American Team Summits 7,041-Meter Link Sar
Steve Swenson, Mark Richey, Chris Wright and Graham Zimmerman have climbed one of the heretofore tallest unclimbed mountains in the world, Link Sar in Pakistan.
At 65 years old, Steve Swenson’s still got it: on his third attempt at climbing Link Sar (7,041 meters), one of the tallest unclimbed mountains in the world, he finally tagged the summit.
Swenson was joined by Mark Richey, 61; Graham Zimmerman, 33; and Chris Wright, 36. The four of them traveled to Pakistan at the beginning of June.
The trip was supported in part by the American Alpine Club’s Cutting Edge Grant. In his grant proposal, Chris Wright wrote that Link Sar is a “stunning, oft-tried, yet unclimbed granite monster in a seldom-visited valley in the heart of the Karakoram…it is undoubtedly one of the most compelling undone peaks of the greater ranges.”
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I just returned from our expedition to Link Sar, an unclimbed 7041 meter peak. With @grahamzimmerman and @now_climbing. We attempted it from the Kondus Valley, a remote area in Northern Pakistan that had been closed for many years to foreigners. It's a complex and dangerous mountain, and we didn't reach the top. But we made a significant effort to find a safe route that avoids the objective hazards. We plan to return so we can finish what we started. #arcteryx #mountaineersbooks #cascadedesigns #petzl #lasportiva #americanalpineclub
Teresa Richey, Mark Richey’s wife, told Rock and Ice that she learned of her husband and his team’s success over the weekend from Swenson’s wife, who had learned it from Zimmerman’s wife. The text they received was simple and conclusive: “Link Sar has been climbed.”
Not long after, Teresa heard directly from Mark. He told her that they had reached the top, but were hurrying down to camp 4 to recuperate, as they were totally exhausted.
As of Tuesday, the team had already reached camp 3 and was continuing to descend, according to Teresa. “But I won’t be happy until they are down in base camp,” she said.
In 2015, Jon Griffith and Andy Houseman made the first ascent of Link Sar West (6,938 meters), a sub peak of the main Link Sar summit. It was Griffith’s fourth expedition on the mountain when he finally made it up.
Swenson’s first attempt on Link Sar was back in 2000. He didn’t return for round two until 2017, this time with Zimmerman and Wright in tow. That same year the alpinists Tom Ballard, of the U.K. and Daniele Nardi, of Italy—both of whom died earlier this year while trying to climb a new route in winter on Nanga Parbat—attempted Link Sar’s northeast face. They made it to 6,100 meters—climbing 1,700 meters of new terrain, up to WI 5 M5—before turning around.
Zimmerman, Wright, Swenson and Richey all have multiple expeditions under their belts to the Himalayas and the Karakoram. Swenson in particular has been climbing in the Karakoram for four decades, and wrote a book, Karakoram: Climbing Through the Kashmir Conflict, about his experiences.
Notably, Swenson and Richey, along with Freddie Wilkinson, climbed Saser Kangri II East in India in 2011, which—until their ascent—had been the tallest unclimbed mountain in the world that was open for climbing. (Bhutan’s Gangkhar Puensum, at 7,570 meters tall, is the highest unclimbed mountain in the world, but climbing on it is prohibited.) The trio won a Piolet d’Or in 2012 for the climb.
Watch Andy Houseman and Jon Griffith’s 2015 FA of Link Sar West
This story is part of Covering Climate Now, a global collaboration of more than 220 news outlets to strengthen coverage of the climate story. Follow along for more climate-related coverage from Rock and Ice, September 16-23.read more