This summer Pete Brittleton and Paul Etheridge were hoping to realise their dreams of standing on the summit of K2.
After two failed attempts with previous expeditions would it be 3rd time lucky this time when they went it alone in the first all British K2 attempt for 20 years.
First up was Broad Peak.
We followed their climb with this Diary from them and their team…
“32, 27, 38 miles in 3 days. Our first bed in 43 days! Timely and romantically we’ve arrived in Skardu as the sun is setting.”
“Today, it is with the greatest of sadness that Pete and I have had to end our amazing expedition in Pakistan.
“We were due to make our way to K2 base camp and start our planning for the ascent. On receipt of 3 different weather forecasts we can see that heavy snow and wind will dominate the mountain for at least 6 days, then we will need a period of consolidation before it can be worked. This will mean a further wait of 9-10 days before we can climb.
“Pete and I simply do not have the time left on our visas/permits to climb, to be able to safely achieve our goal. The decision has been taken out of our hands.
“As you would expect we are truly upset with this ending and as committed mountaineers would have preferred almost any outcome other than this.
But we know that for some families they will not have the opportunity to welcome home their loved ones and it’s for this reason we choose to return proud and thankful.
“We are proud to have been part of a season here in Pakistan where so many people have shared their successes over the past weeks and hope that along with us they will continue to support the beauty of this country and the people who selflessly give so much to ensure climbers have a these opportunities.
“Pete and I can both, in time reflect on this adventure and know for sure we have positively impacted on the lives and livelihoods of many, many Pakistani men.
“Those that have contributed to our cause, we can’t thank you enough and we look forward to connecting with you all on our return home to discuss how we have and will support the future of this mountain and it’s people. It means so much to have had your support. We won’t forget it.
“We can hold our heads up high and know that we have done our best and most when asked for, we can and will remember that we gave up the opportunity of success for the safety of others and can celebrate that for us, this was our summit.”
“So Broad Peak…
“I can guarantee that neither Pete or I have ever said that Broad Peak is easy, nor have we ever said it’s a walk in the park-but we have on numerous occasions said that it’s easier than K2, less technical than K2, less demanding than K2 and far easier to acclimatise on than K2.
But what really is this mountain like?
“Now Broad Peak is a hard, dangerous 8000m mountain with the SAME objective dangers as any other mountain in the Himalayas-Like all of the great 8000m it has every element that makes it attractive.
“Fantastically sexy vistas, views for miles and miles of the Pakistani Karakoram.
Great located basecamp at the heart of the Karakoram.
“Staged camps, C1, C2, C3
Relatively cheap permits, $700
BUT like any 8000m mountain it has dangers both hidden and obvious.
“Climbing to altitude, climbing to 8000m without oxygen has inherent dangers that don’t need listing here, the dangers of this “easier” mountain that do need highlighting are the ones I have physically seen, the ones we have experienced and some that have tried ending our expedition.
“Steep, steep terrain right from the off to ABC and camp 1
Tiny, shelf like camping at C1
Rock fall and risk from ABC
Long, long days from C2-C3
Long summit days in excess of 16+hours
Cold harsh camps from C2
No fixed ropes
No rescue plan in place
“Now, I bet if you took a poll of potential climbers I would wager that none of the above would be mentioned in a catalogue.
“Take it from us, Broad Peak is a hard relentless mountain ready to bite you in the bum if you are not prepared. It’s as hard as any 8000m Peak and should be respected in equal measures.
“Pete and I have learnt to respect all mountains and seeing Broad Peak in its many guises teaches us to stay vigilant at all times. Thank you Broad Peak for allowing us to grow and thank you for keeping us on our toes. Underestimate it…… never!”
“Thank you for the super kind words of support and all of the emails and texts, they boost Pete and I massively.
“So for the second time Pete and I tried for the summit of Broad Peak. Sadly and very much again out of our hands we failed to reach the summit.
“At 03:15 last night we gathered all the information to hand regarding the quality of snow pack, environment of the mountain and decided that the safety of us and our team was more important than the summit
“Those of you that have been on a winter skills training with me will know that when we make decisions on the quality of snow it starts 3-5 days before but also when you are physically in-situ we look for:
Sounds of snow, polystyrene squeak
Layering and “slab” effect
Bonding of snow crystals
Gradient of slope
“All of the above was taken into consideration at 7500m, after some very long hard days, after sleep deprivation, after being food deprived, after being dehydrated.At 03:15.
“We won’t lie that the previous days fatality on K2 didn’t factor in our decision making but only an idiot would take the most up to date information and ignore it.
“It’s never easy to turn your back on a summit push, it’s certainly not easy to turn away on the 2nd attempt which was emotionally and physically draining. Pete and I have had to find more resources and more resolve than on any mountain to date.
“We choose to put ourselves in a position which many others would see as challenging but for some reason we come back, and back and back…even though nature plays with us.”
“Team have reached Camp 3 safely.
“Summit attempt pending for Broad Peak when the time is right.”
“Our emergency rescue for crevasse and self rescue training with 3 different companies and their High altitude Porters took place yesterday at Base camp.
“Today our focus is back on the mountain. We look forward to updating you of our progress in the coming days.
“Huge thanks for all the messages over the last week, we really appreciate it.”
“Currently at basecamp regrouping, resting and getting ready to go again!”
“Over the years we have experienced lots of incidents, it comes with the nature of these summits we seek. We do not believe incidents should be an opportunity to promote. We feel it is important for us to make statement confirming the actual events from the 18th July.
“On the 18th July, Broad Peak, Pete and I were the only team to set off on our summit bid at 8pm. ALL other teams had set off 24hrs earlier when the mountain was NOT fixed.
“After making great progress with our porters, at 1am we began to receive emergency contact through our radio informing us of missing and injured climbers.
“At 4am our military liaison officer asked us to coordinate a rescue at 7600m as we were the only climbers out. Both Pete and I forfeited our summit attempt, but were happy to do so to help save the lives of other climbers. Others at camp 3 were asked to assist on the mountain but sadly refused. We worked through the early hours with the military, basecamp and our aid in the UK Ady to conduct our efforts.
“Pete supported a casualty and some exhausted climbers back to safety and assisted them with water, food and his presence whist I stayed on the mountain to coordinate his HAPs and later search and rescue for missing climbers. After many hours of searching and inevitable exhaustion- eventually, I was pleased to see a climber had been sent from C3 along with a team of support to help take over, I passed on my search pattern from the tracker and they began another search at a different location.
“Stories emerging of other support and parties helping out are categorically untrue. Until 06:55am we were the only climbers ascending the mountain and sadly witness to this tragedy on the mountain. “
“Pete and Paul wish to give condolences to Mr Kim’s family and team mates. Their thoughts are with them.
“Over the last week, Pete and Paul have been progressing back up Broad Peak 8000m. Fantastic progress was made and a summit attempt was looming.
“Feeling in summit condition (as good as it gets less the vomiting and other nasties) they were just a few hundred metres from Broad Peak summit.
“Unexpectedly in the early hours of the morning on 17th July, our team were asked to assist in several emergency rescues as they were some of the only climbers on the mountain at altitude due to the failed mass summit attempt of majority of the climbers earlier in the day.
“Using their communication systems, tracker and their right hand man Ady in the UK, they went to the aid of others believed missing or in need of serious medical attention/ support.
“Inevitably this compromised their summit attempt, but life and preserving life is far more important to these two men.
“We can confirm our boys are safe and back at basecamp, both disheartened and saddened at the events of the mountain.
“But they are Pete and Paul, off to regroup, rest and ready to fight again in a few days time.
“Today we got invited to attend a Puja at K2 base camp by some of our Sherpa friends who are up there with their clients. A Puja is service of blessings on you and your mountaineering equipment for a safe expedition and safe return.
We thoroughly enjoyed the experience and the hospitality shown and on our departure from base camp we went up to pay our respects to our fallen brothers who have not returned from their chosen expeditions. We were honoured to be able to wash and clean our friend’s memorial Mr Serge Dessureault.”
“Things are progressing well with the expedition however they team have experienced some difficulty with equipment!
“The team are currently on Broad Peak, During the exploration rotation to camp 3, some vital kit was damaged during a storm at basecamp.
“This now means that the team’s only method of communication is to use emails and subsequently data. This is a very costly form of communication but necessary to receive weather information and vitally to exchange messages with home and let people know they are safe.
“We have set up a fundraiser to assist them with the cost of data, as 3 months of data unfortunately comes at a cost.
“One of the hardest things about expeditions like this is the mental place your body is taken too. There is no doubt about it- hearing from loved ones carries you through and brightens those lonely days exposed to the harsh environment of this terrain.
“If you know these two, they are modest and would never ask for help but we want to show them that we are all behind them rooting for them in the UK. This is a huge mission for them and we know they can do it!
“If you’re able to contribute please do, we have no doubts the boys will be exceptionally grateful!
“Our boys have been working hard on Broak Peak mountain. Some exploratory missions and in the last few days we have made progress to Camp 2.
“We are now safely back down at Basecamp, regrouping and being looked after by Sakhi’s team. We are pleased to let you all know we are safe and sound and ready for some rest. At the moment communications are down so we will update you more on our adventures soon!”
“So, we are without a doubt taking on our biggest challenge yet, to climb two 8000m peaks one after the other, and the 2nd notoriously claiming more climbers than any other mountain out here…… so pretty intense and Hardcore.
But for the uninitiated this might seem like complete craziness from start to finish, but let me inform you of the hardest part of this and many expeditions like it.
BOREDOM complete and utter.
Now folk that know Pete and I will know we are not great at sitting still, not great and just “chilling out” so on rest days and bad weather days we find it exceptionally difficult. We hate doing nothing.
Sadly, today we are again waiting for a weather window to get back onto the mountain, we are waiting to ensure the avalanche risk is as low as possible. We have had to maintain back at Basecamp since we turned back from Camp 2.
We have loved receiving the notifications and comments and emails. They really do keep us going. This environment is hard, it’s hard to stay focused when you can’t control the environment, it’s hard to stay on your top game when your body is working in overdrive.
We can’t thank you enough for all your support. Please keep it coming!”
“Behind every badge is a story!
“I wear these badges with pride on my @rab.equipment gear.
“The British flag fills me with pride;
To be representing Britain in Pakistan this year, I am honoured to be working with the amazing people of Pakistan forming a strong bond between our two nations.”
“I wear the @woodland_experi badge with pride for my amazing friend and an organisation close to my heart.
“This is the 3rd time out here in Pakistan, Scouting @worldscouting has given me the motivation, resilience and skills to carry on. Scouting has taught me never to give in, never give up, shoulders back chin up, here we come.”
Pete – “Not much luxury, but certainly stunning.
“Lack of sleep, no appetite AND sharing a tent with Paul!… hard graft!
“The team progressed to Camp 2 but bad weather meant they had to turn back. There is plenty of snow at the moment which means buried tents and avalanches.
“The daily tasks involved on these mountains is quite incredible.”
“Today Paul & Pete along with their Pakistani HAP, Muhammad Bashir & Muhammad Sadpara reached Camp 1.
“Now they are resting at Camp I, tomorrow if weather permits then heading towards to Camp 2.”
“Today the team got to Camp 1 of Broad Peak in 4hrs and returned to base camp.
“Now resting and drinking with the Summit Karakoram camp staff.”
Paul – “Hey Folks, another busy day resting…. Which is quite ironic really because it was anything but rest.
“We took a walk towards the start of the ABC advanced base camp to see if we could identify a good solid route to camp one, before we had gone 200m we came across snow leopard tracks, which was awesome to see. It had snowed last night until about 01:30 and the tracks were fresh, so Mr Leopard must have been around in the early hours of the morning. Both Pete and I were well chuffed to have seen them so close to camp. Pete has already planned to set up a tin of spam next to his tent to get a closer look tonight- so if it’s just me on the Exped from now on you know why.
“We walked about 1km towards K2 base camp and parallel to the start of the climb, amazingly some teams have been here since 9th June and have NOT started fixing the mountain, which excited Pete and I as it would be great training for our HAPs and us in preparation for K2.
“So it’s with a huge amount of excitement we will climb to camp 1 tomorrow and take tents and food to stash for future. The process as I’m sure you know is something that we must do several times. 1- it helps with acclimatisation. 2- stashing tents and food over the days and weeks helps later on for ease of carry.
“Our plan will be to leave at 03:00 and to cross the glassier whilst it’s nice and cold, then to ABC then to fix up to camp 1.
“We’ve opened up the goodies stash, and started the coffee whilst preparing the gear so all things are looking well for us.
“We hope the snow doesn’t come a day early and hope for fair sky’s tomorrow.”
“Team K2 UK 🇬🇧 have arrived at Basecamp!”
“Basecamp trek normally takes 9-10 days these guys have done it in 5! No rest days, just powering on.
“These two are machines.”
“There’s no denying how stunning the landscapes are here. Harsh, wild as they come but certainly beautiful!
“We look forward to sharing as much of it as we can with you!
“Thanks again for all your support, posts, comments and likes! It means the world to us!”
“The guys have progressed well and reached their camp in Urdukus safely last night. They are in good spirits.
“The trek has not been easy the last few days, transit of kit and all the added terrain challenges. Pete arrived a few hours ahead of Paul and Paul was disappointed he didn’t arrive to a nice cold beer or coke cola!
“Navigating their way through glaciers, crazy undulating ground which was unforgiving and the sun was again a challenge. They narrowly missed a landslide which they make sound trivial. I’m sure they will fill us in in time! I believe the words “run a bit” were said a few times. Which can’t be easy at 4000m!
“Drinking enough clean water isn’t easy as they need to boil every litre, but they are adjusting to mountain life again.
“It’s much colder here now, cold setting in early, 30-35 during the day -5 early evening. We are wrapped up warm and the camp feels very alpine, we are camping on top of a shack…… literally on the flat mud roof!
“Getting into bed at 19:30 is an expedition necessity and if I say so really quite a treat, usually you listen to a podcast or music for a while then sleep until the early hours when you start to have unbroken sleep.
“Some are resting tomorrow but we are going to press on all being well so we can get to base camp the following day, I think that itself will be an achievement, 5 days to get there.”
“A long day prepping yesterday with our friends Summit Karakoram before we headed off into the mountain region.
“Preparation is the key to success right?!
“We left no stone unturned, we check every tent, every packet, every item in our luggage.
“We also caught up with @szilardsuhajda who we had great conversations with; his knowledge will prove extremely valuable to our expedition. Thank you for taking the time to meet with us.”