Herve Barmasse (Lead)
"Every stone, every possible ice line and snow descent will be the aim of The North Face athletes," says expedition leader Herve Barmasse, of this winter-sports exploration of the Gondogoro and Shimshal Valleys of the Karakoram Range of Baltistan, in northern Pakistan. Few climbers have visited this region in the cold season, but those who have trekked there in summer report spectacular waterfalls gushing down from the high peaks. In winter, these waterfalls will be frozen, offering enormous potential for first ascents on ice and mixed terrain. Equally untapped is the opportunity for freeriding, by ski and snowboard, in powder-filled couloirs and on the flanks of peaks as high as 7,000 meters. They'll even be on the lookout for bouldering around their glacier-based camps.
Integral to this quest for pushing the limits of alpine sports is the desire to interact with the Balti villagers who inhabit these mountains. Hamlets of subsistence farmers, like Hushe and Shimshal, display lifeways that are close to the earth, almost medieval. These Islamic folk have mastered the art of surviving the sub-zero Karakoram winters, and Herve's team hope to learn from them. The team intends to offer these people something in return, by resuming the work of the Shimshal Climbing School, which The North Face athlete Simone Moro started in 2008. This school teaches modern mountaineering skills to the local villagers who frequently work as high-altitude porters on climbing expeditions, and Herve and team will offer a course during their visit.
This international team presents a unique array of talents. Herve Barmasse is a famous guide and alpinist from Italy, whose ascents in Patagonia are legendary; Emilio Previtali, also Italian, has climbed 8000-meter peaks and descended them by snowboard; Kris Erickson, from the U.S. state of Montana, is a hard core alpinist, ice climber and big-mountain skier whose action photography has appeared in publications worldwide; and, Eneko Pou is one of Spain's top sport climbers, who recently completed a quest to free climb a big wall on each of the seven continents.