Each generation of mountaineers may think that there are no challenges left and standards cannot get any higher. But thank God we are continually proved wrong, as audacious new routes of increasing difficulty are being climbed each year.
This summer (2012) UK mountaineers Sandy Allan and Rick Allen with South African Cathy O’Dowd attempted the 1st ascent of Nanga Parbat via the Mazeno Ridge. The longest ridge on any 8000m peak, considered one of the most coveted goals left in the Himalaya.
After 18 days on the ridge and despite poor weather and atrocious snow conditions on the 15th of July at 18:12h Rick and Sandy reached the summit! Three days later, on the 19th of July they arrived safely back at Base Camp. Please look at the full Mazeno Ridge website where the information and photos have been taken from. Also from the BMC website.
It is the longest ridge on any 8000 metre peak. This ridge, from which Rick and Sandy turned back in 1995, has frustrated the efforts of a generation of leading Himalayan climbers and until now had remained one of the outstanding unclimbed mountaineering objectives in the world.
The Mazeno Ridge divides the Diamir and Rupal Faces of Nanga Parbat. The 10 kilometre (6 mile) ridge with its eight 7000 metre peaks has never been climbed all the way to the summit.
Nanga Parbat, 8126 m (26,660 ft) is the 9th highest mountain in the world and together with K2 is considered one of the two hardest mountains in the world. To date there have been 335 ascents by 330 climbers (22 women) and 68 fatalities.
Mountain guide and North Face athlete Mark Synnott described the route as “the ultimate endurance challenge” in the American magazine ‘Climbing‘.
Just looking at the history of attempts and the calibre of mountaineers involved makes one realise the significance of the ascent:
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. They got as far as the 3rd Mazeno 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 they 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 Diamir 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.
So just when we think that there is nothing significant left to climb we are continually surprised at what the high mountains and cliffs of the world have to offer. And that talented climbers meet these challenges, despite the risks and hardships.