Nanga Parbat, locally known as Diamer, is the ninth highest mountain in the world at 8,126 metres above sea level. Located in the Diamer District of Pakistan's Gilgit Baltistan region, Nanga Parbat is the western anchor of the Himalayas; the name Nanga Parbat is derived from the Sanskrit words nanga and parvata which together mean "Naked Mountain". The mountain is locally known by its Tibetan name Diamer or Deo Mir, meaning "huge mountain". Nanga Parbat is one of the eight-thousanders. An immense, dramatic peak rising far above its surrounding terrain, Nanga Parbat is a notoriously difficult climb. Numerous mountaineering deaths in the early and mid-20th century lent it the nickname "Killer Mountain.” Nanga Parbat forms the western anchor of the Himalayan Range and is the westernmost eight-thousander. It lies just south of the Indus River in the Diamer District of Gilgit–Baltistan in Pakistan, which in places flows more than seven kilometers below the high point of the massif. Not far to the north is the western end of the Karakoram range.
Nanga Parbat has tremendous vertical relief over local terrain in all directions. To the south, Nanga Parbat has what is referred to as the highest mountain face in the world: the Rupal Face rises 4,600 m above its base. To the north, the complex, somewhat more sloped Rakhiot Flank rises 7,000 m from the Indus River valley to the summit in just 25 km, one of the 10 greatest elevation gains in so short a distance on earth. Nanga Parbat is one of only two peaks on earth that rank in the top twenty of both the highest mountains in the world, the most prominent peaks in the world, ranking ninth and fourteenth respectively; the other is Mount Everest, first on both lists. It is the second most prominent peak of the Himalayas, after Mount Everest; the key col for Nanga Parbat is Zoji La in Kashmir, which connects it to higher peaks in the remaining Himalaya-Karakoram range. On the Tibetan Plateau Nanga Parbat is the western most peak of the Himalayas where as Namcha Barwa marks the east end; the core of Nanga Parbat is a long ridge trending southwest–northeast.
The ridge is an enormous bulk of rock. It has three faces, Diamir face and Rupal; the southwestern portion of this main ridge is known as the Mazeno Wall, has a number of subsidiary peaks. In the other direction, the main ridge arcs northeast at Rakhiot Peak; the south/southeast side of the mountain is dominated by the Rupal Face. The north/northwest side of the mountain, leading to the Indus, is more complex, it is split into the Rakhiot face by a long ridge. There are a number of subsidiary summits, including North Peak some three kilometres north of the main summit. Near the base of the Rupal Face is a glacial lake called Latbo, above a seasonal shepherds' village of the same name; because of its accessibility, attempts to summit Nanga Parbat began soon after it was discovered by Europeans. In 1895 Albert F. Mummery led an expedition to the peak, reached 6,100 m on the Diamir Face, but Mummery and two Gurkha companions died reconnoitering the Rakhiot Face. In the 1930s, Nanga Parbat became the focus of German interest in the Himalayas.
The German mountaineers were unable to attempt Mount Everest, as only the British had access to Tibet. German efforts focused on Kanchenjunga, to which Paul Bauer led two expeditions in 1930 and 1931, but with its long ridges and steep faces Kanchenjunga was more difficult than Everest and neither expedition made much progress. K2 was known to be harder still, its remoteness meant that reaching its base would be a major undertaking. Nanga Parbat was therefore the highest mountain accessible to Germans and deemed reasonably possible by climbers at the time; the first German expedition to Nanga Parbat was led by Willy Merkl in 1932. It is sometimes referred to as a German-American expedition, as the eight climbers included Rand Herron, an American, Fritz Wiessner, who would become an American citizen the following year. While the team were all strong climbers, none had Himalayan experience, poor planning, coupled with bad weather, prevented the team progressing far beyond the Rakhiot Peak northeast of the Nanga Parbat summit, reached by Peter Aschenbrenner and Herbert Kunigk, but they did establish the feasibility of a route via Rakhiot Peak and the main ridge.
Merkl led another expedition in 1934, better prepared and financed with the full backing of the new Nazi government. Early in the expedition Alfred Drexel died of high altitude pulmonary edema; the Tyrolean climbers Peter Aschenbrenner and Erwin Schneider reached an estimated height of 7,900 m on July 6, but were forced to return because of worsening weather. On July 7 they and 14 others were trapped by a storm at 7,480 m. During the desperate retreat that followed, three famous German mountaineers, Uli Wieland, Willo Welzenbach and Merkl himself, six Sherpas died of exhaustion and altitude sickness, several more suffered severe frostbite; the last survivor to reach safety, Ang Tsering, did so having spent seven days battling through the storm. It has been said that the disaster, "for sheer protracted agony, has no parallel in climbing annals."In 1937, Karl Wien led another expedition to the mountain, following the same route as Merkl's expeditions had done. Progress was made, but more than before due to heavy snowfall.
About 14 June seven Germans and nine Sherpas the entire team, were at Camp IV below Rakhiot Peak when it was overrun by an avalanche. All sixteen men died; the search team fou
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