From Summer 2014 | First Ascent of G-V, Unattempt on G-IV

At the beginning of summer season, we mentioned about a couple of teams that were heading towards less climbed peaks in Gasherbrum massif. Kyle Dempster and Urban Novak’s plan was to craft a new route on Shining Wall of Gasherbrum IV in alpine style. An Chi Young was leading a three member Korean team to G-V; a 7000er with no recorded ascent. However, we heard nothing about them until a few days ago.

In an article to alpinist.com, Kyle Dempster wrote that in third week of July, he and Urban Novak were in Skardu when they heard about disappearance of two Slovenian climbers Ales Holc and Peter Meznar on a 6000er peak in Shaksgam valley. Urban was worried, "Ales is a close friend; he was my climbing mentor when I first started." As the search for missing climbers continued without success, it became obvious that G-IV expedition wasn’t likely anymore. “Urban made plans to go home so he could be with the Slovenian climbing community, offer his support and think about his own relationship with climbing and the death of his two friends, his first experience with the dark side of the sport.”

At the time, when Urban was devastated by the loss of his friends and Dempster was saddened to witness a “lofty dream” falling apart, the Koreans were approaching the virgin summit - 7147m high - right next to G-IV. On July 25th, Seong Nakjong and An Chi Young reportedly stood atop Gasherbrum V, after climbing Southeast wall in alpine style, in three days.

(A detailed report from the team appeared in Korean climbing magazine "mountain" and is available online here.)

Seong Nakjong and An Chi Young on the summit of G V (July 25th, 2014)

Until 2010, as per AAJ, there had been six 7000er first ascents by Koreans - almost all done in capsule or expedition style. However, in 2009, Kim Hyung-il opened a new route on northwest face of Spantik in alpine style. Next year, Kim led a four man team to attempt ‘untouched’ west face of G-V. During a four day alpine style summit push, they reached around 6550m, when their stove malfunctioned and the team was forced to retreat.

G-V has three sub-peaks East I (7120m), East II (7050m) and East III (7006m). In 1978, three Japanese climbers K. Mukaide, M. Sakaguchi and T. Sato made it to East III before turning back. Following day, second summit attempt was abandoned when expedition leader Ryuichi Babaguchi, who went ahead of other climbers, was found dead in a crevasse near the top. Multiple climbers had tried and failed on G-V since then.

Seong Nakjong climbing a mixed section

2014 Gasherbrum V Team left Korea on June 13th. The plan was to climb the mountain via Northeast face. However, upon their arrival, they discovered that the face was in dangerous condition with frequent avalanches. The team’s climb up the wall ended at 6400m due to deteriorating weather, recurring avalanches and difficult climbing conditions.

Knowing that Northeast face wasn't climbable, they now decided to switch to South side of the mountain. It was around mid-July; the team was exhausted by unsuccessful summit push and shifting Base Camp was a difficult task in itself. “After returning to Base Camp, I was worried,” says the expedition leader. However, they didn't have any other opportunity. On July 20th, they migrated to new BC, at the bottom of valley leading to G V from Southwest.

Weather forecast showed a good weather window starting from 20th. The Koreans knew they couldn’t let this opportunity go away. Amidst the hassle of setting up new BC and organizing gear, the climbers had very little time to rest and recover.

The route

On July 23rd, Seong Nakjong and An Chi Young left Base Camp (4700m) at around 5am. The foot of Southeast wall was, however, still 3km away, separated by a maze of complex and towering seracs in upper half of glacier. The two Koreans reached the top of glacier at 09:40am. They roped together and started climbing the face. In the afternoon, avalanches roared down the face. It was already mid night, when the climbers decided to bivouac at around 6600m. They had climbed for 20 hours, gaining an altitude of approximately 1900 meters.

Next morning, on July 24th, the fatigue and exhaustion from previous day’s climb didn't let them go up. They spent the day resting, recovering, eating, energizing and discussing the plans.

On 25th, they woke up early and were out of bivouac at 3am. They were now on mixed terrain, with frequent rock falls. It was late in the afternoon when they reached the summit ridge. Despite exhaustion and bad conditions, the two climbers continue and were on the summit at 07:20PM.

It was getting dark and within ten minutes, they started the gruelling descent. After fighting the hurdles of down climbing in dark, a night without sleep and avalanches during the day, the two summiteers made it back to BC twenty four hours later.

Climbers and BC staff

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