Lotta Hintsa and Don Bowie were the first to arrive on Broad Peak this year and were hoping to be among the first on the summit.
Events to follow would mean that things didn’t quite go to plan.
We kept up with their journey via this Diary…
“Time to go home after our last “BC-summit in one-push” ended in C3 due to avalanche risk! It was a continuous ass-kicking of two months and an adventure with a big “A” wrapped in a pretty bow and that’s what made it interesting!
A better recap will follow shortly.
“Ps. I will ignore every comment that pities us for not reaching the summit. “Reaching the summit doesn’t make a climber, but what happens between basecamp and summit does.”
“Yesterday we left at midnight with half the manpower we were supposed to have, as people who had committed to helping decided to sit back. Come on people, where did you disappear? Mirza Ali’s fixing team takes the lead and me, Hugo and Nils help how we can, navigating deep snow and a sea of crevasses. Some hours later two more climbers show up to help too. Eventually we arrive at a point around 7750m (Inreach) where a huge crevasse has collapsed and cut off the route. Porters decide to go down, four of us try to proceed. We find a sketchy alternative route and try to climb higher. It took us 45min to climb just 20-30m. The snow just collapsed underneath… so we turn around. Feeling good and only 300m to go to the summit… it sucks.
“I get to C3, full of new climbers waiting to go up the next day. Don Bowie radioes me and tells that there’s a high altitude porter below C3 who needs help desperately. Because I was dehydrated, hungry, and hadn’t slept in ages I knew I wasn’t the best option. I was trying to ask help but everyone pretended they didn’t hear. So I packed my huge pack (no one was willing to lend their tent for a deposit either) and started going down. Belgian Jeff came after me and took over the rescue. Enormous respect!! I tried my best to help, offering medicine and just being available.”
“Today, I’m down in BC, masses on their way to summit…”
“A lot has happened since my last post… here’s the last 48hrs:
“On July 15th Lotta Hintsa and I left base camp for C2 breaking trail in deep snow from C1-C2 with Niels (Belgium) and Hugo (Boliva)- both strong guys. Lotta and I earlier struck a deal with Mirza Ali to work with 7 of his guys to fix to the summit along with members of two other teams (unmentioned). We had worked with Mirza’s guys before fixing deep snow from C2-C3… fun guys and strong. The plan was for Mirza’s guys, Lotta and I, and the 2 other teams to work together fixing to the summit on the 17th. Then came yesterday morning: I burst out of the tent at C2 puking and purging violently – I’m sure a result of drinking melted snow in crowded C2 with frozen human faeces now blowing around everywhere… Shivering with fever and still purging I had to go down. Lotta and I agreed she would go up. With a huge pack she climbed to C3 while I crawled down the mountain and back into base camp. This morning, Lotta kept our side of the bargain and helped break trail and fix with 5 of Mirza’s guys, and also with Niels and Hugo again. The two other ‘unmentioned’ teams wouldn’t leave their tents in C3, choosing to wait for the route above to be fixed for them. But Lotta and the small group worked tirelessly for 14 hours until defeated by deep snow at 7700m- they just didnt have enough manpower. I am so proud of this small team- and especially Lotta- and I hope those who simply waited below at camp for the way to be opened for them for their summit push tomorrow appreciate their effort.”
Lotta has arrived at Camp 3 ahead of a summit push but Don was sick so stayed behind.
“I guess it’s time for an update. The last time we went up (no idea what day it was… let’s call it first day of the weather window) we climbed straight back to camp 2 with crazy heavy packs, with enough food and gas to last us five days and some more rope. We also wanted to bring up all our summit gear, like bigger down garments, etc.
“In camp 2 we stayed for three nights, while working up towards camp 3, braking trail, carrying ropes and fixing some of the way. It was a pleasure to work alongside a Shimshali fixing team at one point, awesome guys! The snow was at times up to my chest and above, crazy…
“Third morning we made our way to camp 3, slept a night, hung out a day as other climbers came up behind us. The next night Don Bowie and I decided to see how high we could push, maybe even to the summit. But the snow was very deeeep and honestly we were tired from working five days on the mountain, pushing the route to camp 3 with the HAPs, so we turned around near the first seracs, took a nap in C3 and came all the way down to basecamp.
“Now waiting out a storm and resting and eating… looks like we’re gonna get more snow!!
“The view I just had was a massive avalanche swiping over camp 3 and making it all the way down to the glacier. Luckily no one was even close but that’s not very good news… for now we’re in basecamp with Don Bowie but moving upwards soon.”
Lotta – “Well it’s been an interesting week!
“This spot, aka camp 1, became way too familiar. We spent six days on the mountain of which five we spent here. Every day we pushed the route (and our luck) higher up. We wanted to do our part so we carried up rope and fixed it on the route between camp 1 and camp 2. But every day we were turned back by huge snow masses waiting to be triggered into an avalanche. One missed us by a few minutes after we turned back. Don Bowie made great observations and good calls and kept us safe. He said these were some of the most dangerous snow conditions he’s ever climbed in…”
“But finally yesterday, after some sketchy climbing, we made it to camp 2!!! Along with all our gear. So we stayed for the night, though we had to leave in a hurry early in the morning when it started snowing hard again. At this point we’d run out of food so we didn’t have the option of getting stuck for days. Now back in basecamp that has changed dramatically since we left six nights ago. It’s at least quadrupled in size. Now we eat, rest and listen to the storm.”
Don – “Three weeks of poor weather since we arrived at base camp. Lotta and I have managed to break trail toward Camp 2 on two occasions and have stayed in Camp 1 for 5 nights – tonight will be 6… , but deep snow and avalanche conditions have so far turned us back from reaching 2. Today we managed to stash some gear and rope on the way to Camp 2, slogging at times through 40-50cm of snow. The depth of snow is not the issue so much as the unstable slopes, but after the intense sun this afternoon and eve things are beginning to stabilize. One meter at a time… carefully.”
Don – “K2 looms in front of Lotta on her way to Broad Peak this morning but the mountain said ‘No’ (emphatically) and we retreated. The weather in the Karakoram has been far from ideal since we arrived. A few close calls with snow avalanches have kept us on our toes.”
Lotta – “We are two crazy relieved climbers at the bottom of the mountain after coming down from camp 1 this morning. It’s a good day to be alive! Story might follow later but meanwhile, at least we hauled 50kg+ to camp 1 yesterday. Stay safe.”
Lotta – “The hardest part about expeditions for me is waiting for something to change that you have zero control over: the weather. But at the same time I find that it teaches me the most. Especially about myself (sometimes this includes tears). You can shout at the storm that’s making you uncomfortable or change something in yourself (concept by Don Bowie, can be applied in most areas of our lives).”
“Could you play the waiting game?”
Lotta – “To-do today: stare at Broad Peak willing the avalanches to come down and clean the mountain. It’s been at least 20 within the last hour.”
Lotta – “Me and Don Bowie arrived in Broad Peak basecamp on June 5th and I started off the expedition with a 4-day intestinal infection with the second highest fever of my life. Not a treat on the Baltoro glacier,”
“Antibiotics kicked in and we hauled some heavy loads to camp 1 where we stayed for 2 nights but were forced to come down this morning due to some bad weather. Now we wait…
“It’s been fun having the mountain to ourselves but it’s also great to hear about so many other groups starting their journeys towards summer expeditions.
“If all goes well, we’ll move on to G2 after BP to check out the French route I’ve been dreaming of for two years now! I think I’ve mentioned it quite a few times, so finally!!
Don – “Camp 1 on Broad Peak and we have the mountain all to ourselves. Heavy spring snows have loaded the slopes but currently conditions are very good. Lotta Hinsta and I arrived in base camp on June 5th and have already managed 2 nights at C1.
“We’re back in base camp now, waiting out a short storm cycle before our next foray up the mountain.”