Praqpa Ri remains unclimbed too
It is raining – at 9 p.m. at 5,000 meters in the Karakoram. “It’s incredibly warm here,” Ralf Dujmovits, Germany’s most successful high altitude climber, tells me via satellite phone from the Base Camp at the foot of Praqpa Ri. “We sat together until late in the evening with an open tent.” The unusually warm weather has resulted in difficult conditions on the seven-thousander so that its summit remains virgin. Like before on the also unclimbed seven-thousander Gasherbrum VI the 54-year-old German and his 47-year-old Canadian partner Nancy Hansen had to abandon their summit attempt. “We fought for every meter on ascent,” says Ralf. In vain.
Ralf, how far up did you climb this time?
Up to 6,300 meters. We had changed our original plan. We wanted to climb via the left pillar, and then via the corniced ridge to the summit. We had hoped to be able to climb on the back of the overhanging cornices. But we didn’t come so far.
Did you choose the wrong route or were the conditions just too bad?
The snow conditions are extremely bad this year. We have found similar conditions like on Gasherbrum VI: much “sugar snow”, rotten snow you break into, partly groundless. We climbed partially in very steep terrain, 70 to 80 degrees, sometimes vertical.
There you could push the ice axe horizontally into the loose snow and your arm right behind. But then also blue ice again, covered with only half a meter of snow. Very changing and bad snow. In the steep passages, we have partially needed an hour for one pitch, because we had to balance ourselves up in the almost vertical sugar snow. We have just run out of time in these poor conditions.
What’s about the avalanche danger?
It was added. It’s an east ridge. From 4.30 a.m. it is in the sun. Not later than 9 a.m. there is acute danger of avalanches. Snow masses sweep down to the right and left of you. We ascended a slope covered with half a meter of sugar snow. Later the whole slope slid down. Now a huge area of blue ice is left there.
What has made you finally turn back? Has it taken you just too long or was it like on Gasherbrum VI where you reached a point that you could not overcome?
We have reached a point, where Nancy said: “That’s too dangerous.” She stood 30 meters above me in the sugar snow, on top a thin crust of harder snow, 60 degrees steep. I probably would have turned around earlier.
So the conditions were the reason you turned back, not the route?
I think, in good conditions we would have moved forward significantly faster and could have reached further up.
If you compare the two attempts on Gasherbrum VI and Praqpa Ri, where have you been closer to success?
Actually you cannot say that. On both mountains we were still 600 or 800 meters below the summit. This is still quite far away. In both cases, it was simply too dangerous.
Again you have fought through the snow for six days, again you had to realize that there’s no point. How do you feel now?
We had a good time together and truly experienced it as a nice adventure, extremely exciting. Despite all the effort and hardship we enjoyed it and will take two beautiful mountain experiences back home.
And you have returned safe and sound.
Yes, especially on Praqpa Ri we were really happy at the end to have reached Base Camp unscathed. It was extremely precarious.
Date15. July 2016 | 10:35