Tuesday, July 24, 2012

FTA Broad Peak 2012 - Summit Bid recap

Our team has had a few days to recover from the tremendous effort of putting on a summit bid in demanding conditions on an 8000m peak. The altitude, cold and snow fall combined with wind to make it a rather Scottish "full-on" attempt and through great work as a team and good decision making they have returned safe and sound to base camp.

It is now clear that the conditions will not make it possible for a second bid in the near future so the Broad Peak team will begin to head back to Skardu by way of Gondogro La and Hushe while Matt and Al will recalibrate for an attempt on K2 in the next two weeks.

FTA Broad Peak 2012 team in BC © brad jackson

Spantik up Next
After reaching Skardu Brad will then take over the leadership of our Spantik trip to begin on August 1 and at least one of our Broad Peak members will join him.  This will be our 5th trip to Spantik in the last 7 years and we'll hope that Brad and his team are able to repeat the great success which we had last year on Spantik!

High Camp on Spantik © Chris Szymiec
Autumn Nepal/India and Winter Ecuador & Argentina line-up
Ben will be take a few weeks or well earned rest and then head off to lead a trip to Kilimanjaro. Ben  will be be leading trips to Aconcagua starting in December and ending in February while Chris & Samira Szymiec will be leading our confirmed autumn lineup of Khumbu Peaks & Passes, Ama Dablam & Island Peak climbs and Everest BC treks.  As well we have a confirmed trip with spaces to Stok Kangri and Kang Yatse for September.

 In the months ahead we have Cotopaxi, Tharpu Chuli and much more ahead so email us at "info@fieldtouring.com" for more info or check out the trips at the main site www.fieldtouringalpine.com
Ama Dablam base camp © stu remensnyder

2013 Pakistan: Broad Peak, Gasherbrums, K2, Spantik, Snow Lake trek and  K2 BC trek
We are already taking applications for next summer and hop you can join us for our 11th straight season on the 8000m peaks of the Karakoram and 10th anniversary of our first 8000m summit!

Broad Peak summit ridge © stu remensnyder

Brad's Journal - Summit bid part 2
Once again Brad has all the details of the events on and off the mountain and hope you enjoy catching up!

Brad at C3 on Broad Peak
July 20th – Part 1 - Ernestas’s story
Ernestas from Lithuania was camped by himself at 7,300 m (Camp 3.5) on the morning of the 20th when avalanche struck at 4:50 am. Ernestas had woken up 10 minutes prior to the avalanche and started preparing his gear. The avalanche thrust Ernestas, still in his sleeping bag and inside this tent 150 m vertical down the hill. As the avalanche pushed him down hill, the tent opened and all his gear fell out and snow filled his tent. By extremely good fortune, the snow filling the tent actually helped stop his slide down the hill and Ernestas stopped 5m before a 20m serac. A further 5 m slide would have undoubtedly led to the death of Ernestas.

Once stopped, miraculously with no poles of his tent broken, visibility was poor with snow and fog. Ernestas got out of the sleeping bag and started checking for all his gear. He only found one boot, 10 m above the final position of his tent plus some additional gear. Ernestas’s right la Sportiva Olympus Mons boot was missing and his portable radio was completely flat.

Ernestas looked for his boot for 5 hours but to no avail. The decision had to made to descend as his right foot was freezing up. His trekking pole and ice axe, he left behind and he started to descend. The descent was made with one lboot and crampon on his left foot and just the inner boot on his right. At around 10:30 Ernestas met the Iranians at camp 3 and they gave him 2 cups of tea but they had no radio. The Iranians wanted to ascend the mountain the next day so stayed in the tent.

The descent continued, now with some additional gear that he had left at camp 3, a light axe, ski pole and incredibly a load of rubbish. On the way to camp 2, Ernestas met porters from the Chinese team. These guys had a radio and Ernestas was finally able to contact his camp. He asked for an extra boot
and crampon. They asked how the condition of his right foot was and incredibly, his toes had not yet frozen. Descent continued to camp 2 and unfortunately no one was at camp 2 (He must have just missed the departure of our group) Ernestas then encountered the Chinese team. They offered
Ernestas to stay with them at Camp 2 but he wanted to continue the descent. At camp 1, Ernestas met Arnie from our team and Ernestas offered to descend with Arnie but at that time Arnie wished to stay at camp 1 to melt water.

At 5,300 m Ernestas met Jordie, a Catalan with ATP who had carried up an extra La Sportiva boot up the mountain after being contacted by the Chinese radio. The boot was size 47 as opposed to Ernestas’s size 44 but beggars couldn’t be choosers. Jordie also gave Ernestas tea and an Energy gel. At that time, Farhat, a porter with the Catalan team, carried Ernestas’s backpack the rest of the way downhill.

At 6pm, Ernestas finally made base camp, an epic journey 90% of the way down the mountain with one boot and no frostbite. An incredibly lucky escape. Ernestas is of course now preparing to move camps and attempt K2.

July 20th – Part 2: FTA team descends
Oblivious to what Ernestas was undergoing, we woke up at camp 3, our aspirations to summit completely quashed by the continued snowfall. We prepared to strip the mountain and descend. To save room, Ben and I wore our down-suits so we had additional room to store tents and gear in our
Cilogear backpacks.
Grace and Robbo at C1 © brad jackson

Al, Sayed and Aziz stripped their camp and made their way down. The rest of us waited till the sun had partially poked its way through the clouds and snow and stripped down the 3 x 3 person tents. Being in down suits, meant that my hands were slightly less susceptible to the cold and was able to help dismantle the tents in 5-minute intervals till I had to stop and rewarm my hands through vigorous shaking and rubbing. Louis was ready first and headed down the hill and Darren and Grace helped dismantle the second of the 3 person tents. Arnie helped Taqui and Mahadi with the TNF VE-25.

I think it was around 9pm when we finally began our descent. The snow had settled in and visibility was very poor. I believe Al had to sit on the slope at various intervals till he could see the waypoint at the bottom of camp 3 and the rest of us were lucky that we had 50 m visibility to see the path of descent.

Our beards, moustaches and goggles iced over as the snow stuck to our clothes and packs. The continued snowfall also meant that we were often post holing. This meant our bodies would stop in the snow as we fall to our knees and thighs but the inertia of our packs kept going forward.

About an hour from camp 3 on the descent, I rapped of a steep snow slope and due to the heavy snowfall, ‘slurpeed’ side on into a crevasse. I managed to get myself in an incredibly awkward position as the tail end of the rope clipped through a wire gate biner hanging on the gear loop on my harness. I ended up lying sideways with my legs in the crevasse but my backpack pulling me down the other side. It took me over a half an hour to extract myself from the crevasse using my jumar, shoveling and the limit of my abdominal muscles. I could see Ben and Taqui occasionally through the snow and mist but they couldn’t really help. Ben later told me that he told Taqui that it looked like FTA lost an assistant and as such there would be more food available at base camp later that afternoon.

Down the other side of the slope, the heavy snowfall continued and I pausedto rest to get a ‘Bumper Bar’ and water into me. The snow then kind of consolidated and I caught up to Arnie just above Camp 2. Robbo and Grace were at camp 2 and very gratefully they packed up a tent and additional gear to take down the hill. Ben and I used every available strap on our Cilogear packs to strap as much as possible to our packs. Thank god, the weather remained overcast at this stage as we were obviously still in down suits and would have died if the sun came out.

The descent to camp 1 was not too draining and we had a further rest stop at Camp 1. On the way we saw the Chinese team and I asked why they were ascending when there had been so much snow. They were committed, so wished them luck and safe passage. Ben, Darren, Grace and I had a collective pause at camp 1 and psyched ourselves for the last descent from Camp 1 to Base camp. Due to the incredible danger of rock fall, we left in stages. Robbo first, Grace second, me in third and Ben bringing up the rear. Arnie was at a different pace to the rest of us and we accepted that he would be coming several hours later.

With big packs and massive crampon balling, arm rapping was less of an option and we all turned around more to rappel. I caught up with Grace at a rock band after some momentary confusion as to why she had stopped. A piton had fallen out and Grace was rightfully concerned about rapping from
the remaining anchor. I made a temporary ice axe belay and watched in alarm as the fixed rope sawed back and forth across sharp rock as she descended.

Ben then caught up with me and grabbed the hammer of my pack and hammered in the loose piton. Despite my previous alarm, all I wanted to do was get down the mountain and I rapped down as fast as possible. The rest of the way to crampon point, was a bit of a daze as the weight of my pack pressed further into my shoulders and my legs became heavier and heavier.

At crampon point, the Catalan team and porters were waiting and this was the first I heard of Ernestas’s epic journey from Camp 3.5. I waited for Ben to drop down and we dumped the group gear (tents etc) into waiting duffle bags. The crossing of the glacier was the last straw and we easily decided that the FTA porters could come across in a couple of days to pick up the tents. We had
dome enough.

The glacier crossing was long and arduous. Ben and I had both run out of water at this stage and had no hesitation in filling up our water bottles from the glacier streams sans any filtration. Once again, I was soo thankful that the weather was overcast, so while I was very hot in my down suit, I wasn’t dying.

I guess I got to base camp around 5pm, a very long and epic day. I immediately stripped out of my down suit, changed into lighter gear and made my way into the dining tent. I immediately sucked down 10 cups of Tang and water followed by soup. I was very glad to be ‘home’.

We saw Ernestas at 6pm and he informed us that Arnie was staying at camp 1. At 9pm, listening to music, I heard Arnie come into camp. Everyone was back at base camp and now all that lay ahead of us was resting, packing and preparing for the trek back to Skardu.
FTA team displaying post high altitude summit bid syndrome symptoms

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