Nanga Parbat | Going up Schell Route

Simone Moro and David Gottler are currently ascending Nanga Parbat. They are hoping to reach the top via the SW ridge route, which was first climbed by Hans Schell, Robert Schauer, Hilmar Sturm and 20 years old Siegfried Gimpel (at that time he was youngest person to climb an 8000m peak) in 1976. This route, now known as Schell route, was initially called Toni Kinshofer route (named so by expedition leader Karl Herrligkoffer during 1963 Rupal Face reconnaissance). However, Karl had already named a section of 1962 Diamir Face ascent route (above C2) as Kinshofer Icefield. So, eventually when Hans Schell finished this route, it got the name of Schell route and Diamir Face route is today known as Kinshofer route.

The Route
Schell route is a longer route on Nanga Parbat’s Rupal side, which itself is one of the tallest mountain faces in the world. Although attempted several times, there are only a few successful ascents via this route (in 1981, 1983, 1984, 1990 and 2013). Hans Schell wrote in expedition report,

“The amazing fact is that this route runs along the fierce left part of the Rupal flank which is the steepest wall on earth. We decided, on this route which from base to the summit is half as far as the normal route. Along this way there are few glaciers, though much stone movement between Camp 1 (5100m) and Camp 2 (6100 m). 16 expeditions before us had made attempts.”

Schell route sketched by Polish Winter Nanga Parbat 2006-07 Team, with the help of Hans Schell.

Above Mazeno pass, there are different versions of Schell route with reference to traverse to Diamir side and climb of summit pyramid. The most commonly used route traverses to join the Kinshofer route (variant 1) just below summit. In summer 2013, Romanians became the first to successfully climb Schell route since 1990.

Why Schell Route?
Tomek Mackiewicz and Marek Klonowski attempted Nanga Parbat from Diamir side twice, before shifting to Schell route last winter. The duo felt that this route is safer and easier to climb in winter. Hence it’s the obvious choice of Polish team.

However, closure of Diamir side, because of mountaineers' massacre in summer, forced Simone Moro to opt for Schell route. His first choice would have been retrying the Diamir face line which was initially attempted by Reinhold Messner, Hubert Messner, Hanspeter Eisendle and Wolfgang Tomaseth in 2000 (Moro attempted it with Denis Urubko in winter 2012).

Some variants of  Schell Route from Rupal side. Image from Polish Winter Nanga Parbat 2006-07 Team

The Ascent Time
Schell is not one of those typical 8000er routes, where climbers go to summit and return to highest camp the same day. The last 1000 vertical meters on this route has never been climbed in a single days and the ascent usually involves two bivouacs. Here is (calendar day wise) summery of climb above 7000m of some known ascents.

1) Hans Schell and Team 1976
Day 1. Went up (from C3) to C4 at 7450m
Day 2. Bivouac at 7700m
Day 3. Bivouac at 8020m
Day 4. Summit and down to C4 VERY late

2) Ronald Naar 1981
1. First Bivouacked at 7500m
2. Couple of wrong turns during traverse to Diamir side and eventually bivouacking at 7550m.
3. Summit and down

3) Oscar Cadiach and Jordi Magrina 1984
1. Placed C4 at 7500
2. Traversed to Diamir side, bivouacking just beneath summit pyramid at 7500m
3. Summit and back to bivouac (7500m)
4. Bivouacked at 7250m due to storm
5. C3 and down

4) Marija Frantar and Joze Rozman 1990
1. Crossed the ridge to Diamir side and bivouac at 7200m
2. Bivouac at 7500m
3. Summit and down

5) Reinmar Joswig and Peter Mezger 1990
1. Crossed the ridge to Diamir side and bivouac at 7100m 
2. Bivouacked at 7550 meters.
3. Spent the day trying to climb an ice couloir in the summit cone. Back to 7550m bivouac at night.
4. Summit and night in bivouac (7550m)
5. Down to C4 at 7100m on Rupal side.

6) Osamu Nakajima 1990
1. Begin summit push from C4 (7500m); Bivouac at 7540m
2. Bivouac at 7720m
3. Summit and down to one of the bivouacs
4. Down to C4

7) Romanians 2013
1. Climb to C5 at 7300m
2. Traverse. Spent the night bivouacking at around 7300m~7400m
3. Bivouac at 7500m
4. Summit and Down to 7500m
5. Down to C3

Sandy Allan and Rick Allen, who made first ascent of Nanga Parbat via Mazeno ridge in 2012, followed a similar line above Mazeno pass. They too spent multiple nights above 7000m before descending Diamir face via Kinshofer route.

Some variants of  Schell Route from Diamir side. Image from Polish Winter Nanga Parbat 2006-07 Team

Moro and Gottler
Simone Moro and David Gottler know that chances of weather window with multiple summit days are almost non-existent. So they have another plan: Be quick - lightning; and have been practising for the same during acclimatization phase.

The duo have been going up and coming down in extremely short times. Most recently, David Gottler went up from BC at 3600m a.s.l. to ABC at 4100m a.s.l. in 40 minutes and returned in merely 20 minutes. Moreover, they are traveling light for this summit attempt.

Unknown conditions on Diamir side are one amongst several hurdles before summit. No one has ever been above 7400m on this route in winter. To be successful in current weather window, they need to beat the speed of Ronald Naar and others, in inhumane wintry conditions. Simone Moro and David Gottler will, apparently, climb the blue line showed in above pictures.

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