Broad Peak hosted the shooting of the new film “Oxygen” this summer, with the main characters — mountaineers Vitaly Lazo, Anton Pugovkin and the Norwegian Thomas Lone.
We followed them with this Diary of their epic adventure…
“We have already left in the direction of Concordia, said goodbye to K2 and Broad Peak.”
“DZF team just reach Base Camp! Guys are safe and sound. Now it is time of rest, revival and reflection.”
“In light of recent events on the mountain I have needed some time for myself before giving you guys an update on the expedition and how it came to a tragic end.
“This expedition has been tough from the very beginning. With skies to carry, no support or oxygen we worked hard to establish camps and complete our rotations. Finally, a tiny window opened up and alongside most other teams we began preparing for a summit push the 17th of July. No one had been much higher than Camp 3, and there was no route to the summit. Furthermore, there was deep snow. Thus, the progress was slow, and after 17 hours of full throttle we finally entered The Death Zone above 8000m. It was already 16:30 PM…
“After some discussion we decided to turn back, just 50 meters below the summit.
“We skied down to Camp 3, but many other teams were still dangerously high on the mountain. This is a recipe for disaster, and the next morning Mr Kim from South Korea died falling down the Chinese face of the summit ridge, despite Vitaly’s heroic efforts to save him.
“With only 30 people climbing this year we have become a community – a family. I have seen dead bodies on other expeditions, but the loss of Mr Kim who I had talked to and climbed with for the past 6 weeks made me totally devastated.
“Vitaly, Anton and I had many chats about everything that happened, and after long consideration I decided to leave the expedition and head back home. My body was weak, after losing 19 kg to food poisoning (I now weigh 62 kg). More importantly, my mindset was just not in the right place anymore. Yesterday, we got the tragic news that Rick Allen who we also climbed with on Broad tragically passed away in an avalanche on K2.
“I am proud of my decision to turn back on summit day, and comfortable leaving the mountain without a final try. I am now safe in Islamabad, flying back to Norway tomorrow.
“On July 25, after helicopter reconnaissance, at 20:00 local time Vitaly Lazo ascended to Camp 1 at Broad Peak, had some tea and continued the ascent.
“At about 12 am he reached Camp 2 and went to rest.
On the morning of July 26 at 6 am Vitaly started for Camp 3, and at 1 pm he was already onsite.
“Anton met Vitaly, the team had a break and then started to storm the summit!
Unfortunately, the third participant of Death Zone Freeride, Thomas Lone, left the project, but we will talk about this a little later.
“Together with our guys are ascending Israfil Ashurli, Saulius Damulevichus and other alpinists.
“This morning, an overflight of the supposed fall zone of Mr. Kim was made. Unfortunately, the pilots did not manage to get to the place — after two hours of flight they returned to the base.
“Vitaly Lazo has already set out on the route to catch up with his comrades and make a second attempt of Broad Peak ascend during the weather window.”
Vitaly Lazo on the Broad Peak Kim attempted rescue
“So, at 00:00 on July 18, the information was as follows: Anastasia Runova fell in the area of the “big crack”, injuries are possible, but it seems she is moving on her own.
“At 01:00 we went upstairs with Anton. I have oxygen, clothes, minimal mountain gear in my backpack. Anton has a first-aid kit, pad, food, drink.
“Don said that there was an emergency with Mr. Kim. According to information from the Base Camp, he also got into a crack in the area of the “big crack”, and English climbers have already gone to look for him. I was advised not to rush to him yet.
“At 04:00, 100 m before Camp 4 (7300 m), I met Nastya! She walked by herself, in one cat. Conducted a survey, the girl was clearly not normal … The answers are confusing. To the question: “What happened upstairs, where exactly, what happened to Mr. Kim?” received the answer: “What about him? I fell alone. Did he fall too?
(Later, already at Base Camp, Anastasia explained that Mr. Kim also flew to the Chinese side and was on the shelf with her.)
“A little below Anton prepared a shelf for Nastya’s examination, I sent her to him, and, just in case, continued to climb towards Mr. Kim. A little later, at about 5:00, I was told the news: Mr. Kim fell not in the area of the “big crack”, but on the ridge, on the Chinese side! The British were looking in the wrong place, and there is only one Korean climber, you have to go up.
“Please note that the first correct information about what happened to Kim and where appeared at 5 am on July 18th – by this time he had already spent 9 hours on the shelf!
“I put on a mask and “run upstairs.” In Camp 4, I take an ice ax, zhumars and more from a tired member of the Korean team. I overtake the Pakistani porters coming to the rescue. On the way I found a tangled bay of rope, cut off 70 meters. The snow was knee-deep …
“At 10:53 I went to the jumper and then found Mr. Kim! Snowfall, visibility 100 m. I reported to Bazlag that the climber was safe: standing on a shelf on his feet and waving his arms.
“He organized a safety station on the rock and descended to him by rope. Kim was on a small shelf on a 70-degree wall. From me to him – 20 meters, shouted, waved – he did not react.
“When he went downstairs, Kim was very happy, but he didn’t look good, he kept repeating: “Very tired, very tired…”. Glasses were sideways, complained that the problem with the eyes began. I straightened his glasses, put on gloves, helped to relieve a small need.. After all, he is a climber without all fingers on his hands!
“At this altitude, Kim has already spent about a day, including almost 14 hours spent on a 1×2 meter snow ledge inside the crack on his legs (and for some time being Anastasia’s neighbor). Anastasia fell through when she was on the railing rope, and Kim (according to her) calmly descended the same rope, believing that the descent lies exactly where the railing rope is, i.e. steeply down to the Chinese side.
“He got Kim to drink. But there was no food at all – Anton had everything. The rescue was organized by giving the victim a loop through the carabina. Safety station on the cliff, double. Korean polypropylene rope (age unknown), no knots. The polyspast was organized on jumars. Reverse blocking on jumar. The bend was reinforced with two ice axes. The power and exhaust lines were laid on the ice axes.
“The victim very much asked to use his jumar as a safety net, he handled them nimbly, he really surprised me! Before going upstairs myself, I installed his jumar on the power end and showed that it was necessary to move it.
“Kim understood everything and demonstrated the work with a jumar himself. I went up the power end on two jumars (the wall was vertical, there were a lot of old ropes on it!).
“Upstairs I was assisted by two porters — Mr. Kim’s assistants. On July 18, one of them was in this place and helped rescue Nastya from the abyss for 4 hours. He didn’t have the strength to pull Kim out, so the porter went down to Camp 4 for the night and now he came up again.
“They began to pull out the victim… One meter, two, three…
“At some point, I noticed that the power end is weak! This is the problem, and the problem is downstairs, for Kim. Shouted to him – is silent. I realized that I needed to bleed and go down to him (most likely, the jumar jammed and blocked the rope in his carabina). Bleed off half the slack, left a small one for his descent. Eight, I’m going down...
“I stopped 5 meters from the climber, shouting! Mr. Kim did not look in my direction, twitched, did something. I shout: “Stop, stop, freeze!” And at that moment there was a sharp blow… I was thrown against the wall. In truth, he said goodbye to life…
“Mr. Kim in a horizontal position, with some ropes on his feet, flew down the wall…
“The picture is clear. Jumar blocked his rope, as a result of which a slack formed at the power end. He was either frightened (which is unlikely), or decided to use the old ropes and pull out the jumar. And so, after snapping out, the slack abruptly left and a dynamic jerk occurred, which led to the destruction of the Korean rope.
“Kim and I were on one end – in theory, destruction could have happened above me. Then we would leave together..
“A strong, strong-willed athlete without fingers, Hong Bin Kim – the star of world mountaineering – the most famous person died on the Chinese side of Broad Peak. This was his last peak in the project of 14 eight-thousanders!”
Vitaly Lazo on the Broad Peak rescue mission.
“The desire for “conquering” the summit at any cost, at any time, led to the fact that a large number of unskilled tourists (namely tourists, not climbers) turned out to be at the key terrain at night. The principle “turn around after turning point” does not work for them. Thus, people create problems not for themselves, but for those around them.
“And now about the main thing! Together with Anastasia, there was an invalid alpinist on the ledge, comrades, invalid! At least 15 people passed by him, yes, it was dark — but the light of his headlamp was definitely visible.
“According to Little Hussein (Mr. Kim’s porter), after saving the girl, he cried, because he was so tired that could not save Kim — he had no strength left. Hussein asked people to help, but all the “hero-climbers” were exhausted and passed by.
“Yes, I can accept that they had no strength to pull the invalid person out. BUT I don’t understand why it was impossible to report the accident by radio!…
“If your radio does not work — one can write, using the InReach satellite communicator! Anastasia, your InReach was in the operant condition! Gentlemen, you used them!
“One could press the SOS button and leave the device with Kim, one could write a message, and describe the situation that the invalid alpinist is on the Chinese side and is waiting for help.
“Now in social networks you are frantic brave men and heroes, conquerors of an eight-thousander… And I will say that you are pathetic, insignificant people who do not care about human life.
“It is clear that if Base Camp had received the full information on the evening of July 17th, no one would have joined Anton and me anyway. But we would know for sure that we are not ought to save Nastya, who can walk by herself, but an invalid person from the wall — this is a different alignment.”
“Timeline of rescue mission on Broad Peak. July 17-19.
“On July 17, at 23:00 local time, the DZF team began the ascent to the summit from Camp 3 (7100 m). Around the same time, another 5 teams start to climb. A good forecast was literally for two days, and everyone was in a hurry.
“On July 18, at 16:30 local time, Anton Pugovkin, Vitaly Lazo and Thomas Lone decided to turn back: it was still an hour and a half to the top, and the guys understood that they would have to go down in the dark, and decided not to risk it.
“On July 18, at 20:00 the DZF team descended to Camp 3, decided to continue the ascent and make a second attempt a week later, in better weather conditions.
At the same time, several groups continued their ascent, including a Korean team and a group with a young climber from Russia Anastasia Runova.
“At 24:00 a message was received: in the col area at 7900 m there was a fall, a girl fell. It also became known that an emergency situation occurred with Kim Hong-Bin.
“At 00:15 on July 19th Anton and Vitaly went to rescue, climbers in Camp 3 collected additional medicines and oxygen.
According to preliminary data, Anastasia was pulled out from the crack by a porter, and they began to descend. From this point she descended without the crampons (they were left in the crack).
“At 4 o’clock in the morning, Anton Pugovkin and Vitaly Lazo met Anastasia, she was given an injection of Dex and a drink, and the descent began.
Vitaly took a walkie-talkie and an oxygen and went to help Mr. Kim.
Meanwhile Anton brought Anastasia to Camp 3. As a result, after resting, she, with the help of her comrades, was able to reach Base Camp safely.
“At 13:30 Anton went out to meet Vitaly, who was trying to save Kim. Unfortunately, there was another fall during the rescue mission, Kim fell from an 80-degree wall…
“When Vitaly ascended to Kim at an altitude of 7900 meters, there were several Pakistani porters and Korean climbers nearby.
“Vitaly rappeled into a crack of 20 meters, and helped Kim to anchor — the alpinists began to climb. But after some time, according to the assumption, Kim’s jumar had been blocked (Vitaly was 5 meters down).”
“He shouted to Kim — the Korean alpinist was moving, trying to unblock the jumar. Then there was a sharp fall, and Kim fell.
“With 99% certainty, we can say that he died immediately. It was horrible, but Vitaly safely climbed out of the crack and began to descend.
“At 17:20, Anton and Vitaly met, and began the descent to the Base Camp from a height of 7100 m.
Partly they went down on skis, partly on foot, because of the blizzard.
“At 21:16 they were already in Base Camp, Thomas Lone arrived there a little earlier.”
“As soon as our bodies accepted the night at 22, then the brain machine turned off after working for a day at an altitude above 7000.
“But at exactly midnight I hear a bustle near our tent, by the way, we are used to it, everyone just starts rallies near us. We turn on the radio, it’s not fucking clear, we are trying to consolidate the information for 40 minutes… honestly to no purpose, we understand that Anastasia Runova fell on the route near the jumper (7900m), what state is unknown, where, when and with whom it is also not clear.
“The brain still offers a variant of delirium, but the dripping condensation on the face speaks of the reality of what is happening. It take almost an hour, a separate topic is the first-aid kit, I ran out of syringes for this rotation. We took the unused oxygen cylinder. And since we did not know neither the nature of the injury, nor the location, we loaded ourselves in full, even took the karemat.
“Well, let’s go… My job is to go and quickly. The load was shared by Vitaly Lazo, the rest was me. At about 3 o’clock, information about a critical situation in Mr. Kim’s group begins to arrive, they say he fell somewhere and you can’t even get to him… We have to deal with it.. At 4 I meet Nastya, as they say, it can go, but evacuation by helicopter is required.
“At the same time, it is obvious that she does not need oxygen, we are at 7400, she came here and will leave below, Vitalya decides to put on a mask and go to 7900 to help the Koreans. In general, Nastya is in the third camp area, she rested, drank and with a group of comrades are now leaving for the second camp, the weather is not very good.
“My friend found the Korean Kim, who, having fallen 15 meters whole, will now begin to drag him out, together with a porter, to the jumper.
“May God give them strength. And I just have to wait for him in the third camp and sit.
Update: “Went to the fourth camp, brought Vitaly Lazo oxygen but it didn’t work out with Kim.. We’re now in the third camp and going down until it gets dark.”
“Yesterday Death Zone Freeride team climbed to Camp 3.
“The condition of the route is bad, very deep snow. Therefore, we decided to wait till July 18, and ascent today at night.
“At a height of 7700 m there is a climb to a col. The guys have already done the scout — there are big cracks and very deep snow, higher than the waist.
After the col the path proceeds along the rocky ridge, and it should already be easier there.
“The mood is good! Yesterday we were very tired, today we have a day rest at 7000 m.
“One of the local Pakistanis felt bad, so the three of us helped. We injected Dex, gave oxygen — in general, brought the guy to his senses. He ascended with his colleague.”
“Avalanche on Broad Peak — and all alpinists are OK!
“Early in the morning of July 15, Death Zone Freeride team started the ascent from Base Camp.
“After they left, an avalanche descended on the slope. But you shouldn’t worry, the guys got in touch, everyone is all right!
“On July 16, alpinists will climb to Camp 3
“On July 17, an ascent to the summit is planned
“Together with DZF, 5 more groups are ascending.”
“The day after tomorrow we are planning an ascent — on July 15th we will go to Camp 2, on the 16th — to Camp 3. On the 17th we hope to reach the summit, and on the 18th we will descend.
“Today we held a joint meeting with all the groups that are in Broad Peak Base Camp now and discussed tactics. The weather is still bad, but on the 16th they promise an improvement. A good window is for July 17 and 18.
“The difficulty of the ascent is that above 7000m the trail is not formed and the snow condition is terrible: a crust and soft loose snow under it, sometimes waist-deep… It will be necessary to trail with a large team, no one man can do it.
“We discussed everything together: the famous Canadian climber Don Bowie @donbowie , the Korean Kim, Lotta from Finland @lottahintsa , our American colleagues, Israfil Ashurly @israfil_ashurli and others. We should work collectively, otherwise we will not break through the path above Camp 3, and the top may not be reached.”
“Hurray, the internet at Broad Peak Base Camp has been fixed! Here is the news.
“Now Anton, Thomas and Vitaly are at the Base Camp. Yesterday they made the descent from Camp 3 (7100 m) on skis.
“All the participants successfully passed an acclimatization, and are ready to climb. Everyone is resting and waiting for the weather window to storm the summit.
“There are several climbing teams there. One of them is a South Korean team led by 56-year-old Hong Bin Kim. They also plan the ascent, but in the traditional style, using supplemental oxygen and the help of Sherpas.”
“There are difficulties with the Internet at Broad Peak Base Camp… While we are establishing communication, we are sharing the news. Death Zone Freeride is doing well. All participants are healthy, well fed and are working on the film “Oxygen” and are preparing for the ascent. They promise to establish the Internet in a couple of days, and then we will again be inundated with details,”
“Death Zone Freeride project has always made films about its ascents, starting with the ascent of Manaslu. Years have passed — and today a whole team of professionals is working on DZF movies. And we are proud to say that previous work, the film «Risk Zone Nanga Parbat», won nearly a dozen international prizes at outdoor film festivals.
“As a result of the ascent on Broad Peak, the film «Oxygen» will be shot (bearing the same name as the studio, founded by DZF leader Vitaly Lazo). It makes documentaries about the most significant events and personalities in Russian and international outdoor sports. For example, a film about Lyudmila Agranovskaya, the first woman to hold the «Snow Leopard» title, a native of Kamchatka.”
Studio producer, high-altitude cameraman — Vitaly Lazo @vitaly_lazo
High-altitude operator — Anton Pugovkin @apuqovkin
Directed by – Olga Borodina @watathecat
Production director — Dmitry Khonin
Director of photography — Dmitry Egorov
Drone operator — Farit Nalimov @funkyfa22
The «Oxygen» movie is filmed with the support of the Central Partnership @centralpartnership company and the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation @mincult_russia
Vitaly– “We are going to Camp 1 for acclimatization, where we should install the tents and spend the night. And tomorrow, according to the plan, we are going to Camp 2. It snowed at night, there was heavy downfall, we even postponed the exit for a couple of hours. But, as you can see, the weather is slowly getting better. It’s a real beauty!
“Yesterday Thomas ascended to Camp 1. He didn’t feel well for several days, so he ought to stay in Base Camp. And on our rest day, when Anton and I returned from Pastor Peak, Thomas made an acclimatization hike to Camp 1 at an altitude of 5900 m. Then he successfully descended on skis. On the rise he felt rather well, although was somewhat weaker than usual.
“And now we have equal positions in acclimatization: Thomas, and I, and Anton. Thomas had to cancel the night trip to Camp 1, because he still feels some weakness, so tonight we ascend only with Anton.
“The plan is to climb to Camp 1, and spend the night there. If Thomas feels good, we wait for him, and then the three of us make an overnight trip to Camp 2.”
Vitaly – “Tonight at three o’clock we set out to ascend Pastor Peak. We started from the base camp, which is located at an altitude of 5200 m. This is a cozy place, to which you can trek from the Broad Peak base camp for 3.5 hours.”
“The weather was wonderful, the mood was good, the views were crazy! Unfortunately, it was not possible to reach the summit — upon reaching, we stumbled into a zone of cracks. We decided not to risk it, turned around, and went down.”
“There were four of us: me, Anton Pugovkin, Alexander Kedrov and Alexander Toshchilin. And all of us got acclimatized at about 6 thousand meters. Tomorrow we are planning a day of rest.
“And on July 1, if weather permits, we will go to the first camp at Broad Peak for the night.”
Vitaly – “Karakorum is fantastic! The scale is cosmic, I haven’t been to such a place yet”
“Today we went for a walk to the K2 Base Camp. We looked at the ascent line to Broad Peak. And, most importantly, we spotted the skiing line on the lower half of the route. Looks cool!
“Tomorrow, according to the plan, we will go to Pastor Peak, 6200 meters high. We leave for 3 days, and do not say goodbye!”
“Guys have already left for the Goro-2 Camp (4382m) from Urdukas.
“They will spend the night there, and towards evening of June 26 they plan to reach Broad Peak Base Camp.
“The most breathtaking view opens up to the Masherbrum peak (7821 m) with one still unclimbed wall.
“Participants of Death Zone Freeride expedition reached the Urdukas Camp at an altitude of 4050 meters. It’s name is translated as “Stone Crack” (Urdu is a stone, Kas is a crack).
“The route to Urdukas is the longest of the whole trekking to Broad Peak Base Camp, it takes 8-9 hours. It passes along the Baltoro glacier and moraines. It is not difficult, but very, very spectacular.
“The trekking is fun: at one of the rest stops the porters decided to have a high time and began to sing and dance. And you don’t get bored also!
“At the beginning of his career, the founder of Death Zone Freeride project and Oxygen film studio, Vitaly Lazo, worked in the fishing industry. Following his own experience, he is ready to confirm the high quality of partner company ‘Dobroflot’ products.
“The climbers took to Broad Peak canned saury, herring, pollock’s liver and caviar, pink salmon, mackerel and sardines (total in quantity — 9 boxes).”
“For three years now, the Death Zone Freeride project has been cooperating with the KANT group of companies. Thanks to this cooperation, expeditions to Annapurna (8091 m), Nanga Parbat (8150 m) and Broad Peak (8052 m) took place.
“KANT provides not only financial support, but excellent equipment for expedition participants. Over the years, the company has become a distributor of leading manufacturers of sports goods, which satisfy the needs of any consumer, from weekend tourism and recreation to professionals of the highest level.
“Here is information about Vitaly Lazo’s and Anton Pugovkin’s equipment for the Death Zone Freeride-2021 expedition.
•Skies — Elan
•Jackets — Salewa Ortles 3 gore-tex, Puez 2
•Pants — Salewa Ortles 4 gore-tex, Pedroc Light
•Hoodies — Salewa Puez 3, Solid logo dry
•Backpack — Deuter
•Accessories — Buff, Oakley
“Among other things, before the expedition, the participants of the Death Zone Freeride project set up the equipment in the KANT service center (provides services for tuning / repairing bicycles, alpine and cross-country skis, rollerblading, as well as boot fitting services — precise fitting of boots to the athlete’s foot.”
21st June – Expedition Introduction:
“Shooting a movie during an oxygen-free ascent of an 8-thousander is a very difficult, almost impossible task. In the past expeditions, the climbers of the Death Zone Freeride project did it on their own.
“During 2021 the athletes decided to focus on the route and entrust the shooting to the magnificent high-altitude operator Nika Lebanidze from Georgia.
“We were looking forward to meeting him in Pakistan, but at the last moment, Nika was diagnosed with COVID. He is feeling well, there are no external signs of the disease… But the world is changing and we have to follow new rules.
“We wish Nika all the best, and we hope that in 2022 he will definitely take part in a new Death Zone Freeride expedition.
“In 2021, Vitaly Lazo will again conduct high-altitude shooting of the “Oxygen” film. And of course, he will manage it well — after all, for the previous film “Risk Zone Nanga Parbat” (2019) he received an award in the nomination “Best Operator Work in Extreme Conditions” at the XXIII International Film Festival VERTICAL-2020.
“However, altitudinal shooting will require a lot of effort, and fatigue and defocusing of attention on ascents of such difficulty can be dangerous.”