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Iranians scale Passu Mountain

September 05, 2011

A group photo of the Iranian climbers.

ISLAMABAD: Even some of the easiest routes require crossing complicated bottomless crevasses, ascending steep rocks and negotiating a path with ice walls that can collapse anytime without warning.

“That’s one of the reasons why the Passu Mountain in the Hunza Valley has not been conquered for the last 15 years. Climbers simply underestimate this peak,” said Saad Tariq Siddiqui, who briefs/debriefs officials with the Alpine Club of Pakistan and holds the national record as the oldest Pakistani to climb the 7,478-metre-high Passu Mountain at the age of 56 back in 1996.

But that changed on August 22 when an expedition of professional and amateur Iranian mountaineers sat on its summit for whole hour to cherish their achievement. Fifteen men and women attempted the assent out of which 10 made it to the top.

A view of Passu Sar, one of the most difficult 7000m peaks in the world. – Photo courtesy of Nazir Sabir Expeditions

The mountain beats its rivals in difficulties and dangers from the start. “The first stretch from advanced base camp to camp I was the hardest. It took 15 hours to negotiate the crevasses and the ice walls,” said co-leader of the group Amir Talebi, who almost fell into an abyss.

“There was fresh snow, thigh deep from last night, which had hid the drop and I could feel my leg dangling into nothingness,” said the mountaineer.

From there on the expedition, led by veteran Iranian climber Younes Rezakhani, they zigzagged their way around deep drops and steep climbs to camp II at the height of 5,900 metres where bad weather delayed them for two days. The climb to camp III at 6,500 metres high was smooth sailing.

The final push began around 4am and the team reached the summit around 2pm.

“The last stretch is again the hardest because of the many technicalities and it’s mostly climbing ice that is extremely strenuous,” said Amir Talebi, explaining how the world seemed different and took his breath away 7,000 metres high.

An ice wall on the way to Passu Sar – Photo courtesy of Nazir Sabir Expeditions

“We took so many pictures. My friend called back home to tell his family where he was sitting,” said law student Dena Elikaee, who spent the whole hour being amazeme.

Her friends Fatemah Aghajani and Zohreh Ofaghi, both engineering students, explained how the first impression of the Karakorum mountain range would make the hair on the back of anyone’s neck stand up.

“We saw the Nanga Parbat on our way. It was very scary. One look at Rakaposhi got us thinking what we were getting ourselves into. But we also knew there was no turning back. Success and fame awaited us,” said Zohreh Ofaghi, also a passionate mountaineer who saw inspiration in the famous Iranian mountaineer Leila Esfandyari who fell to her death last month after conquering Gasherbrum II.

Seven days later, when the expedition decided to return the descent got even trickier.

“Crevasses and ice walls had changed shapes and formations. We had to reassure the ropes and other harnesses we had attached during the climb up were not loosened.

It became very dangerous because most of the crevasses were wider than 20 feet and there were new ones too and we were afraid our harnesses had come loose,” said Amir Talebi, adding how the team got held up again between camp I and the advance camp – the hardest and longest stretch to negotiate.

Conquering Passu Mountain was the start of a wonderful journey; said a confident Dena Elikaee, whose next adventure awaits her in the shape of Rakaphoshi.