Paul Holding er engelsk, men bor i Norge. Siden han er engelsk har han skrevet teksten på engelsk.

Laila Peak (6096m), Hushe Valley i Karakoram, Pakistan. 8 - 22 juni 2012

With four uninterrupted weeks of "me time" ahead, I left work ridiculously overladen with bags. My destination was Oslo's Gardemoen airport where I would be whisked away to the Karakoram mountain range in Pakistan for a mini ski expedition. If only it were that easy...

That was on 31st May, 2012. By the 8th June, we were finally in base camp. It took seven days to get there. Never do you hear: "I'm going on holiday...It's going to take seven days to get there." Not these days anyway. You probably couldn't even manage 80 days around the world slow enough anymore but we managed seven to get to the Karakoram which meant another seven to get back and which left us with 18 days to climb and ski.

I'll spare you the details of the trip there (and back. It was the same) but suffice to say after an epic 26.5 hrs non-stop drive on the famous Karakoram highway to Skardu which was pretty uncomfortable and sleep deprived with the odd armed police escort, we were all more than ready to get to Laila Peak base camp, recover, rest and acclimatise.

I first saw Laila Peak in 2006 on Fred Ericsson's website (skied together with Jørgen Aamot) and then came across it again in a book by Simon Yates (of "Touching the Void" fame) called "The Flame of Adventure" and was instantly struck by its beauty. It's not a particularly well known mountain outside the climbing world but I think all would agree that seen from this perspective, Laila Peak would be vying for top spot on the podium of a Miss Mountain World competition.

Only joking. But this is seriously how we found her for the first 7 days. Very shy. The weather was conspiring against us, so we never really got to have a good look at her but we luckily had a postcard to remind us of why we had come half way around the world. Who needs the real thing when you have a postcard. Overrated. I managed to snap this shot while she was feeling a lot more brazen but still unwilling to reveal herself completely.

My first attempt at organising a trip with a friend, Riis, fell through in 2010/11 when he injured his knee. On my next attempt, there was no mistaking and we managed to get a team of four together: me (splitboard), Brendan O'Sullivan (splitboard), Edward Blanchard Wrigglesworth (yes, that is his real name and the token skier!) and Luca Pandolfi (snowboard). Chamonix was the common denominator for all of us, having either lived or currently living there.

The only person I knew from the group and had skied with before was Brendan. I'd had an intense "getting to know" week with Luca when he came to visit me in Lofoten in April and had met Ed for about a minute many years previously when he burst through Brendan's door in chamonix full of excitement about nothing in particular. No wonder our trip was described by one person in Chamonix as a "mail order" expedition. I knew Brendan and Brendan knew all of us, so there were risks involved if we didn't get on but I accepted them if it meant going to ski Laila Peak. Either way, none of us had been to the Karakoram or Himalayas before. We were all Karakoram rookies and equal in that sense. Time would soon tell whether this had been a good decision or not.

The north west face of Laila Peak looked like the perfect introduction to high altitude, steep skiing. Not too high and not too steep. Achievable. At 6100m and with a gradient of around 45 degrees for most of the face and steepening for the last 150m to an unknown gradient (Fred's blog puts it between 55 and 60 degrees but he was never on the summit himself), it looks like a straight forward line down.

This is where I have to take umbrage with the Pakistani Tourist Board for their marketing ruse (and any other Flikr enthusiast who has ever taken a picture of Laila Peak for that matter). Face on, Laila Peak looks nothing like any of the picutres taken of its beautiful profile. Absolutely nothing like it. It is an enormous, complex and intimidating face with massive, terminal exposure. With the collective experience of the group, this was probably going to be the biggest line any of us had skied. And that was saying a lot. Among the group, some of the biggest, most technically demanding descents Chamonix has to offer were being skied week in, week out before this trip. I speak for the group and I might be wrong but I think everyone was intimidated. And not in a nice way. To the point where we started looking for more achievable objectives.

The route

 View from Col of Laila Peak courtesy of Luca Pandolfi

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