After a communication delay due to crippling avalanches and floods in Pakistan, Jaskółka has reported back that he was able to shred a new mid-mountain line on the 8,126M (26,660 ft) Himalyan peak in early August. Jaskółka safely negotiated a first snowboard descent of a steep, icy passage between approximately 6200M- 4600M on a Jones Flagship snowboard. He named the 3 and 1/2 km long line, “The Death Couloir”.
Read on for Jaskółka’s full report:
The flight to Pakistan and the caravan to base camp went quite fast and 7 days after leaving Poland I reached the base of Nanga Parbat. Arriving at camp, we were the only climbing team on the mountain which meant we would have to fix all our own ropes and couldn’t rely on anyone else. I wondered how we would tackle this challenge but I knew the pleasure would be the greatest doing everything on our own.
The other news I got upon arrival was that the route I’d planned on riding, the Messner, was not feasible. Avalanches had found the route quite attractive and flushed the line every couple minutes.
My Jones Snowboard was a huge hit among the Pakistani people at camp. They had big smiles on their faces whenever I brought it out and also gave me a new nickname, “Babyman”, because of my young age.
On the third day I spent the night at camp one, 4800M, and then my partner Piotr and I fixed ropes to about 5300M to check out the new chosen ascent route. The ascent couloir started at camp one and by 5300M the slope was about 50 degrees.
Unfortunately, the weather changed rapidly the next day and it was rainy or snowy for the rest of the trip. Rain and high temps caused avalanches and rock fall in the couloir which ended up ripping down our fixed ropes and taking out our camp at 4800M three times!
After several days of bad weather we got a clear window to return to camp one and then fix ropes up the couloir to camp two at 6300M. This allowed me to check out the rest of the couloir – from 5400M on up it was 60 degrees. My climbing partner thought that riding the route would be impossible. An incoming storm forced us down from camp two, but having seen the line made the goal a lot more realistic.
The rain continued to pester us for four more days but then a decent break in the clouds opened up allowing us to climb back up to camp one. This time I brought the Flagship. When we got to camp one it had been destroyed by avalanches so we put up yet another tent and went to sleep hoping for continued clear skies the next day.
Waking up at 3 am the weather was surprisingly good so we took off up the couloir to camp two. Climbing went well and after several hours I reached the top of the Death Couloir with a Flagship on my back! Now all I had to do was strap in and ride.
Clinging to the steep wall with my legs shaking and heart beating through my chest, it took me about 20 minutes of full gymnastics to get strapped in. And then, after a few prayers and deep breaths, I dropped in.
Snow conditions weren’t very good making the riding extremely difficult. Not to mention that the slope was 60 degrees which made heelside turns extra sketchy. I had to quickly jump back to my toe edge. It was also quite hot making you realize the lack of oxygen. At several points I rode alongside the rocks to avoid avalanches and used my ice axe to anchor in and slow down.
After about 15 minutes of riding I saw camp one and rode with a huge smile all the way to my tent. It had been undoubtedly the most difficult descent of my life and the first snowboard line on Nanga Parbat in history.
And then, of course, the clouds came in and pinned us in camp for three more days. We rested and prepared to make another summit attempt. Starting up again, we got midway through the Death Couloir and were pummeled by rockfall. I got hit in the hand and stomach and my partner Rysiek got tagged in the thigh. We took this as a stern warning and slowly retreated with injuries – Rysiek standing on one leg and me not able to use one hand.
Back at base camp we knew it was the end of our journey and thanked the mountain for it’s kindness. Avalanches continued to pound our base camp before we could leave however, and buried much of our equipment including multiple cameras with recordings of my ride.
I’d like to dedicate my Nanga Parbat descent to Fredrik Ericsson, who passed away on K2 this year. I hope in the heavens, above us all, that the mountains are as beautiful as here. Rest in peace Fredrik. ~ Marcin