Nanga Parbat is located in the Northern Areas of Pakistan and is the Western bastion of the Himalaya. It is the nineth highest mountain in the world and the second highest in Pakistan after K2. Steeped in a history matched by few others in Asia it has staged some of the greatest Himalayan ascents of all time. A number of expeditions have made ‘attempts’ on the mountain during winter but to no avail.
From Hermann Buhl’s solo first ascent in 1953 via the Upper North ridge to Gunther and Reinhold Messner’s first ascent of the Rupal Face in 1970 via the South South East Spur, Messner’s solo climb of the Diamir Face in 1978, and more recently Vince Anderson and Steve House’s Alpine-style ascent of the Central Pillar of the Rupal Face. These epic climbs continue to inspire climbers to attempt yearly what is considered to be the second hardest 8000m mountain after K2. Nanga Parbat is a truly awesome spectacle. The south face is the largest in the world extending over four kilometres above base camp. To date there have only been five ascents from the south. Nanga Parbat means “Naked Mountain” in Hindi/Urdu and is with reference to the south face’s exposed rock buttresses. The north face is equally intimidating. In contrast to the south face’s steep rock and ice the snowy north face is guarded by a broad barrier of seracs that extend the width of the mountain. Climbers before the Second World War were convinced that the only way to climb the mountain was from the north via a long arc extending over Rakhiot Peak (7010m), between the two summits of Silberzacken and finally to the summit of Nanga Parbat thereby avoiding a more direct ascent of the north face. The route was dangerously prone to avalanche and exposed to bad weather. 31 people died attempting to climb the mountain leading to it acquiring the infamous name of the “Killer Mountain”. Nowadays it is not such a killer and there are other peaks that could inherit the nickname (eg Ultar or Batura I). Hermann Buhl’s summit route has only been repeated once (Slovak, 1971) to this day. His ascent marked only the third 8000m ascent after Annapurna I (1950) and Everest and was the only first summit of all the 8000ers to be done without oxygen and of course solo. Most attempts nowadays are via the Westerly Diamir face which is generally considered to be the easiest and safest with the Kinshofer Route the normal route. Nanga Parbat as of 2005, had received 263 ascents by 261 individuals (Messner and SP Member Qudrat Ali have climbed it twice) at a price of 62 deaths. Sixteen women have summited the mountain. Numerous challenging lines still await. The most difficult is an ascent of Nanga Parbat via the unclimbed Mazeno Ridge which constitutes the longest ridge in the world.