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  United Kingdom British K2 & Broad Peak Expedition 2004 Update 6: Chris Mothersdale


In delayed reporting from K2 base camp here are several updates

All indications from the various weather reports were that the weather was going to improve up to the weekend when Saturday, Sunday, and Monday would be clear of clouds, snow and high winds. By the time we set out at 5.00 am on Wednesday the 21st July the forecast had changed again and Sunday - our intended summit day was looking more doubtful.

We set off across the glacier all going well and zig zagged our way through the seracs to the bottom of the route. Crampons and axe out we started the 900m climb to camp 1 up gradually steepening snow slopes and onwards to the bottom of the fixed line at about 5600m. I was going well to start with but gradually slowed and it was at about 5750m when I decided for a number of reasons to turn round and try again the following day. The others, Dave, Stu, Ralph, Purba Sherpa, Sonam Sherpa and Ibrahim Rustum continued and arrived at camp 1 around mid day all going strongly.

In no hurry I descended to about 5500m when I heard a noise and on looking up saw an avalanche approaching fast. I had no time to do any thing and was soon fighting to get to the surface, axe in hand trying to break out I was hit by another faster avalanche which pushed my axe into my face cutting my nose. I fought to the surface again and managed to ride on the surface to the bottom of the slope some 200m lower. Shaken and bruised but otherwise ok I made my way back to Base Camp very slowly after informing Dave.

The avalanche had shot past Sonam and Ibrahim higher up but fortunately they were attached to fixed line and were to one side.

Back at camp I relayed the forecast to Dave on the mountain which seemed now to suggest poor weather and high winds on Friday and on Sunday afternoon. They decided to set off on Thursday but were soon engulfed in spindrift and wind and when I reported that the weather did not look to be improving the decision was made to descend back to camp 1 from about 6400m. Most of the team made it back down to base camp that day except for Sonam who climbed to camp 2 to collect equipment and then descended to ABC and Purba who dumped a load at ABC then climbed back upto camp 1 to collect tents before returning to ABC to spend the night with Sonam - a massive effort! They returned back on Friday morning with Ibrahim who had gone up to meet them and help them with a load.

We are all back at base camp and after much discussion between our selves and other teams have decide to ask the porters to collect us for the walk out. We feel that after our success on Broad Peak in very difficult conditions, the present conditions on K2 and future poor weather that this decision is the correct one for us, but it has not been easy to reach.

Chris Mothersdale

Dispatches

Background

K2/Broadpeak Expedition 2004

K2 Team  
Dave Pritt (Expedition leader)
Chris Mothersdale  
Stuart Peacock  
Ralph Greenway  
Phurpa Ridar Bhote (Our climbing Sherpa from Nepal)
Mingma Nura Sherpa (Our climbing Sherpa from Nepal)

Two years have passed since the decision was made to attempt K2. We had summited on Everest on the 16th May 2002 and had vowed never to set foot on another 8000m peak after the months of discomfort and the debilitating effect of altitude on mind and body.

We arrived in Kathmandu a few days later already thinking of the next mountain, K2 was the ultimate if scary option.

In three weeks we fly to Pakistan, to Islamabad and all the reading and dreaming and training is at an end and the hard work will start in earnest. In this unknown city we will have to go through the rigmarole of finding our freight at the airport, not a short process normally, signing the last minute papers necessary to move onwards and deal with all the little problems associated with moving four climbers and equipment to Skardu and then on to the Broad peak base camp. We hope to fly to Skardu but may have to drive if the weather is poor.

When we arrive at Skardu we will need to employ a number of porters and mules to carry the equipment for the eight to ten days that it will take to get firstly to the Broad Peak Base camp. We will walk to Askole and from there along the Braldu River to the Boltoro Glacier until we reach Concordia at 4720m. A short walk up the Godwin Austin Glacier towards K2 will bring us to the base of Broad Peak and base camp (4900m) for the first objective.

Broad Peak is the 12th highest mountain in the world at 8047m. It was first climbed in 1957 in 'alpine style' by an Austrian team. They were thwarted on the first attempt by a false summit and had to return a second time to climb it. We plan to place camps at 5400m, 6250m and finally at 7200m. From here we will push up to the summit ridge and follow this over the fore summit fixing some pinnacle sections to the summit. Although the mountain is an 'easier' 8000m mountain the summit day will still be in excess of 12 hours and will be a real test at altitude.

K2 is the second highest mountain in the world at 8616m and is variously called the 'killer' mountain, 'the climbers' mountain, and the 'most difficult' of the 8000m mountains. It gets this reputation from the weather, which is unpredictable, the technical difficulties, objective dangers such as stone fall and avalanche and the problems associated with cold and altitude. It has not been climbed for three years. This is our second objective.

We will establish Base camp at about 5200m on the Boltoro glacier before pushing the route up the mountain to Camp 1 at 6100m. Above this camp is the notorious 'Bills' or 'Houses' Chimney, which is the crux technically. This is climbed to camp 2 at 6700m, which lies below the Black Pyramid - a broken, steep rocky section that is often very difficult if the conditions are poor. Camp 3 above this lies on snow at about 7200m, although the position of this camp varies from year to year and from team to team. The shoulder is a long snowy glacier with some large crevasses which although not technically difficult is very tiring and in poor weather route finding up and down this section can be very difficult if not impossible. Camp 4 lies as high on this, anywhere between 7600m and 8000m. Once this camp has been established the team can push on to attempt the summit.

Very early in the morning (11.00pm/12.00am) we will set out up snow slopes to the 'bottle neck'. This is a narrow gully about 100m in length, which gradually steepens and is at an altitude of about 8300m. In dry years it can be very steep and be 80 degrees. This ends at a hanging glacier, which must be traversed under until the final summit slopes can be gained. The sting in the tail is a rocky step just before the summit. If all goes well we would hope to be on the summit in the early afternoon.

This is the plan!

Chris Mothersdale May 2004.

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