Nanga Parbat, which means "naked mountain" in Urdu, is the world's ninth highest mountain. It is also called Diamir, the "Dwelling Place of the Fairies". German mountaineers once dubbed it their "Mountain of Destiny". The Nanga Parbat massif is the western corner pillar of the Himalayas. It is an isolated range of peaks springing up from nothing, and is surrounded by the rivers Indus and Astore (map). Its vast snowy face is a powerful spectacle when seen from the arid Indus Valley, approaching the mountain from the west. Here the mountain towers in isolation over 22,000 feet from the valley floor. Nanga Parbat (main peak) has a height of 8126 meters/26,660 ft. It has three vast faces. The Rakhiot (Ra Kot) face is dominated by the north and south silver crags and silver plateau; the Diamir face is rocky in the beginning. It converts itself into ice fields around Nanga Parbat peak. The Rupal face is the highest mountain face in the world: it rises an incredible 4,600 m (15,000 feet) above its base.
The mountain is easy to reach (China's Karakoram Highway approaches the base of the mountain from the north). Before the first ascent, it was thought that Nanga Parbat was the easiest 8,000 metre mountain to climb. However, even the world's highest mountain would be ascended before this ice-covered and avalanche-dangerous colossus. Unstable glaciers and frequent storms and avalanches have proved hazardous, most notably to the German party who first attempted the peak. Herman Buhl successfully reached the summit, but this was only after having lost eleven climbers and fifteen porters during the ascent. Many other climbers have subsequently been killed on this mountain. Even today, the "Naked Mountain" is an elusive goal. While over 1800 people have reached the summit of Everest, only some 200 have stood atop Nanga Parbat.
Raikot Bridge to Fairy Point
History of the exploration of Nanga Parbat
1895: Albert Mummery led an expedition to the peak, and reached almost 7000m on the Diamir (West) Face, but Mummery and two Gurkha companions later died reconnoitering the Rakhiot Face.
1930's: Six German expeditions attempted the peak in the 1930's, but none succeeded, and dozens of climbers died in storms and avalanches. However, an altitude of about 7700m was reached on the East Ridge, attained via the Rakhiot Face.
1953: Nanga Parbat was first climbed on July 3, 1953 by Austrian climber Hermann Buhl, a member of a German-Austrian team. By the time of this expedition, 31 people had already died trying to make the first ascent. The initiator for the 1953 German - Austrian Himalaya expedition was Dr. Karl Herrligkoffer, stepbrother to the late (1934) Willy Merkl, and the whole operation was meant to be a "memorial" expedition for the last-mentioned. Herrligkoffer's way of organization and preparation didn't win the trust of the big alpine organizations, and he had difficulties engaging famous climbers; Heckmair and Rebitsch said no. Eventually he found a couple of climbers with Himalaya experience in the Himalayas: Aschenbrenner (a veteran from 1934) and Frauenberger. Last but not least he managed to engage the famous duo from the Alps: Buhl and Rainer. Herrligkoffer managed to arrange the expedition at the last minute and they were finally underway.
Everything went smoothly and a base camp was established during the end of May. Camp I - IV were established and stores and equipment were transported upwards. Heavy snowfall and uncertain weather made all attacks towards the higher regions impossible. On June 30th, Herrligkoffer ordered everyone to Base Camp. At that time, they hadn't gotten higher up than the 1932 expedition.
However, the weather suddenly changed on July 1. Buhl, Kampter, Frauenbergar and the camera man Ertl were still in the higher camps. They had refused the retreat-order and after discussing it via radio, they managed to get their will through. (There had been conflicts the entire time between Herrligkoffer and Aschenbrenner, who was supposed to lead the climb). On July 2, Buhl and Kempter established Camp V at the Col on the ridge up to the Silver Saddle at 6,900 meters. Ertl and Fruenberger returned to Camp IV. The weather conditions seemed to have stabilized. Buhl's plan was, if possible, to reach the Silver Saddle at 7,450 meters and the big plateau above. From there he could either ascend the preliminary summit or the Northern Summit and the expedition's honor would be saved. Buhl's famous solo-climbs in the Alps had proven his daring and strength, and now he was ready to invest it all.
At 1.00 a.m. July 3, Buhl left Camp V heading upwards, Kempter had difficulties leaving his sleeping bag and followed one hour later. The snow conditions were good and the night was clear with the moon lighting up the mountain. At 5.00 a.m. the sun rose above the horizon and Buhl reached the Silver Saddle. The three km long plateau taxed Buhl's strength. The heat was almost overwhelming and the air stood completely still. At the end of the plateau, Buhl had some tea and left his pack behind. Now he could move more easily. Now Kempter as well had reached the plateau but Buhl was moving too fast, and was way ahead. Kempter realized he would never catch up, and so he turned back and reached Camp V safely.
Buhl reached the Col below the summit (7800 meters) at 2.00 p.m. Buhl had the technically most difficult section of the whole climb ahead of him and the last 300 meters didn't look promising. After an inner struggle he decided to continue. He took a dose of Pertvin (a stimulant) and started climbing the rocks. His apprehensions came true; the climb was partly very difficult and took a long time. First at 6 p.m. Buhl reached the shoulder and one hour later he stood on the summit. It was dead calm and perfectly clear, the chapter Nanga Parbat was finished for the lonely man on the top.
Down below, Kempter had
reported that Buhl continued alone toward the summit, and from each camp
they looked up towards
the Silver Saddle hoping
Buhl on his way back in the evening. But nothing was to be seen, Frauenberger
returned to Camp V during the day and spent the night there together
with Kempter. They could however not sleep, thinking about Buhl's destiny.
While Buhl still was at the summit, the sun went down. He drank his last tea and planted his ice-axe with Pakistani and Tyroli flags attached to it and took a few pictures. Night was falling fast as he started to descend. Above 8,000 meters at a tiny ledge below the shoulder he was forced to emergency bivouac - without any sleeping bag or warm clothes, he had left his pack on the plateau! Standing on a piece of rock between 9.00 p.m and 4 a.m. Hermann Buhl spent the night up in Nanga Parbat's "death-zone". The wind was calm and the night clear, and in spite of his thin clothing Buhl's body managed the cold, but he was loosing all the feeling in his feet. At dawn he continued the descent and going up from the Col was extremely strenuous.
took a new dose of Pertvin, and eventually reached the plateau
and found his pack. He was in no condition to eat or drink anything.
he struggled on downwards across the plateau in the burning sun.
His thirst became overwhelming, some more Pertvin mobilized his last resources
at 5.30 p.m. Buhl reached the Silver Saddle.
While Kempter on July 4 descended to Camp IV, Ertl reaches Camp V and along with Frauenberger erected the memorial plaque over Willy Merkl at the place where 1938 year's expedition had found him, all the time looking up towards the Silver Saddle. They planned to continue the next day to try to find out what had become of Buhl. Frauenberger returned to the plaque to attach it better when he suddenly saw a small dot on the SilverSaddle that is moving downwards! Buhl! His happiness at being reunited with his friends is indescribable.
Buhl was very lucky on Nanga Parbat, escaping with just a few frostbitten toes. This story reflects Buhl's style of climbing; totally focused and by taking enormous risks he often succeeded where others failed. If anyone at this time could manage such a climb, it was Hermann Buhl!
Four years later on Broad Peak, he and his companions proved that, without any help from high altitude porters, a small team could climb an 8,000 meter peak. But it was Buhl's last summit. Some days later, attempting Chogolisa, he fell through a cornice to his death.
The Hermann Buhl story is courtesy of Per Jerberyd www.jerberyd.com
1962: Second ascent via the Diamir Face by Germans Toni Kinshofer, S. Löw, and A. Mannhardt. The Kinshofer route is now the "standard route" on the mountain.
1970: Reinhold and Günther Messner reached the summit via a direct route on the huge, difficult Rupal Face. They were part of an expedition lead again by Dr. Karl Herrligkoffer. Messner reflects on this climb in his interview with National Geographic in November 2006: "In my time, the most technically demanding climb was not any one peak," Reinhold said. "It was surely, at least in the German-speaking world, the south face of Nanga Parbat, the Rupal Face."
The expedition was behind schedule, when Gerhard Baur, Reinhold and Günther Messner hatched a plan while waiting in camp 5 for suitable weather conditions. They would together made an attempt for the summit the next day unless the base camp would signal bad weather. In that case Reinhold would go alone. When the red rocket flared at 8 o'clock at night, Reinhold prepared himself for the next morning.
According to Messners accounts in National Geographic, three incidents contributed to the tragic event that followed. Firstly, Günther changed plans and followed his brother. While rushing across the Merkl Icefield trying to catch up with Reinhold, he expended an extraordinary amount of energy. He appeared too weak for a decent down the Rupal face after spending roughly one hour on the summit. This meant that the two brothers had to spend the night near the summit at temperatures below 40 degrees. In a second misunderstanding, two other team members who followed the two brothers the following day, did not comprehend the critical situation because the red rocket was fired in error, the weather was in fact flawless. They bypassed their companions and continued to push for the summit. At this point, Reinhold decided to decent via the less demanding Damir face. After a second bivouac at 6500 m, things seemed to get better and Günther seemed to have recovered. Reinhold went ahead to scout the path down the Damir face when he got separated from his brother. Seeing a stream, he drank for the first time in four days and waited. Günther did not appear. He searched for one day and one night before staggering onward into the Damir Valley.
Messner at Nanga Parbat
In 2005 Günther's remains were found on the Diamir Face. It is assumed that he died in an avalanche.
Messner about his solo ascent of Nanga Parbat
Ed Viesturs reached the summit together with Jean-Christophe Lafaille on June 23, 2003 via the Diamir Face. He writes in his book "No Shortcuts to the Top": ... our summit push (from camp IV at 24000 feet) took seven hours. The snow about camp IV was a psychlogical nightmare, dry as sand, affording hardly any purchase. One step upward - only to slide half the distance back down. We tried all the tricks we knew to get from one tiny rock island, where the footing was more solid, to the next. We really had to spur each other on. In some sense, the mental agony of that push was worse than anything I had experienced on the other 8000ers." Lafaille reported from the expedition in his dispatches to EverestNews.
Viesturs' and Lafaille's route on Nanaga Parbat via the Kinshofer route:
Interactive map and satellite photograph of the Nanga Parbat region:
Kinshofer Route via Damir Face
Anderson / House Route via Rupal Face
Image credit: www.skywardmountaineering.com
in the News
Reinhold Messner plans family expedition to Nanga Parbat
Reinhold Messner has announced that he will take his family, including his four-year-old daughter, on a trip to Nanga Parbat. He is planning to take the group including his wife, four children, seven brothers and their families to the southwest (Damir) base camp at an altitude of 4200m. Messner had lost his brother in an ill-fated expedition on this mountian in 1970. More ...
Delgado found dead on Nanga Parbat
The body of one of Latin America's best known climbers, Jose Antonio Delgado, has been found on killer mountain Nanga Parbat in Pakistan. Delgado's body was found on Saturday at a height of 7,000 metres (22,965 ft), Manzoor Hussain, of Pakistan's Mountaineering and Climbing Federation told the Associated Press news agency. "Our team collected his belongings for his family. We have buried him where he was found." Delgado was found some 400 metres from his tent. He had reached the summit on 12 July but went missing during a snowstorm on his way down. It is believed that the 41 years old Venezuelan climber may have lost his life while braving the snow storm that engulfed Nanga Parbat during the last week. More ...
Expedition summits Nanga Parbat
Expedition climbers Doychin Boyanov (30) and Nikolay Petkov (48) summited Nanga Parbat on July 8. They completed the Kinshofer Route in a 14 hour push from C4, negiotiating poor snow conditions.
Anderson and House climb
the Central Pillar of the Rupal Face
U.S. climbers Vince Anderson (Colorado) and Steve House (Oregon) master the Central Pillar of the Rupal Face. They carried only 16 kg of equipment, among others a 1 kg tent and a specially made synthetic sleeping bag. It took 6 days to reach the summit and two days down. More ...
a movie about Steve House's gear: Patagonia Alpine Ambassador Steve House goes through the gear he
and partner Vince Anderson used on their alpine-style
of Nanga Parbat in September, 2005. They were awarded the 2005 Piolet d’Or
Award, recognizing the significance of this innovative route climbed in a
clean and committed style.
Watch a movie about Steve House's clothing: Patagonia Alpine Ambassador Steve House goes through the clothing he wore on his and Vince Anderson’s alpine-style first ascent of the Rupal Face of Nanga Parbat.
Humar rescued after 6 six days on Nanga Parbat
A Pakistani rescue team have sucessully retreived renowned Slovenian mountaineer Tomaz Humar who was trapped under a narrow ice ledge on Nanga Parbat for six days. Humar The set out on a solo climb on a new route never scaled before. He became trapped on 4 August by bad weather and avalanches.
Humar is not new to the dangerous conditions on Nanga Parbat. In 1993, he made four attempts to scale the mountain from the Rupal face. He had to abandon his efforts due to health problems.
National Geographic writes that "after weeks of waiting, the pressure on Humar mounted when American climber Steve House (and his partner Vince Anderson) arrived at base camp. ... After House's arrival, Humar decided that he'd better just start climbing. On August 1, 2005, he loaded his Lowe Alpine pack and took off. It was hard for observers not to think he'd decided to ignore his own best judgment about the variable conditions simply to beat a rival up the face."
More information can be found on Humar's website www.humar.com.
Image courtesy BBC: Pakistani Air Force Lama SA- 315B helicopter was used in the rescue. The helicopter is purpose-built to operate at high altitudes and holds the world record for the highest-ever helicopter flight at 12,441m. The 'copter can fly at 200km/h. Its maximum payload is 1,000k
Brother Found on Nanga Parbat ?
Islamabad: Italian mountaineer Reinhold Messner has identified the remains of his brother Guenther whom he had lost in 1970 during the climb down the 8,125-metre Nanga Parbat peak in Pakistan.
Karl Unterkircher killed on Nanga Parbat
Karl Unterkircher has been killed in a crevasse fall while exploring a new route on Nanga Parbat. Unterkircher and his partners, Simon Kehrer and Walter Nones, were at about 6,000 meters on the Rakhiot Face of the 8,125-meter peak when a snow bridge collapsed and Unterkircher fell to the bottom of a deep crevasse. His partners worked through the night to extract Unterkircher, but were unsuccessful.
After an arduous all-night effort to rescue their companion, Kehrer and Nones continued climbing, unable to descend the dangerous face below them. Over the next two days, they climbed to a plateau above the steep face at 7,000 meters. On the 19th, Pakistani pilots in a Lama high-altitude helicopter were able to lower supplies to the two men, who then began traversing toward the 1953 first-ascent route on the northeast slopes. However, deterioriating weather limited their progress, and not until July 22 were they able to descend to about 6,600 meters. Although both the summit and base camp were clear, fog and falling snow between 6,000 and 7,000 meters hid the men from observers and prevented them from moving through the heavily crevassed terrain. They stayed at 6,600 meters for two nights, and then, in clear weather on the morning of the 24th, they quickly descended to around 5,700 meters, where a helicopter picked them up around midday.
Unterkircher, who was just about to turn 38, has done numerous new routes in the Dolomites, and he climbed Everest and K2 without supplementary oxygen in 2004, but recently he has focused on new routes in the Himalayan ranges. With various partners, he made the first ascent of the north spur of Mt. Genyen (6,204m) in China in 2006, and the south face of Jasemba (7,350m) in Nepal and the north face of Gasherbrum II in China, both in 2007. Unterkircher worked as a mountain guide from his home below Sella Pass in the Dolomites. He left a wife and three young children.