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Climbers to Attempt Biggest Himalayan Wall in Winter

The Rupal Face on Nanga Parbat has never been climbed in winter, but these climbers are going to try

Rising nearly five kilometres from its base to the top, the Rupal Face is a rarely-tried objective considered to be the biggest wall in the Himalayas, if not the world. At 4,600 metres, it’s never been climbed in winter, but two will attempt in the New Year.

There aren’t many winter plans yet announced on the world’s biggest mountains, but Herve Barmasse, David Gottler, Mike Arnold and Kudra Ali have said they will make a go at the Rupal Face, which is found on Nanga Parbat (8,126 m). The team of strong altitude climbers are currently en route to base camp, where they should arrive in the next few days.

Few have climbed the Rupal Face with the first ascent being in 1970 by Reinhold Messner and his late brother Gunter. In 1985, a Polish-Mexican team established a new route to the right. And in September 2005, Steve House and Vince Anderson climbed a new line direct up the face at VII 5.9 M5 WI4 over eight days.

One of the most epic stories to come from the Rupal Face was in 1988 when Barry Blanchard, Mark Twight, Ward Robinson, and Kevin Doyle made an attempt. An electrical storm forced them to retreat down the Merkyl Gully. After clipping into one ice screw, the four climbers withstood 30 minutes of avalanches before continuing down. Under heavy snow they switched from rappelling to down-climbing. They accidentally dropped their ropes, which led to the scary realization they had to downclimb. After 300 metres, Robinson found a bag left by a Japanese rescue party which was filled with pitons, ropes and food. It saved their lives.

An excerpt from Blanchard’s book The Calling, read: “I saw fear, and resolve, in his eyes. The four of us stood anchored to one tubular drive-in ice screw. It was hitched with a purple bar-tacked sling the width of my ring finger, which, if it were loaded with 1,000 pounds, would sever. When the four of us had snapped tight to it we must have hit it with over eight hundred pounds. We stood at 25,300 feet on the Rupal Face of Nanga Parbat, the ninth-highest mountain in the world. We were 1,300 feet below the summit and we had nearly 14,000 feet of the face to descend. I twisted in another screw.”

Mark Twight, Barry Blanchard, Ward Robinson and Kevin Doyle pose down in front of the Rupal Face of Nanga Parbat, Karakoram, Pakistan, 1988. Photo Hank VanWeelden

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