Nanga Parbat Diamir Face: A love affair spanning for more than 100 years
Contrary to the much visited Fairy Meadows and Raikot face of Nanga Parbat, Diamir aka Diamoro (in local dialect) is much rugged, long and a raw trek. It takes a painstaking three days of a continuous trek to reach the south-western face of the mountain from where one can directly see the main summit standing at an altitude of 8,125m.
The trek shoots up from the local village of Guner Das some 15 kilometers beyond Chilas and the jeep trek takes about 2 hours to reach the Jeep stop which is also the Diamoro Village in the middle of the North-western flank of Himalayas. The jeep trek is less scary and steep as compared to the one that leads to the Fairy meadows but is a longer one and pliable by jeeps and locally operating station wagons alike.
The Diamir trek takes one from 1200m ASL from Chilas to 4800m ASL in a matter of three days breaking it to a roughly 1 km altitude gain every day. A few similarities this trek shares with Raikot trek is the ruggedness at the beginning and thick deciduous and coniferous forest at the end. The Base Camp itself is quite green in the summers and offers nutrition-rich grazing grounds for the local herdsmen.
Diamir Base Camp is particularly notable for its rich history of climbing expeditions spanning for more than 100 years. From the early days of imperial expeditions to the mainstream explorers, all the way to the renegade Hippy climbing bums, Daimir Face has been the center of attraction thereby boasting of a unique climbing history unlike any other face of the mountain.
The very first expedition to the mountain also chose the Diamir side in 1895 when Albert F. Mummery attempted the famous Mummery Rib reaching an altitude of 6100m and lost his life during the attempt. Nanga remained focus of the German expeditions in the early years of 1900s since Everest was under British control and most of today’s northern Pakistan was distributed into Princely states thus giving access to the Nazi Germany.
No fewer than 33 climbers lost their lives before the first successful assent from the Raikot side by Austrian Herman Buhl.
Diamir face is also the sight where the famous Reinhold Messner and his brother Gunther Messner decided to traverse Nanga for the first time in 1970 and Gunther lost his life while descending form the Diamir side. His body was later recovered from the glacier in proceeding years.
The most attempted routes from the Diamir side include the “Messner Route” aka “Messner Solo 1978” which constitutes to a relatively longer route to the summit starting from the base of the Diamir glacier and making a longer loop on the southern side. This route bypasses the hanging seracs at 6200m and crosses the Merkl Notch before reaching the top.
Most attempted route by far to this date, is the famous Kinshofer Route, first attempted by Toni Kinshofer, Anderl Mannhardt, Rudl Marek, Michl Anderl, Hubert Schmidtbauer, Manfred Sturm and Sigi Low. The team successfully overcame the demanding Kinshofer wall with a climbing difficulty of 5.7.
On June 21, 1962, Low, Kinshofer, Mannhardt, Sturm and Anderl reached Camp 4 at 7150m just around the Bazhin Basin and pushed for the summit the very next morning at 1 a.m.
Strum and Anderl turned back while Low, Kinshofer and Mannhardt pressed on to reach the summit after a gruesome 15 hours climb draining out all sense and energy. Particularly exhausted, Low slipped on a cornice and suffered a serious fall. Kinshofer decided to stay with Low while Mannhardt descended for help. Low later died and Kinshofer and Manhardt were rescued by a climbing team. Severely frost-bitten, Kinshofer and Mannhardt lost all their toes and other limbs and barely survived the ordeal. Mannhardt, in an interview later admitted that the summit success was grossly overshadowed by their struggle to survive. “At the time there was lots of talking about ‘victory’ over the mountain. … We felt the least victorious. We felt rather beaten. We felt we had failed.”
Alex Txikon, Simone Moro and Ali Sadpara also chose the Kinshofer Route for the first successful winter ascent on Feb 26, 2016.
Mummery Rib is also one of the center attractions for climbers since the route has never been completed to the top. Italian Daniele Nardi successfully covered the Mummery Rib 6450m in 2013 but had to descend later because of climbing difficulties.
Mummery Route is one of the most direct routes to the top thereby also poses considerable difficulty with steep rocky ribs and little help for an easy climb. Mummery, 1895, wanted to reach the summit via this route climbing light with few provisions and some firewood which was found by an expedition 44 years later.
One of the recent routes include the Messner 2000 which starts from the northern edge of the Diamir Face and takes a long straight and gradually ascending route to the Northern Summit before joining the Kinshofer Route before the Bazhin Basin. This route was used by several winter Alpine expeditions.Diamir Face continues to be the pinnacle of human endurance with an ostentatious climbing history spanning more than 100 years. Lack of visitors to this difficult trek has kept it in serene and unspoiled condition, offering breathtaking sites and places.