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New Big Routes in Karakorum on K6 West and Changi Tower

Three Americans visit the Karakorum and climb two big new routes up world-class alpine terrain.

Steve Swenson, who splits his time between Seattle and Canmore, joined Graham Zimmerman and Scott Bennett in the Karakorum for some of July and August and they climbed two major new routes.

Swenson was indeed the mentor on the trip at 61 years old, twice the age of Bennett and Zimmerman, and his experience proved vital to the success of the trip. In the past, he has worked with Steve House and the Alpine Mentors program.

The team’s original intention was to climb K6 Central, an unclimbed peak near K6 West, which Canadians Ian Weslted and Raphael Slawinski climbed in 2013 and subsequently won the Piolet d’Or for.

Large seracs kept the team from attempting their main goal of K6 Central. A number of other first ascents await in the Nangmah Valley and they wasted no time.

The three climbers found a nice new route on Changi Tower via the North Ridge at M6, 5.10, A2. “Above the dihedral it was back to the boots and crampons and Scott quickly dispensed with a snowy granite corner,” Swenson wrote on his blog.

“As the light started to fade, the last pitch that took us to the summit provided a final sting in the tail.”

After their climb, Swenson gave his blessings for the others to attempt a new route on K6 West, as he needed time to recover.

I an Welsted looking up at K6 West. Photo Raphael Slawinski
I an Welsted looking up at K6 West with the Southwest Ridge being the obious ridge down and left from the summit and the Nortwest Ridge on the right. Photo Raphael Slawinski

Zimmerman and Bennett continued on and climbed the Southwest Ridge on K6 West, a first ascent and the second route on the mountain after Welsted and Slawinski’s.

For a detailed report and some excellent photos, visit Swenson’s blog here.

Watch a film from Slawinski and Welsted’s 2013 expedition: