With a heavy pack and wool mittens, Don leads up the through a slot in the steep face. The old, white, fixed lines are visible as we ascend.
Steep, loose rock sections are interspersed with small ice fields on the face. The ice offers rapid, but very exposed progress compared to the demanding rock climbing.
Don carefully stems up the groove where the rock quality improves higher on the face.
Don manuvers upwards in the Black Pramid to continue past where he had fixed the rope the night before our third bivouac.
I look back at Don as I leave our fifth bivouac at about 6300 meters, our first night without water, and begin the long traverse towards the huge dihedral in the center of the face. Our pack with the stove was dropped the previous evening as I rushed to make progress before nightfall. It was a huge mistake. After the traverse, the 300 meter great dihedral is the last major difficulty and the most difficult climbing on the route.
Don climbs towards me into the base of the Great Dihedral about 300 meters below the summit. We are thirsty and tired as we climb pitch after pitch of difficult rock during day six on the face.
Don climbs onto what will be our last bivouac ledge before we can reach the summit ice fields. We have climbed all but one extremely challenging pitch of the Great Dihedral.
Fromt the last pitch of the Great Dihedral, I look down on Don and our last bivi ledge near the top of the face. We spend our second night without food or water on that ledge at about 6500 meters. I have somehow climbed off route via this last crack system and force my way up a variation that is extremely difficult. I was very nearly defeated.
The final pitch of rock and mixed is below Don's belay. Thankfully, we find a steep ramp of ice up the final summit ice wall guarding the snow slopes to the top. It is late in the day and we will be forced to endure a seventh bivouac on the summit.
The Great Dihedral finally gives way to the snowfields on the top of peak. We arrive late and are forced to endure another night without water, our third, on the top of the peak.
In the morning we begin our descent into the Garganta and what we hope will lead down the peak. We are extremely weak and dehydrated after three days without food or water, and our ninth on the mountain. On the descent a few hours later, a Japanese team finds us and invites us into their tent to recover and rehydrate. To this day, Don and I are grateful for their act of kindness.