In September 2022 I got the opportunity to guide a trek to the highest mountain wall in the world: The Rupal Face of Nanga Parbat (8125m) in northern Pakistan. Nanga Parbat forms the westernmost point of the Himalayas and lies near the collision zone of the three highest mountain ranges in the world: Himalaya, Karakoram, and Hindukush. The area is famous for its immense altitude differences in terrain. Within only a few kilometers, the Nanga Parbat massif rises to its summit at 8125m, more than 7000m above the nearby Indus valley.
The area around the Nanga Parbat massif offers great potential for trekking and adventure tourism activities. While there is some domestic tourism at Fairy Meadows on the northern side, the regions in the south and east are almost untouched by foreign tourists.
A trek to the Rupal Valley on the South side of Nanga Parbat is not only rewarded by great mountain vistas but is also very culturally enriching. It is a relatively easy trek, with the highest point at 3600m, that can be done in three days from Tarshing to Tarshing.
Our approach was along the Astor Valley, where an adventurous road had been built in the cliffs of a steep gorge. The road ends at the village of Tarshing.
Tarshing is a beautiful, quiet village, and we started our trek here, observing the village life and watching the villagers working in the fields. Soon after the village, we crossed the Chongra Glacier, covered completely with rubble and therefore easy to cross. Then we passed another beautiful small village, Rupal Village.
The villages in the valley are inhabited by both, Shia and Sunni Muslims, who live together peacefully today.
We spent the night in our tents at 3500m below the mighty Rupal Face at Herrligkoffer Camp, named after the German expedition leader Karl Maria Herrligkoffer, who organized many expeditions to Nanga Parbat during his lifetime. In the evening the clouds on the Rupal Face disappeared and we enjoyed stunning views of this mountain wall of rock and ice, towering more than 4500m into the sky above camp. No other mountain wall in the world rises that high to form the base of the summit.
It is difficult to look at this peak without thinking of all its history and the tragedies that took place here. Nanga Parbat is perhaps unequalled among the 8000m peaks when it comes to tragedies and important historical events in the realm of mountaineering. It was the first 8000m peak that was attempted to be climbed in 1895, by the Briton A.F. Mummery who disappeared during the attempt. The first of many casualties on the mountain.
In the 1930s, several German expeditions tried to achieve the first ascent, and a handful of them ended in tragedy. More than 30 Sherpas and western climbers perished in avalanches high on the mountain while the summit remained unconquered. It is because of those ill-fated expeditions during the 1930s that the mountain got its reputation as one of the deadliest mountains and that resulted in its infamous nickname, “Killer Mountain.” It was not until 1953 that the first ascent was finally made by the Austrian Hermann Buhl.
The next morning, we packed up the camp and continued to our next destination, the pastures of Latoboh. Here, we crossed another glacier, the Bazhin Glacier, and arrived at Latoboh Camp around noon. In the afternoon we went for a short hike to a glacial lake nearby with stunning views.
Nanga Parbat towering just north of our location, the Toshe Peaks in the west, and the Rupal and Schlagintweit Peaks to the south. After another beautiful night at the foot of Nanga Parbat, we walked back the same way to Tarshing, ending our short but unforgettable trip to the Rupal Valley.
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