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Bend's Steve House and Vince Anderson top Rupal Face alpine style in Pakistan

star  star  star  Congratulations Steve and Vince!  star  star  star
Nanga Parbat's infamous Rupal Face, a vertical 13,500' challenge of snow, rock and ice,
is widely considered the greatest alpine wall in the world!


Rupal Face of Nanga Parbat, widely considered the greatest alpine wall in the world. House-Anderson Route, 2005




Nanga Parbat, 8125m. The Central Pillar of the Rupal Face. September 1-8, 2005. Anderson/House. (4,100m, M5/5.9, WI4)

This timeline of the Anderson/House climb was sent to the Patagonia home office from Islamabad by Steve House on September 13th, 2005.

On 6 September, 2005, at 17:45 Vince Anderson and I stood on the windless summit of Nanga Parbat after six days of climbing. We had climbed a new, direct route on the Rupal Face. Famous for being one of the biggest, if not the biggest, wall in the world and because it saw its first ascent in 1970 by Reinhold and Gunther Messner.

Vince and I started at 4:00 a.m. on September 1 carrying 16kg of equipment each. We had pared the equipment to the minimum we thought was necessary. We carried a 1kg tent and one synthetic sleeping bag that I sewed especially for this route. We had the minimum of food and fuel. Our rack consisted of 3 cams, 10 nuts, 9 titanium pitons, 5 ice screws, and 10 runners. We climbed on a 8mm rope and carried a 5mm static rope to use for the many rappels back down the face. Each was cut to 50 meters long.

August 31
4 a.m. We left basecamp to start the route. The weather forecast is good for 7 days. At about 6:30 a.m. we arrived at the Bazhin glacier (the start of the face). Numerous snow avalanches were releasing on the face after receiving sun for the first time in many weeks. After watching for a bit, we decided to allow the face to clean itself for a day. We returned to basecamp and the weather was hot, dry, and clear all day.

September 1
4:00 a.m. We again left basecamp, this time for real. Around 6 a.m. we picked up our gear we cached at the glacier and started up the lower slopes of the face. It was much quieter now, it seemed that most of the snow avalanches had run the previous day.

The warmth came on quickly as another hot and dry day was upon us. We worked through some crevasses at the bottom of the face while trying to avoid exposure from the large ice avalanched from the seracs above (the guillotine). After one hour on the glacier we were on a prominent rocky rib that provides safety. We followed the rib for several hundred meters before being forced out left and back into a large couloir. Now avalanches were running frequently down the couloir, but were restricted in their course by a deep channel in the snow. We were able to stay to the side of the channel for a few hundred meters more, then were forced to cross it between sloughs. It only took a few moments to cross, but it proved to be exciting nonetheless as avalanches came rushing down the flume with increasing frequency as the day progressed. Now we continued cramponing up 40-degree snow for several hundred meters more until we had to re-cross the channels (now there were two of them). We did so quickly, and again were back on the rocky buttress. At the top of the buttress we were at about 5,100 meters and even with the bottom of the next rocky step, which is the crux of the route. We traversed a snow slope to the base of the slope and found a good bivy in the bergschrund there. This is the same bivy site Bruce and Steve used in 2004. It was hot and there was plenty of melt- water running so we could fill up without melting snow on the stove.

September 2
We left the bivy at 3:00 a.m. in the dark to avoid exposure to rockfall. There was ice in the section immediately above the bergschrund that required us to belay several hundred feet where Steve and Bruce had soloed in 2004. By the time we arrived at the crux, it was in full sunlight and rocks were beginning to fall. The pitch consisted of a snow-filled steep corner and the rock was covered with a new glazing of ice. The ice was not thick enough, or solid enough, for screws and often picks would shear through it. Snow covered the underlying rock and made it difficult to dry-tool and find protection. Protection was very inadequate on this pitch and the climbing was tedious. After spending much time climbing and protecting it to half-height Vince needed a break and lowered off a good piece to let Steve finish the pitch.

Steve opted to lead without a pack (and haul). This made things a bit easier for him, but still the protection was scarce and the climbing serious. He dry-tooled a section of loose and slopey rock (5.9). This pitch took us several hours to complete and all the while volleys of stones and ice would periodically rain down upon the belay. After the crux there were several more mostly easy pitches to the top of the rock buttress. We simul-climbed much of this section. It was now 1:00 p.m. and we had been out for 10 hours. We elected to bivy here, as it was safe, despite having gained only 300 meters from the last bivy. This is also the same place Steve and Bruce bivied in 2004 on their second night. Again we reaped the benefit of the warm weather and filled our pot with melt-water.

September 3 - The eighteen-hour day
At 5 a.m. we left camp. We ascended a short snow ramp above camp and traversed across an avalanche runnel that ran big several times during the previous night due to serac-avalanches. From here we continued climbing 45-degree snow below another rock buttress and traversed another avalanche runnel. At this point we diverged from the 2004 route. We decided to do that because the 2004 route seemed dangerous due to high snow levels in 2005 and direct pillar is a more aesthetic and difficult line. The excitement of trying a new line that had some serious question marks about it won out.

Several hundred more meters of steep snow brought us to the base of a rock buttress and safety from avalanches. A few moderate mixed pitches got us onto ice runnels above. We did many 150-meter simul-pitches just left of the ridge crest and eventually the day ended. We continued climbing in to the night, now pitch by pitch. We encountered one difficult mixed pitch of snow and steep loose rock. Steve led this pitch and puked at the belay afterwards. From here we could traverse right onto the hanging glacier that is one of the keys to this route. We found a wild, but safe, bivy under a serac. It was 11:00 p.m. and we were both very tired from the effort. We were at approximately 6,200 meters.

September 4 - Key Passage
After sleeping in, we left camp around 10:30 a.m. We ascended easy snow slopes above the bivy that eventually yielded to 45-degree snow and ice. The rock headwall above was steep and we needed to find an easy passage through it. A little ways up, we found a nice WI 3 ramp leading through to the left. This was a key section that looked possibly impassable from photos, so it was a relief to find this section of water ice. As we climbed this, the day came to an end and we began looking for a place to bivy. Steve led up snow and ice to the ridge on our left in hopes of finding a good snow to make a tent platform. As he mounted his steed, a large piece of it fell out beneath him. A single tool placement in snow saved him from a huge whipper and large chunks of snow hammered Vince. A bit further on, we found a spot on the ridge that could be leveled to the width of the tent, barely. The ledge was tiny and precarious, so we stayed tied in for the night should the snow underneath cut loose. We were at approximately 7,000 meters.

September 5
Again a 10:30 a.m. start due to the length of the previous days effort. We rapped from our perch back to the snow slopes below. From here, we began heading up easy ice to the upper snow slopes of the ramp system we were on. The altitude effect was obvious here and we were moving slow. We plodded away up these slopes and gained the crest of the ridge just below a short mixed passage leading to the upper snow slopes very near to where Steve and Bruce had turned back the previous year. We were also right above the Merkl Icefield. We made our high camp here at 7,400 meters.

September 6 - Summit Day
At 3:30 a.m. we set off for our summit attempt with one light pack between the two of us with 3 liters of water, 2 liters of Spiz (energy mix), several packs of GU each and 50 meters of 5mm cord.

After two pitches of mixed climbing, we began plodding up deep, steep, unconsolidated, faceted snow. This process was extremely slow, difficult, and discouraging. After 100 meters of this, the snow surface had strengthened enough to allow us to travel on top.

We continued up moderately steep snow and ice until we were able to gain a rocky ridge crest to our left. It was slow moving up the easy mixed terrain on the ridge. The weather was superb, it was even slightly hot.

By mid-day, we joined the upper Messner route at around 7,900 meters. We could see faint hints of the Korean climbers' tracks from July. This eventually brought us to easy snow and by 4:00 p.m. we arrived at the false summit. There, at 8,000 meters, Steve took off his boots to dry off his socks in the sun and Vince took a 5-minute nap.

At 5:45 p.m. we arrived at the summit. We savored a few minutes together, took in the marvelous views in all directions, shot some photographs and at 6:00 p.m. descended from the summit. We made it down the easy summit snowfields before darkness caught us. We continued descending our route of ascent, rappelling many sections with our 50 meters of rope until we reached the top of the two mixed pitches above camp where we had another rope. Two rappels from here and a short walk had us both back to camp at 3:00 a.m., 24 hours after starting. We made some water and promptly went to sleep.

September 7
After a light night's sleep we left camp around 8:00 a.m. We began by doing 6 steep rappels down to the Merkl Icefield to join the 1970 Messner route. Upon reaching the Merkl, we found a tent abandoned by the Koreans.

We continued down-climbing the Merkl Icefield and eventually began rappelling. We reached the approximate height of camp 2 (ca. 6,000 m.) by nightfall and continued descending. By 11:00 p.m. we reached what we thought to be the site of camp 1 (ca. 5,500 m.) and bivied under a serac. Steve's headlamp batteries were failing and Vince inadvertently dropped his lamp forcing us to sleep here.

We could see many large bonfires awaiting us below and hear the local villagers drumming in celebration.

September 8
After a coughing-fit filled night, we woke around 7:00 a.m. and continued our slow descent to base camp. Exhausted from 8 days on the go and precious little sleep, we arrived in camp around 2:00 in the afternoon to the great excitement of our Liaison Officer and other locals.

We have been overwhelmed by the local response to our ascent. All the way out to the road head locals stopped us and congratulated us. In Tarshing (the road head), about 200 schoolchildren turned out to greet us with bouquets of flowers, posters commemorating our climb, and flower leis. The town had a ceremony and the mayor and school headmasters all made speeches. Wild! It turns out the whole valley was watching our progress by seeing our headlamps each night. And the summit day was so clear, many people watched us summit through binoculars.

Nanga Parbat. The Central Pillar of the Rupal Face. Sept 1-8, 2005. Anderson/House. (4,100m, M5/5.9, WI4)

A note from Steve and Vince: Note that if you measure the face from the Bazhin Glacier right where the face starts, it is 4,125 meters. Some people measure the face as 5,000 meters, but to get 5,000 meters you have to measure from the village of Tarshing where you start the trek to basecamp. 4,100 meters seems to us like an honest measurement of the amount of climbing on the face.



On 6 September, at 17:45 Vince Anderson and I stood on the windless summit of Nanga Parbat after six days of climbing. We had climbed a new, direct route on the Rupal Face. Famous for being one of the biggest, if not the biggest, wall in the world and because it saw its first ascent in 1970 by Reinhold and Gunther Messner.

The Rupal Face of Nanga Parbat with the Anderson-House line of September 2005 shown

Vince and I started at 4:00 on 1 September carrying 16kg of equipment each. We had pared the equipment to the minimum we thought was necessary. We carried a 1kg tent and one synthetic sleeping bag that I sewed especially for this route. We had the minimum of food and fuel. Our rack consisted of 3 cams, 10 nuts, 9 titanium pitons, 5 ice screws, and 10 runners. We climbed on a 8mm rope and carried a 5mm static rope to use for the many rappels back down the face. Each was cut to 50 meters long.

The first two nights we followed the route climbed by myself and Bruce Miller in 2004. (to 7,500m, no summit). On the third day, searching for more of an adventure than merely completing the 2004 line and dealing with more snow on the wall that we found in 2004, Vince and I headed straight up the prominent pillar in the center of the face.

That day we climbed many pitches. (We lost count around 15, and if you counted the simu-climbing it was probably more than 30) After 18 hours of climbing we finally reached a place where we could bivouac.

I was most nervous about the next day. So far we had climbed a mostly-safe, beautiful direct line. But the photos I had and the reconnaissance I had done had revealed no easy way through the rock barrier above us. After several hours of mostly moderate ice climbing which we soloed, we took a break just below the key section. I was hoping for an ice line that we could climb quickly. And after a deep breath, I set off to the right, and was rewarded by the site of a grade 3 or 4 icefall above us. I was so happy, and so keen to make this section go as quickly as possible, I soloed the 50 meters of steep ice with my pack while Vince waited below. At that moment I felt like I was flying above the mountains, I was so happy to find this key passage. After climbing the pitch I lowered the rope to Vince and belayed him up to me.

I stayed in lead for the rest of the afternoon and the coming night. As quickly as possible we climbed up through several more steep (but not as serious) steps of ice. Conditions were excellent, but we needed to find a bivouac soon.

This is when we had our closest brush with disaster. We were simu-climbing with me in the lead and I was trying to get on top of a narrow ridge in hopes of discovering some place to set the tent. While mounting the cornice, it broke out from underneath me. Me feet swung free and one of my ice axes pulled out. By luck my other ice tool stayed put and I got my feet back in and quickly swung over onto the other side of the very narrow ridge, which unfortunately was just as steep on the other side. The big pieces of hard snow hit Vince and fortunately he did not get pulled off. If he had I am sure my one tool would not have held both of us and my last ice screw was more that 20 meters below me. It was a very dangerous moment.

In the end we were able to cut off the top of the ridge just 20 meters higher and pitch the tent in a very small and exposed (but flat) place.

In the morning we rappelled back to the main ice gully and continued to our high bivouac at approximately 7,400 meters. This day was tiring only because of the altitude as the technical difficulties eased the higher we climbed.

Summit day was physically one of the hardest days I have ever had in the mountains. We had climbed for five days with very limited chance for recovery. Fortunately the weather was perfect. But I was not sure that we would succeed until we arrived just below the south summit at over 8,000 meters and could see the last easy meters to the top.

The descent ran late into the night. We made mistakes and climbed slowly. Nearly losing our 5mm rope at one point and having difficulty with the rappels which seemed to be always getting tangled and stuck.

In the morning we packed as soon as we could and organized for the descent. Our plan was to rappel the steep wall below us to the Merkyl Icefield where we would join the 1970-Messner route and follow that route to the base of the wall. The weather was still good, but during the afternoons the clouds showed some sign that would end soon.

We made many rappels that day and down climbed as much as possible. We continued late into the night. Finally halting about 2,000 meters lower than we started (approx 5,500m) when Vince dropped his headlamp and my batteries began to fail.

The next day we sluggishly made our way down to the valley, meeting our Liaison Officer and several excited locals near the 1970 basecamp in the early afternoon. After one full day of rest we had to pack up and trek out in order for Vince to make his flight on the 14th which would allow him to get to work as a guide examiner on 16 September.

Nanga Parbat, 8125m. The Central Pillar of the Rupal Face. 1-8 September, 2005. Anderson/House. (4,100m, M5 X, 5.9, WI4).

Note that if you measure the face from the Bazhin Glacier right where the face starts, it is 4,125 meters. Some people measure the face as 5,000 meters, but to get 5,000 meters you have to measure from the village of Tarshing where you start the trek to basecamp. 4,100 meters seems to us like an honest measurement of the amount of climbing on the face.



A dream climb
It took a Bend mountaineer 15 years, but he's finally helped blaze a new path up one of the world's tallest mountain faces

The Bulletin
By Abbie Bean
November 22, 2005

Exactly 15 years ago, climber Steve House got his first, live look at the tallest mountain face on the planet: the 13,500 foot Rupal face on Pakistan's Nanga Parbat.

Exactly 15 years ago, a dream was born.

Exactly 15 years later, House opened a new route on the Rupal face, billed the Central Pillar route, and became part of one of the first teams to ascend the face in alpine style.

At the time House first set his sights on 26,660-foot Nanga Parbat, the ninth tallest mountain in the world, he was a 20-year old college student on a Slovenian expedition, and still a relative novice as a climber and mountaineer.

After starting to climb with his father, House gained experience between high school in his hometown of La Grande and college at Evergreen State in Olympia, Wash., while living in the former Yugoslavia, where he was studying as an exchange student: As House tells it, climbing was big in Yugoslavia, which inspired him to join his first climbing club abroad.

Today, House, 35, a Bend resident and contract employee for outdoor retail company Patagonia, can now say not only he has fulfilled his dream of climbing the Rupal face, but that he has made climbing history as well - by tackling the face in alpine style.

Between September and September 8, 2005, House and his climbing partner, Vince Anderson of Ridgway, Colorado., successfully pioneered a new route on the Rupal face, carrying all their supplies to make the ascent of the route in one push.

They used no pre-established camps and no pre-established ropes to guide climbers between camps. There was no returning to a lower camp to replenish supplies before continuing upward. House and Anderson simply set up camp wherever they were when they decided the day was done.

Just last year, House attempted the route in alpine style with fellow climber Bruce Miller of Boulder, Colo., but they had to descend when House fell ill.

House says that he is an "alpine-style hardliner" for two reasons: "First, I think it's environmentally important," says House, who has also climbed in the Cascades" and the Canadian Rockies and has been on 27 climbing expeditions in Alaska. "I just think it's wrong to leave a lot of .garbage on the mountains - ropes, tents and ' oxygen bottles. Also, we already know we can climb any route with enough technology. So what's the point? That's not interesting. Uncertainty is the most important aspect (of climbing)."

House said he believes that climbing the highest mountains in the world is not necessarily synonymous with accomplishing the world's greatest mountaineering feats. He explains that what is important to him is the creative process used when mountaineering, ascending routes that are more technically challenging, and experiencing the beauty of the mountains.

"To observers and historians, this is my most important climb," says House nonchalantly. "But for me personally, it was no better than some climbs I did last year, except that everything went right."

After laying the philosophical groundwork for the story of his latest expedition, House begins to flesh out the tale with details of his assault on the Rupal face:

There were four men at base camp: House and Anderson, who would be climbing one route up the Rupal face, and two other men attempting a different route up the face.

House said a minimum of four climbers were needed at base camp to make the trip financially, feasible. It 'was $4,500 for House and Anderson to obtain their permit to climb the Rupal face, and they needed an additional $9,800 to finance the rest of the trip.

House said Anderson and he began their ascent in September, when weather conditions were likely to be most favorable in Pakistan. Throughout the climb, the weather was perfect.

According to House, the duo carried nothing unnecessary in their packs, one of which weighed 10 pounds and the other 25 pounds. House would take the lighter pack occasionally, leading the climb and negotiating its technical challenges. Then Anderson would' carry the lighter pack and take his turn turn at leading. In addition to the packs, the climbers were strapped with everything from ice axes to climbing ropes.

House describes the ascent as extremely draining, and he reports losing 15 pounds over the course of the eight day climb. During the day, House and Anderson ate energy foods, bars and gels, and nightly meals consisted' of a cup of soup and dried mashed potatoes with olive oil.

"Alpine style is pure," says House. "It takes more commitment."

By September 6, the climbers' commitment had paid off. They reached the summit of the Rupal face at 5:45 p.m., in just six days.

"It was one of the most memorable moments of the trip," recalls House. I had my eye on the route for a long time. I'd arranged my entire life around this goal. I did anywhere from 26 to 28 hours of training on a hard week. I had to finance the trip. I had to take time off from work."

Just six weeks after the final day of the Rupal face descent, House is lounging on the couch in. his girlfriend Jeanne's home off Newport Avenue, recovering from a long day of climbing at Smith Rock State Park. The next day he plans to go elk hunting -a childhood hobby-with his uncle and nephew.

"It's just in my. heart to do it," he says of his dedication to climbing. "I love climbing, (setting up the gear), achieving goals or not achieving them. The more you put into climbing, the more it gives back to you, I think."

Soon, House will resume work for Patagonia, where he has been involved in product development and grass-roots marketing. He also continues to teach climbing clinics and present climbing slide shows at Patagonia-sponsored festivals.

"This has been my favorite job so far," says House, who has also worked as a mountain guide in Washington, and as an avalanche forecaster for the, Cascades.

In addition, House hopes to continue to complete two major expeditions per year.

But for now he can rest knowing he has accomplished one of his greatest goals, even though he feels the truest rewards of mountaineering are not found in the afterglow.

"The most rewarding part is the experience itself " House said. ,"I am happy I did it, but there: is also a bit of an empty feeling now. I am feeling a little lost."

Get all the news!



Note: Nanga Parbat's infamous Rupal Face , a vertical 13,500 foot challenge of snow, rock and ice is widely considered the greatest alpine wall in the world. This very big climb has been (so far) reported briefly in Issue 244, December 2005, Climbing Magazine. The pure success of House and Anderson is contrasted in the media with the failed climb of of the celebrated Slovenian climber Tomaz Humar who was rescued from the Rupal Face by a high altitude French helicopter with huge media coverage in August 2005, about a month before Steve and Vince walked back to camp. (National Geographic Adventure Magazine covers the now controversial Tomaz Humar rescue in its December 2005 issue.) --Webmeister Speik



Steve House, Scott Backes and Mark Twight climbed the Czech Direct on Denali

N13 Czech Direct Alaskan Grade 6+
Adarn, Krizo and Korl 1984.

This is objectively safer but technically harder than the other South Face routes, with sustained difficulties, 60-100° ice and 5.6 rock and poor bivouac sites on the first 1500m (5000ft). About 12-21 days.

June 24-26 Steve House, Scott Backes and Mark Twight climbed the Czech Direct on Denali.
The first ascent, in 1986, required 11 days and approximately 1000' of fixed rope. Kevin Mahoney and partner (Ben Gilmore) made the second ascent over 8 days in May, 2000. The Backes/ House/ Twight team climbed it in 60 hours non-stop. They carried no bivouac gear apart from a 2lb Down or Polarguard jacket each. The trio brought two stoves in order to melt enough snow to stay hydrated. Starting with just 22oz of fuel for each, these ran out of gas at hour 48. A total of 55lbs was split between two packs, (18lbs were water), leaving the leader pack-free to move fast.

The Czech Direct is 9000' high. But only 5500' present any climbing difficulty: ice climbing up to WI6 and rock to UIAA V+ (USA 5.9). The team belayed 31 (60m) pitches, simul-climbed some terrain and soloed the rest including the first 1000' where the Czechs belayed 9 pitches. After crossing the bergschrund at 06h Backes, House and Twight passed the Czech's second bivouac site at 08h. They found many good quality pitches. Twight exclaims, "It was fantastic climbing and there was a lot of it. The Czech topo showed 24 pitches of UIAA III (USA 5.4) or harder. Ice conditions were such that we never holstered our tools - but we did have to file them twice during the

Twenty-four hours into it, almost 4000' up the route the trio passed the point of no return. The Czechs had climbed 43 pitches to reach the same spot. Twight said, "we didn't have enough gear to retreat, the terrain would have swallowed us. That we had to go up was liberating and terrifying, both".

The concurrent arrival of poor visibility, the 34th hour's low blood sugar and the proximity of a serac known as "Big Bertha" caused a route-finding error at around 15,900'. "We behaved like beginners, trying different ways through the last rock-band," says Twight. "We didn't want to be anywhere near the serac so we trended west. Finally, we sat down to brew and think objectively. The route was actually obvious - further east, right next to Big Bertha. It was safer than it sounds."

But the team was hammered, "I caught House snoring at one belay" Twight recalls. "It's the beautiful thing about climbing as a team of three: one leads, one belays and the other passes out in his harness."

Difficulties ended at 16,800'. The original Czech line remains independent, following easy snow slopes cris-crossed by crevasses to the summit. Instead, Backes, House and Twight simul-climbed to 17,400' where they joined the Cassin Ridge at 14h and unroped. Sixty hours after crossing the bergschrund they traversed onto "Pig Hill" just beneath Kahiltna Horn, 200' below the summit. Twight admits, "it's the first time I regret missing a summit. Our effort deserved a better finish but we were fairly wasted by that point." Despite this the team made it down the West Buttress to the National Park Service camp at 14,000' in 2hrs 20min. "We slept and ate for 24 hours there before recovering our skis from a cache at 11,000' and sliding back to the airstrip at 7200'.

Backes summed the climb up by saying, "The CZD is certainly one of the best mixed climbs in the world. It's crazy that it went unrepeated for 14 years." House stated simply, "It was my first world-class route," as if the other routes he's done in Alaska, the Yukon and Canadian Rockies are anything less.

Twight concludes, "psychologically it was quite intense. Steve had climbed continuously for 36 hours on King Peak. Scott and I had gone 41 hours without sleep on Mount Hunter in 1994. 60 hours of non-stop climbing was a huge step for all of us. Sleep deprivation, combined with the constant demand for a high level of awareness transported
us to an unfamiliar place. The cramps were fierce and the aural hallucinations memorable. Ultimately, I think, beyond a certain point, exhaustion has its way with a climber; we dropped some gear - a cam, a screw, and an ice tool - and got lost. Everyone's mental ability to lead more than two pitches in a row was compromised by hour 40. On the other hand, if someone could go lighter than us they could climb it faster."




Read more . . .
Steve House
Beth Rodden and Tommy Caldwell
Dan Osman
Conrad Messner
Tomaz Humar

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How do you use your map, compass and GPS together, in a nut shell?
How can I learn to use my map, compass and GPS?
Do you have map, compass and GPS seminar notes?   six pdf pages