Messner, Marin Stymied: No Luck for Last Climbers in the Karakorum

Extreme weather at both ends of the spectrum thwarted the last two summer expeditions in Pakistan.

High temperatures foiled Simon Messner and Martin Sieberer on Praqpa Ri Central, while on Trango’s Nameless Tower, Edu Marin’s Eternal Flame route, contrary to its name, was frozen.

Praqpa Ri Central (7,134m)

Messner and Sieberer had kept quiet about the climbing project that they had worked on for the last five-and-a-half weeks: a first ascent, alpine-style, of 7,134m Praqpa Ri Central, near K2.

Not surprisingly, the climbers reported the same sweatbox that had bedeviled the area’s other alpine-style team, Ian Westeld and Graham Zimmerman on K2’s West Ridge.

“The temperatures were incredibly high,” the younger Messner said. “Even at 7,000m, we had temperatures up to +10°[C]…That is simply crazy. It is much too warm and a clear sign of climate change.”

In addition, the pair endured huge amounts of snow on the mountain and unstable, cloudy weather.

Martin Sieberer, left, and Simon Messner. Photo: Simon Messner


Messner and Sieberer reached K2 on July 22, around the time of the summit successes on Broad Peak and later K2. But the weather then turned for the worse  — cloudy but still not cold enough — before they had time even to begin their attempt.

Praqpa Ri is one of the few unclimbed 7,000’ers left in Pakistan. The pair spent some time scouting for the best potential route.

“The west ridge looks very steep but is probably climbable in good conditions, while the mountain’s north face looks extremely dangerous because of the [many] huge seracs,” they noted. They heard pieces of seracs falling all the time.

“We tried the east ridge, climbing during the night to avoid the heat, but got stuck in deep snow,” they said.

Almost T-shirt weather. Photo: Simon Messner

Frozen Eternal Flame

Spain’s Edu Marin didn’t surrender easily in his attempt to free climb the Eternal Flame route on Trango’s Nameless Tower. He stayed behind after his original teammates left, helped by a climbing pair, also from Spain, who happened to be there. Marin climbed in sun and snow and managed to free most of the pitches. But the bad weather wrapping the Karakorum throughout the second half of August proved too much for his adopted partners.
“Julen and Amaia are very tired and the weather doesn’t help, so I have decided to finish the project,” Marin wrote earlier this week.
To illustrate the difficult conditions, he posted a video showing a rope completely encased in ice, like a giant icicle.

A chilly-looking Edu Marin shows a frozen rope. Photo: Edu Marin


However, he is far from done with the famous granite spire. “I will come back to free climb Eternal Flame next season,” Marin said. “Now I know well the route, the logistics, the appropriate season, etc. I have left a large part of my gear in Pakistan and I am really motivated to climb this route in the purest style.”

The Spaniard also learned lessons about the right team. Next time, he will return with those he knows best: his father and his brother. Still, Marin was thankful to his two last-minute partners, Julen and Amaya. “You guys rock!” he said.

Photo: Edu Marin