Pakistan’s Karakoram

Zabardast: Alone in Pakistan’s Karakoram Range

It began with a photo. Thomas Delfino found it in a library book. It showed the Biacherahi North Tower, a peak in Pakistan’s Karakoram range. As far as we knew, it had never been skied or ridden, like so many Himalayan peaks. It was low, by Himalayan standards, at 5,850 meters. And it was a mountain so beautiful, so steep and full of icy spines and flutes, that Thomas became obsessed with riding it. 

Thomas met California-based rider Zak Mills, who had also noticed the face while studying climbing reports from the area. Thomas saw it as a sign. He and Zak assembled a crew including French skier Léo Taillefer, mountaineers Yannick Graziani and Hélias Millerioux, cameramen Pierre Fréchou and Julien Nadiras, and me. To access Biacherahi, we would have to make our way to the tiny Pakistani village of Askole, and then onto the largely unexplored Nobande Sobande glacier. We’d do so with help from Balti porters before touring into complete isolation for nearly three weeks, pulling sleds full of dehydrated food, tents and propane, solar panels for the camera equipment, sleeping bags, and other essentials. We’d traverse Skam La, a 5,660-meter-high pass, to join the Sim Gang glacier and the Snow Lake area, where few have set foot before. To return to Askole we’d descend the Biafo glacier, closing a foot-powered 150-kilometer loop.

We’d battle to acclimate ourselves to thin air, ration our food, endure freezing nights, crevasses, avalanche hazards and steep, committed lines without room for error. More so, we’d fight through extreme mental and physical fatigue. Our diaries tell the story…

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