz Klimczak Lachit valley, Tagas mountains, Karakorum, Pakistan: Goat Peak

Dream Walker Peak
The second mountain was a real climbing adventure with an unplanned bivi and unexpected weather breakdown. The route was climbed in two days in light alpine style without bivi equipment. We have called the mountain Dream Walker Peak 5809m and named the routeRolling (D)Ice. The crux of route was AI5 ice pitch with a 15mm unprotected ice layer. The descent followed the route, via 14 abseils from ice threads and pitons plus some down-climbing. We reached our advance basecamp at 5000m in the middle of the night, accompanied by constant snowfall.

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Lachit valley, Tagas mountains, Karakorum, Pakistan, Tomasz Klimczak, Maciej Bedrejczuk, Marcin Wernik, Maciej Janczar Photo by © archive Tomasz Klimczak Lachit valley, Tagas mountains, Karakorum, Pakistan: Dream Walker on the left and Polish Couloir on the right

Polish Couloir
Our third objective was a mountain located on the right of our BC. This soaring tower appeared difficult from all sides, with airy ridges and a pointy summit – a great dream for all mountaineers. Because of its character we gave it a working name – the Ogre. Looking at it from our tents made us utterly convinced that reaching this summit would be the main goal of our expedition and the essence of the alpinism we know and love. Our Ogre had a promising ice couloir on the north-east face and this was also easily accessible from our BC. We established Advance Base Camp at 4500m at the foot of 1.5km high face, then climbed the couloir in 3 days, having endured two sitting bivis on snow ledges.

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Lachit valley, Tagas mountains, Karakorum, Pakistan, Tomasz Klimczak, Maciej Bedrejczuk, Marcin Wernik, Maciej Janczar Photo by © archive Tomasz Klimczak Lachit valley, Tagas mountains, Karakorum, Pakistan: Polish Couloir – Maciek starting pitch with crux at the top

On the third day we reached the saddle at 6004m. Obviously we planned to keep going onto the summit. It was about 3.30pm and the weather turned bad. We could not see the ridge unfold ahead and decided to check the forecast with basecamp, and were warned that the next day would be the last day of decent weather. A serious weather breakdown was predicted for the next few days. We would need one full day to get to the summit and return to the saddle, and this meant we would have to abseil down our couloir in heavy snowfall and therefore be exposed to avalanches. There was really no choice. We started to abseil and reached our first bivi late at night. The following day we continued abseiling and reached the glacier in the afternoon, making a total of 27 abseils from the saddle. At about 17.30 we reached our BC.

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Lachit valley, Tagas mountains, Karakorum, Pakistan, Tomasz Klimczak, Maciej Bedrejczuk, Marcin Wernik, Maciej Janczar Photo by © archive Tomasz Klimczak Lachit valley, Tagas mountains, Karakorum, Pakistan: Rolling (D)Ice – Maciej Bedrejczuk, Maciej Janczar, Tomasz Klimczak, Marcin Wernik 05-06/09/2015

That night it started to snow heavily and continued for the next couple of days. We did not see the mountains but could hear a roar of avalanches every few minutes. It convinced us that we made had made a wise decision up there on the saddle. When the weather improved we returned to retrieve our tents on the glacier, and found them fully covered with snow, with broken poles. The route has been called Polish Couloir. It ended at the saddle. The summit of this Ogre remains unclimbed.

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Lachit valley, Tagas mountains, Karakorum, Pakistan, Tomasz Klimczak, Maciej Bedrejczuk, Marcin Wernik, Maciej Janczar Photo by © archive Tomasz Klimczak Lachit valley, Tagas mountains, Karakorum, Pakistan: Rolling (D)Ice – Maciej Bedrejczuk, Maciej Janczar, Tomasz Klimczak, Marcin Wernik 05-06/09/2015

After this route winter arrived in the Karakorum, putting an end to our expedition. During our stay we saw many beautiful peaks that are just waiting for their first ascents. The character of these mountains resembles alpine climbing including some fun ice, mixed and dry tooling sections. We believe Lachit Valley holds a great potential and that future expeditions will enjoy unforgettable mountain adventures here.

Tomasz Klimczak

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