Sani Pakkush South Face first ascent by Symon Welfringer, Pierrick Fine
Climbing in alpine style, from 16 - 20 October 2020 French alpinists Symon Welfringer and Pierrick Fine made the first ascent of the virgin South Face of Sani Pakush, a 6951m peak in the Karakorum, Pakistan. Welfringer reports about their important ascent which may well be only the second successful summit, after the first ascent carried out in 1991 by a German climbing expedition.
Pierrick Fine and I arrived on the Toltar glacier at the start of October and acclimatised around basecamp, situated at the base of the massive unclimbed South Face of Sani Pakkush.
After two weeks we were ready to give this big piece of alpinism a try. Poor weather conditions made us wait a few days longer, but the sun was forecast to shine for almost one week, which would give us the chance to make a proper attempt.
After an early start at 2am from our basecamp on the 20th of October, we encountered the first difficulties at an altitude of 5000m at the very start of the face, having to deal with some sustained ice pitches. These were followed by some easier terrain past snow and mixed climbing. At around 5600m we climbed one of the hardest pitches, circa M4+/M5, and reached a small platform where we made an uncomfortable bivy.
On the second day we managed to get high up on the face and climbed two awesome pitches of pure ice. At around 6200m we look desperately for a bivy spot but unfortunately never found one. In the end we waited for the sun to come back out while sitting and shivering on a rock.
On the third day we were really exhausted after two bad bivies. We decided to pitch our tent at an altitude of 6400m on the summit ridge where we found a nice and comfortable crevasse that enabled us to get a proper rest.
On the 19th of October we decided to make a summit bid with almost no gear. We left our bivy and started up the last 500m up the snowy summit ridge. The quality of the snow changed constantly and the higher we got, the harder it became. Nevertheless after 7 hours of hard work, sometimes digging deep into the powder snow, we reached the 6953m summit of Sani Pakkush at 14:00, completely exhausted.
We spent our last day descending this massive 2500m face, switching between rappelling (20-25 abseils) and down-climbing. Late in the afternoon of the 20th of October we made it safely back to basecamp, out of energy but with lots of emotions in our minds.
by Symon Welfringer
Symon Welfringer thanks: La Sportiva, Petzl, Millet
Sani Pakkush, Batura Muztagh, Karakorum, Pakistan
Also referred to as Soni Pakkush or Sani Pakush
First ascent: 29/07/1991 by Germans Hubert Bleicher, Arnfried Braun, Daniel Ketterer, Leo Klimmer via NW Ridge
Second known ascent: Symon Welfringer, Pierrick Fine 16 - 20/10/2020 via South Face, 2500m ED+ M4+/M5 90°