Sunday, July 22, 2012

FTA Broad Peak 2012 - First Summit Bid Over

 Our team is back in base camp after a good effort to make for the summit of Broad Peak. They did everything they could over the last 5 weeks to be in position for a possible summit bid and it was simply not to be. Numerous team have tried for the summit over the last few weeks and none have succeeded in reaching even the col at 7850 this year.

Ben, Brad and crew moved up to be in position for the potential window we saw for the 19-21 of July which represented the main teams last realistic chance and they were met with too much snowfall to continue. They held on a day in C3 with hopes the weather might turn and were met with more snow which cemented the decision to descend.
Arni climbing above C2 on the summit push

Matt and Al still have K2 ahead of them and a few others may yet decide to try for Broad Peak again in the next few days bit for the majority of the crew they will have to content themselves with having reached to just over 7000m on the 12th highest peak on the planet and returned safely.

Below you can read Brad Jackson's daily journal for the 17th - 19th with the 20th & 21st tom come tomorrow.

July 17th - Summit Push

The summit push is on. Matt, Grace and Arnie, got up in the first wave for a 2am breakfast. Ben, Louis, Hamza and myself sleep in a bit and hit the dining tent at 4am. A superb morning with lingering cloud on K2 signifying little wind in the area, we crossed the glacier for hopefully the last time.  As usual, crossing the glacier sleepy-eyed, I was walking with two-left feet and I saw Ben, Tacqui and Mahadi trot merrily off in the distance. Unfortunately no-one fell into the river, so once again I was denied amusement at the critical bamboo pole crossing.

Grace and Robbo at BC © brad jackson
Hamza and Louis climbed steadily to camp 1 and Ben and I hung back and took our time climbing to conserve energy for the marathon task ahead. The waterfall rock band had almost doubled in length upon our arrival as the snow had melted back and the rock climb crux became more difficult and sustained. After the fourth attempt though, this was not as difficult as the first attempts.  Our packs were not too heavy, we were carrying our down suits and additional gear for the summit push including goggles and high altitude mittens.  For some reason I had Sarah Blasko’s ‘ Amazing things’ on repeat in my head on the way up to Camp 1. I’ve had worst songs stuck in my head.

After 4 hours, we snuck into camp 1. The weather was fickle and I couldn’t quite anticipate which clothes to wear to Camp 2.  I stripped of a layer but regretted my decision as it clouded over and a breeze took hold. The Patagonia r1 Hoody went back on at a small horizontal snow patch next to a rock gendarme about half an hour climb from camp 1.

Acclimatized and not carrying too heavier a load, Ben and I chatted merrily. We discussed bold ideas of an Indian-Pakistani peace initiative and other ideas to solve the world’s problems.  I popped into Camp 2 around 2pm and had a brief chat to Grace at the lower tent before making my way to our tent at the upper end of Camp 2.
Climbing to C2 © brad jackson

Much to Ben’s disgust, we obviously had ‘squatters’ in our tent since our last stay. We have prime suspects but cant don’t have any direct evidence to name and shame. They had drunk all my coffee, left rubbish in the tent as well as a creepy slime (I shudder to think what it was) in the vestibule.  Rant over, we settled in for the afternoon and made a concerted effort to eat and drink as much as possible for the days ahead.

Trusty ramen noodles were promptly prepared as our mid afternoon snack and Freeze dried ‘Mountain Chili’ for was had for dinner.  After checking with Stu and his weather report, I hollered to the rest of the team, that we would head to camp 3 at 8am the next morning. We didn’t want to leave too early to avoid having to start the day too cold and then have to change clothes for the midday sun.

July 18th - Camp 2 to Camp 3

I had an absolutely wonderful sleep at Camp 2. Clichéd snug as a bug in a rug. Packs were heavier this morning as we packed our down suits (or 2 pieces for Louis and Grace) in addition to our sleeping gear, stoves, fuel and food for 4 days up the hill. A steep rise to the gendarmes had the lungs straining and the weather ominously went from clear skies to overcast. Our wind adversary greeted us again shortly after departure and at the halfway point to camp 3, I switched to balaclava, goggles and OR Alti gloves to close of all avenues of heat loss to wind chill.

Climbing to C3 © brad jackson

I was wildly optimistic at our intended arrival time at camp 3, hoping to arrive before 2pm but the biting wind; heavy packs and thin air had me arriving around 3pm. I was really pleased to see Robbo shrug of his earlier difficulties in climbing and make a strong climb to 3, easily cutting half an hour of my time. Grace too, arrived strongly ahead of me and Hamza followed closely in my footsteps.

Al likes to leave camp early in the mornings and set off to Camp 3 in his down suit. It was a good choice as he escaped any midday heat and arrived at camp ahead of all us with the HAP’s of Tacqui, Mahadi Sayed and Aziz. An extremely welcome sight on arrival at camp 3 was to see 4 tents setup. No lung breaking preparing of tent platforms and threading tent poles this time around.
Brad at C3 © brad jackson

On arrival at Camp 3 (~7,000m), it was snowing combined with a strong gusty wind. Our plan to set up my Nemo Tenshi as a fifth tent was abandoned. This meant that we had to squeeze 4 people into one of the 3 person tents.  So it was a very cozy Ben, Hamza, Matt and I that squeezed into a Marmot Thor 3P. Louis, Ben and Darren were our neighbors to one side and Tacqui, Arnie and Mahadi on the other side. Al, Sayed and Aziz were on a platform about 50 m up hill. Upon arrival at camp 3, almost everyone donned their down suits and it was a down-fest in the tent as down suitswere funneled into down sleeping bags. During the night, everyone apologized for their constant wriggling and fidgeting in the tight quarters but realistically we had so much down padding between us that we hardly felt a thing.

Ominously the snow continued to fall during the night, sounding like sand on the tent walls. Sharing a stove amongst 4 people, we melted snow, prepared ramen and munched on our sacks. Sardine packed in a tent can be dispiriting but with Zen like Hamza and stoic Matt, we settled in well.  As eyelids lowered for the evening, we collectively willed the snow to stop.

July 19th - Waiting at Camp 3

Ben on the radio at 6am to Al stirred me from a terrible sleep. Not even sure if I could use the word sleep but I did remember some dreaming, so I guess I got some rest. It had snowed intermittently all night and Ben and Al agreed that it best we hold off our push to camp 4 until it stopped snowing.

I was shocked when Hamza then informed us that he had vomited during the night and continued to have a headache that morning. It was with a heavy heart, that Ben recommended that due to Hamza having a combination of AMS symptoms, that he should descend. I had named Hamza the ‘Khan Tengri King’ due to his ascent of that mountain in 2010 and was quietly confident that he would climb very high on Broad Peak. I was quite devastated that he would be descending. 
Robbo and Grace descending from C3 © brad jackson

Matt also decided to descend. For the past 2 days he had been suffering some unspecified ailment that had been affecting his climbing performance. Matt had been arriving at camp later than his expectations and this did not bode well for his summit attempt.  Matt made the brave and wise decision to descend to repair and recuperate for his attempt on K2.

In the space of an hour, our 4-person cell had become a spacey 2-person berth.  The snow continued to fall. Louis popped his head into our tent at 9am and he and I optimistically agreed that snow would stop soon and the afternoon sun would consolidate the snow into a wonderful solid pathway to the summit.  Ben called Al again and we held our decision for the summit push to 6pm. We were basing our decision on a weather forecast that had predicted a shot at the summit on the 19th and 20th but the outside reality was completely at odds with the forecast. The Swedish climber Fredrick has earlier dubbed his German weather forecaster the evilincarnation of Herman Goebbels due to the inaccuracy of his forecasts and I was starting to think falling the same lines of our weather forecaster as the snow continued to fall into midday.

More 2-minute noodles were prepared for lunch and copious snowdrift into the vestibule meant collecting snow for water was a task easily done from within my sleeping bag.  As the afternoon dragged on and the sound of very dry snow continued to abrade against the tent, my optimism faded. Ben kept talking about food, the best sandwiches he’d had and the sumptuous Italian buffets he had dined upon. This can be very frustrating when one’s present food options consist of 2-minute noodles, happy cow cheese and some unloved freeze-dried food.

6pm rolled around and our worst fears were confirmed. In a continued theme, snow still fell. Now he snow turned from annoyance to danger. The slopes above our tents were forming the foundations of an avalanche, which was to have dire consequences for one person the following day. We cancelled our previously suggested midnight departure for a summit push and mentally re-arranged ourselves to pack up and head back to base camp the next morning. Once again as night fell and temperatures dropped snow continued to fall but strangely even with just 2 people in our tent, the night seemed warmer and I just used my sleeping bag more as a blanket rather than as a cocoon as per the previous night.


JackieK said...

Ben, you've been looking after your teams on these & other mountains for some years now. You're respected, along with other FTA guides, for seeking the very best adventures for your clients and for making the right 'calls' in order to bring your team members home safely to their families.
Those near & dear to you are proud of you. Travel well.

JackieK said...

Ben & Brad,
thank you for being such terrific guides on the mountain, where it matters.
And thanks for all the great pics and blogs which enabled us to share your journey, albeit from an armchair. (Frequently on the edge of our seats!)
Cheers guys.

JackieK said...

A big THANK YOU to Tacqui, Mahadi, Sayed and Aziz the very special and accomplished climbers/HAP's who accompanied Ben, Brad & team members on Broad Peak (2012) for a period of 30-35 days (including travel in and out).
You do justice to your beautiful mountains in assisting others to enjoy their beauty.
Thank you for your support from the families of the climbers.