Home > International

Canadians Slawinski and Berg Off Mountain in Pakistan

Kunyang Chhish East in Pakistan Photo Raphael Slawinski

Canadians Raphael Slawinski and Alik Berg are back down in the valley after spending a few weeks high in the mountains.

The pair received the John Lauchlan Award earlier this year for a four-person trip to attempt a new route in Pakistan.

After Ian Welsted and Chris Brazeau opted out of the trip, Berg and Slawinski struggled with securing a permit, but managed to lock one down for a peak near Pumari Chhish, a 7,492-metre peak in the Hispar Muztagh, a subrange of the Karakoram range north of the Hispar Glacier.

We know that Berg and Slawinski acclimatized at about 5,600 metres and last check in on their GPS on Aug. 7. For the past 10 days, they’ve likely been climbing on the peak they last check in from, which looks to be Pumari Chiish East or Distaghil Sar.

However, in 2006 Slawinski visited the area with Welsted, Eammon Walsh and Ben Firth and attempted Kunyang Chhish East, a 7,400-metre peak which they did not summit and could’ve been an objective before this year’s trip.

On a recent blog post remembering their attempt, Slawinski wrote, “It was not to be: our highest attempt ground to a halt nearly a vertical kilometre below the virgin summit. It happens; after all, success on an expedition to Pakistan is never a given. But it wasn’t overhanging rock or thin ice that stopped us.

“In fact, our climbing skills were never put to a real test. No, what made us turn tail and start descending under cloudless skies were churning guts. They started churning in Islamabad the day after we arrived in Pakistan, and the churning never truly stopped. By the end of the trip, we’d lost count of the number of nights one or another of us had spent on all fours or squatted over a disgusting hole in the ground.”

This was Berg’s first trip to the Himalayas, but Slawinski has visited and climbed there many times. In 2014, he and Welsted won a Piolet d’Or for their first ascent of K6 West.

Alik Berg Photo Fred McGuinness

Slawinski wrote on his blog before heading into the mountains with Berg. In one of his posts, he wrote, “A dozen years and several expeditions later, I like to think I know better what it takes to succeed in those mountains. Sure, skill and fitness matter; but you’re going nowhere fast if you don’t stay healthy and and don’t acclimatize properly.

“High mountains halfway around the world are a great equalizer. Below are a few of the often-painful lessons I learned there: trying, failing, trying again, and sometimes succeeding. As the saying goes, good judgement comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.”

Read Slawinski’s blog here.

We’ll update this story once we hear from the Alberta-based climbers. Visit here for the team’s GPS updates.