Karakoram Diaries – 20th July

A round-up of today’s updates from the mountains of the Karakoram.

Reaction from summits and tragedy on Broad Peak

(Updated throughout the day)

Sofie Lenaerts (Broad Peak)

Tired but oh so happy! It was a long 24hr undertaking.

“On 17/07 around 10.30 pm departed from camp3, (7000m) a long run-up easy until 4.30am and a short icy passage of 65%.

“Then we arrive at the crevass under the col. 5.30 am The fixing team finds its way into the right flank just under the rocks. Meanwhile, climbers flock together, many with supplemental oxygen. It’s waiting… feet and hands get cold. Due to the deep snow it is impossible to take a shortcut. Minutes turn into hours before we finally arrive at the rock passage just below the col 12h30. Finally sun but also a cold wind.

“Niels Jespers does not rest and continues the climb towards the main summit, which is still far away. I must recover from standing in the cold for hours and enjoy the sunbeams and the beautiful view. A third of the climbers on the col decide to stop but we don’t think about that! When we switch on, another ‘queue’ follows.

“First follows the narrow rock passage where the corniche turns out not to be solid at all. Mr HongBin Kim collapses and needs to be helped out of his predicament.

“Then a short traverse on rocks, no room for mistakes… and then it’s a find your way on the grade, several times up and down before the central summit 8016m can be reached. The view is phenomenal and yet I hardly take pictures. Fatigue hits mercilessly.

“In the distance we see a yellow dot on the main peak 8051m. That must be Niels, he had made the right choice to continue straight away because we progressed slowly due to slow climbers in front of us. It is around 4.30 pm when we are on the central top. It’s time to return.

“We still have a long way to go but it was all worth it!”

Pete Brittleton and Paul Etheridge (Broad Peak)

“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.

Saulius Damulevicius (Broad Peak)

“It hurts when there are 100 meters left to the top. But it would have taken another couple of hours to climb, one way. That would mean landing exhausted at night. That would mean mistakes. It would probably mean injury or death…

Israfil Ashurli (Broad Peak)

“From the “morning” that started at 22.00, we did not get to the top. Before leaving, Saulius and I were preparing for breakfast. But I couldn’t touch the food, and I felt nauseous as I looked over. I tried to take an aspirin pill, and I felt nauseous again (I must say that I returned it 10 times a day until I went up and 8 times before I went down). Eating before the summit is like pouring gasoline on a long drive, but I had to leave on an empty stomach. Well, it would not be right not to use the weather window, not to make any effort. For a while I was ahead.

“But I realized that I could not return to the traditional pace we had been working with in the previous days, and I let him go. I had to move slowly because I felt nauseous again as I tried to speed up or try to eat something. However, I was more committed to the principle of looking at the same step-by-step rope than climbing the folded rope. I climbed 8-10 meters using a mixed climb in the corridor with access to the back of the mountain. It was so scary to look at the Chinese side – the vertical cornices that open into the ravines below. I’m on the right side of the cliffs, because by stepping on the snowy areas, you can slide and travel fast to China. As I climb the artificial peak, I find the remains of a dead climber in a sitting position. This is probably Maciej Barbeck, a climber who went missing on Broad Peak. When I go a little higher, I meet Anton Pugovkin and Saulius. 7965 m. The summit is still 1.5 – 2 hours away, showing 16:30. This means that we will reach the summit at sunset. When we come down from there, we will be in darkness. I was ready to fight for the top, and although I did not feel well today, I was able to prove it. But we understand that this is a serious risk and we make a wise decision to go down….”

Gonzalo Fernandez (Gasherbrum II)

“So sometimes you dream of realities. It seemed that it would be impossible… a lot of recent snow on the whole mountain, a somewhat fair acclimatization, and from 7300 meters WITHOUT FIXED ROPES … It was time to pull with courage, courage and stubbornness. 11.20 am together with comrade @llcortadellas we touch the sky. A tremendous act of self-improvement, and after so many days of hard work we got the icing on the cake! Mention the incredible effort of colleagues Ferran Perez and Ignasi Sala fighting for the top until the last minute even though it could not be, congratulations on the right decision to go down, the real summit is to return to base camp in full. INFINITELY GRATEFUL TO EVERYONE (YOU ARE A LOT OF PEOPLE) THAT YOU HAVE MADE ME GET HERE, TOTALLY IMPOSSIBLE WITHOUT YOU.”

Paul Diac (Gasherbrum II)

“I’m back in BC, I’m ok but broken. On 18th I reached the top, the last, 22 hours of c3 and back…..” NO OXYGEN!”

Jerry Gore (Broad Peak)

It was my first attempt at climbing above 8000m and it did not go to plan. But I’m back at Base Camp and feel lucky to be sharing time with amazing people in an amazing place.

“50 climbers tried to get to the top of Broad Peak (8047m) in the weather window over the weekend. It was tough going and I began to feel ill after Camp 1.
By Camp 2 I was feverish, weak and totally exhausted. My Type 1 Diabetes had also pushed my blood sugar levels sky-high and I had no choice but to turn around.

“I was devastated. My incredible climbing partner Rick Allen pushed on up to Camp 3 as I crawled back down to Base Camp. Lots of people have been falling ill with a non-covid bug going around camp but I still felt like a total failure.

“When I got back to Base Camp we could see on the Garmins that many climbers had had to turn around. The snow conditions were slowing things down as routes needed to be cleared through deep snow. With the omens not looking good and the weather beginning to turn, Rick decided to head back down the mountain after getting to 7,300m.

“But 10 people decided to go on and got to the summit as night closed in. After the mountain pushed my body to breaking point, I know that this is an amazing achievement!

“But then, on the way back down, disaster struck. A Russian climber, Anastasia Runova, fell into a crevasse while descending during the night.
The details are still blurry, but a military helicopter was called out and a group of Russian climbers in Camp 3 rallied and pushed up the mountain to try and find her.
In Base Camp, I was with Anastasia’s partner. I quickly forgot about feeling sorry for myself and tried to comfort him as best as I could. We both knew that up above us in the dark people were battling to rescue his partner and save her life.

“Thankfully, she was hauled out of the crevasse and made it to Camp 3 just as the bad weather rolled up the valley. It was such a close-run thing and everyone’s relief was palpable. Rick got back to base and we have both spent the last 12-hours resting up and talking about what’s next on the expedition – it’s always great to be back with your mate after a big epic.”

“Although it was tough to not make it past Camp 2, I know if I had I would not have been able to support Anastasia’s partner at Base Camp. Of course, I am not going to be making any headlines. Why should I? But I am pleased I could do something, even if it was just making him a cup of tea. It made me realise that I was not a failure.

“Big things in life are important. And getting to the top of one of these big mountains IS important to me, especially with my Type 1 Diabetes. But the journey and the people you meet along the way are as important as reaching any summit. If you stay positive, you remain undefeated.

“Onwards and upwards!! Our attention now turns to the big beast that is K2. I can’t wait to give it a go.”

Sajid Ali Sadpara (K2)

“Team is back to basecamp after physical search up-to 7800m and drone search around bottleneck at 8300m. No lead found or luck yet. Avalanche and worsening weather has forced the team back to basecamp. Fresh efforts after the storm.”

Elia Saikaly (K2)

“It was an epic three day rapid acclimatization / search / filming trip up to beneath camp four.

“We pushed from basecamp to camp 2, overnighted and then blasted up to camp 3. We had the upper mountain to ourselves. The following morning, as expected and forecasted, the conditions were impeccable.

“The powerful team of Sherpas from Nepal, our friends from Madison Mountaineering / Himalayan Guides, opened up and fixed the route to the base of camp 4 and blasted out a trail. Without their efforts, our work would have been impossible.

“We flew our drones beneath the bottleneck in impeccable conditions as high as 8300m looking for clues of what may have happened to our friends while doing recon for the teams coordinating the future effort above.

“By day 4, the weather shifted and we woke up to an avalanche at camp 3. Pelican case sized snow boulders were catapulting down the hill towards us. We knew it was time to retreat as the calculated weather risk was unfolding in real-time. We packed up the tent, secured the oxygen and made the quick descent from camp 3 to basecamp in whiteout conditions.

“I’m personally battered at the moment, but grateful for young Sajid who insisted we use the window at hand regardless of the lack of recovery time.

“We had hoped to make it a bit higher than we did at 7800m, but a technical impasse blocked us. We climbed as high as we could and did everything possible search / film related. No traces thus far.”

Tom Livingstone and Mathieu Maynadier (Pumari Chhish)

Tom livingstone & Mathieu Maynadier have returned from the Karakoram after an attempt on the south-east ridge of Pumari Chhish East (6850m). Thwarted by poor weather, they came to within a tantalising 100m of the unclimbed summit before making the difficult call to descend.

 


 


Summer Season in the Karakoram – 2021

Karakoram 2021 Summit List

Photo: Sofie Lenaerts