Weekend Warm-Up: Nanga Parbat, First Georgian Ascent

On July 3, 1953, a lonely climber reached the summit of Nanga Parbat for the first time. Approaching from the northern Rakhiot Face, which rises 7,000m in only 25km from the Indus River valley, the climber used no supplementary oxygen and had been on his own since his partner turned back.

While his remarkable achievement was overshadowed by Hillary and Norgay’s conquest of Everest just 35 days before, his was just the third 8,000m peak ever summited, and the first without bottled O2. The summiter, Hermann Buhl, had succeeded where others — mainly fellow Germans — had failed and even lost their lives. No wonder that Nanga Parbat, whose Sanscrit name means the naked mountain, would instead become better known as The Killer Mountain.

Nanga’s allure has never faded. It rises solitary over the Diamir Valley, where the normal route begins. Its 4,600m Rupal Face is often considered the highest cliff in the world. Nanga is a serious choice for committed 8,000m hunters. Its location, farther west than all other 8,000’ers, creates a unique climate that allows attempts either in early summer or at the very end of it.

In this strange year, a possible September climb of Nanga Parbat is the last hope for Pakistan’s tourism industry, currently watching in despair as summer fades with no foreign teams venturing into its mountains. In place of contemporary adventure, Nanga in 2020 conjures up memories and anniversaries: from old black-and-white photos of early pioneers to those who achieved firsts or perished in their attempts.

This week’s video documents the first ascent of Nanga Parbat by a Georgian team. Archil Badriashvili and Giorgi Tepnadze first attempted the mountain in late summer, 2018. They were the only team there, and despite their hard work fixing rope, a long spell of bad weather thwarted their attempt. Lesson learned about the limits of independence, the pair returned in 2019 with other teams under the same permit, which included Nirmal Purja and his Elite Himalayan expedition.

Familiar figures do, in fact, appear during several scenes of this climb, including Purja, Stefi Troguet and Sergi Mingote. All contributed to fixing the route and breaking trail, and all summited together on July 3, the anniversary of Buhl’s first ascent. The joint climb set an example of how collaboration between teams led to success for everyone, despite difficult conditions. 

While the footage cannot be described as extraordinary, the views of Nanga Parbat are always refreshing. In addition, the film includes some interesting clips of Nanga’s higher sections. The steep ramps proved particularly tricky under the loads of fresh snow. Most of all, the story inspires dreams of better years for those hoping to face the Killer Mountain someday.

About the Author

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides

Senior journalist, published author and communication consultant. Specialized on high-altitude mountaineering, with an interest for everything around the mountains: from economics to geopolitics. After five years exploring distant professional ranges, I returned to ExWeb BC in 2018. Feeling right at home since then!

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