Nanga Parbat Mazeno Ridge, Allan, Allen and OâDowd on the ridge
The expedition of Sandy Allan, Rick Allen and Cathy O’Dowd to attempt the unclimbed Mazeno Ridge on Nanga Parbat, Pakistan.
An attempt is currently underway on the ninth highest mountain in the world on what is reputed to be one the biggest and most coveted challenges in the Himalaya: to reach the 8126m high summit of Nanga Parbat by ascending the infinite Mazeno Ridge. This crest is over 10km long, divides two exceptional faces - the Diamir and Rupal Face - and crosses eight summits 7000m or higher. A truly extraordinary route, difficult and beautiful which, up until now and despite numerous attempts, has never been ascended in its entirety all the way to the summit of Nanga Parbat.
This undertaking is being attempted by a strong small team comprised of Sandy Allan from Scotland, Rick Allen from England and Cathy O’Dowd from South Africa, along with three Sherpa: Lhakpa Rangdu Sherpa, Lahkpa Nuru Sherpa and Lakpa (Zarok) Sherpa. After having established Base Camp in mid-June at 4900m and after the usual acclimatisation period, the three set off on 2 July for the summit push, despite “not ideal” weather conditions. Ever since then the mountaineering world has been watching with baited breath, knowing full-well that the commitment is outstanding added to the extreme difficulty, nigh impossibility even, of retreating: descending (or escaping) down the formidable Rupal or Diamir faces could turn out to be a real nightmare. And in any case, the further the expedition ascends the ridge, the less sense it makes (read more dangerous it becomes) to retrace their steps instead of pushing on to the summit...
The expedition is communicating via twitter and updating progress directly onto a 3D map via a SPOT Satellite Messenger. On 4 July the 3 alpinists and 2 sherpa stated they had reached 6800m on the ridge where they bivied despite worsening weather. While an audio message, published a few hours ago, confirms they are firmly on the ridge, seven nights after having left Base Camp. O’Dowd's voice seems strong and she confirms "We're absolutely still here, still climbing, making good steady progress. It is slow because of the deep snow and quite tricky rock sections to cover, but we have every patience to Finnish the ridge and then see what we can do with the rest of the mountain..."
The three had set off with provisions for 8 days which, if necessary, could be stretched to last for 10 days. Should they reach the summit, they plan to descend via the Diamir face which Allan and Allen had already climbed in 2009. The two have a long relationship with this mountain in general and this ridge in particular: in 1992 Sandy Allan was a member of an expedition, led by British mountaineer Doug Scott, which before being forced to descend reached 3 of the 8 summits - Pt. 6880, Pt.6825 and Pt.6970. A year later Scott returned to lead another attempt and this resulted in another two summits, Mazeno ‘Spire’ (5600 c.a.) and Mazeno ‘West Peak’ (5700 c.a.) and it comes as no surprise therefore that this year's expedition is patroned by him, by the great Doug Scott. As to Rick Allan, the Englishman attempted the infinite crest along with Polish legend Wojciech Kurtyka in1995 but they were forced to abandon their attempt upon reaching the third summit. The race along Nanga Parbat's longest and biggest void continues...
The History of Mazeno Ridge attempts:
(according to www.mazenoridge.com)
1979 A French team make the first attempt. Hampered by bad weather, they only manage to climb the first Mazeno peak, 6880 m/22,573 ft.
1992 Doug Scott leads in international team which includes Sandy Allan. They fail but climb three Mazeno peaks.
1993 Doug Scott tries again with no further success.
1995 An international team which includes Rick Allen (also Wojciech Kurtyka of Poland and Andrew Lock of Australia) manages to traverse the first three Mazeno peaks – roughly halfway to the Mazeno col – but then retreats. got as far as the 3rd Mazono Peak (6970 m/22,869 ft.)
1997 Wojciech Kurtyka tries again with Erhard Loretan. Again they get about halfway but manage it in a day and a half.
2004 The first climbers to make the Mazeno col: Americans Doug Chabot and Steve Swenson traverse all the Mazeno peaks, making first ascents of Peaks 7060, 7120 (Mazeno Peak), 7100, and 7070, but stopped by exhaustion then descend the Schell Route. The American Alpine Club 2005 report of their attempt.
2005 Swiss guide Jean Troillet and climbing mates Claude – Alain Gailland and Frédéric Roux make a failed attempt.
2008 Germans Luis Stitzinger and Joseph Lunger ascend the Diamir side below Diarmirai Peak and climb through to the col. Deep snow and lack of supplies forces them to descend via the Messner solo Diamir direct route.
2011 Basque climbers Alberto Zerain y Juan Carlos ‘Txingu’ Arrieta attempted the Mazeno Ridge with an approach from the Diamir side. They climbed 1800 metres of new route up the side of the ridge but never managed to gain the crest.