Masherbrum is the 22nd highest mountain in the world and the 11th highest in Pakistan with a prominence of 2457m. It is located in the region of Baltistan which includes the highest peaks in the Central Karakoram. The mountain is the highest peak in the Masherbrum Mountains, which is a sub-range of the Karakoram that also includes Chogolisa (7665m) and K6 (7281m), and is located directly south of the main central crest.
Masherbrum was first reconnoitred in 1856 by Thomas Montgomerie who denoted the mountain K1 however this name is rarely used in modern day. The massif has two high points. The main (North) summit is 7821m high while the SW summit which is 7806m high. Both have been climbed although not by many. The main summit was first climbed by Americans George Bell and Willi Unsoeld in 1960 via the SW face. They were part of an American-Pakistani expedition led by Nick Clinch. The SW summit was climbed by a Polish team in 1981 although ended in disaster when two of the three summiteers died during the descent.
Masherbrum is one of the hardest mountains in climb above 7500m and has only had four successful ascents to date. Masherbrum SE has only one ascent. Many attempts have given up in response to the high risk of objective dangers. Most attempts have encountered avalanches at close quarters however, with the exception of the first ascent of the SE peak in 1981, none have ended in disaster.
Masherbrum above the Baltoro Glacier
Masherbrum from Camp 3 on Broad Peak
Masherbrum marks the high point of an east-west running ridge that includes Mandu Peak (7127m) and Yermanendu Kangri (7163m) in close proximity. Most people have seen the mountain while trekking along the Baltoro Glacier to Concordia and K2 however most climbers have attempted the mountain from the south via the village of Hushe. Both the Serac Glacier and Masherbrum Glaciers flow from the south face although all attempts have been via the former due to the latter’s objective dangers.
To the north are the Yermanendu and Mandu Glaciers. Attempts have been made beginning from both glaciers however Steve House found the latter to longer have a safe line of ascent in 2003.
What's in the Name?
The meaning of mountain’s name is unclear. Most people of Baltistan believe the name comes from the Balti words Mashadar (muzzle-loading gun) + brum (mountain) as the double summited mountain resembles an old muzzle-loader. The Raja of Khapalu has however suggested that masha means “queen” or “lady” and therefore Masherbrum means “queen of peaks”. Other less-likely possibilities are that the name comes from the Arabic word Mahsher which means doomsday. It has also been suggested that the name means “White Mountain” since burum means white in the Burushaski language of Hunza but since this language is not the local language and does not account for the meaning of masha this meaning is unlikely. (Adams Carter, 1975)
Masherbrum from Gondogoro Peak (5700m) to the east
I'm still researching the mountain's history but the bulk of it is listed below...
An expedition led by James Waller reached 7602m before they
were avalanched. Fortunately nobody was hurt but it was decided to abort the
New Zealand team
Gave up due to deep snow
Came within 100m of the summit
William Unsoeld, George Bell, Nicholas Clinch and Jawed
W Ridge/N Ridge
From a BC on the Mandu Glacier the 14 man Japanese team
established camp I on the west ridge at 16000ft before the route was
destroyed by an avalanche. Subsequently attempted the north ridge but only
reached 18200ft before running out of time and gear.
David Belden & Christine de Colombel
Reached a high point of 23625ft but descended due to bad
weather and heavy snowfall after their tent had been avalanched in the
First ascent of SW peak
Summited by Zygmunt Andrjej Heinrich, Marek Malatynski and
Przemyslaw Nowacki formed part of a larger team. BC was established on Serac
Glacier from where they climbed to the col between the two Masherbrum
summits. Here they bivouacked in a snow hole before continuing to the SW
summit. During another high bivouack Nowacki and Malatynski died in the
night having been exposed to strong cold winds throughout as well as the
preceding day. Heinrich made it back to BC but was lucky to survive a
650-1000ft fall at 24600 ft.
Volker Stallbohm & Abdul Karim
Reached the col between Masherbrum and Yermanendu Kangri but
could not continue to the summit due to bad weather and lack of food.
N Face & W Ridge
From a BC on the Mandu Glacier they reached a high point at
5486m where they had a close encounter with serac fall and promptly decided
the route was too dangerous to continue.
SW peak attempt
Reached 23400ft at which point bad weather broke out and
they were unable to go any higher.
Masahiro Nomura and Takeyasu Minamiura summite via the same
route as the American's in 1960.
Third ascent, new route
Siege-style over a period of a month and a half fixing much rope.
Frequent collapse of the upper glacier force them to traverse right to the
NW ridge. Placed high camps at 5600m (I), 6100m (II), 6300m (III), 7200m
(IV). Above camp IV the team were forced to traverse further right onto the
NW Face due to rotten rock on the NW Ridge. Eventually they reached the col
between the main and SW summits. All ten members reached the summit.
A 6 man team that also sieged the mountain but fixed only 600m. Two
summit attempts were made from camp III at 6300m. The first was abandoned at
7000m at which point 2 members left the expedition due to the enormous
danger of falling rock and ice. On the second attempt one member gave up
while the other three bivouacked at 7200m before continuing to the summit.
The summiteers were Andreas Orgler, Michael Larcher and Robert Renzler. They
reached the summit the day after the Japanese.
E Ridge from North
From the Yermanendu Glacier to the north they attempted the east ridge,
climbing from the Masherbrum La to the summit via several subsidiary summits
including Yermanandu Kangri (7821m). They was quickly thwarted due to poor
The six man expedition attempted the peak in semi-alpine
style. They reached a high point of 7200m at which point they decided the
avalanche risk was too great to continue.
Four man team led by Peter Cole reached a high point of
6050m. At camp II (5650m) they were avalanched from both sides. They were
uninjured but had to wait three days for snow conditions to improve before
descending to BC.
Details to follow
Steve House, Marko Prezelj & Matic Jost
Initially set a BC up in the Mandu Glacier however it was
impossible to gain the ridge as the Austrians had done in 1985. BC was moved
to the Yermanendu Glacier via a small pass. The attempt on Masherbrum was
soon abandoned due to persistently poor snow conditions that lead to a
number of slab avalanches.
Objective danger of the route repeatedly increased after 4-day snowfalls meant the team went no higher than ABC (5800m)
All approaches are via the town of Skardu. Skardu has daily flights between Islamabad and these rarely get cancelled due to bad weather as with the Gilgit flights. The alternative is a long bus ride between Islamabad and Gilgit and a further six hours onward to Skardu. From Skardu it’s easy to hire a jeep to Askole via the Shigar Valley or Hushe via the Shyok Valley.
The Southern Side
The Southern approach begins from Serac Glacier which flows into the Masherbrum Glacier. Hushe is the gateway village from where the base camp can be reached in one day. From Hushe cross the bridge to the true right (west) side of the Hushe River and follow the valley north branching left into the Masherbrum Valley.
Masherbrum from the Hushe Valley
The Northern Side
The northern base camps are approached via the Baltoro Glacier which is Pakistan’s second longest and most famous. The trek along Baltoro begins in the village of Askole to the west from where the terminal moraine of the Baltoro glacier can be reached in two days. Masherbrum is a further two days trek along the Baltoro Glacier. The glacier is fairly easy to navigate due to the large volume of trekkers breaking the route Route-finding will be required at the beginning of the season due to glacial movement through the winter.
Road to Askole
Masherbrum from Baltoro Glacier
The Eastern Side
Those ambitious enough to consider the long East Ridge from the Masherbrum La (5364m) will need to follow the true left bank of the Masherbrum River and ascend the Gondogoro Glacier in two days.
For broader information on reaching the Karakoram please refer to the Karakoram page
NW aspect of Masherbrum's summit
A valid visa is required. Visas are NOT issued at the airport and must be obtained prior to arrival. Some embassies such as those in Central Asia are reluctant to issue visas and advise you to obtain them from your home country. A single-entry tourist visa is valid for 3 months from the date of arrival in pakistan and for 6 months from the date of issue. Some visas are only valid for 3 months from the date of issue so check if necessary when applying. Visa prices vary. Americans pay the most for their visa whilst Japanese get theirs free! Visa extensions and reentry stamps used to almost impossible to obtain however the process has become remarkably easier in the last few years. Gilgit DC is a good place to try.
The Ministry of Tourism has decided to maintain the 50% reduction in mountaineering royalty fees for peaks above 6500m during 2009. Royalties per expedition are based on a party of 7. Persons additional to this number will be subject to an additional royalty fee. Current royalties are listed below.
Fee for 2009
royalty per person
royalty per person
All other 8000m
7501 - 8000m
7001 - 7500m
6501 - 7000m
Up to 6500m
Restricted Zone Permit
Masherbrum at sunset
Masherbrum falls within a restricted zone when approaching from the north but not when approaching from the south. Restricted zones are areas relatively close to border areas (ie India, China and Afghanistan). In order to visit these areas a permit must be purchased from the Ministry of Tourism ($50 per person), a licensed guide hired, and a personal accident insurance policy taken out for the guide(s) and porters. The guide is required for the duration even though he will do little once at base. There are climbing guides in Pakistan however few are any good by Western standards (this is probably the wrong mountain to be climbing anyway if you require a guided ascent). One member must attend a mandatory briefing and debriefing at the Ministry of Tourism in Islamabad although many skip the debriefing. Most people use a trekking company in Pakistan who will provide a licensed guide, deal with bureaucracies and make all arrangements.
The above requirements are only for foreigners. Pakistanis who are not from the Northern Areas can easily visit these areas without a permit.
When to Climb
The mountaineering season runs from June to September with July and August being the most popular months to climb in Pakistan. No peaks of Masherbrum's size have been climbed in the Karakoram during the winter months due to the severe conditions. Masherbrum would be a very poor choice for a winter Karakoram ascent concidering the frequency of avalanches in the summer months.
The Ks of the Karakoram
Masherbrum from Baltoro
North Face of Masherbrum
Masherbrum is rarely referred to as K1 in modern day. The “K” mountains refer to those that were reconnoitred by British Royal Engineers lieutenant Thomas Montgomerie.