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On the 40-minute flight from Islamabad to Skardu, the captain announces, ‘We'll be flying at a planned altitude of 8,000 metres.’ Perfect I thought, we'll be exactly at the height of Nanga Parbat. The flight starts low key with the stewardesses serving drinks while we bide our time. When the pilot announces ‘Nanga Parbat is immediately ahead on the right’, all hell breaks loose. As one, all the tourists, including me, are up in the aisles, craning their necks, running for the cockpit. The sounds of cameras are everywhere. There it is, within arms reach. Nanga Parbat in perfect early morning splendor! We are passing by the Diamir Face, as I click photo after photo. The massive Mazeno Ridge runs down to the right of Nanga Parbat. The Mazeno ridge is the longest ridge on any 8000m mountain and includes eight 7000m peaks. Nobody has managed to traverse the ridge and continue to the summit of Nanga Parbat.

Nanag Parbat Diamir Face on the flight from Islamabad to Skardu (click to enlarge)

We drove from Skardu to Tarashing over the Deosai Plains, a high alpine plateau scattered with small tufts of grass and small flowers. We came over a hill and there in front of was the enormous Rupal face of Nanga Parbat, standing alone on the horizon, shining brilliantly white in the sunshine. Starting on the left, the Mazeno Ridge leads to the Rupal Face of Nanga Parbat, and then the summit ridge leads down past the North Peaks to the Southeast Peak and East Peaks and then plummets to Rakhiot Peak.

We drove from Skardu to Tarashing over the Deosai Plains, with the Nanga Parbat Rupal Face standing alone on the horizon. (click to enlarge)

Nanga Parbat is a great sunrise mountain viewed from the east at Tarashing. Here is a close up of the Nanga Parbat Rupal and East Faces at sunrise.

Nanga Parbat is a great sunrise mountain viewed from the east at Tarashing. Here is a close up of the Nanga Parbat Rupal and East Faces at sunrise. (click to enlarge)

We walked a little farther from Herligkoffer Base Camp (3656m) onto the Bazhin Glacier with the Nanga Parbat Rupal Face and the ridge to Rakhiot Peak towering above. Gunther Messner letter home June 15, 1970: To the north, directly above us, is the Rupal Flank – 4500m to the summit. It is unbelievably impressive. (The Naked Mountain by Reinhold Messner)

Nanga Parbat Rupal Face and the ridge to Rakhiot Peak towering above the Bazhin Glacier just past Herligkoffer Base Camp (3656m) (click to enlarge)

Nanga Parbat Rupal Face Summit Area Close Up From Herligkoffer Rupal Face Base Camp. ‘My first impression on emerging onto the ridge from the South Face was for me the most powerful moment of the entire Nanga Parbat Expedition. Everything seemed so unreal, so quiet. And there was Gunther, right next to me.’ (The Naked Mountain by Reinhold Messner).

Nanga Parbat Rupal Face Summit Area Close Up From Herligkoffer Rupal Face Base Camp. (click to enlarge)

The flight from Islamabad to Skardu continues to fly around Nanga Parbat with Hermann Buhl’s route of first ascent becoming perfectly visible. Rakhiot Peak leads up to the Silver Saddle between the Nanga Parbat Southeast and East Peaks, and up to the summit with the North Peaks on the right.

Nanga Parbat Rakhiot Face - Rakhiot Peak leads to the Silver Saddle between the Southeast and East Peaks, and up to the summit with the North Peaks on the right. (click to enlarge)

Nanga Parbat came out of the clouds for just a few minutes at Fairy Meadows and I quickly took some photos with South East Peak (7530m) and Silberzacken East Summit (7597m), the large Silver Plateau snowfield, North Peak II (7785m), North Peak I (7816m) on the right stretching back towards the true summit (8125m).

Nanga Parbat from Fairy Meadows - South East Peak, Silberzacken East Summit, Silver Plateau snowfield, and North Peak II and I leading towards the summit (click to enlarge)

We descend from the Babusar Pass into the Kaghan Valley to see beautiful wildflowers blooming on the side of the road with the dark green waters of Lake Lulusar (3350m) in the distance.

Kaghan Valley - Beautiful wildflowers bloom on the side of the road with the dark green waters of Lake Lulusar in the distance. click to enlarge)

Updated: May 2011. Click on an image to see the FULL size with a caption.

Nanga Parbat - 8126m - #9 In The World

Nanga Parbat, "Naked Mountain" in Urdu, is an immense, dramatic peak situated at the west of the Himalayas just south of the Indus River, with its three faces towering high above the valley floor. To the south, the Rupal Face rises an incredible 4600m above its base. To the north, the complex and very long but somewhat gently sloped Rakhiot Flank rises 7000m from the Indus River valley. To the west, the Diamir Face is the most direct, and now the standard, route.

Hermann Huhl from Nanga Parbat Pilgrimage: The Lonely Challenge:

Nanga Parbat - a symbol to conjure with in the world of mountaineeers and for millions elsewhere, too. That peak of so many names - sometimes called the Fateful Perak, or the Mountain of terror; that cloud-piercing giant which had already devoured 31 victims; that pitiless domain demanding its holocaust and giving nothing in return, luring men into its threall, never to set them free again.

We all knew the history of the huge, lonely, north-western corner-stone of the Himalaya; desperate efforts men had made to pluck its virginity, the devastating drama of the diasters uinfolded on its slopes and ridges. We knew the story of what had been done up in its lofty realm in 1895, 1932, 1934, 1937, 1938 and 1950. And now it was our turn. ...

I couldn't believe, as I stood there, that the mountain could be so brutal. There it stood opposite me, peaceful, transcendently beautiful, with the Silbersattel, the gateway to the summit, shining silver up there. The beauty and grandeur of the scene would permit of no sorrowful mood.

First attempts:

The first attempt on any 8000m mountain was in 1895 when Albert F. Mummery led an expedition to Nanga Parbat. He reached almost 7000m on the Diamir Face, but Mummery and two Gurkha companions later died reconnoitering the Rahkiot Face.

Nanga Parbat became known in the 1930s as the "German peak" with five German expeditions attempting the peak. most using the extremely long North Face route. The German-American Expedition of 1932, led by Willy Merkl, was turned back by excessive snowfall. In 1934, the German Himalayan Expedition led by Willie Merkl, reached a height of 7850m, but Merkl along with three climbers and six Sherpas perished in a blizzard.

The German Expedition of 1937 ended in tragedy when nine Sherpas and seven Germans were hit by an avalanche at Camp 4 when an ice cornice broke away and caused an enormous avalanche, burying the men as they slept. The German press renamed Nanga Parbat the "German mountain of fate". The German Expedition of 1938, led by Paul Bauer, floundered due to lack of Sherpas and bad weather. The Reconnaissance of 1939 explored the Diamir Face with the aim of finding an easier route. This expedition was led by Peter Aufschnaiter and featured Heinrich Harrer, who were arrested at Karachi in September 1939 and went on to Seven years In Tibet fame. In the Winter Escapade of 1950, two young Englishmen died in December 1950 low on the mountain. "The death toll of Nanga Parbat now stood at 14 climbers and 17 porters."

Nanga Parbat First Ascent - Hermann Buhl On East Arete With Nanga Parbat Summit On Left

Nanga Parbat First Ascent - Hermann Buhl Ice Axe On Nanga Parbat Summit July 3, 1953 With View To Silver Plateau

Hermann Buhl After His Return From Nanga Parbat Summit - Nanga Parbat: Incorporating the Official Report of the Expedition of 1953 book

Nanga Parbat First Ascent

Karl Herigkoffer created and led a 1953 German-Austrian expedition to attempt Nanga Parbat once again vis the long North face route. Despite bad organization, including no Sherpas and many porter problems, Austrian climber Hermann Buhl pushed the camps higher and higher, climbing Rahkiot Peak (7070m) along the way. Despite persistent orders from base camp to abandon their attempt and descend immediately, Buhl, Hans Ertl, Otto Kempter, and Walter Frauenberger firmly refused. Hermann Buhl reached the summit of Nanga Parbat on July 3, 1953 at 7pm.

Fosco Maraini wrote a perfect summary of the ascent in Karakoram: The Ascent Of Gasherbrum IV: "A mountain so savage, a killer of 31 men (14 Europeans and 17 porters), could yield, in the end, only to a splendid folly. The madcap was a little Innsbruck Austrian called Hermann Buhl. Alone, he reached the summit in 1953. He disobeyed the leader’s orders, for 40 hours he forced a passage over ridges and cornices – all the time above 26,000 feet. He kept himself alive, like the maniac he was, on a few tablets. He spent the night crouched in a hole in the ice, like a wild beast. Not only had he no sleeping-bag, he had no special kit; visited by strange hallucination, he just pressed on. His crampons worked loose; no matter, he tied them to his boots with a string. Onwards, upwards! Nothing to drink, nothing to draw on but his own stupendous courage, and blessed by one sole clemency from Fate – forty hours of no wind and no cloud. The giant peak was happy to welcome such a man as her own, and to accord him such glorious privileges."

Other Notable Nanga Parbat Ascents

Top: Rudel Marek, Anderl Mannhardt, Toni Kinshofer, Hubert Schmidbauer. Bottom: Manfred Sturm, Karl Herrligkoffer, Michl Anderl - in Gilgit after the first ascent of the Nanga Parbat Diamir Face on June 22, 1962

The first ascent of the Diamir face, and the second ascent of Nanga Parbat, was completed on June 22, 1962 at 5pm by Germans Toni Kinshofer, Siegfried Löw, and Anderl Mannhardt on an expedition led once again by Karl Herrligkoffer. This Kinshofer route is now the standard climbing route.

They had to bivouac just 70m below the summit in the extreme cold, and then continued their descent unroped the next morning. Low fell on the descent to the Bazhin Gap. Kinshofer stayed with Low for two days with no sleeping bag or tent. When Low died from his injuries, Kinshofer continued his descent, and suffered several amputations due to the forstbite.

Reinhold And Gunther Messner 1970, Gunther Messner At Camp 4, Gunther Messner Below Nanga Parbat Summit Ridge June 27, 1970 - The Naked Mountain: Nanga Parbat book

The first ascent of the huge difficult Rupal Face, and the third ascent overall, was made on June 27, 1970 by Reinhold and Günther Messner on an expedition led by Karl Herrligkoffer. "I was quite alone and climbing on top of the world. ... Suddenly I stopped short. Was that someone following me up? ... It was Gunther. ... Suddenly I found myself standing on a final dome of firn snow – the summit of Nanga Parbat. ... Then he followed me up, step by step, and joined me on the top. He took his mittens off and extended a hand towards me. Two cold hands clasped in a brief embrace." - The Naked Mountain: Nanga Parbat by Reinhold Messner.

They were unable to descend their ascent route, and instead made the first traverse of the mountain, going down the Diamir Face. Günther was killed in an avalanche on the descent, with his remains being found below the Diamir Face in 2005. Teammates Peter Scholz and Felix Kuen apparently didn't realize the Messners were in trouble, and passed them, reaching the summit the next day June 28, 1970.

Nanga Parbat First Solo Ascent - Reinhold Messner On Nanga Parbat Summit August 9 1978

In 1978 Reinhold Messner returned to the Diamir Face and achieved the first completely solo ascent (i.e. always solo above Base Camp) of an 8000m peak, reaching the summit of Nanga Parbat on August 9 1978. Messner left Base Camp on August 6 at noon and bivouaced at the bottom of the Diamir Face. The next day he climbed 1600m in 6 hours and bivouaced at 6400m. He climbed to 7400m for his third bivouac, and left a little late on August 9 for the summit.

Messner finally reached the Nanga Parbat summit on August 9, 1978. "I wander around in a circle, repeatedly looking at the view, as if I can hardly believe I’m really here. It is as if I had no further meaning at all; as if I had crawled out of a sea of loneliness into the safety of the cosmos. ... And the silence urges me to treat the summit very gently. ‘I and the summit are one, yet we are different'." - Solo: Nanga Parbat by Reinhold Messner.

My Top 5 Memories Of Nanga Parbat

1. View on the flight from Islamabad to Skardu showing the enormity of Nanga Parbat as you fly past the Diamir and Rakhiot Faces

2. Nanga Parbat Rupal Face towering above Rupal Face base camp

3. Sunrise from Tarashing shining on the Nanga Parbat Rupal And East Faces

4. Fairy Meadows, an idyllic setting with views to Nanga Parbat Rahkiot Face, East Summit, Silver Saddle, and North Peaks

5. The trek from Fairy Meadows to Rakhiot Base Camp, from where the first ascent was launched