Alpinists Kyle Dempster and Hayden Kennedy Conquer K7′s East Face

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This is a guest post originally published on August 7, 2012 in Black Diamond Journal. A big thanks to Black Diamond for allowing us to share this story.

Black Diamond athletes Kyle Dempster and Hayden Kennedy are on a three-month alpine mission to the mountains of Pakistan. First up was a return visit to K7′s unclimbed east face, one that had thwarted the duo, along with Slovenian alpinist Urban Novak, in 2011. The Dempster and Kennedy teamed up with Novak again this year, and the trio managed the first ascent in mid-July. Below is the email and photos Dempster sent us with a personal update on the climb.

From: kyle dempster

Subject: Intermission

Date: August 4, 2012 8:47:33 AM MDT

Asalam everyone! Hope y’all are having a great summer. Everything is splendid here in Pakistan. Hayden, Urban and I are finished with part one of our Pakistani double header and with great success! On July 18 and 19 we climbed the east face of K7 in a ballistic 49hr push!

Starting from an ABC below the east face we began climbing at 11pm on the 17th and several hours after sunrise we arrived to our high point from our attempt in September 2011. Conditions low on the route were perfect and reminiscent to last year’s attempt. However, at approximately 6200 meters an un-consolidated snowpack slowed our progress. Conditions did seem safe so we pushed onward toward the crux of the route.

Late in the afternoon on the 18th, tensions seemed a bit elevated as the terrain steepend, route finding became deceivious, and bivy options appeared nil. After reaching an impassible rock section and making one rapel to explore another way, Hayden and I each lead one consecutive M6 pitch and with great relief found a small snow ledge where we were able to dig and chop a place to sit for a few hours. the three of us used two sleeping bags and shared one ground pad to sit, brew up and doze off for a few hrs.

On the 19th we awoke to light snow and made the decision to continue upward. After a few more easier rock pitches and plenty of deep snow it was time for the slovenian power house to take over and Urban Novak lead approximately 200 meters through waste deep snow to K7′s summit.

Some climbers in the past have sought out the summit of K7 as a means to their salvation. For us, the summit felt anti-climactic and was merely a place to begin 10 hrs of rappelling. The process of climbing K7 was where we found our fulfillment, most specifically climbing with our Slovenian friend and his calm wisdom when the shit was hitting the fan. Late in the afternoon on our first day of climbing, conditions were grim, we were tired, cold, and snow pelted our faces. The route ahead was unclear and the three of us spoke about our options for bailing, which was when Urban commented, “But this is what we came for. We knew it would be this way. We must continue.” Urban’s words made the stark misery of the situation seem manageable. After all, K7 was our choice.

Urban has since departed Pakistan, bound for his home, his girlfriend, and some free time before continuing his phd work. Hayden and I are chilling in Skardu, eating as much as possible, sleeping tons and preparing to join Josh Wharton on the Choktoi Glacier for an attempt at another big scary mountain. We begin hiking Aug 4th. Wish us luck!

Thanks to the Mugs Stump Award, Polartec Challenge Grant, Lyman Spitzer Award, and all you fine folks for making this summer possible!

— Kyle Dempster and Hayden Kennedy

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