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  International Broad Peak Expedition 2004: Update 5 Operation ‘Saving Fabian’

Note this update is from the Dutch part of the team....

Update Five: July 13, Operation ‘Saving Fabian’

Today, Tuesday July 13, Rooz and Frits are busy moving camp 1. Our old camp was in need of a thorough renovation, partly due to the melting of snow under and around our tents. Building the camps brand new is even better, especially when there are three new free spaces in the ‘official’ camp 1, around hundred meters (330 feet) above ours.

So Rooz and Frits are busy packing the two tents and all the personal belongings which were carried there the past few weeks. After that, they will bring all the material up in a couple of walks and establish camp 1 again. It was ‘very good work according to expedition-leader Roland.

The days before these were less happy. The planning of all climbers was quite mixed up by an incident on Sunday. Wouldn’t the four Dutch climbers be in camp 3 already after all?

It is Sunday July 11, 0700 hour. Rooz, Frits, Bob and Menno are slowly waking up. Today they will ascend to camp 2, but then a request for help comes by radiotelephone, the start of operation “Saving Fabian”. A French climber is in an emergency situation. He has been brought into camp 2, more dead than alive. Doctor Deb, who is in camp 2 with Paul, Jef and Gary, examines him and concludes he has HAPE. He has to go down immediately! The four climbers of our expedition cancel their plan to go to camp 3 and prepare the evacuation. At nine o’clock Bob, Frits and Menno climb towards camp 2 to wait halfway up, while Paul and Jef put the Frenchman named Fabian, in a sleeping bag and start to lower him down the mountain. It doesn’t take long before a handy system is worked out to let him slide down the mountain, safe and secure. Around 1100 hour Paul, Deb and Fabian arrive at the point where Bob, Frits and Menno are waiting for them. Bob takes over the lowering from Jef, while Menno takes over the caring of the injured climber. He holds his hand and talks to him the whole way down. “If he dies right now, there will at least be someone holding his hand”. Frits takes care to maintain a safe situation for the whole team. He keeps an eye on the surroundings and warns for possible avalanches which could come down. He also takes over the backpacks of Menno and Bob. In a dazzling pace they descend further in stages of sixty meters (190 feet), the length of the rope.

Fabian is noticeably recovering while he is descending. He crawls out of his sleeping bag several times and starts making sounds. A good sign!

Around one o’clock they arrive at camp 1. There he is examined again. He is by now also a bit hypothermic from the dragging through the snow. Rooz has made warm tea, but be doesn’t drink. Because of that she tries to rub his feet warm. She also changes his wet socks for dry and warm down slippers. Deb gives an extra injection DEX. By now there is also an extra bottle of oxygen carried up. It turns out nice that our team has oxygen ready at base camp, Fabian’s expedition doesn’t seem to have that. Later on the team of Dave Pritt (Adventure Peaks) would also supply a bottle of oxygen.

Then there is a meeting. The slope from camp 1 down to base camp isn’t very safe. It has snowed a lot the last few days and avalanches aren’t an unfamiliar sight in the afternoon.

By now it is 1400 hour, really too late to go down. But if Fabian stays here, he will probably die. The decision is quickly made: We continue to descend to base camp. Everything is being prepared for the final stage and within half an hour he is already prepared to leave. Even faster than before Fabian is sliding down. Screaming and fighting with his arms. At the ‘half camp’, at the top of the couloir, Bob and Menno hand over their task to a climber of the expedition Fabian belongs to.

At 1630 hour he is carried into a tent, which serves as a small emergency hospital at the bottom of the glacier. Especially Paul and Jeff deserve a lot of honor. They descended with Fabian all the way from camp 2 to base camp. In the tent he gets a drip and are his eyes are nursed. Even though his rescuers have tried to cover his eyes the whole day, the extreme intensity of the sun gave him snow blindness. After his clothes were changed and another dose of DEX was administered, he was put in a pressure bag for the night. The air pressure in such a bag can be increased, which simulates a situation on a much lower altitude.

The next morning the Godwin Austin Glacier is woken by the sound of a helicopter. After Fabian is loaded in the chopper, it leaves - the pilot clearly has difficulties flying this high – to the hospital of Skardu. According to Doctor Deb he has a big chance to survive without lasting injury. 

In the late afternoon, Bob and Menno climb to camp 1 again where they spend the night. The next morning (Monday) they leave with Rooz en Frits towards camp 2. Everyone is very tired of the rescue operation the day before. Menno decides to turn around at 5850 meters (19200 feet): ‘My legs feel like I have cycled a stage of the Tour de France’. Rooz, Frits en Bob slowly ascend to camp 2, to bring some ‘groupgear’, while Menno descents to base camp. He is just in time at base camp to join the party. Cook Abbas had invited all his friend from the base camps in the vicinity for a little party ‘To celebrate the luck’. ‘Because fellow climber Fabian has survived’.



International Broad Peak Expedition 2004

Mr. Roland Hunter

Broad Peak 8047m

Coming on 15/6/2004


Bios on some of the climbers: Frits Vrijlandt (36), climbed everest via the Notrthridge, the Seven Summits and many other peaks around the world.

Rozemarijn Janssen (35), climbed 5 of the Seven Summits and many  peaks in the Alps. She is a mountain leader for the Alpine Club.
Menno Boermans (26) is climber and a photographer. He climbed Cartsensz Piramide and several hard routes in the Alps and other areas. His pictures are published in many magazines (like Outside Magazine).

Bob de Kort (23) is a mountain leader for the Alpine Club. He climbed several hard routes in the Alps and other areas. His climbing partner is often Menno.

Deborah Robertson MD, is an emergency physician in Portland, Oregon, USA.  She has volunteered for the Himalayan Rescue Association and provided medical support on several climbs.  This is her first 8000m expedition.

Pippa Curtis, when not at work on sustainable development Pippa can be found climbing British sea cliffs, in Scottish winter conditions or on bigger mountains in Europe and beyond. In the 5 years Pippa has been climbing she has climbed ice in Colorado, on expedition in the Himalaya and hosting on international meets in Scotland and north Wales.
Noteable in her climbing resume was her first Alpine season in Switzerland, where she summited 11 peaks in 11 days (including 6 of the 7 highest in the European Alps), and in the Karakoram being one of three to make the high point on an attempt on Drifika and then to descend from a previously uncrossed pass at 5500m. Pippa climbs at WI V, Scottish winter IV, and onsight f6a+.
Pippa has independently trekked extensively in Europe, New Zealand, Nepal, Patagonia and her native Australia. She has recently set up self-catering apartments in a beautiful old farmhouse in Briancon in the French Alps


Leaders: Roland Hunter (UK) and Paul Walters (Aus)

Jeff Lamo (US)

Deb Robertson (US)

Nick Stopford (UK)

Pippa Curtis (UK)

Gary Pfisterer (US)

Simon Williams (New Zealand)

John Dunlop (Aus)

Frits Vrijlandt (NL)

Roze Vrijlandt (NL)

Bob Kort (NL)

Menno Boermans (NL)

Mick Parker (Aus)


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