The French Trio Climbed Diran’s North Ridge Alpine Style, But No Skis

Alpine style Karakorum
Diran, a snowy pyramid
Diran, a white pyramid rising above green meadows. Photo: Helias Millerioux

Patrick Wagnon, Yannick Graziani, and Helias Millerioux contacted ExplorersWeb today from Karimabad with details about their recent climb of Diran (7,257m). The French team climbed the north ridge alpine style but without skis on their backs.

“We had planned to climb the north ridge and then ski down the normal [west ridge/north face] route until 5,800m, then cross the north slope back to Base Camp,” Yannick Graziani told ExplorersWeb. “But the weather window we had was too short, so instead, we decided to climb in traditional alpine style.”

It took the team four days to summit and return to Base Camp. Diran’s north ridge (northeast ridge, according to some reports) gains 2,200 vertical metres in five kilometres. Helias Millerioux confirms that they descended via the same route. Now in Karimabad, they are wondering whether theirs was the first alpine-style climb of this north ridge of Diran.

Diran on Google Earth

Triumphs and tragedies on Diran

In his book Himalaya Alpine Style, Steven Venables writes that Ken Takahashi’s six-member Japanese team made the first ascent of the north ridge. He also states that Doug Scott made the first alpine-style ascent in 1985. Scott’s four-man team took only two days to reach the top and one more to return to BC. They followed the normal route, opened by an Austrian team back in 1968. Some blogs mention a second alpine-style ascent in 1989, but we have found no further details or mentions.

Eleven South Korean climbers, led by Choi Mun-Hwan, also summited expedition style via the north ridge in 1994. The American Alpine Journal reported on their climb. The team set up four high camps: C1 at 3,800m, C2 at 4,600m on the way to the ridge, C3 at 5,300m, and C4 at 6,100m, on the ridge itself.

Six expeditions tried Diran in 1994, and only the Koreans succeeded. A year earlier, on the normal route, two members of a Spanish team simply vanished from Camp 2 during a blizzard. When their teammates climbed up to look for them, they found no trace of the tent in C2. Either an avalanche swept it away or tons of fresh snow simply buried it, and them with it.

Pete Thomson writes on Summitpost.org that Diran is a “gentle pyramid…easily accessible from the Karakorum Highway on its way to Hunza”. Although it looks easy, “it’s just steep enough to avalanche,” commented Barry Blanchard, who unsuccessfully attempted Diran with some clients in 1994. Avalanches are frequent — even “constant”, according to some teams.

The first climbers to approach its summit, Chris Hoyte and Ted Warr of the UK in 1958, disappeared 100m shy of the summit. Since then, several other climbers have become casualties of this deceptively dangerous peak.

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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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damiengildea
Editor
11 days ago

It’s had at least two unauthorised ascents as well, as it’s relatively accessible from the KKH for a small acclimatised team. It’s also had an ascent from the south, by a Japanese team.

The north ridge is a beautiful line, apparently more difficult than it looks. The ‘regular’ NW face route just looks dangerous!

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Fabrizio
Fabrizio
10 days ago

I was in 2000 an avalanche destroyed the 2nd camp and two friends died. Rest in peace Omar and Domenico

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