First ascents of huge walls sent free in Charakusa valley, Pakistan

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During a 2-month trip to Pakistan, we (three Belgian climbers, Sean Villanueva, Nicolas Favresse and his brother Olivier Favresse, member of the CAB-RCT (rock climbing team) and strong Polish climber, Adam Pustelnik, put up two new huge free climbs in Charakusa Valley, Pakistan.

The idea to go there emerged when we read about Charakusa’s huge potential for rock climbing. But we really didn’t have much information or many pictures of this place so we were quite anxious thinking we might not find what we were looking for (big walls on steep, high quality granite). But right as we entered the valley many nice walls appeared before us. And the deeper we’d get into it, the more immense and amazing the granite walls seemed to be.

None of us had much experience with such altitude: three of us had never been above 3500m. Here, our base camp was at 4200 m and most of the climbing we did was above 5000m. Acclimatizing felt like we were getting spanked at first. It also didn’t help that we were underestimating the walls to be three times smaller than their actual size. We realized everything is out of proportion so our strategy had to be adapted.

“Badal” about 5-12+ or 7c all free 1200m on Badal wall TOPO & LOCATION

Right in front of our base camp (K7 base camp), a major wall stands. After asking people around about it, we couldn’t believe no one had climbed such a nice looking wall before. The wall didn’t seem like a piece of cake so we decided to attempt it with enough food to last 20 days on the wall.

After 16 days (7 of them stuck in snow storm) and about 1200 meters of sustained and steep climbing, all free (except for 5 meters of icy crack which would not be an issue to free in good condition) up to about 5.12+ or 7c, we reached the top of the rock face at an altitude around 6000m. Unfortunately, a forecast of 8 days of bad weather didn’t leave us enough food to wait for good conditions to climb the snow leading to the real summit (probably about 300m more). Anyway, the rock and the free climbing was what we were really there for. But we have to admit that topping out would have been like a little icing on the cake! Back in base camp we quickly refilled our empty reserves with some actual cake and whisky!

We called our new route “Badal” which means mix cloudy in Urdu (Pakistani national language) because of the “precision” of the Pakistani weather forecast. So, we’ve gotten to name the wall the Badal Wall.

We left 8 pitons and used twelve bolts: 6 were used to hang our portaledges, 5 to reinforce belays in order to haul or rappel, and only one was used in a pitch for free climbing. The route seems safe enough this way.

“Ledgeway to Heaven” about 5-12+ or 7c, all free. 1300 m on Nafees Cap. TOPO & LOCATION

Walking deeper into the valley we noticed a beautiful needle detached from K7. It was for us the nicest feature we had seen in the valley for free climbing. The granite is as good as it gets and the aesthetic of the wall is magical with obvious splitter cracks all over. Almost like a dream. After some research we read that some previous expeditions had tried this feature before in big wall style but didn’t succeed and came down about half way up the wall from the left side of the feature. We decided to try to climb the longest and most obvious line.

Early on our expedition we gave a first attempt but got stuck exhausted from not being acclimatized. We reached a free climbing dead end about 10 pitches up. But after “Badal” we couldn’t be better acclimatized and after scoping the wall we decided to try again with a slightly different crack system.

We left our base camp at 1 a.m. in order to reach the base of the route and start climbing right when the light came (around 4 a.m.). We were moving much faster this time and by noon we passed the place we got stuck last time by doing a bouldery section around
5-12+ or 7c.

Adam, unable to climb because of an open cut on his foot, released us from some weight by jugging with a heavier pack. Aside from him none of us was jugging. It seemed to us more important to be slightly slower and enjoy the ascent more by allowing each of us to free climb. A third of the way up Olivier got suddenly really sick from his stomach and extremely tired. He was puking and having diarrhea. So Sean and Nico were switching lead the whole way.

The quality of each pitch was really exceptional (splitter cracks on perfect granite) and belays on perfect comfortable ledges made it feel like we were cragging the whole way.

We climbed all night non-stop with a bright full moon and reached the summit around 7a.m. with a beautiful clear sky sunrise on many incredible peaks. It was an amazing present. How perfect?!

The climb reached something around 6000m and is approximately 1300 meter long. For about 1000 meter of denivellation with 28 pitches, 2 of which are long simul pitch (300m and 100m). For the whole route we only left one bolt and one piton.

We called our climb “Ledgeway to Heaven” because of all the comfortable ledges we encountered. We named the needle “Nafees Cap” to dedicate our ascent to our brilliant Pakistani guide Nafees.

“The Ski crack” about 5.11 or 6c all free 400m on Iqbal wall TOPO & LOCATION

A few days before the end of our departure Nico, Sean and Jerzy “Juras” Stefanski (polish climber) climbed a new route on a 400-meter wall called “Iqbal Wall”. The line follows an obvious crack on one of the steepest part of the wall. The whole route ranged between 5.10 and 5.11 or 6a/6c with 8 pitches and 200 meters of simul-climbing in order to reach the summit. We called our new route The Ski crack

Early on in our expedition, as a first climb, Olivier and Adam teamed up to attempt a route on the 400-meter Iqbal wall. Half way up the wall Olivier pull off a fridge size block, which rolled on his back, then bounced partly on Adam’s foot. Adam was fine but his foot cut wide open. During the whole expedition, the wound never healed completely so Adam wasn’t able to wear his climbing shoes anymore or do any free-climbing. Despite his ugly cut he joined the team on both big walls and strongly contributed to the success of the expedition by helping with the logistical aspects.

All the members of the team are now back home enjoying the luxury of civilization.

This experience opened our eyes and inspired us to dream about many more projects.


The team (Nicolas and Olivier Favresse, Sean Villanueva, and Adam Pustelnik)

We would like to thanks our expedition sponsors: The Belgian Alpine club, Cab Brabant, [www.>], Seeonee, Bleau , Julbo, UPMM and our personal sponsors for making all these adventures possible.

If you want more information about our expedition please visit our expedition website:


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