On 26 June, mountaineers and Alpine guides François Cazzanelli and Pietro Picco established what is believed to be a new route on the Diamir face of Nanga Parbat (8126m), named 'Aosta Valley Express' 1400m+ AI 90° M6 85°. Just over a week later, Cazzanelli set a new speed record on the mountain, climbing it without supplemental oxygen in a time of 20 hours and 20 minutes.
The climbers are part of a group of six guides from the Aosta Valley who are on expedition in Pakistan this summer: Roger Bovard, Marco Camandona, Emrik Favre and Jerome Perruquet complete the team. The aim of the expedition was to summit the 8000er, and also to look for unclimbed ground and lesser-climbed routes.
To acclimatise, the whole group first attempted to summit Genalo Peak 6606m, reaching 6100m. The team was then forced to stay at basecamp for a week due to heavy snowfalls, which covered the camp in 1.5m of snow.
As the weather and the conditions on the mountain improved, Cazzanelli identified a line for which there was no record, but which looked climbable, leading up to 6000m (Camp 2) where it joins with the normal Kinshofer route.
The route involves climbing a vertical serac then follows steepening snowfields up to a mixed section that leads onto the ridge that joins with the Kinshofer route, totalling 1800m of climbing.
Cazzanelli commented: "A great moment in the climb was reaching the ridge and meeting the rest of the group at Camp 2 on the Kinshofer route and descending the Kinshofer back to BC."
Picco added: "We have decided to call the route Aosta Valley Express to honour our belonging to the Aosta Valley and the the Aosta Valley Guides, Francois being a guide from Cervinia in the Matterhorn Guides Society and my being from Courmayeur in the Courmayeur Guides Society. The climb was done in a single push from basecamp, hence the name express."
The group spent some days at altitude to acclimatise before attempting a summit push.
On 4 July, Cazzanelli summited via the Kinshofer route, without supplemental oxygen, in a time of 20 hours and 20 minutes, from Base Camp to Summit.
He set off alone on 3 July at 11:30am from basecamp (4,200m). After 8 hours he had made it to Camp 3 (6,850m), where he rested for four hours in a pre-prepared tent with the rest of his team. Cazzanelli had left the tent there a few days earlier on his final acclimatisation round.
At 11:30 p.m. on July 3, he began his summit push from C3, together with Jerome Perruquet and Cesar Rosales. After 8 hours and 20 minutes, at 7:50 a.m. on the morning of July 4 , they stood on the summit together. They were joined a short time later by Pietro Picco and then the remaining members of the expedition team – Roger Bovard, Emrik Favre and Marco Camandona – who all reached the summit at 10.30 a.m.
The whole team climbed without supplemental oxygen. It worth noting that from C3 to the summit the route was not fixed with ropes. At 8:30 p.m. on July 4, Franz arrived back to Base Camp.
Cazzanelli commented: "Nanga Parbat 8,126m. A great team brings home a great dream. A gigantic emotion for everyone! The whole team opted for a quick climb along the Kinshofer route from base camp (4,200m) to the summit with only a short stop at C3 at around 6,850m. To make everything more exciting, no fixed ropes were placed from this last field to the summit! I am very pleased to have climbed a complex and technical mountain at a good pace with 4,000m of positive altitude difference. With Nanga, we end the first part of our adventure. Stay tuned our trip to Pakistan continues!"
The group are now in Skardu before moving on to their next objective.