Broad Peak 2011 Expedition Dispatches
Dispatch #15 - July 22, 2011 - Base Camp
Yesterday was another day of weather watching with some drama thrown in.Our latest forecast yet again predicted high winds for several days with just a slight dip on the 22nd and 23rd. With this in mind our team members made one last ditch effort to see if it was viable to go higher on the mountain.
Andrew and Vaughn, who are both Himalayan and Karakorum veterans decided the summit winds forecasted for the next few days combined with the snowfall and loose rocks falling on the way to camp one was enough for them to call it a day and return to base camp.
The other team members, some who are trying to beat their personal altitude records continued to camp two where they spent the evening of the 21st hunkered down in very strong winds. Our high altitude porters Asgar and Shukar spent the evening at camp two with Emmanuel, Sacha, Jasper and Maaike whilst Arshad and Gulham Madhi cleared the extra tents at camp two and camp one respectively and descended to base camp.
Sacha had a big disappointment upon arriving at camp two as two of our tents had been destroyed by the high winds and some of his personal gear had been blown most likely into China by the strong winds that has slashed the tent leaving it wide open to dispense it's contents.
On the morning of the 21st we were asked by a neighboring expedition if we could assist with one of their team members who had had an accident on his solo summit attempt. We agreed to send our high altitude porter Yousef to camp three to help the climber who had hurt his back during a fall above camp three. Luckily for the injured climber he was using a GPS system to log his way points as he climbed above camp three as when he fell he became disoriented as he was now way off route. In the white out conditions and very strong winds the GPS probably saved his life enabling him to get back on the route and find camp three. Yousef met him at camp three and helped carry his pack most of the way back to base camp where they both arrived at 9 pm.
An 8 am radio call conversation on the 22nd between the remaining team members and high altitude porters at camp two and myself got slightly lost in translation with four or five languages being used during the radio transmission. We relayed the latest weather forecast information but somehow the information and instructions were delivered and translated wrong and Emmanuel and Sacha descended to base camp instead of climbing towards camp three. When the confusion was corrected these two had already departed camp two and this left just Maaike and Jasper to head towards camp three. They wisely decided to tag camp three rather than spending the evening there based on our latest weather forecast and the strong windy conditions that had been visible all day.
There are many different weather forecasts being used on Broad Peak this season by the various teams. Our forecast is provided by a professional meteorological service out of the States and is used by nearly all the commercial climbing companies based out of the States. The European companies prefer the services of the Swiss and Austrian meteorological services and therefore we sometimes get forecasts that differ from each other because different computer models are used for the respective data. We can usually rely on one of these three respective providers to get it right. This year though there are a couple of teams using the free forecasts available off the internet and a few climbers present at base camp also have friends providing weather forecasts. You can imagine the dilemma this year on which forecast to trust especially when the visible weather conditions are bad and the forecast data is not promising when a climber has the ability to believe in a different better forecast, one that suits their plan to go for the summit.
We collectively as a team decided to use our weather forecast exclusively and plan a summit attempt on this data. Unfortunately the data we have received has not shown us a positive summit window during the last three weeks and we have tried hard to avoid the "Chinese Whispers" being the constant daily rumors traveling through base camp about the next perfect weather window, which to be honest has still not appeared.
It's not all doom and gloom though as today we watched six climbers head above camp three until the view of their progress was blocked by clouds. The wind speeds were again very high on the summit, although some of the other forecasts predicted perfect weather, which didn't happen again. We are not sure if they were able to summit in such high winds but our friend Alexi, the Russian climbing machine may have summitted with his climbing partner, because if anyone could summit in such bad conditions, he could. We will probably have to wait and hear tomorrow about his progress.
With the latest weather forecast not looking so good for low wind speeds for several days we have no choice but to wrap up the expedition and make plans to trek out as our allocated time at base camp has come to an end. We contemplated extending our stay at base camp to wait for the jet stream to move away from our area, but our climbers have family and jobs back home that need them more than they need the summit. We have been very focused on safety during the expedition with waiting to travel with safe snow conditions to avoid avalanches and we are also concerned about frostbite injuries as none of our team members had planned to attempt to summit using supplementary oxygen. The German team departed base camp today and they didn't reach the summit and we also will be departing without the summit. We hope that the teams that remain behind at base camp with more time will reach the summit in safe and glorious conditions.
It's been a very hard three weeks looking at the mountain each day only to see a huge wind plume hammering the summit knowing that we only need a small break in the winds to give it a realistic shot at the top in safe conditions. The Karakorum can be a very cruel place to some climbers and we feel that we didn't get a break but the consolation is that we have spent nearly two months traveling and living in this beautiful mountainous area with fantastic memories and we are all going home safe and sound.
The above photos show our three weather forecast watchers evaluate the latest forecast for the next few days predicted wind speeds with a thumbs down from Andrew, mixed feelings from Sacha and a thumbs up from Emmanuel and the next days result with Broad Peak yet again being hammered by jet stream winds, congratulations Andrew.
Dispatch #14 - July 169, 2011 - Base Camp
Our team members have showed how savvy they are with not taking any undue risks and holding back from making any summit attempts in less than ideal conditions. Two climbers who pushed for the summit in high winds the other day have both suffered frostbite injuries in different degrees. We are happy to say that the only injury to our team members at present is their pride as we have been sitting patiently at base camp for a long time waiting for the weather conditions to improve to allow us a realistic shot at the top and not just another climb to camp three.
Today our weather forecast data coincides with the other forecasts from Switzerland, Belgium and Austria, all predicting high winds for several more days. The jet stream is in close proximity to us at present and this is the reason we are experiencing such high winds on the summit of Broad Peak..
The German team who made an attempt on the 14th are now clearing the mountain of their gear and plan to depart base camp on the 22nd. The remaining teams at base camp met this morning to share information on the weather and unfortunately we all came up with the same unfavorable forecasts.
As I write this dispatch base camp is being hammered by strong winds and we are getting reports from climbers clearing gear from camp two that the wind conditions there are horrendous. The problem is we are expecting even higher winds from the 22nd onwards.
Again we have no choice but to sit tight and I have to admit, if I have to be stuck at base camp, I can't think of a better group of fun and optimistic climbers to do it with.
The above photos show things to do at base camp when the weather sucks big time. Farman and Fazel who were taking a well deserved nap in the kitchen after being woken up by a bored photographer and the French card sharks Emmanuel and Sacha secretly practicing Uno strategies with the intention of teaching the Dutch a lesson or two.
Dispatch #13 - July 16, 2011 - Base Camp
Unfortunately our weather forecast has predicted some precipitation for the next few days which we are presently experiencing, followed by high summit winds so we have no choice but to sit tight at base camp until the weather conditions improve.
On the 14th we watched the German and Spanish expeditions make their summit push but the high winds and deep snow conditions turned them around above camp three. All the respective members from both the expeditions are now finally back at base camp.
We believe some of the teams present with very little time left will try and make a summit attempt leaving base camp in the next few days but in all honesty, if the weather forecasts hold true, Broad Peak will probably not see any summits until the snow falling stops and the high winds have subsided.
Our team members are being very patient indeed with the delay in their summit attempt, especially after the super fast progress they made reaching the end of the fixed ropes heading towards camp three after only spending nine days at base camp.
We hope our next detailed weather forecast will give us some good news and allow us to get out of base camp for the summit push.
The above photos show the extremely high winds hammering Broad Peak on the 14th, the day two separate expeditions went for the summit and another avalanche, again on the 14th, releasing the previous four days of heavy snow fall.
Dispatch #12 - July 13, 2011 - Base Camp
Since our last dispatch on the 10th we have several updates to report on. The Taiwanese team are now on board with the collective rope fixing and have contributed 180 meters of rope, 5 snow bars and 3 ice screws to the equipment pool.
The 11th was the anniversary of Prince Harim Khan becoming the spiritual leader of the Ismail Muslims. As usual, all the groups present at base camp had their respective cooks make dishes and then we had a communal lunch. There was singing and dancing provided by the cooks and HAP's and it was nice to have a day spent with all the other climbers from the expeditions without focusing on the bad weather conditions we have been receiving. In the evening the cooks lit the beacons, built bonfires and let off impromptu fireworks to celebrate the day.
The German and Spanish/Argentina expeditions are both running short on time and are presently making a summit attempt with climbing to camp three today. The other groups present at base camp decided the conditions were not suitable for such a quick summit attempt after 4 days of heavy snow so they are remaining at base camp to let the upper slopes consolidate before going higher.
Our group made a climb to camp one yesterday as these slopes have already consolidated and we all wanted to get a closer look at the higher slopes and the snow accumulation. It was a pleasant climb and all the members are now fully acclimatized going on the speed that they ran up the hill yesterday. There were numerous climbers making their first climb to camp one yesterday from several expeditions that have just arrived at base camp and this was apparent when one of the fore mentioned climbers kicked rocks down on Andrew and myself with the final result being a cracked helmet of mine from the impact of one large rock. We are glad to be down at base camp allowing the other climbers to complete their camp one and camp two rotations before we make our summit attempt next week, weather permitting.
The latest forecast predicts another few days of glorious sunshine to help the slopes stabilize and then there should be a spike in the winds over the weekend, hopefully dropping substantially next week to allow us a realistic shot at the top.
The above photos show men dancing badly and lighting the beacons along the length of the glacier at base camp as part of the celebrations.
Dispatch #11- July 10, 2011 - Base Camp
Our weather forecast have been pretty accurate to date and we hoped that the snow accumulation amounts were going to be on the lower side of the scale, but unfortunately they were on the high end of the scale predicted. We must give credit to our weather service as it was correct, but we really hoped it was going to be wrong.
So our tentative plan to depart base camp on the 9th or 10th for a summit push has been postponed until the weather conditions improve. The snow fall at base camp has ceased but the mountain has been shrouded in clouds for three continuous days and we are getting reports from descending climbers of very deep snow at camp two and above. With the snow accumulation being so high we have no choice but to sit at base camp and let the slopes above camp two consolidate, unfortunately we are still waiting to see the sun for this to happen.
Some teams are now running short on their remaining time here at base camp and may make an attempt to get to camp two or higher if possible tomorrow. The other teams present at base camp with more time to spare have been meeting to try to work together in getting the route open once again when the weather and snow conditions seem more suitable, hopefully in a few days.
All teams present at base camp have been very cooperative in contributing equipment and manpower to fix the ropes and give everyone the best possible chance to summit Broad Peak this season with the exception of one group.
Below are the teams who have contributed to the rope fixing process and the respective gear they have provided. The quantities of gear collected give an armchair mountaineer an idea of how much equipment is needed to fix ropes and maintain a safe route on an 8,000-meter peak such as Broad Peak. Teams are listed in alphabetical order.
Altitude Junkies (USA) 7 Climbers, 4 HAP's
8 HAP fixing days, 5 pitons, 5 ice screws, 1,000 meter rope, 15 snow bars
British/Basque 8 Climbers
150 meter rope, 4 snow bars, 5 pitons
DAV Summit Club (Germany) 10 Climbers, 2 HAP's
6 HAP fixing days, 8 ice screws, 25 snow bars, 1300 meter rope
Field Touring Alpine (Australia) 12 Climbers, 4 HAP's
9 HAP fixing days, 15 pitons, 10 ice screws, 1600 meter rope
Mexico 2 Climbers
200 meter rope
Polish 5 Climbers, 1 HAP
225 meter rope, 5 snow bars
Spanish 4 Climbers
300 meter rope, 5 snow bars, 5 pitons, 2 ice screws
Spanish/Argentina 4 Climbers
800 meter rope, 5 pitons
Taiwan 8 Climbers, 3 HAP's
The above photos show the view of Broad Peak from base camp for the past three days and the summit of Broad Peak as seen during much better weather from above camp two on the way to camp three.
Dispatch #10 - July 7, 2011 - Base Camp
It seems as if our patience the past few days may actually pay off with a very promising latest weather forecast. Several weather forecast services are all in agreement and predicting a spike in the winds on the 9th and then they should drop in the following days for some comfortable summit winds.
The tentative plan now is for the three early groups that arrived at base camp to work together and share the task of breaking the trail from camp three to the col at around an elevation of 7,800 meters, allowing us a good chance to summit. The route from camp three to the col has now had three days to consolidate the deep snow that had accumulated and we think if all the climbers and HAP's from the respective groups do their part and the weather holds, we should have summits.
We plan to leave base camp directly for camp two on the 9th or the 10th, climb to camp three on the 10th or 11th and then rest the following day at camp three to let our bodies adjust to the new higher elevation and also to rest after the long climb from camp two. If all goes well with the weather we hope to depart camp three late in the evening hoping to reach the summit in the mid morning hours.
We are all in agreement and think it's sounds like a reasonable plan and we hope we can pull it off.
The above photos show the upper slopes of Broad Peak as seen from our base camp location and a recent serac collapse, way off the climbing route, that caused this huge avalanche that blasted a large part of base camp, but not ours though.
Dispatch #9 - July 4, 2011 - Base Camp
We are now enjoying our third rest day which also happens to be the 4th of July. We had Canada Day on the 1st which Andrew celebrated and both Vaughn and I wish we had beer to go with our planned barbeque this evening.
Our high altitude porters Shukur and Yousef climbed to camp three on July 2nd to assist with the final stages of the rope fixing into camp three. They returned to camp two where they spent the evening to aid their acclimatization for the upcoming summit push. All the team members and staff are now collectively at base camp for the first time in a while.
We are now waiting for a suitable weather window to allow the fixed ropes to be placed up to the col at around 7,800 meters and then we will hopefully have a summit window sometime after.
The above photos show one of our earlier barbecues, a dress rehearsal for the 4th of July with the gang assembled around the grill with our head cook Arshad as grill master and a Pakistani military helicopter buzzing our base camp a few days later getting ready to land to evacuate two sick Spanish climbers.
Dispatch #8 - July 1, 2011 - Base Camp
All the team members are now back at base camp after having completed two nights at camp two for acclimatization. On their second day at camp they climbed close to camp three and returned to camp two for the evening.
Two of our High Altitude Porters, Asgar and Ghulam continued fixing the ropes into camp three ahead of our team members who followed close behind.
We will now take some rest at base camp and start to watch our weather forecasts closely looking for that window that will allow us a safe ascent and descent.
The above photos show the start of the route out of camp one and Emmanuel arriving with a big pack at camp two with the summit of Broad Peak in the distance.
Dispatch #7 - June 27, 2011 - Base Camp
Today is our first full rest day after all the team members members climbed to camp one on the 25th and spent the evening. They all had a good night and descended very early in the morning arriving in base camp for an amazing breakfast prepared by Arshad and his kitchen crew.
Our next rotation will see us climb directly to camp two where we spend the evening before hopefully tagging camp three, returning to camp two for a second night. This plan is all dependent on the weather conditions, which so far has been fantastic.
The collective HAP's from the three groups present at base camp have already got the ropes fixed to camp three. We how have four HAP's from the Junkies being assisted by two HAP's each from both FTA and DAV Summit Club fixing the remainder of the ropes as two of the FTA HAP's are heading to K2. Weather dependent we hope to have the ropes fixed to the col at around 7,800 meters in the next few days. The plan then will be for two HAP's to fix the summit ridge on the actual summit day.
The above photos show the constant 45 degree slopes leading to camp one and the amazing view from camp one.
Dispatch #6 - June 24, 2011 – Base Camp
We have made steady progress on the mountain over the past few days taking advantage of the good weather. Two High Altitude Porters (HAP's) each from the German group DAV, the Australian group FTA and Ghulam Mahdi and Asgar Hussain from the Junkies fixed over 1,000 meters of rope to camp one yesterday. Each of the three groups has contributed rope, hardware and staff to collectively get the route fixed as quick as possible this season if the weather allows.
Today Shukar Ali and Yousef Ali will establish our camp one and then continue to camp two where they will fix ropes with one HAP and Lhapka Sherpa from the FTA group. Hopefully the weather will hold and allow them to complete the route to camp two by around noon.
Tomorrow our group will make the climb to camp one for their first acclimatization rotation where they will spend the night before descending the following day to base camp.
The above photos show our Navy Liaison Officer Lieutenant Commander Yousef Khan on dry land trying on his Skardu purchased boots while modeling his 80's fashion down suit and the view of Broad Peak at dusk behind our dining dome.
Dispatch #5 - June 21, 2011 – Base Camp
We have now finally arrived in Base Camp after six long days trekking and will be enjoying some well deserved rest over the next few days while we establish our base camp.
For this Broad Peak expedition we are very pleased to be using the LFD dome made by SlingFin as our dinning and communication tent. The guys behind SlingFin, Martin and Tim, are two of the original guys who started Mountain Hardwear so we expect them to be knocking out some awesome tents in the future with the SlingFin product line.
After we have base camp established with all our communication and solar equipment set up we will then make plans to start to fix rope to camp one and get some acclimatization rotations in.
The above photos show the view of K2 from Broad Peak base camp and our members enjoying lunch in our SlingFin dining dome.
Dispatch #4 - June 18, 2011 – Paiyu
We are now enjoying a rest day in Paiyu after two hot days on the trek. The weather has been beautiful but dusty and hot and I think we are all happy to take it easy today. The rest day serves two purposes, one to allow the porters to make their food from the provisions we provide them for the next few days trek, and it also allows us to acclimatize slowly to the increased elevation of Paiyu
The team are doing laundry and such while I tinker with our two Wideye satellite modems and two General Dynamics GD8000 laptops making sure that we are connected for the duration of the expedition.
Tomorrow we continue the trek to Urdakas and then Goru II before hopefully reaching Broad Peak base camp on the 21st.
The team are all doing well and will be posting on their own blogs and websites once we arrive at base camp and we have set up our Brunton solar panels and 12-volt batteries which provide us ample power throughout the expedition.
The above photos show our campsite in Askole and our hard working kitchen and climbing staff assembled in Paiyu for the staff photo.
Dispatch #3 - June 14, 2011 – Skardu
We made the grueling two day, 26-hour on the road mini-bus ride to Skardu only to find upon arrival that both Sacha and Emmanuel were at the hotel and had mad the flight from Islamabad that morning and that they managed to see Nanga Parbat on the flight. I think that some of the team members had wished they had spent an extra evening in Islamabad and had tried to catch the same flight as it was a long, hot and dusty drive.
We will spend today organizing our porter loads and will leave Skardu tomorrow as there are two large German and Austrian groups heading for Broad Peak and Gasherbrum II respectively and we want to make sure there are enough porters available in Askole to carry all our loads the same day towards base camp.
We have changed our climbing staff slightly as Ali Raza was accidentally scheduled to climb with another expedition this summer. The following kitchen staff are all part of our regular kitchen crew and all our High Altitude Porters have reached the summit of Broad Peak before, some multiple times.
Arshad Karim (Head Cook)
Let's hope the jeep drive to Askole is uneventful and we are starting the trek towards base camp on the 16th where we plan to spend the evening in Jhola.
The above photos show the view from the balcony of the hotel in Skardu and the complete Junkies Broad peak team along with our regular porters guide Salman and Liaison Officer Lieutenant Commander Yousef Khan from the Pakistan Navy
Dispatch #2 - June 11, 2011 – Islamabad
Five of the team members are now in relaxing in our Islamabad hotel after their long international flights to reach Pakistan. The plan is to meet the two other members Sacha and Emmanuel at the airport tomorrow morning upon their arrival.
We had hoped to fly to Skardu tomorrow as we did last year for the Gasherbum II/I expedition but unfortunately the flights have been canceled for three of the last five days due to unsuitable weather conditions in Skardu. Therefore we have collectively decided to make the two-day drive along the Karakorum Highway as we would possibly have to wait several days in Islamabad before making the flight, especially if the weather forecast holds true with continued bad weather in Skardu.
We will not be posting any more dispatches until reaching Skardu as we have two long days in the bus on one of the worlds most scenic, but bumpy drives. Once in Skardu, we have to repack all the expedition barrels in 25 kg loads for the porters so the team members will be kept busy after two very inactive days on the road.
Dispatch #1 - June 8, 2011 – Kathmandu
Welcome to the first of the expedition dispatches from the Junkies 2011 Broad Peak Expedition. Our Everest Sherpa crew have been busy at our Kathmandu office helping me assemble all the extra gear that we don't already have in our Skardu storage room for shipping to Pakistan for this summers expedition. Fixed rope and the relevant hardware being the majority of the additional cargo this year as well as the all important Nepalese organic coffee that we can't do without on our expeditions.
Our team members will start to arrive in Islamabad from June 10th onwards and then we can start another great adventure in the majestic Karakorum. Hopefully it all starts to go to plan on the 12th by allowing us to all make the sporadic flight from Islamabad to Skardu that passes Nanga Parbat en route. Once in Skardu, I am looking forward to relaxing with the fellow team members and our Hunza staff at the Masherbrum Inn after a few days packing loads for the porters.
The expedition this year consists of the following climbers from five different nations, some making their first attempt on an 8,000-meter peak, others veterans of several Himalayan and Karakorum expeditions. The names are listed in alphabetical order.
Maaike Braat (Holland)
Andrew Brash (Canada)
Emmanuel Colombel (France)
Phil Crampton (USA/UK)
Jasper van Dijk (Holland)
Vaughn Fetzer (USA)
Sacha Guittet (France)
As usual this summer we will have our regular trusted head cook Arshad, working his magic behind the kitchen stoves and our climbing Sirdar will one again be famous Ali Raza. A Broad Peak veteran, Ali was climbing on this peak this past winter as a member of the Polish Winter Broad Peak expedition. Ali's son Ashraf, will once again be assisting our expedition as well as two more additional high altitude staff for a 1:2 high altitude porter to climber ratio.
The above photos are from one of our previous Gasherbrum II expeditions and show our favorite part of the Skardu expedition packing process, Murree Beer, always fresh from the Rawalpindi Brewery and the view of Broad Peak's next door neighbor K2 as seen from Concordia on the trek to base camp.
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