Thursday, 11 November 2010
The next day tom and Sam reccy the head of the glacier, and I take a look into the next glacial basin further east. I spot a spicy hard virgin peak, tom and Sam spice a nice new route up a steep NE coliour on Mursamir (5034m 1 previous accent earlier in the year). After debate we decide upon the more realistic new route. We set of at 4am plodding un-roped up the dry glacier, the clear night sky provides an array of constellations. We rack-up at the foot of the face, and begin soloing up the easy lower slopes attempting to avoid the many sarracs. We reach the bergshrund, and Sam declares he is turning back; he does not feel fit enough and wants to give us the best chance of success. We do not try to dissuade him, this is always the hardest decision to make and I respect him for making it. Tom takes the first lead above onto the 50degree slopes, the ice is brittle and progress is steady, I take a few coils and begin to move together, once on belay I increase my speed, the ice has increased to 60degrees and I take over the lead with a passing nod, we move together in one long 120m pitch before lack of screws on 70degree ice forces me to take belay. Tom leads a pitch to the bottom of a steep couloir. I look at the pitch above me. It’s one of the nicest looking ice runnels I have ever seen, it looks like a photograph from a mark-Twight book; immaculate alpine ice filling a 4 meter wide couloir; an overhanging bulge on the left and ninety degree passage on the right. A pitch of this beauty and quality seems deserving of classic status should it belong to the European Alps, but we were far from this accessible range; we were climbing a new route in a remote part of the world. Could I climb it? Could we return safely? I drew a deep breath, exhaling I released all other thought, and narrowed my attention on the physical actions of climbing; I smiled at tom and set off. Instantly I find that the ice is conducive to fast progress, a layer of aerated ice accepts your picks with minimal effort, and underneath hard ice provides good protection, the vertical ice flows effortlessly, I run out 60m loving every minute of it; and then bring tom up whilst hauling my bag. Elatedly we discuss the pitch, in grateful disbelief. Three more pitches of 70 degree ice and we reach the ridge, it is harder that we expected and a rocky insecure AD+ pitch signals the last of the difficulties. Feeling fatigued we move together for the last few hundred meters to reach the corniced summit at 1.30pm. We soak in the glorious views of Chinese and Pakistani Mountains whilst trying to refuel. We descended quickly by the previous ascent route, making two abseils where the ice was exposed and brittle, and where down with little time, where Sam was ready to kindly nourish us.