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Nanga Parbat - Part 1

/ Climbing

Nanga Parbat [8125m], the Naked Mountain, was one of the first eight-thousanders to be attempted by a Western mountaineer. In 1895 Alfred Mummery and his Ghurka companions reached almost 6100 m [20,000 ft] on the Diamir [West] Face, but later died reconnoitring the Rakhiot Face. They were the first fatalities in a long list that was to follow.

 In the 1930s large-scale German expeditions set their eyes on Nanga Parbat, partially due to the conviction of the Nazi regime that the region was the original birthplace of the Aryan race they thought they originated from. It was thought that the local people that inhabited the area were descendants of the armies of Alexander the Great who travelled the heart of Asia in 329BC. The expeditions of 1932, 1934, 1937 and 1938 were set up as siege-style military operations that made remarkable progress on the mountain. Eventually it came at a high cost when several legendary mountaineers met their fate in consecutive disasters in 1934 and 1937 with a staggering body count with 10 and 16 and deaths respectively. Much in accordance with their tenacious nationalistic nature they persisted until in 1953 the infamous Dr. Karl Maria Herrligkoffer led an expedition that succeeded in putting a man on the summit, even when it was not the way this half-brother of Willy Merkl had anticipated. Against his strict orders the Austrian Hermann Buhl went on to the summit alone and after an epic ascent planted his ice axe on the highest point. His amphetamine-fuelled victory was only interrupted by a night-long standing bivouac on the way down. The fact that he survived this epic ordeal gave him a legendary status that still is admired to the present day.

Nanga Parbat The Killer Mountain, źródło:wikimedia.orgNanga Parbat, source:wikimedia.org


In the 1960s and 1970s new routs were opened up on all sides of the mountain. In 1962 three Germans climbed a new line on the left-hand side of the Diamir Face; the Kinshofer Route. In 1970 Günther and Reinhold Messner from Italy were successful on the 4500m Rupal Face but were unable to descend their line. Forced to traverse the mountain, in an attempt to descend the Diamir side, Günther died when he had almost reached the bottom of the face. A controversy was born that lasts until the present day. In 1976 yet another route was opened at the left-hand side of the Rupal Face when four Austrians plotted the Schell Route.

Eventually in 1978 Reinhold Messner returned to the Diamir Face to9 search for his lost brother and he achieved the first completely solo ascent of an 8000m peak. In 1984 the French climber Lilliane Barrard became the first woman to summit Nanga Parbat, along with her husband Maurice Barrard. Both died two years later on K2 during the Black Summer of 1986 that claimed the lives of 13 mountaineers. In 1985, Kukuczka, Heinrich, Lobodzinski [all Polish] and Carsolio [Mexico] climbed a bold line up the Southeast Pillar - or Polish Spur -on the right-hand side of the Rupal Face. It was Kukuczka's 9th 8000m summit.

Also in 1985, a Polish women's team climbed the peak via the 1962 Kinshofer Route when Wanda Rutkiewicz, Krystyna Palmowska and Anna Czerwinska reached the summit.


Północna Ściana, źródło:wikimedia.orgNorthern Areas, source:wikimedia.org


"Modern" superalpinism was brought to Nanga Parbat in 1988 with an unsuccessful attempt or two on the Rupal Face by Barry Blanchard, Mark Twight, Ward Robinson and Kevin Doyle. In September 2005, Vince Anderson and Steve House did an extremely lightweight, fast ascent of a new, direct route on the Rupal Face, earning high praise from the climbing community. In 2012 Scottish mountaineers Sandy Allan and Rick Allen made the first ascent of Nanga Parbat via the 10 km-long Mazeno Ridge, and were awarded the Piolet d'Or for their achievement.


Bob A. Schelfhout Aubertijn

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