Situated in Pakistan’s stunning Gilgit-Baltistan region and rising high above the renowned Fairy Meadows, Nanga Parbat is the ninth highest mountain in the world and a coveted mountaineering destination.
The prominent Himalayan peak has been the scene of some of mountaineering’s most historic and daring ascents. Along the way, it has acquired a reputation as being quite dangerous as well.
While there are a number of different routes used to climb the mountain, the majority of these head up via the Diamir Face, on the western side of the peak.
Several other routes up the enormous Rupal Face have been made, but not very many. The massif’s southern face is the largest of any mountain in the world, with a height that exceeds four kilometres (2.5 miles) in places.
Quick Facts about Nanga Parbat
- Along with being the ninth tallest mountain in the world. Nanga Parbat is also the second highest peak in Pakistan and 14th most prominent mountain in the world.
- In the local Urdu language, Nanga Parbat means naked mountain, a reference to the exposed rock buttresses on the mountain’s massive south face.
- In 1953, Nanga Parbat became only the third 8,000er to be successfully climbed in the world. That same maiden ascent was also notable for being the first solo climb of an 8000er and first one without supplemental oxygen as well.
History of Nanga Parbat
Due to Nanga Parbat’s relative ease of access from major population centres, Europeans began attempting to climb the peak soon after it was discovered. The first of these attempts came in 1895 when a British expedition led by Alfred Mummery reached 6,100 metres (21,000 feet) before having to turn back.
A number of other attempts were made throughout the first half of the twentieth century as well, all of which failed, some of which disastrously so. The main problem was mountaineers at the time believed the northern side was the only way to reach the summit. To date, it has only been climbed a handful of times successfully.
The first successful ascent of Nanga Parbat came in 1953, when Austrian mountaineer Hermann Buhl successfully climbed the peak via the eastern ridge on his own and without supplemental oxygen.
Experience Required for Climbing Nanga Parbat
Climbing Nanga Parbat is considered an advanced mountaineering challenge. The easiest route, up the peak’s western face, requires a high level of rock, ice and snow climbing.
Along with technical difficulties, acclimatisation also poses a major challenge on the peak. It is one of the steepest on Earth, gaining thousands of metres of altitude in a very short distance. As a result, taking the adequate time to acclimate can be the difference between success and failure.
Finally, the peak presents a very physically challenging climb and involves long hours of climbing with few opportunities to stop and rest. As a result, most guides recommend potential participants to spend six to nine months prior to the ascent improving endurance, physical strength and flexibility.
Main Routes up Nanga Parbat
There is one main route that climbers use to summit Nanga Parbat: the Kinshofer Route on the western Diamir Face. This is considered the easiest route and is used almost exclusively by commercial guides.
From base camp, climbers will scale the massive Kinshofer wall (rated Class V+) before climbing over a mix of snow, ice and rock to reach the summit.
The fairly new (2007) Austro-Canadian North-West route is another relatively easy route to the summit. It is less direct and more physically challenging than the Kinshofer route. The route is 2,000 metres long and involves several sections of technical climbing, but avoids the Kinshofer wall.
Several other routes exist on the Diamir face, but are rarely taken. The southern Rupal Face of the mountain also has several routes, but these are even more technically and physically challenging. As a result, the southern face of the mountain is rarely climbed and usually only by professional mountaineers.