Steve Su, Bruce Miller and Doug Chabot just returned from Asia after having complete the first ascent of Hispar Sar (6400 m) via the SW Couloir in Karakoram, Pakistan in August. The three climbers were winners of the Mugs Stump Alpine Climbing Award which supported their expedition. They used the SCARPA Phantom 6000 and Omega boots. Su provides the following account of their adventure.
Big expeditions are notorious for their low success rates. Some of the usual culprits include bad weather, partner breakdowns and sickness. Our expedition very nearly had the unusual end of being flushed into the Hispar River and out into the Indian Ocean.
Halfway between Karimabad and Hispar, the tractor carriage, in which all our gear was loaded, threatened to topple over the edge of a steep crumbling dirt embankment and into the raging torrent. The tractor driver, a borderline psychopath, was violently bucking the machine back and forth in his efforts to get up the road’s rutted ten percent grade. The wheels were jumping in and out of the rut every time he bucked the machine such that he nearly bucked the carriage right over the deep end. Bruce and Doug shouted for him to stop and demanded that the carriage be emptied to reduce the load on the tractor. Eight of us then pulled the tractor with a rope and unbelievably got the whole rig up the hill. After a few more snafus along the way, we made it to the village of Hispar and eventually to base camp.
Here, my partners, Doug Chabot and Bruce Miller, and I settled in and prepared for an attempt on Hispar Sar (6400m). It was an unclimbed peak with huge steep ridge lines and beautiful steep faces. I had first seen this peak on a 2007 expedition while attempting nearby Pumari Chhish East (6900m) which was our original goal (serac activity prevented an attempt). Hispar Sar stood out amongst its neighbors with its huge throne-like North Face. It was definitely on the to-do list.
In the past 20 years Hispar Sar has had a handful of attempts, two times by well-known British climber Simon Yates. Our route took the South West Couloir which is the same line Yates attempted. The line was a striking 1,100m couloir which split the SW Face and terminated at the South Ridge. From there, the route continued up another 300m of airy climbing to the summit for a total of 1,400m vertical gain. The couloir was completely bounded by steep rock on both sides and pinched down in spots similar in nature to that of the Super Couloir on Fitz Roy.