Mario Vielmo is heading to Gasherbrum I and is dreaming of the summit after two close encounters with it in the past.
We will follow his journey with this diary…
“Just got back to Islamabad, now I can tell how this long and difficult expedition went to Gasherbrum 1, 8068 m.
I think it was one of the most complicated and challenging climbs both mentally and especially physically. Only five of us climbed it: Marco, Flor, Ali Musa, Fida and I. All the other mountaineers present at the base, some sixty people, have preferred to turn their efforts to the easiest G2.
Headed to the G1.
“Up to 6400 m even the G1 doesn’t have any difficulty other than having to walk from the base a glacier about 15 km long leading to a huge and twisted evening, not without any insidiousness with huge crevices to be scrapped and often To be overcome with almost circus jumps.
The fact of finding a few mountaineers in one of the mountains considered among the hardest among the 8 thousand, as one of the world’s strongest mountaineers writes in his book, Polish K. Wielecki, on the one hand it’s a rare occasion to experience a strong mountaineering experience on the other it becomes a very challenging effort of energy. The most challenging stretch of the climb starting from C2 (Gasherbrum hill) to the top is far from easy. The Japanese couloir is the key point: it’s 700 meters almost vertical on mixed rock and ice soil, challenging, risky and difficult. This wall should be equipped with fixed ropes if you want to keep a safety margin especially when you return from the summit. All this hard work was performed in three reps by myself, Marco and Ali Musa. It was a very difficult but necessary job, we used rock nails, a few leaflets and many meters of high quality static rope. After three weeks of our arrival at base camp between days of bad weather and difficulty tracing the long glacier that from C1 leads to C2, we still hadn’t finished work until C3, 100 meters were still missing before we got to c3 at 7100 m. m. Job we completed when we set off for the summit attempt.
“The occasion of the last window of beautiful weather presented itself the week of July 23th to 28th. Finally the third day of our departure from base we complete the J climb. Couloir and we arrive to mount the C 3 late afternoon. The idea of leaving the following night for the summit attack is discarded, we’re tired after the hard work of the day, we take advantage of the long window of good weather to postpone the push summit so we decide to stand up a bit more and mount the C 4 At altitude 7400 under the summit wall. Meanwhile, Romanian Justin and German Maurice are added to our group. There are five of us. The departure for the summit is set at 24. Marco and I are the last to leave the field.
“The climb in the middle of the night looks challenging immediately. The steep slope of the first canal is very frozen and technical, plus there are no fixed ropes to make the climb safe.
“Only counts their own experience in climbing technique, in the right use of progression entrusted to good rampons, a spike on one hand and a stick on the other. Honestly no one expected ground so frozen that in high altitude at night it’s even harder and more inconvenient. At some point I see a mountaineer relegating, it’s Marco. I ask him whats going on why is he going down? His answer is immediate and precise: ′′ It’s too dangerous! If any of the mountaineers before us were to slide they would drag everyone else into an endless flight!”. He goes on saying he has a strange feeling of danger, he feels something is wrong!
I think for a moment, he’s actually not wrong. The situation is complicated, then my thought goes straight back: coming down almost 700 meters on such frozen ground after reaching the summit becomes very challenging and risky. I’m having a moment with Marco about the situation that has arisen. He’s convinced that something will happen and come down to return to camp 4. I’m stopping, doubtful whether to continue the climb or go down. I wait, reflect and decide what to do: I wait about half an hour for the upstream group to leave the first channel and then head right on the second channel. Then I start going up again.
“I’ll find out later that the choice of waiting wasting precious time will penalize me and not little. On the way up I try to be fast and when the first light of dawn comes my way I find on the summit channel about 250 m from the summit. The ice slope now shows up with abundant snow carried by the wind. I realize that the track done just before by my friends unfortunately due to the wind is covered in snow again. This means that every step I have to retract again. One more effort and a lot of energy consumed. Eventually I couldn’t reach the group in the lead, but I remember well the fatigue of the last steep slope before the snow-loaded top and with anxiety,-I’ll find out Justin later, too, who was leading the first group-in-the-way the last stretch was in my own mood. We risked beyond the impossible and I don’t know whether to thank the good luck, the good angel or God if that slope stayed up. The summit at 12.20, after 10-15 minutes of respect for others was the prize of a dream lasting 10 years since the first attempt of 2011, failed 150 m from the top and then in 2018 always failed for various causes. At the top I didn’t get to enjoy the perfect moment, I was agitated, worried about the thought of retracing the summit slope, even though I was happy to reach the top of my th Ott thousand. I prayed. Slowly I started going down with Flo and Ali.
“Having carried with me in my backpack 40 m rope we did two doubles under the top but then proceeded to climb down the free face up the stretch as I predicted ice snow. It took us 7 hours to get down 680 meters to finally arrive at sunset exhausted at camp 4.
“For the struggle and tension of an endless day I vomited twice, I don’t know what because I hadn’t eaten in 2 days. The next two days weren’t easy at all, we were all overloaded for the fact that we had to dismantle and bring down all fields with various materials to the valley. The glacier, after six days on the wall, had become, due to the heat, dangerous, with numerous crevices and unstable snow bridges, we often sank with our entire leg. Going down between C1 and base suddenly I hear Corin’s scream, I turn around and see her on the ground in a strange position curled up face down, I only see her but not her partner.
I immediately understand that Maurice fell into the crevice. I tell the others to leave their backpacks and let’s run up to our friends to help. Luckily Maurice fell into a deep crevice is safe and sound, the rope held the 8-foot flight and Corin was able to stop in time. Thanks to our intervention and after 40 ‘ Maurice comes out of the crevice. Everyone’s arrival at base camp finally ends our incredible adventure at G1. Tired but happy now we can rest.
A reflection on Marco’s choice to give up the final climb.
“Marco, whom I value greatly, in my opinion he did what I consider to be a very brave choice definitely more than mine in continuing the climb. I have often found myself with similar opt-out choices despite the closeness to the summit. These are moments when you follow your instincts and it’s a strictly personal thing that absolutely needs to be heard and respected. Just sorry for all the hard work we put in together. We made a great team, rare at altitude.
Thank you Marco.
“I would like to thank all the team In primis Alì Musa who really helped us so much. Then Flor Quenca, Justin and Maurice.
“Obviously a special thank you to the sponsors who supported this expedition: Their Light and Gas, Their Energy for Life, Earthquake, Sergio Bassan tractors, Issaline, Electromechanical Bari, 2 Mnet. Leila Peak Pakistan agency, and all of you who have followed this adventure. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
“Last week Marco Confortola and I opened the way towards the Gasherbrums pass and mounted the C2 at 6450m.
“The following day despite the strong wind and cold we managed to equip 200 meters along the most demanding stretch of the Japanese couloir towards camp 3.”
“Marco and I are very motivated and together we will do our best. The Peruvian Flor Cuenca also did well, tracing the last 200 meters to the hill. She will also go up with us. An exceptional woman, very strong and tenacious. I also thank Pakistani Ali Mussa ‘who is giving us a great hand in bringing various material up to altitude including 300 meters of rope to be fixed, bolts, nails, tents etc.”
“When I see K2 I like to remember the figure of Renato Casarotto from Vicenza who unfortunately lost his life at the foot of this mountain by falling into a crevasse. Very strong solitary mountaineer who entered the history of mountaineering. Great Renato! Tomorrow I will arrive at the Gasherbrums Base Camp.”
“Today we arrived at Concordia 4600m in the clouds, and certainly one of the most fascinating mountain places. 360 degrees of pure beauty looking at K2, Broad Peak and the Gasherbrums chain. I always feel a great emotion when I arrive here. Indelible memories. Beautiful moments, others dramatic. But the place always remains magical. I would like to remember the friends who stayed in this place. Stefano Zavka, Michele Fait, Cristina Castagna They lost their lives chasing their dreams. Then Daniele Nardi at Nanga Parbat. Hello my friends, you will always be in partnership with me.”
“Today we arrived at Gore 2- 4500m. In two days, weather permitting, we will arrive at the Gaserbrums base camp.”
“Today we leave with the jeeps to Askole, from where we will then leave for the long Baltoro trek.”
“Today I finally get to announce the official start of my new adventure in Karakorum,”
“After a thousand difficulties and cancelled flights I finally landed in Islamabad, capital of Pakistan, then moved on to Skardu. My Karma brought me here to climb the Gasherbrum 1, 8080 m.
“I’ve already tried to climb it twice before. The first attempt dates back to 2011 when I reached 120 meters from the summit. I remember when I found myself only at 10am, perfect timetable for what I had set and I was fine. I only needed another hour to reach the top, but suddenly a wind and snow storm forced me to decide quickly whether to keep going up or down.
“It was a very difficult choice to take in a few moments.
“There is no room for mistakes up there, your life is at stake, and a mistake can be fatal.
“I promised a loved one that if something went wrong I’d come down without delay. And I also trusted my instincts, so I came down the mountain.
“Even the second time in 2018 I had to give up the summit. During the expedition there was no shortage of problems, and when it was time to try the summit, once again the bad weather and high temperatures made me stop and quit.
“Now I’m even more motivated because as life teaches us, unrealised dreams must be chased.
“The mountain remains for me something that goes beyond adventure despite the thousands of difficulties encountered in these adventures.
What I feel during these journeys comes from my soul following the magical attraction to the thin air of the great heights.
“Now I feel it’s time to climb the last 120 meters of this great mountain.