Revers Gagnant (winning setback)
This is a story about Symon Welfringer’s and Pierrick Fine’s expedition in the wild Karakoam told in Symon’s own words.
Sani Pakkush 6953m / Photo topo of the face / Fine, Pierrick / Welfringer, Symon / 2500m / 90° / M4+ / WI4+ / 16-20.10.2020
“Based in the Batura muztagh area, the Toltar glacier has rarely been seen by human eyes. Our expedition was only the second one on it.
We arrive there in the beginning of October and try to get acclimatized around our basecamp situated at the base of the massive South face of Sani Pakkush which remained unclimbed.
Around basecamp, almost all the mountains are virgin, an amazing potential for future expeditions.
It has been really hard to find technically easy terrain, all the faces surrounding us were really steep. We still managed to find some snow slopes to go up to this summit on the picture, at around 5500m.
After making 5 days of acclimatization between 4700m and 5500m, we had turned back to basecamp hoping this would be enough to go up to 6953m with more technical terrain. Hopefully, we managed to do some good hangboard trainings at basecamp to get fit.”
“After two weeks we were ready to give a try in this big piece of alpinism. Poor weather conditions made us wait few days more but the sun was expected to shine for almost one week which made us allow to give a proper try in the face.”
“On the second day we managed to get high up on the face and made two awesome pitches of pure ice, to my mind this was the best moment of the ascent with dream conditions of ice.”
“At around 6200m we look for a desperate bivy spot but never find it. After hours of search, we desperately took the option to sit and wait, one was on a small snow ledge and the other one was in the tent hang at a belay like a hammock.
On third day, we were really exhausted after these two bad bivys. We decided to climb only to the summit ridge and find a spot to rest as early as possible so we put our tent at an altitude of 6400m on the summit ridge where we find a nice and comfortable crevasse to have a proper rest.”
“On October the 19th, we decided to make a summit with almost no gear. We let our bivy in place and went for the last 500m on the snowy summit ridge. With a constantly changing quality, it was harder and harder to go up the summit but after 7 hours of hard work sometimes digging into powder snow.”
“We arrived at 14pm completely exhausted on the Sani Pakkush summit at 6953m.We spend our last day going down this massive face of 2500m, switching between rappelling (20-25) and downclimbing. On the late afternoon of october 20th, we made it safely back to basecamp empty of all our energy and lots of emotions in our minds.”
“Revers Gagnant, this name refers that we played against all odds by choosing to go to Pakistan without any long reflections and at a season supposed to be bad for alpinism. On the contrary we met some amazing weather conditions during all our ascent, luckily our face was south because temperatures we’re very low getting to -30°C during nights. We had the chance to discover a completely wild place and stunning mountains. At first, in early September, our plan was to go to Nepal but with the pandemic keep growing in this country, they decided to close the borders to foreigners. So we had to change our plan quite fast to find the best opportunity to do a great and rewarding expedition. I spent quite a lot of time on websites such as Google earth and Fatmap looking for virgin mountains and steep walls. I was amazed by how numerous the remaining options were. I think the potential, in Himalaya and especially in North Pakistan areas, is still gigantic. Furthermore, by going in such remoted areas you met a strikingly new culture and very welcoming people it’s such a nice pleasure to share our passion with local people and try to develop relationships with them. It’s my third time in Pakistan and 8th expedition in total, and discover new places and new people keep fascinating me. The search for new steep faces in higher altitude (between 7500 and 8000m) is now my main goal. I’m now really attracted by 8000m Summits but I’m more attracted by the possibility of climbing technical pitches in both icy and rocky conditions : trying to transpose my skills of Cliff climber in Himalaya.” – Symon Welfringer, 2020