Secret Line On Tirich Mir; K2 West Face Announced

After making the first ascent of the north face of 7,708m Tirich Mir, Japanese alpinists Kazuya Hiraide and Kenro Nakajima are back in Japan.

In a debriefing on August 25, organized by Ishii Sports and reported by Dempa Digital, Hiraide and Nakajima shared more details from the climb. They also confirmed that they will aim to establish a new route (without O2 or porter support) on the west face of K2.

Kazuya Hiraide (left) and Kentro Nakajima.

Kazuya Hiraide (left) and Kentro Nakajima. Photo: Kazuya Hiraide


Secret line

In 2001, Hiraide noticed that the north face of Tirich Mir was unexplored. According to Hiraide, it was unexplored because a mountain fortress surrounded it, hiding the north wall.

The Japanese duo reached a glacier in front of the north face of Tirich Mir on the second day of their ascent. While contemplating the huge north wall, Nakajima told Hiraide that he was excited to finally start climbing.

On the third day from base camp, they started to ascend the wall despite dense fog from early in the morning.

"Secret Line" , the first route on the north face of Tirich Mir, ascended by Kazuya Hiraide and Kengro Nakajima in 2023.

Secret Line. The first route on the north face of Tirich Mir. Photo: Ishii Sports


On the sixth day, they camped at 7,200m and aimed for the summit. “It was the best day since we left base camp and we reached the summit in perfect conditions,” Hiraide said.

The summit was spacious and calm. “It felt like a completely different kind of peace,” Hiraide recalled.

After summiting, the descent back to base camp took two days. They named the route “Secret Line.” It is the first route on Tirich Mir’s north face.

Hiraide announced that this September he would exhibit a short film at an overseas mountain film festival. He plans to release a feature film in Japan next spring.

The west face of K2.

The west face of K2. Photo: Russian Climb


K2’s west face confirmed

Kazuya Hiraide and Kenro Nakajima also confirmed that they would attempt the west face of K2 next year. Without a doubt, this will be their most difficult project.

Hiraide hasn’t determined their route yet. Some years ago Hiraide mentioned the “west-southwest face” of K2 as a future project, but has more recently referred to it simply as the “west face”. The southwest face remains unclimbed, so that could be an option.

Guessing their route is impossible, but what is certain is that they will climb without bottled oxygen, without assistance, and in a pristine style.

K2’s west face was ascended once, in 2007. A Russian party fixed ropes along the entire route but didn’t use supplemental oxygen or high-altitude porters. Eleven climbers reached the top: Andrey Mariev and Vadim Popovich summited first (on August 21), followed the next day by Alexei Bolotov, Nikolai Totmjanin, Victor Volodin, Gennady Kirievsky, Evgeniy Vinogradsky, Vitaly Gorelik, Gleb Sokolov, Ilyas Tukhvatullin, and Pavel Shabalin.

The Russian team overcame great technical difficulties at very high altitude. Their route has not been repeated.

The west face of K2 and the Russian route of 2007 (on the right).

The west face of K2 and the Russian route of 2007 (on the right). Photo: Russian Climb


Other routes

There are some other routes on K2 related to the west face. The southwest ridge was first climbed in 1981 by a Japanese expedition under the leadership of Teruo Matsuura. Japanese climber Eiho Otani and Pakistani climber Nazir Ahmad Sabir topped out on August 7, 1981. The Japanese expedition used bottled oxygen to open the route.

The south-southwest pillar, better known as the Magic Line, was first climbed by a Polish-Slovak expedition. One of the summit team died on descent.

The Northwest Ridge on K2.

The Northwest Ridge on K2. Photo: John Shen


The Northwest Ridge-North Ridge route was ascended on August 15, 1991, by French climbers Pierre Beghin and Christophe Profit. They followed the Northwest Ridge, then diagonally traversed the Northwest Wall, and finally followed the Japanese North Ridge route of 1982. Their route has not been repeated.

The Northwest Face-Northwest Ridge route was ascended on August 9, 1990, by Japanese climbers Hideji Nazuka and Hirotaka Imamura. They used bottled oxygen and a large number of porters and high camps. This route has not been repeated either.

The last attempt from the west on K2 was in 2021 when Canadian Ian Welsted and American Graham Zimmerman attempted the west ridge. They could not progress far because of melted snow making conditions underfoot treacherous.

K2's west side.

K2’s west side. Photo: Graham Zimmerman

Kris Annapurna

KrisAnnapurna is a writer with ExplorersWeb.

Kris has been writing about history and tales in alpinism, news, mountaineering, and news updates in the Himalaya, Karakoram, etc., for the past year with ExplorersWeb. Prior to that, Kris worked as a real estate agent, interpreter, and translator in criminal law. Now based in Madrid, Spain, she was born and raised in Hungary.