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The secret of the Masherbrum

Why Masherbrum? What is the Masherbrum? The Masherbrum what?... It is time to (re)lift the veil on this mystery and tell you the story of the Masherbrum, a high summit of the Karakoram massif, located a few miles from the Himalayas. A little-known summit, yet mythical for mountaineers. We tell you why.

Ask a child to draw you a mountain: chances are that he or she will draw you the Masherbrum. Indeed, the Masherbrum is the near-perfect summit: a large triangle with a pointed top, stretching towards the sky. A 7821m high peak with an etymology that reflects its majesty: in the Balti language - a dialect of India and Pakistan - Masherbrum means "the Queen of the Mountains".

But behind this enchanting appearance lies a mysterious mountain that refuses to be discovered, and whose steep and dangerous slopes repel one expedition after another.

The first westerners to explore the region in 1856 thought - wrongly - that Masherbrum was the highest peak in the Karakoram, hence the name "K1". This was before the discovery of the famous "K2", the second highest peak on earth (8611m) after Everest. K1 was later renamed Masherbrum in reference to its local name, unlike K2, which due to its isolation, had no local name.

Several factors explain the low media coverage and the lack of expeditions to the Masherbrum, despite its widely recognised beauty. First of all, the competition that surrounds it. Unlike its neighbours K2, Broad Peak and Gasherbrum I and II, it does not exceed the fateful 8000m altitude mark, and is therefore not part of the restricted club of "fourteen 8000s". Away from the spotlight and the glitter, it only attracts climbers who enjoy the technical, physical and mental challenge it represents.

Sunset on the Masherbrum from the Baltoro glacier

The second factor, and probably the most important, is that it is an extremely technical mountain, with no easy routes. It is a much more difficult peak than the vast majority of 8000m summits. Attempted as early as 1938 and climbed for the first time in 1960 by an American-Pakistani expedition, the Masherbrum has only seen four roped climbs to its summit, by four different routes. And the last one was in 1985!

These thirty-five years of invincibility reinforce the myth of this inaccessible mountain. At 3,000m high, the very steep north-east face is one of the last great Himalayan problems. In 2014, the very strong Austrian climbers David Lama (†), Peter Ortner and Hansjörg Auer (†) joined forces to tackle it, but had to give up at the foot of the difficulties, like all the ropes that had attempted this same face before them.

A face which remains untouched to this day. There is no doubt that the first rope to climb it, if it ever happens, will be named one of the Piolets d'Or.

Masherbrum summit point (7821m)

Masherbrum summit point (7821m)

A few Frenchmen have ventured into this adventure at the end of the world. In 1980, the mountaineers David Belden and Christine de Colombel wanted to climb the Masherbrum in "alpine style", i.e. without any assistance. But as is often the case on the slopes of the Masherbrum, nothing goes according to plan. Their three-month expedition, marked by very harsh weather conditions, fails when their camp is wiped out by several successive avalanches and Christine de Colombel, injured, embarks on a three-day desperate retreat. On her return, she recounts her expedition and survival in a book with the evocative title, "Voyage au bout du vide".

Behind its image of a perfect mountain and its attractive silhouette, the Masherbrum is one of the last completely wild territories on the planet: a realm of rocks, furious winds and ice, with no trace of human activity... and which must remain as such? In any case, this is the symbol we have chosen to carry our brand values, and make its silhouette our logo.