Sep 27, 2007

The Outside Penguin Teaser

Watch a 4-minute video that captures some of the most memorable moments on The Outside Penguin


video

Aug 30, 2007

The Outside Penguin

Press Release

New Route: The Outside Penguin (V: 5.10, A1) in the Latok Group, Karakoram Range, Pakistan.

The summer of 2007 of the Karakoram was unusually wet, thwarting most attempts at climbing. Backed by the AAC’s Lyman Spitzer Award and Mountain Equipment Co-op, our original objective was the unclimbed feature just under and southwest of Latok II (7108m; see below). We facetiously named this gargantuan gendarme “Latok II¾” (~6500m); its southwest face presents a 1500m wall of near-vertical, unclimbed granite. With all the bad weather, this normally rock climbable objective was shrouded in verglas and powder, rendering it too full on for the likes of us.

Ken Glover (Canmore, Canada) and I (Vancouver, Canada) turned our attention to lower altitudes, and settled on Peak 5750 (see below), located two peaks down a ridge to the southwest of Latok II. Italians may have climbed the peak in 1977 and Americans Doug Chabot and Jack Tackle climbed it from the north in 2000. Its triangular south face rises 1200m out of the talus-covered Baintha Lukpar Glacier and appears to have some of the best granite in the valley. At the tail end of one of the few high-pressure systems of the season, we started up the rightmost of the twin buttress with light alpine packs, where one sleeping bag, two down jackets, and a siltarp comprised the extent of our bivy gear.

The face presented three steep headwalls; we hoped to weave our way up the wall via a devious line of weakness. After an initial broken section, we reached the base of the first headwall, framed on its right by a ridge crest. By traversing two pitches, we reached crest and followed it upward for a pitch before it stopped us at a blank overhang. A slab traverse rightward dropped us into a chimney, which we followed for three pitches to a sandy ledge atop the initial headwall. The second steep headwall loomed above. Searching for the line of weakness, we traversed for two pitches to the right again, where we climbed a ramp system before slipping behind a prow to find a hidden corner. Above the corner, moderate terrain led to a scree slope and a comfortable bivy. At each daunting wall, we had luckily found a moderate solution.

Seven hundred meters up the face, we hoped for a quick, sun-bathed dash for the summit on Day 2. Instead, threatening skies and false summits made for a more Blue-collar finish. After soloing up moderate terrain past the false summits, we reached the base of the third and final headwall. A long, broken pitch led to a steep cirque with no obvious line of weakness, where our streak of luck appeared to end. Straight up presented thin, vertical cracks; to the left stood a complex prow blocked by an overhanging wart of granite; the right was blocked by a crackless buttress and an overhanging rotten ice gully. Ken scouted the right options, launching into ledge-fall potential on an unprotectable face. He wisely retreated as the difficulty ramped up. Next, I tried the left prow. By stemming past an ice-chocked corner, I reached the base of the overhung wart, where our luck returned. A moderate ramp allowed us past the previously hidden side of the gendarme, beyond which the crux pitch gave way to the wart’s top. Ken then led two mixed pitches with our one pair of crampons to the summit, as snow began to fall.

We began a descent immediately by scoping our first option, a line that may have lead into easy descent gullies. The idea appeared to be far more involved than anticipated whilst scouting. Hence, we began rappelling our line of ascent; shortly thereafter, darkness and a powerful snowstorm descended upon us. At the first decent ledge, we endured a miserable, sleepless bivy as the storm raged on. On the third day, we continued our descent, again finding that any quick-and-easy descent ideas turned out to be complex and dangerous. Thus, we continued rapping and downclimbing our line of ascent. We reached the base that afternoon in the pouring rain, after some 800m of rapping, overjoyed for having made the most of what the weather gods permitted.

Aug 14, 2007

The Karakoram Highway (KKH)

The KKH isn't exactly a cruise on a good day. For some 700km, it traverses the steep sidewalls of deep valleys between Skardu and Islamabad. But with all the poor weather as of late, the road in one section was particularly bad. There were landslide washouts every km for a 150km section. The slides had been partially cleared, enough to let one car through at a time. One semi-truck got properly stuck in one and had to be suspended there by cables while they cleared a new road around it. And in another instance, it took much courage of one Chinese semi-driver to pull through another one, his cab on the brink of tipping over. After 24 hours of driving over two days, we have arrived in Islamabad. By tomorrow night, all of us should be on our flights out of Pakistan.

Aug 11, 2007

Islamabad-bound

Having reunited with the women's expedition, we will either fly to Islamabad tomorrow, or begin the 2-day drive along the famous Karakoram Highway. The weather is good at the moment, increasing the likelihood that the plane will be able to make it it. Wish us luck.

Aug 5, 2007

Expedition Draws to a Close

Jeremy here again. Thank you Jay Piggott for posting updates via satellite phone emails for us.

Last night, we arrived in Skardu (Pakistan's version of civilization) after a speedy retreat from basecamp. All team members are safe and happy and finally showered. What follows is a brief summary of our expedition.

July is usually the best month for climbing in the Karakoram but this year's July was, quite simply, horrible. We had 7 days of good weather to 19 days of poor weather. Latok II-3/4 was all snowed up and would not be feasible. After acclimatizing, we turned our attention to the northwest ridge of Latok II (7108m). The ridge involved a complex mixed or ice climb (two different ways up) to a col at 5900m followed by 12oom of average 45-degree snow and mixed narrow ridge crest, with some difficult, steeper rock steps. Jeremy decided to stay back as Ken, Sam, and Ryan made an attempt via the mixed approach. Sam took a 20-foot lead fall when his tools popped out of snow-ice. The sun came out strongly, and the altitude hit Ryan and Ken especially. With altititude symptoms, the boys retreated to ABC at midnight.

Upon returning to basecamp, the weather was holding so another attempt was considered. This time, Ken decided to stay back due to his altitude sickness low down. He would have needed more time than was available in order to acclimatize properly. Sam and Ryan thus made a second attempt, this time taking the ice approach to the col. They then spent 2 days at the col in blowing, snowing conditions before retreating in light of more on-coming weather.

Meanwhile, Ken and Jeremy approached a 1200m rocky south face of an unnamed, unclimbed peak. They climbed 20 pitches in total along with much simulclimbing and soloing. Over the course of 1.5 days, they reached the summit of what they dubbed "Karim Peak" after our legendary and eccentric guide named Little Karim. The planned descent turned out to not be feasible and so they retraced their way down the whole route, rappelling some 800m over the course of 1.5 days. Along the way, they were caught in a ferocious storm and spent an uncomfortable night huddled under a tarp as the snow flew. (In the end, Jeremy slept for a total of 1 hour on the the climb.) Now into the rain, Ken and Jeremy rappeled and rappeled, eventually reaching the base, cold, wet, but happy. They named their route "The Outside Penguin" (V: 5.10-, A1).

Upon returning to basecamp, we received another poor forecast from KiwiJay and so decided to retreat early. The glacier walk from basecamp had been grippy on the way up. After 3 weeks of near constant rain, it had been transformed into an ice rink making for a fast but exciting retreat. Yesterday, we walked/slid for about 30km before hopping in a jeep and bouncing along for 5 hours. We all enjoyed sleeping last night very much.

Next, we plan on staying in Skardu for 2 days before having a leisurely hiking tour of Little Karim's home, in the Hushe Valley. Including transport, it will be a 4-day journey.