Gasherbrum II & I 2010 Expedition Dispatches
Dispatch #27 - August 16, 2010 – Islamabad
We made the PIA flight to Islamabad yesterday and was so happy at being back that we didn't post a dispatch due to our time spent eating pizzas and drinking beer and wine.
All that is left of our team at present in Pakistan is Max and myself and we are both heading to Kathmandu tomorrow to get ready for the fall climbing season.
Even though we didn't all summit Gasherbrum II and I this season, we had another great expedition and I have to say that this was one of the funniest groups I have had the pleasure to spend two and half months with on a mountain.
Dispatch #27 - August 14, 2010 – Skardu
Our trek from base camp was uneventful but long as usual. We were unable to pass over the Gondogoro La due to the constant falling snow it has been receiving and that the porters did not wish to risk the conditions, so we trekked down the normal route. We estimate that we traveled around 120 km in three days and our feet were telling us the exact distance when we finally arrived in Askole.The drive to Skardu was hairy due to several landslides that we had to change vehicles and porter loads over. Upon arrival in Skardu we discovered the scale of the recent disaster and how many people are affected from it.
The PIA flights from Islamabad to Skardu are very sporadic at the moment so we tried today to make the military C130 flight but were unable to board to due to too many passengers on board. We are hoping tomorrow to make this flight and if not, that PIA are running their two daily flights to Skardu so we can all get home after this long expedition.
Dispatch #26 - August 7, 2010 – Base Camp
We apologize about the delay in posting our most recent dispatch but we wanted to make sure that all the information we have about the Gasherbrum I summit day was correct.
Our Gasherbrum II climbers had all departed base camp so this left just Arian and myself climbing along with our HAP's Ali and Sarwar as a team. We had hired both Ali and Sarwar to climb with us in addition to assisting our Gasherbrum II Expedition to help remove trash and the oxygen bottles left behind from last summers expeditions.
The weather forecast was showing favorable wind speeds for the 3rd through the 6th so on the morning of the 3rd, the four of us climbed directly to camp two from base camp. It was a long day, around seven hours in total as Arian and I placed around 50 new bamboo marker wands so the descent would be easier as we were expecting the bad weather to come in a few days. It was nice to be back in the familiar surrounds of Gasherbrum I camp two and the Gasherbrum La.
The following morning we made the climb up the Japanese Couloir to camp three. Two of our friends from the Slovenian Expedition decided that camp two was high enough for them and they descended to base camp. Arian, as usual ran up the couloir as most twenty-somethings did that day. I preferred to take a more relaxed pace and was happy to let all the young guns pass me on the way to camp three up the steep couloir.
We settled in our sleeping bags for the several hours we had left before the summit push began at midnight. At around 8 pm it started to snow and continued heavily until around 5 am. At 11 pm, Arian, Ali, Sarwar and myself all decided that the conditions were too dangerous to leave for the summit push. There was already some snow accumulation, and this combined with zero visibility due to the summit pyramid being in clouds as well as the absence of any fixed ropes left us no choice but to abort our summit push that evening.
We started our descent from camp three at around 6 am and was joined by Lucho from the Slovenian Expedition who also decided the conditions were not safe for a summit push. His other four team mates remaining at camp three all left for the summit at around 10 pm. Lucho was going to rope up with us for safety rather than traveling solo on the glacier.
Our descent down the couloir was very quick due to the worsening weather conditions and upon reaching camp two, we took off our down suits and continued to camp one. After brewing some water we then made the hot walk to base camp down the long Gasherbrum Cwm. All was going well until from out of nowhere, Sarwar found a very deep crevasse and took a fall of around 6 meters into the icy depths of a crevasse. Ali made a textbook self-arrest which stopped Sarwar falling further and Arian and myself set up anchors and a pulley system. Lucho volunteered to descend into the crevasse to free Sarwar as he was lodged in pretty bad by his backpack. All in all, everyone did a perfect job with a textbook crevasse rescue and Sarwar was out, back on the cwm sometime later.
We have to thank Lucho for all his help with the extraction of Sarwar and that he made the wise decision to rope up with Arian and myself for his descent to base camp
We got reports at base camp the following day of the epic ascent of the two Koreans and their four personal Sherpas. We were told that the Sherpas incorporated a similar style of climb that the Korean lady climber on GI used last summer. The Sherpas would climb high, set up an anchor and then pull up the two climbers by the fixed rope. They would repeat this process slowly gaining elevation. I have not seen this practice in person but several other climbers who were present and had to wait behind the Koreans for up to half an hour each time told me this is common practice with a lot of Korean high altitude climbers.
The four remaining Slovenian members decided that the waiting behind the Koreans and their Sherpas was too much and that the avalanche dangers were too high due to the continuing snowfall. They decided to descend for their safety but were caught in two separate avalanches at around 7,400-7,500 meters in elevation. Luckily they were not in the thick of it and avoided any injuries but got quite a scare. They all descended safely and have now left base camp for the trek out.
The Koreans continued and reached the summit after 16 hours of ascent with another 6 hours of descent to camp two. We have to congratulate them on their patience of reaching the top of GI. Congratulations also have to go to two of the Sherpas, our new friends Mingma and his brother Dawa, who have now reached the summits of 13 and 7 of the 14 eight-thousand meter peaks respectively.
We are all now enjoying the great food of base camp and should be leaving in a few days for the trek and drive back to Skardu.
Our Gasherbum II and Gasherbrum I expeditions will take a break next year as we plan to try something different with an expedition to the Chinese side of the Karakorum.
Dispatch #25 - July 31, 2010 – Base Camp
Congratulations to Don, Alexi, Marty and Co. for reaching the summit of GI on the 28th. We are especially happy for Don and Alexi with their perseverance after getting so close to the top last time they were high on GI. They all made the summit safely in the small window and had to descend quickly before the present storm we are experiencing hit the mountain.
The Korean expedition and the two separate Sherpa brothers, one who is trying for all the fourteen 8,000-meter peaks, also went for the summit but a few days later. They had to all descend as the conditions were not good at camp two with high winds and snow. We are now glad that we followed our weather forecast and stayed behind at base camp as we were unable to be ready for the first summit push that Don and company made.
Today's weather forecast we received still predicts snow for a few more days but we see a possible weather window for the 3rd through the 6th. Tomorrow we will discuss this window with the few groups left in attendance at base camp and see if we can pool our resources for a summit push as we expect deep snow above camp three, especially after the next few days of snowfall.
We a re glad now that we somewhat have a plan as we are supposed to leave base camp on the 9th when we plan to trek over the Gondogoro La and down to the green Hushe Valley on our way back to Skardu and then Islamabad.
The recent news we received in regards to the terrible floods that this area of Pakistan are experiencing has shocked us with the tragic loss of life, around 500 people so far. We hear that the Karakorum Highway is blocked due to landslides and that the foreigners stranded are being transferred from Chilas to Islamabad by military helicopters. We send our thoughts to the families of the victims of the floods and the people that have been left homeless by this disaster.
Dispatch #24 - July 27, 2010 – Base Camp
We received our latest weather forecast today and as expected it forecasts not so good weather for the next few days. Several other expeditions have received their forecasts with similar news so they have decided to finish their expeditions before the storm hits. We are fortunate that we still have another two weeks at base camp so we are hoping that this is only a temporary set back in our attempt to summit GI.
Our friends Don and Alexi are presently at camp three on Gasherbrum I hoping to reach the summit tomorrow morning before the predicted snow arrives. They have already been close to the summit of GI over a week ago but were stopped around 60 meters from the top due to unstable chest deep snow.
It was reported that another team had reached the summit of GI last week but that report turned out to be false and was a result of supposedly some mistaken communication between the team and their sponsors back home. I for one hope that Don and Alexi top out, like the French team who made the first summit of Gasherbrum II after all their hard work in putting in the route.
The GI route above camp three was with heavy snow last time any climbers were high on the route and after the three days of heavy snowfall we had on the 21st through 23rd we can only expect that the snow is still there especially after hearing of waist deep snow on the route to camp one the other day.
There has been very little sunshine here to consolidate the snow the past few days and I think that Don and Alexi would have found the trail breaking much easier bringing along a third rope member, perhaps in the form of Chuck Norris.
Dispatch #23 - July 25, 2010 – Base Camp
It seems not all the climbers still present at base camp who are planning to attempt Gasherbrum I will do so in the next few days as there are several different planned schedules floating around going on their respective weather forecasts. The forecast that we consult predicts light snowfall until the 28th when we should expect some substantial accumulation higher on the mountain. Our forecast has coincided with the Korean forecast, so Arian and myself have decided to wait a little longer at base camp and hopefully our next forecast we receive will give tell us of more favorable conditions for a few extended days .
We still have plenty of time left at base camp and we just have to keep ourselves occupied throughout this less than perfect weather period. Although the winds are expected to drop in the next few days the moisture in the air from the monsoon that is getting closer is bringing increased precipitation into our area and that means more snow.
We are hoping to get a nice dry weather window as we did on Gasherbrum II without the high winds to make a serious attempt on Gasherbrum I sometime soon.
Several climbers from the other expeditions and ourselves keeping asking ourselves, what would Chuck Norris do with this weather?
Dispatch #22 - July 24, 2010 – Base Camp
We are now enjoying our first day of somewhat good weather at base camp after three days of continuous snowfall at the 5,050-meter elevation mark that we have called home for the past month or so.
Our Gasherbrum II climbers with the addition of Sammy left base camp yesterday for the normal trekking route to Askole as the Gondogoro La was impassable due to the recent heavy snowfall. They will spend their evenings in Concordia, Urdukass and Jhola before arriving at their last trekking camping site of Askole. They will then drive to Skardu where they will enjoy our cache of Murree Beer for a few evenings before hopefully making that elusive Skardu to Islamabad flight.
We already miss their company and humor, even though the dinner table is much quieter without Roo and his antiquated rolling dice. All in jest, base camp is now a very quiet place indeed.
So now we focus our attention on Gasherbrum I. The remaining climbers at base camp attempting her summit met today at our gracious hosts, the Korean expedition. There is only a dozen or so climbers left so with Marty chairing the discussions, a plan was made to hopefully have all the climbers depart base camp the same day to share the task of trail breaking to camp two.
The recent snowfall will obviously hinder all the climbers progress but hopefully with some glorious sunshine and good luck, the deep snow that both Don and Alexi experienced close to the summit, will be absent. The two Korean climbers have four Sherpa assisting them and these guys have agreed to fix around 600 meters of rope above camp three on the steeper sections.
Arian, Ali, Sarwar and myself will hopefully carry our contribution of 200 meters of fixed rope and hardware to camp three for the Sherpa fixing team to use. One last weather forecast from the Koreans will decide on their plan and we also plan to consult our weather forecast service from the States before making a final decision on a tentative summit date.
Dispatch #21 - July 21, 2010 – Base Camp
We are now all resting at base camp enduring the first spell of bad weather that we have seen for a while. With this downtime, Arian Lamal would like to report on the trash conditions on Gasherbrum II this season.
Last year, a Canadian climber told me regarding the issue of rubbish: "Mountaineering is an activity of impact". At the time, I thought he was wrong. I believed mountaineering was an activity of respect and of "leaving only footprints".
This year, when for the first time, I reached Camp 4 on Gasherbrum II (a.k.a. "the tent graveyard"), I understood the meaning and the reality of the above quote. I never imagined the place to be so dramatic and chaotic. Staring at the atrocity for 10 minutes, I counted 21 shredded-semi-buried-in-the-ice tents at the spot of Camp 4. I also found "newish" empty gas canisters and food wrappers with french writing. It must be from the latest french expedition who claimed to have taken everything down. I didn't think anyone would willingly further contribute to such chaos.
Last year, an Argentinian climber reported " At first, I intended to abandon a tent at Camp 4. But when I saw the state of Camp 4, I decided to take it down!"
Cleaning Camp 4 requires at least a team of 10 climbers/HAP's. This will have to be a project in it's own right, with the Pakistani Alpine Club and some volunteer climbers. When returning to Islamabad, I will discuss this issue with the Alpine Club.
Another issue to be discussed here is the state of Camp 1. When our team reached Camp 1, we were faced with two issues: on the one hand, we found rubbish around other camp sites (which I cleaned up); and on the other hand, we found plastic bags in our vestibules and outside our tents containing food. Without asking, climbers believed it to be acceptable and maybe "useful" to leave their un-consumed food for others. In my opinion, this is like abandoning rubbish. Climbers are responsible for their rubbish and for their un-consumed food. Everything should be taken down, unless they have permission and acknowledgment from other climbers to leave gear and food behind to be used. It is lazy and irresponsible to "rely on other climbers to take down that un-consumed food".
Last year, on top of dropping a 15kg rubbish bag in a crevasse, an Iranian team left behind 3 large bags of food at Camp 1 weighing at least 30kg (probably more). The Iranian team forced the responsibility on to other climbers to deal with this gear.
This year, it was Italian and Swiss climbers who behaved inappropriately. I gathered the abandoned rubbish and the abandoned food, and took it down to base camp. At base camp I weighed the bags: 16kg.
My focus is now turning on Gasherbrum I Camp 3 where the Korean lady abandoned 2 oxygen bottles and other gear on the mountain. Myself, Phil and two HAP's are now waiting for the weather to improve to recuperate that rubbish.
Dispatch #20 - July 20, 2010 – Base Camp
Congratulations to Freddy and Sammy who both reached the summit of GII in windy conditions. Freddy reached the top on the 18th along with his friends Pasang Lama and Pemba Sherpa along with two Korean climbers from the Korean expedition.
Sammy summited solo in very windy conditions. Unfortunately Max was not feeling well enough to leave camp three for the summit push with either Sammy or Freddy.
Wally, Roo, Tachi, Arian and myself made a valiant effort for the summit on the 19th but we were turned around by very dangerous high winds at 7,750 meters just as we finished the traverse below the summit pyramid and started the final summit ridge.p>We all made great time with a climb from camp three at 7,000 meters to camp four at 7,500 meters in four hours and then another two hours for the traverse to the 7,750 meter mark. With us all being so strong on the summit push it was a very hard decision to turn around but a few of the team were already suffering from cold feet and we expected to spend another 2-3 hours making the final climb to the top in deep snow.
For the GII climbers they will depart base camp on the 24th to go over the Gondogoro La and hopefully have fantastic views in the process. For Arian and myself, we have decide if the weather allows to make another attempt on GII or go straight for GI.
Arian will post a report on the trash conditions on the mountain in the next few days. We managed to retrieve a lot of trash left behind by the other expeditions and we have a lot more to retrieve the next time we head up.
Dispatch #19 - July 16, 2010 – Base Camp
It seems as if our patience has finally paid off with waiting for our latest weather forecast and the lower wind speeds it predicts. The wind is still going to be present and the conditions are less than ideal but we really only have one shot at the top for our soon to be departing Gasherbrum II climbers.
A few other teams have made the decision to push for the summit on the 17th through the 19th and most of the other groups have already got themselves positioned in camp two and three respectively. We played cautious and decided to wait for our most up to date forecast as well as letting the most recent snowfall consolidate before venturing higher.
We had received reports from the earlier teams heading up on their summit push of deep snow between camp one and camp two so a few extra days of glorious sunshine can only help the route become firmer. The weather is supposed to turn worse on the 20th with higher winds again and more precipitation so we plan to hopefully make a rapid descent from the summit on the 19th making camp one later that evening to avoid any problems with snow accumulation on the slope from camp two to three.
We plan to climb to camp two directly in the morning and hopefully top out on the 19th. Wish us luck on Gasherbrum II in this very windy Karakoram season indeed.
Dispatch #18 - July 13, 2010 – Base Camp
We want to congratulate the French team and their Sherpas who made the summit of GII on the 11th. The information traveling down to base camp is somewhat sketchy and the details on who reached the summit, which teams turned around, etc., changes by the hour as it is being delivered by the various cooks at base camp. We are pleased that the French made it after arriving so early at base camp and for all the work they did on the route for the other teams to follow.
The waiting game is proving harder than expected for some of our team members. Our first possible tentative summit weather window was not showing ideal conditions with wind speeds of 30-40 mph. We delayed departing base camp by a few days for improving winds of 20-30 mph for the following days but these have now increased going on our latest weather forecast and by the conditions we are experiencing at base camp. Climbing in these high winds without the use of supplementary oxygen and with such a long summit day are less than ideal conditions we think for our team.
Arian and I have kept ourselves occupied the last few days with meeting the representative from the EvK2Cnr organization to implement some of Arian's proposals from his dissertation. Their man at Gasherbrum base camp has been monitoring the waste management of the teams present, both at base camp and higher on the mountains. Unfortunately we are getting reports of teams leaving their trash at the high camps as they are departing the mountain. Arian is not happy at this news at all and hopes to be able to retrieve some of this trash hopefully upon his descent from the summit of Gasherbrum II.
Dispatch #17 - July 10, 2010 – Base Camp
We made our first night load carry yesterday to camp one and we had quite a strange experience in the middle of the night.
Sammy, Tachi, Roo and myself departed base camp at 7 pm for the customary four hour walk to camp one. We had to don headlamps and rope up around 8 pm as we were just about to enter the cwm with an amazing clear sky and stars galore. Around the halfway point of the cwm we noticed two areas of the glacier that were glowing. On seeing this strange sight, I instructed the others to switch off all their headlamps to see if the glowing continued and it did and we all couldn't understand why there was this glow as there was no moon present to illuminate the glacier.
Soon after we passed the glowing glacier we heard a loud crash and realized that a serac must had been displaced from Gasherbrum VI. The route to GII/I camp one weaves through the cwm and passes very close to the base of Gasherbrum VI at one point. A short time after the crash, the blast hit us from the avalanche and although there was not much snow hitting us, it was a strange feeling when the sky was clear and full of stars.
We discovered that the serac collapse was much larger than we had assumed when we got higher up the cwm as the trail and all the bamboo marker wands that we and the other teams had placed previously were all buried by the avalanche debris. It took us some time in the dark to reach the end of the debris field, which was over 100 meters long, with gaping crevasses either side, front and back. We finally managed to locate a bamboo wand with reflective tape in the distance and then found the existing established trail.
We arrived in camp one around four hours after departing base camp and both Wally and Arian, who traveled to camp one in the early morning, were awake and greeted us accordingly. Roo and Tachi decided to spend the night but Sammy and I had agreed just to drop loads and make the return journey back to base camp where we arrived around 1 am, making a six hour round journey.
The icefall and cwm has revealed many large crevasses since we made our last rotation to camp one around a week ago. One section in particular is very sketchy indeed and we already think we could use a couple of aluminum ladders to make passage easier and safer. 99% of climbers present this season are roping up in teams of two or three but we are still concerned by seeing a single female climber traveling alone and unroped, much against the advice of all the other climbers who pass her on the route.
The team is all now in base camp along with our HAP's. Ali, Ashraf and Sarwar had planned to fix some ropes from camp two to three but returned to base camp as we believe the ropes placed by the French team were excavated from the deep snow. We have cached all our rope and hardware at camp two in case the route needs additional rope placing or there are any sections that need replacing.
Our original plan to go for the summit on the 12th was aborted to the high winds that we can see from base camp hammering Gasherbrum I and by our updated weather forecasts. The teams who are presently in camp three and planning to go for the summit have a time restraint at base camp and have to depart soon. We hope the weather holds for them and the wind speeds allow them a realistic shot at the top. Our Gasherbrum II climbers still have two weeks remaining and the GII/GI climbers have over a month left at base camp so we have decided to wait for a more favorable weather window with manageable wind speeds.
Dispatch #16 - July 9, 2010 – Base Camp
Ali and the rest of our climbing staff made the climb to camp two today to assess any damage we may have received to the tents due to the high winds that have been hitting the mountain the past few days. We have been lucky as our four Mountain Hardwear Trango 3.1 tents have only sustained one broken pole. Ali reported over the radio to us at base camp at noon that there were several climbers attempting to reach camp three in knee deep snow and that there were strong winds present above our high camp two.
Arian and Wally left base camp this morning for the first leg of our tentative summit push. The rest of the team decided to wait for the latest weather forecast to come in, which we received this morning, before planning to depart base camp this evening. We sometimes climb in the evening after dinner to camp one if we are expecting clear blue skies the following day as the heat in the cwm when the sun hits and the radiation from the snow in the windless camp one location is unbearable for even the shortest duration of time.
Our weather forecast predicts very strong winds on the day we had hoped to reach the top and there is also a possibility of even stronger gusts on these days. With this new information we have decided to delay our summit attempt by two days when the winds are predicted to be half of what they are on our original summit date. Weather forecasts are not always accurate but we feel confident with the decision the team members at base camp have made collectively.
We had made plans to go to camp one this evening so seeing as we have already had a week at base camp resting due to the weather conditions higher, we plan to leave this evening at 7 pm, spend a few hours napping at camp one before returning to base camp tomorrow morning before the sun hits the cwm and icefall. Ali and company are at present breaking down camp two in anticipation of the expected high winds and will return to base camp this evening.
Dispatch #15 - July 8, 2010 – Base Camp
This morning our High Altitude Porters Ali, Ashraf and Sarwar carried some fixed rope and hardware to camp one. When they have deposited their supplies in camp they will walk roped up to the foot of the couloir that leads to the Banana Ridge to asses the snow conditions. Hopefully the sunshine continues all day as we want to allow the awkward slope that is directly above the couloir that leads to the ridge to consolidate for another day.
Based on our latest weather forecast that we are scheduled to receive tomorrow we will then possibly proceed a day behind our HAP's, this way allowing them to fix some rope on the route to camp three from the higher camp two to where the ropes begin at roughly 6,700 meters that were placed by the earlier French team. We are very grateful for all the hard work that the French team have done with the route finding through the icefall upon their arrival and for the fixed rope that they have already placed on the mountain.
Our team members are doing very well to say that this is their seventh day resting at base camp. We had hoped for a maximum of three to four days but the weather rules in Pakistan and we hope that the high winds that we can see hammering Gasherbrum I each day from base camp subside when we have our Gasherbrum II summit push planned.
Dispatch #14 - July 7, 2010 – Base Camp
We had a surprise visit today from an expedition leader who demanded that we send our High Altitude Porters up to camp two tomorrow to assist his staff who were already at camp one with fixing the ropes to camp two and camp three respectively. We were quite surprised at his demand as base camp was in complete whiteout yesterday and had received 6 inches of fresh snow. No climbers were above base camp yesterday to verify the new snowfall amounts higher, but we can only assume that camp one and camp two had received a lot more accumulation than what we had received at the 5,050 meter level.
We had made a prior agreement between the expeditions in attendance who were climbing with the assistance of Nepal Sherpas and Hunza HAP's, for the collective staff to fix the route where necessary, but this was all dependent on safe conditions for all the staff. At present, there are no other climbers apart from these few staff members above base camp as we have all sensibly decided to let the weather improve before going higher. For the record, today is the first day that we have seen sunshine and blue skies in a few.
It seems as if many of the other weather forecasts were slightly off with their forecasts in the last few days with the precipitation we received, so we are insisting that we keep our staff and climbers down at base camp just for a few extra days to let any possible dangerous slopes consolidate.
If the blue skies continue into tomorrow and we have no more substantial snowfall we will hopefully start to move up the mountain again, possibly making a late departure tomorrow evening to avoid the heat in the Cwm. We would like to point out to our readers that the snow conditions experienced here in the Karakorum are much different to those encountered in the European Alps.
Dispatch #13 - July 6, 2010 – Base Camp
We stated that when at base camp and with sufficient solar electricity we would post as many dispatches about our expedition as possible so here's another non-climbing dispatch.
The various teams at base camp, and this year there are very few of us, are all using different weather forecast services. There are teams from various nations using the professional forecast services from Switzerland, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Italy, Korea and the United States. Sometimes all are forecasts gel and are similar, other times they differ in their interpretations.
We have used the same weather forecast service for several seasons now, deciding to go with a professional service from the United States. Michael Fagin is the main force behind of West Coast Weather LLC, who we use on Everest, Gasherbrum II/I and Manaslu each year. Michael has been providing weather forecasts for many expeditions for many years now and is an experienced climber himself. He has a very impressive client list on Everest which includes such prestigious companies as Alpine Ascents, Mountain Madness, Rainier Mountaineering Inc., International Mountain Guides as well as ourselves, Altitude Junkies.
The talk the past few days between the groups at base camp was when to make a serious summit attempt, and of course this is all decided on the forecast we are each provided. The general consensus between the European teams was to leave in the next few days for the top. We had decided to stay put and see how the weather develops as we were advised that there was some precipitation on it's way. A little snow is not a big problem but a substantial accumulation over a few days makes the climb from camp two to camp three on Gasherbrum II quite daunting indeed with it's avalanche prone slope.
Some other teams were planning to leave for camp one early this morning for their summit attempts, but all our team members were enjoying a deep sleep when I awoke at 4 am to check the weather. As predicted it was snowing and there was already a substantial accumulation of snow at base camp. It's a nice feeling to know that our guy the other side of the world is checking all his data thoroughly to make sure our expedition is as safe and successful as possible. We all know that weather forecasts can be wrong but we like to think we have the edge on the mountain with our guy.
If the forecasts stay true we have a few more days at base camp before heading higher and hopefully making the top soon after.
Dispatch #12 - July 5, 2010 – Base Camp
Due to our inactivity for the last three days at base camp due to the current weather conditions higher on the mountain, our fourth day saw the inaugural Altitude Junkies Highland Altitude Games being held in the morning.
Our various feats of strength performed by various of members of our team included tossing the antenna mast caber, the 8mm fixed rope crucifix hold, the kerosene Jerry can snatch, the 9mm fixed rope discus and the rock anchor shot put. Things grown men do at base camp when bored and when they have to much energy.
Our new weather forecast we received this morning is pretty much in line with the other forecasts being used at base camp by the various teams and we are expecting some snow accumulation over the next three days. With this in mind we have decided to keep our High Altitude Porters at base camp for a few more days until the predicted snow has stopped and we have safe slopes to travel on above camp two.
For those who are interested, and I guess nobody really is, Sarbaz, our assistant cook and server, came out on top of the competitors which included a former world record holder in a completely different activity.
Dispatch #11 - July 4, 2010 – Base Camp
Our 4th of July is not filled with fireworks, beer or barbeques, instead we were visited by most of the other climbers at base camp to briefly discuss the rope fixing. A couple of the groups were not present at yesterdays gathering at the Swiss camp so our Mountain Hardwear dome was packed to capacity for the impromptu meeting.
The surprise visit by 30 or so climbers was a welcome break from studying the weather forecasts and charts. All the climbers present seemed to agree to cooperate with donating equipment and manpower and sharing information on the condition of the route. It seems as if the weather cooperates we should all hopefully have a safe and successful season.
I would like to take this opportunity to introduce one of our climbers who has a very worthwhile cause here in Pakistan.
Arian Lemal, a Frenchmen with a Kiwi twist was a member of our Gasherbrum II/I expeditions last season. Unfortunately the snow conditions halted a realistic summit attempt on Gasherbrum II and he turned around high on Gasherbrum I on summit day due to the combination of high winds and a nagging chest infection. Well he is back again this year to hopefully summit both GII and GI as well as his main reason for being here, to clean up after previous climbers.
Arian is known in certain circles as “The Sweeper of the Summits” and this was recognized with an award he received from Explorers Web for his actions on Gasherbrum II last season.
While interviewing climbers present at the Gasherbrum's last year for his dissertation on waste management on 8000-meter peaks, repeat Gasherbrum II guides present reported that camp four located at 7400 meters resembled a tent graveyard. Among the climbers Arian interviewed, one Argentinian climber reported that he had planned in advance to abandon his tent at camp four and a Czech climber had bought a "cheap supermarket tent" planning to abandon it as well.
According to Arian “no wonder camp four has become a tent graveyard over the years. This has to change! It is no longer acceptable to deliberately abandon gear or trash on any mountain. It is a matter of safety, respect for future climbers and the environment”.
This season if snow conditions allow Arian plans to remove some old tents from camp four with the help of the other Altitude Junkies team members. “I wonder if there will be other climbers willing to make such an effort to clean up Gasherbrum II high camp” Arian says. “More and more, there is a consensus among climbers to keep it clean while climbing 8000m peaks. Our team will make an extra effort to render the Gasherbrums pristine and clean. We will also make sure that all other expeditions behave respectfully and appropriately. Last year's Iranian incident (they dumped a 15kg rubbish bag in a crevasse at camp one) won't be tolerated” says Arian.
During the pre-expedition briefing with the Pakistani Alpine Club, Arian presented and discussed his dissertation. The Pakistan Alpine Club listened carefully and showed sincere interest in his dissertation's findings.
At the conclusion of our Gasherbrum II & I expeditions, Arian and I are meeting up with the Ministry for Tourism and the Pakistan Alpine Club to discuss further in depth this issue. We hope to implement some of the recommendations from Arian's comprehensive studies and implement them for the 2011 Karakorum season. It may result in a small increase in environmental fees imposed on expeditions but we both think it is worth it.A last comment from Arian states “for now, we are focusing on Gasherbrum II. After, Phil and I with the assistance of Ali and Sarwar will be going to Gasherbrum I to recover oxygen bottles and gear abandoned last year by a Korean lady climber. Gasherbrum I's effort will be further discussed when the time comes”.
Anyone interested in learning more about Arian's cause can visit his website: www.arianlemal.fr
Dispatch #10 - July 3, 2010 – Base Camp
Our second rest day at base camp saw a few of our team members attend a meeting held by the Swiss group to discuss the rope fixing on Gasherbrum II. Most of the teams who are attempting GII were in attendance except for the French group who were clearing their campsite from camp one as their time has come to depart base camp for home.
The meeting was very positive and all teams present agreed to contribute manpower and equipment wherever possible. The early groups to arrive at base camp, the departing French and the Czech team have already placed some rope and bamboo wands on the route and we thanked them appropriately.
It was discussed to replace some of the thinner diameter dynamic rope on the steep couloir with thicker static rope and to utilize the thinner rope for the traverse sections of the route to camp two. The French group have fixed some sections of the route from camp two to camp three and if we can uncover them from the deep snow they will be used. If not, we have to fix the route again to camp three using a heavier rope. It has been decided that the Sherpas and HAP's present this season will fix the route when the snow conditions allow and they will be represented by three members of staff from the Korean Expedition, four from the Swiss Kobler Expedition and three from the Junkies Expedition respectively.
The different weather forecasts being used by the expeditions this season have all seemed to agree that we have increased winds and some precipitation coming in the next few days so it seems we are all in a holding pattern at base camp for a few more days. The slopes to camp two and three respectively are already heavily laden with snow and it was agreed by all groups not to let any of our staff members go above camp one until the snow conditions have consolidated and are safe for travel.
We are hoping that the next window of snow is short and that we get the appropriate weather after to allow us an early summit attempt on Gasherbrum II so we then can focus our attention on Gasherbrum I.
We would like to wish all those folks following us back home in the States a very happy and safe 4th of July holiday weekend.
Dispatch #9 - July 1, 2010 – Base Camp
It's been a few days since our last dispatch as we have just spent three nights and four days on the mountain.
We all departed for camp one on the 28th with our HAP's, Ali, Ashraf and Sarwar all continuing on to camp two to drop loads and then returning to camp one for the evening.
The following day we all climbed up the Banana Ridge. The route is different from what I have experienced in previous seasons and the first team to arrive this year made an alternative route. Instead of the route following gentle slopes weaving below some seracs before reaching the ridge proper, it takes a direct couloir to the left hand side for about 100 meters with a gradient of up to 45 degrees. The route then follows gentle slopes before reaching the ridge and the normal route up the ridge. Upon reaching the top of the ridge there is a cornice traverse which seems to be less of a challenge as last year, although we thought.
The plan was to sleep at camp two and then the following morning climb and tag camp three if the weather and the snow conditions allowed. Our weather forecast had predicted some snow at the camp one elevation so we were just waiting to see how much camp two would receive at 6,550 meters. We had a windy and snowy evening on the 29th, not much accumulation at camp two due to the wind, but we could see that making a trip to camp three the following day would be impossible with the fresh snow on already somewhat heavily snow laden slopes. We decided to spend the 30th resting in our tents and avoiding the spells of snow and wind that was frequenting our campsite.
The morning of the 1st saw us make a descent to base camp that was filled with more excitement than we had planned for. The route to camp two from the foot of the Banana Ridge had very few fixed ropes in place on our ascent. We were informed that the route was fixed to camp two but I am assuming somewhere the information we received was lost in translation. We have brought ample supplies of rope and hardware to fix the route ourselves but going on the information we were told, our fixed rope supplies remained at base camp when we ascended to camp two.
Our first challenge of the morning was to make the traverse to the Banana Ridge proper from lower camp two, which is very exposed either side. The fixed rope was in place but the fresh snow had left the ridge with a very steep cornice with a beautiful steep apex for around 40 meters. The snow conditions were loose and Arian decided he would straddle the ridge to reach the safety of the anchor some 40 meters away. This proved impossible because of the snow conditions so I belayed Arian, in addition to him being attached to the fixed rope, while he chopped away at the cornice ridge to make a safe trail for all the others to follow. I belayed each climber until they reached the anchor at the start of the descent of the Banana Ridge. We always carry with us a couple of 60 meter emergency ropes with a diameter of 6mm for such occasions.
The ridge itself was nothing unusual, even with fresh snow but we had a tricky traverse to contend with. A 100 meter rappel from the halfway point of the ridge saw a 50 meter traverse and another 50 meter rappel without the aid of fixed ropes. Again we belayed each climber through the traverse and the descent until reaching the bamboo marker wand that marked the start of the short rappel to the saddle and then the longer rappel down the couloir. Another belayed traverse at the foot of the couloir saw us retrieve our climbing ropes for the short glacier walk into camp one. We were grateful that we had placed an additional 60 bamboo marker wands to those already placed by the other teams as the conditions were whiteout and with the wands placed every 50 meters we found the campsite easily.
We took a little time at camp one to store gear needed from our packs for our next rotation and then continued down to base camp where our cooks are now pampering us. We will check the weather forecast and see when we will make our next rotation up the mountain.
Dispatch #8 - June 27, 2010 – Base Camp
Max arrived yesterday and now our team is finally complete. He trekked in with the mixed Brazilian, Colombian and Argentinean team so he was in familiar company as he has spent time living in both Brazil and Argentina so there was no language barrier.We are now receiving our regular weather forecasts as we had delayed starting them due to the uncertainty of our cargo arrival. We are hoping that the weather pattern that has seen good weather on the Gasherbrums in 2006 and 2008 continues for 2010. We have experienced bad weather in 2005, 2007 and 2009 so we are hoping this is our year for good conditions to enable us to summit both Gasherbrum II and Gasherbrum I.
Two of our team members have already lost interest in the soccer World Cup due to their teams exiting the competition at the first stage. Arian a Frenchman and Tachi an Italian have both agreed that this was definitely a good decision to spend the summer months climbing in the Karakorum instead of being at home watching their teams disappointing performances. We still have climbers with their national teams still in the competition representing England, Argentina and the United States. Both Wally and Sammy are not represented in the tournament but keep telling us how good their countries are in ice hockey. Ice what?
We hear that the French team did not make the summit of Gasherbrum II the other day but plan to rest for a few days and make another attempt when the weather forecast is favorable. We wish them the best of luck and hope they all summit safely.
Dispatch #7 - June 25, 2010 – Base Camp
Our cargo arrived on the morning of the 23rd so it was all hands on deck to erect the dining dome, set up the solar panels and prepare the loads for camp one.
Ali, Ashraf and Sarwar made a carry to camp one on the morning of the 24th and then returned to base camp after erecting our Mountain Hardwear trango 3.1 tents. Roo, Tachi, Wally, Arian and myself all made a 4 am start later that day arriving at camp one 4.5 hours later. The route is similar to last year and we had to rope up near the top of the icefall because of the large crevasses that are always present.
Now that our cargo has arrived I can finally stop wearing the vintage berghaus jacket that I purchased in Skardu from one of the climbing stores. The team have been comparing it to one that Sir Chris Bonnington would have worn in his heyday. The team members have been very good in loaning both Sammy and myself some clothing as ours was in the cargo sent from Kathmandu. It has now all been returned, somewhat dirtier and worse for wear.
With us already having completed our first rotation on the mountain sleeping at camp one, we will now spend a few more days at base camp before making our second trip through the icefall. The plan will be to sleep again at camp one before sleeping at camp two. If all the members feel good after a night at camp two, we will climb and tag camp three before returning to camp two for a second evening. Then we will descend to base camp for a well deserved rest.
Some more teams have arrived and this season we think there will be six groups in attendance. Our friends Don and Alexi will be joining us in our dining dome for the next few meals as they are a few days ahead of their base camp cooks and supplies. There plan is to climb G3 and G4 as Don and Bruce attempted last summer.
Now that we have our solar panels, satellite modems and phones, expect to be getting messages and phone calls from out team members. We apologize about the lack of communication and dispatches from our expedition but we have to blame it on the incompetence of Pakistan International Airlines cargo service. It's true that PIA stands for 'perhaps it arrives'.
Dispatch #6 - June 20, 2010 – Base Camp
We are now at base camp after two days of amazing trekking over hard snow with fantastic views of all the major peaks higher up on the Baltoro. We have not seen a cloud for nearly three days and only now are some starting to form over base camp.
The team members are all doing well and we are looking forward to a few days resting to let our bodies adjust to the higher altitude of base camp. The last two days saw us take a 4 am breakfast and then hitting the trail soon after so the porters would have an easier time on the trail without soft snow hindering their progress.
Our cargo is now on the trail and should arrive at base camp on the 22nd or 23rd. When it arrives we will set up our Mountain Hardwear dome, solar panels and then have adequate power to send more frequent dispatches. This will also allow our members to send daily emails to family and friends.
This expedition has some very experienced climbers with six of the eight expedition members having a combined 43 expeditions to 8,000-meter peaks between them. They have previous climbs on Everest, Cho Oyu, Gasherbrum I, Gasherbrum I, Lhotse, Manaslu, Shishapangma, Dhaulagiri, K2 and Makalu. Roo and Tachi may be first timers on an 8000-meter peak, but hopefully they will learn a lot from the collective experience of the other climbers.
We have been informed on arriving at base camp that the first group to arrive here, nearly two weeks ago have already reached camp two and today are hoping to reach camp three. This means that we will not have to fix the entire route on Gasherbrum II as we did last season, much to the delight of Ali, Ashraf and Sarwar and we are very grateful to the French expedition for making such quick progress this season.
Phil Cramptonp>Dispatch #5 - June 17, 2010 – Urdakas
We are still to receive our cargo sent from Kathmandu with our solar panels and Brunton batteries, hence the absence of daily dispatches to the website because we are trying to conserve the laptop batteries until the cargo arrives. We are told it is already on the trail and will arrive at base camp a few days behind us.
Our fourth day on the trek sees us spending the evening at Urdakas. We have spent one evening at Jhola and two evenings at Paiyu before arriving here today. The weather has been overcast pretty much the whole trek so far which keeps the temperature low, ideal for the trek, but the photo opportunities have been limited so far. W e seem to have rain each evening which means the tents never really seem to dry out completely
Tomorrow we will continue the trek to Goro II and then Shagring and base camp respectively. We hear there is fresh waist deep snow at Broad Peak base camp so we could possibly have a days delay in arriving at Gasherbrum base camp if the porters decide the snow is too deep above Concordia.
Tachi would like to say a big hello to his kids, Alberto and Athena, who are following his progress on this expedition. We will send more emails and call more when our power supply arrives.
Dispatch #4 - June 13, 2010 – Askole
Today we arrived in Askole right on schedule which is not bad considering some of the problems the other teams are having getting on the Islamabad to Skardu flight.
Our high altitude expedition cargo is supposedly on its way to us after clearing customs in Islamabad but our most important cargo, a quantity of Murree Beer from the Rawalpindi Brewery has made it safely and is with us.
Tomorrow we start the trek to base camp and hopefully arrive there on the 20th if the porters do not go on strike for a few days as they did last season. The team is doing well, all healthy and keen to get going on this hill.
Last year the Altitude Junkies Gasherbrum expeditions were assisted by four Nepalese Sherpas straight from the slopes of Everest. Unfortunately we had some issues with Pakistan visas being guaranteed for Sherpas in advance this year so we decided before the Everest expedition, not to take any chances and secure the services of the some of the most experienced High Altitude Porters available. We have the following HAP's to assist our Gasherbrum II team of five climbers and our Gasherbrum I team of Arian and myself.
Ali Raza who has climbed GII (3 times), GI (2 times), Nanga Parbat, Broad Peak and K2 and Sarwar Ali who has climbed GII (6 times), GI, Nanga Parbat and Broad Peak will both be assisting on GII and GI. Ashraf Raza who has climbed GII (2 times) and GI is Ali's son and will be assisting our team on GII only.
Hopefully these experienced HAP's will add to the success of the expedition this year.
Dispatch #3 - June 11, 2010 – Skardu
Sammy, Fred and Arian all made it to Islamabad on the 9th and the six of us all made the scheduled flight to Skardu on the 10th. The only thing not going to plan at the moment is the arrival of our cargo from Kathmandu. The cyclone that hit Karachi has affected the PIA cargo service and has caused a backup of loads in Karachi. We hope our logistics provider in Pakistan can pull some strings and get it out of Karachi, through customs clearance and to us as soon as possible.
Arian and I went to the Pakistan Alpine Club as planned for the expedition briefing and for Arian to present his findings from his research for his dissertation on waste management on Pakistan 8,000-meter mountains. It seems as if the Pakistan Alpine Club liked his ideas and hopefully they will impose some new rules for the 2011 season that will make the expeditions present in the Karakoram follow more stringent rules in regards to pollution control on the popular peaks.
Max finally got his visa issues sorted and is Islamabad this evening and will hopefully make the sporadic Skardu flight tomorrow and then the team will be complete.
We are planning to drive by Jeep Willy's to Askole on the 13th, but as with any Pakistan expedition, anything can happen, so schedules are not taken too seriously here.
Dispatch #2 - June 8, 2010 - Islamabad
As another Junkies Gasherbrum expedition starts with some of the team members arriving in Islamabad, things seem to be as normal as usual in Pakistan, at least with the flights I took on PIA from Kathmandu.
Wally, Tachi and Roo all had uneventful flights but I was diverted through Lahore from Karachi due to bad weather in Islamabad last night. A usual simple direct 4 hour flight from Kathmandu became a 12 hour epic and as a bonus I witnessed a near first fight between two passengers on the flight as we departed Karachi. It already seems comforting to see things are as normal in Pakistan, at least on the PIA flights.
The plan is for Wally, Tachi and Roo to fly to Skardu tomorrow to get out of the hot and dusty environment of Islamabad and recover from any jet lag they may have. Sammy, Fred and Arian should all arrive in Islamabad tomorrow very early morning and they will hopefully follow the other three the following day to Skardu.
I will go with our Liaison Officer, a Major from the Pakistan Army, for the expedition briefing tomorrow and will travel with him to Skardu when we have finished all the necessary expedition paperwork.
Max seems to be still waiting for his visa from the Pakistan Consulate in Kathmandu. We have him scheduled to fly directly in a few days time from Kathmandu to Islamabad and the same day to Skardu so the team is complete before our jeep ride to Askole.
All of our gear that we leave in storage here in Islamabad seems to be all accounted for and I am hoping the 25 or so barrels we sent from Kathmandu with all the expedition goodies and electronics all arrive safely later this afternoon.
We are told there are roughly only 5-6 teams on Gasherbrum II and less on Gasherbrum I this season so we hope that the few climbers present in base camp all have a safe and successful season.
Dispatch #1 - June 5, 2010 - Kathmandu
Welcome to the expedition dispatches from our Gasherbrum II & I expeditions. We are still in Kathmandu after the conclusion of our Everest expedition this spring but should be arriving in Islamabad very soon.
Our expedition team this year consists of the following team members.
Phil Crampton (UK/USA)
Roo Dix (UK)
Max Kausch (Argentina/UK)
Arian Lamal (France)
Samuli Mansikka (Finland)
Tachi Pesando (Italy)
Wally Reisinger (Canada)
Fredrik Strang (Sweden)
Phil Crampton (UK/USA)
Max Kausch (Aregentina/UK)
Arian Lamal (France)
Samuli Mansikka (Finland)
Fredrik Strang (Sweden)
Our friends Max, Sammy and Freddy will be joining the expedition using Junkies base camp services, weather forecasts, communications and sharing the good coffee we have brought. They will be climbing without any Sherpa or High Altitude Porter support.
Hopefully you will follow our progress with our regular dispatches posted on this website.
Contact us: email@example.com