Winter 2013 | Alex Txikon's Laila Peak Expedition

One of the finest sights in the world awaits trekkers and climbers when, upon their return from Concordia and base camps of K2, BP & Gasherbrums, they climb from Vigne Glacier to the top of Gondogoro La and look into Hushe Valley. (view here). Hallmark of this view is spear like peak called Laila (note: there are two other Laila Peaks in Pakistan - 5791m one near Rupal, Nanga Parbat and another 6986m high in Haramosh valley near Spantik). This mountain would surely be included in almost every list of beautiful mountains in the world. Laila - a feminine name in Arabic and Persian - means the loved one. The name perfectly suits the aesthetics of the peak.

Surrounded by mighty peaks like Masherbrum, Gasherbrums and Chogolisa, the actual height of the peak hasn’t been finalized yet. Some recent Japanese maps mention it as 6096m high while previously it was estimated to be either 6200m or as initially reported 6614m. It’s north-west flank has a steepness of 45-50 degrees in more than 1500 vertical meters. Climbing history of Laila peak is quite vague, primarily because of illegal climbs in 1980s & 90s. In 2005 (summer) Swedish mountaineer Fredrik Ericsson and Norwegian Jorgen Aamot skied down from 150m below summit. Ericsson made another brief attempt in 2010, just before disastrous expedition to K2. Another unsuccessful attempt was made in 2012 to ski from summit.

This winter, the 31 year old wood-chopper from Spain, Alex Txikon would be on Laila Peak, Hushe Valley). He has already summited nine eight-thousanders and is a strong contender to be the youngest climber to summit all eight-thousanders (14x8000ers). A look at Alex's resume would make you feel that he loves painful climbing more than luxurious expeditions of this age. This would be his third successive winter in Karakoram. On both previous occasions he was with Gerfried Goschl, attempting a new route for first-winter ascent of Gasherbrum-I. Last year, Alex was in base camp due to frostbite when Gerfried, Nisar and Cedric went missing during summit push.

Alex Txikon presented the details of Laila Peak Winter Expedition 2013 during a press conference held on 15th January 2013 at Bilbao, Spain. Alex promised this trip to be a clean and classic expedition; far from commercial trips to 7000ers or 8000ers. It is first winter expedition to the most beautiful mountain in Karakoram. Lower altitude doesn't mean climbing it would be a simple job, as climbers have to face enormous technical difficulties and adverse weather conditions during climb. On the possibility of a base jump from Laila Peak, Alex didn't rule out the possibility, but insisted that it would be technically difficult; "For now, the BASE jumping is not a priority."

Alex arrived in Pakistan on 20th January and plan was to catch the flight to Skardu, very next day. But as often happens with Skardu bound flights, the plane didn't took off due to bad weather. Alex prefers to wait for a few days to catch a plan once weather improves than making a 30 hours road trip to Skardu. Currently he is enjoying his stay in Islamabad, meeting friends and refreshing past memories. Although the tragic memories of last year still haunt Alex as he's back in Pakistan again.

Laila peak's base camp can be reached in three days from Skardu. On first day, jeeps travel along the Indus and Shyok valleys before turning northwards up the Hushe valley to reach the road head at the little village of Hushe. Then a two day trek leads the climbers to base camp on Gondogoro Glacier.
Photos from Alex's website:

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