From September 13th to 25th 2004, our French team (Frédéric Hasbani and Marc Vanpé) climb a new route on the north face of Rounkhangchan III (4630 meters) in the Namgma valley, Karakoram, Pakistan. The names of this valley is sometime also written Nangmah.
We walked one long day from Kande village to reach our camp at the perfect meadow just before the terminal tong of Nangma glacier. This area is a yak pasture used by Kande villagers; so be careful some yaks want you to share your food with them!
At this point, on the left bank of Nangma main valley are five to seven very nice spires; these spires are average 500 meters high.
The first tower starting from the right (downward) was climb by an Italian team at the spring of the same year (AAJ 2005 p363??). They call the peak Rounkhangchan I (or Roungkhancan I). Names of mountains in this area are not very clear but it seems that “Rounkhangchan“ is the term used by local people to name the grassy steep slope just right of the towers.
Considering its perfect shape, the most esthetic tower is probably the third one that we named Rounkhangchan III.
We walked 20 minutes from the camp place to reach the bottom of the north face where we search for an obvious cracks line.
We climb in the shadow excepted few minutes each morning. The weather was dry and relatively hot during the 3 first days. The temperature drop suddenly between -5°c to 10°c the next days and
we had some some small snow falls. Nevertheless, the cliff stayed relatively dry and we do not climb any icy part.
We slowly fixed the rope during the first 3 days to R6 and then we climb in capsule style for 6 days.
We used : 3 set of friends (0.25 to 2), 1 set of stoppers (micro and offset useless), 4 short blades, 2 bird becks, 1 copper, 4 lost arrows, 4 various blades, 2 short thin angles, 1 long angle, 19 bolts at belay places and 3 bolts in the pitches are in place.
There is no any good place to sleep in the face without artificial ledge and you cannot find any valuable snow or water.
The climb is extremely interesting with photogenic cracks of all kind of width.
The rock is very strong although sometimes slightly crispy.
The climb is never extreme and relatively easy to protect.
The line is almost always vertical and pass also two big roofs.
We gasp a lot of time to clean earth and grass from some of the cracks.
Considering this fact and that we are not a very strong team, a trained or bigger party can easily reduce the time of ascent. Also your climb should be more interesting than ours if we assume that the grass will not grow again for a time and the dust was swept out.
The A3 grade proposed for some of pitches may be thought as upgraded by trained team used to the new age rating system. A strong party should consider a free ascent of the whole route. It could be very challenging as most of pitches may exceed 7b French grade.
The descent can constitute the normal route. It is relatively obvious:
After scrambling down the almost horizontal 100m long ridge. It's a two to four hours walk around (west) the Rounkhangchan I to reach the camp.
Its seems to be the first ascent on this tower as we did not find any marks of previous visit.
We really enjoyed our trip. Perfectly alone, no too hard, not too easy, not to cold. Maybe the perfect place to train for bigger ascent.
Also, a very interesting human experience for both of us. We named the 630m long route “Zen and the art of big wall maintenance” as the Robert M. Pirsig book was all the time with us.