Gasherbrum II & I 2009 Expedition Dispatches

Dispatch #23 – August 5, 2009 – Base Camp

We send our congratulations to the Spanish and Korean climbers who summitted Gasherbrum I on the 3rd. The information being sent down from the high camp got slightly distorted by the time it reached us as we were told that all the climbers on the summit push had turned around.

Arian and Michael decided to play it safe and turned around due to high winds and the serious chance of frostbite. They are both strong young climbers and will have many 8,000-meter summits in the future.

Our porters arrive tomorrow so that will be all for our attempts on the Gasherbrums this season. We have had a great time although the close proximity of the jet stream really played havoc with any serious summit attempts. A couple of the guys have vowed to return next year to finish the job.

Phil Crampton

Dispatch #22 – August 3, 2009 – Base Camp

The guys made it to 7,300 meters before being turned around by the expected strong winds. All the other climbers on the summit push also turned around and we believe the only climber to get real high, not sure if they reached the summit, could have been using oxygen.

Everyone is safe and resting in camp one and will return to base camp tomorrow. Hopefully they can give us some detailed information on their summit push.

Phil Crampton

Dispatch #21 – August 2, 2009 – Base Camp

We have had quite an eventful few days since our last dispatch. On Friday the 31st, the Junkies all climbed directly from base camp to Gasherbrum I camp two. We had only planned on going to camp one, but when we arrived at the camp, several teams were in attendance, some who had been there for several days. We were not sure if they were waiting for the trail to be broken to camp one and no one asked us to, but we obliged anyway. On route we used the ice climbing skills of Arian to place some ice screws and re-fix some of the ropes that were on the large serac just before camp two.

The weather on Sunday was meant to be one of the best days in a long time so with this in mind the plan was to rest on Saturday at camp two and then progress higher if the weather cooperated on Sunday. Saturday started out glorious with clear skies but soon turned ugly with the jet stream winds hitting the mountain. We watched the female Korean climber climb the route to camp three with her two personal Sherpas and two personal HAP’s. Her cameraman followed them and later had to be assisted down by the descending HAP’s as the weather was atrocious and we were all surprised that they all continued up in such bad conditions.

Later on Saturday we watched an avalanche come directly down the route of the fixed ropes that were placed slightly above the Japanese Couloir, and later that evening an avalanche let loose directly across from camp two and luckily missed the campsite by around 100 meters. These chain of events and a message from Meteotest saying 40-50 km/h summit wind speeds for one week were enough to make Mark and Gordon decide to descend to base camp the following day. The route was following, and using the fixed ropes that were placed last year and this was also a concern for the guys.

Sunday morning was slightly breezy at camp two with sub zero temperatures and Arian and Michael wanted to push higher. They went up with Temba Sherpa and Pasang Lama. We prefer to have a minimum three person rope team if possible for glacier travel, so I roped up with Gordon and Mark and Pasang Gumba with Tarke Sherpa. The Sherpas and I broke down camp two and camp one and we struggled with heavy loads down to base camp, arriving in time for dinner.

Phil Crampton

Dispatch #20 – July 30, 2009 – Base Camp

A three-day, on and off again snowstorm at base camp has left Gasherbrum II, too risky for us to advance any higher. The snowfall has left the slope between two and three loaded and we are not willing to take any unnecessary risks this season.

Our latest weather forecast is not too promising either in regards to wind speeds but we have little choice than to advance to each respective camp on Gasherbrum I and see the conditions for ourselves.

Serap Jangbu did not actually make Gasherbrum I camp three as I stated in a previous dispatch. He was suffering from some leg pains and decided to return to base camp. Serap and Gorgan have now departed base camp and should be home in Nepal and France respectively in around a weeks time.

The rest of the die hard crew, which consists of Mark, Arian, Michael, Gordon and myself as well as our Sherpas Pasang Gumba, Tarke, Temba and Pasang are all hoping we still have a chance to make a genuine attempt on Gasherbrum I. The jet stream is still present and this is our main concern at the moment.

Phil Crampton

Dispatch #19 – July 27, 2009 – Base Camp

We send our congratulations to our friends Veikka Gustafsson and Kazuya Hiraide on their summit success on Gasherbrum I on the 26th. Their patience and tenacity at sitting out storms at both camp one and two paid off. We were also hoping to take advantage of the lower wind speeds predicted for the 25th and 26th, but unfortunately for us there was just too much snow dumped on Gasherbrum II during the last storm. Veikka is on our Gasherbrum I permit and we have been comparing our weather forecasts since he arrived at base camp. He now joins his good buddy, Ed Viestus, in that exclusive 8,000-meter club.

As Gasherbrum I seems to be opening up for summits, Gasherbrum II seems to be closing down. Most climbers are now focusing on Gasherbrum I, as it is common for expeditions to file both permits for Gasherbrum I and Gasherbrum II when attempting the Gasherbrums for the first time. We are unfortunate that we came back to base camp after the last snow storm as we could have possibly made the same window as Veikka for Gasherbrum I but we were still focusing on Gasherbrum II as our main objective.

Our Saturday weather forecast, even though predicting a drop in wind, also predicted some more precipitation early in the week. With this in mind we will consult today’s forecast and then make a decision if we are to switch to Gasherbrum I in our remaining two weeks here at base camp.

Serap Jangbu Sherpa is presently in position at camp three today on Gasherbrum I to push for the summit tomorrow. He has already climbed within 50 meters of the summit before, having to turn around due to strong winds, and although wind speeds are expected to increase tomorrow we hope this time he tops out. If successful, this will be Seraps 12th 8,000-meter summit with only Broad Peak and Nanga Parbat to go in 2010.

We are very honored to have such talented climbers as Veikka and Serap Jangbu on the Gasherbums with us ordinary folk this season.

The weather the last two days has been glorious apart from the strong winds that are present part of the day. It’s frustrating to be at base camp when we know friends are summiting but patience is a virtue in high altitude climbing.

Phil Crampton

Dispatch #18 – July 25, 2009 – Base Camp

We went for another summit push leaving base camp on the 21st. Upon reaching camp one we decided to postpone the climb to camp two for one day due to the latest weather forecast that predicted slower wind speeds for a summit day on the 25th. We awoke the following day to deep snow that we hoped would burn off before our climb to camp two. Unfortunately it snowed all day and all evening and we had to retreat once again to base camp on the 23rd.

The weather forecast has predicted more snow and extremely strong winds caused by the close proximity of the jet stream. This means we are stuck at base camp for a few more days to decide what our options are.

More snowfall and the lack of clear sunny days to allow the slope to consolidate, have left the route on Gasherbrum II, between camp two and three heavily loaded with what we consider, dangerous avalanche conditions. With this in mind we have decided to pull camp two from the mountain and store the gear at our camp one site and it seems as if the other GII teams are following our lead. If we receive some substantial snow accumulation over the next few days we will then focus our attention on Gasherbrum I.

At the time of posting this dispatch we believe that the news about the missing climber on GII has already been published on the Internet. The Iranian team, we believe five climbers in total, climbed high in bad weather conditions on the 20th and reached around 75-100 meters below the summit of GII before being turned around by the strong winds and the technical terrain. Two separate independent climbers followed behind them with one of them continuing higher against the advice of the other climbers. This climber has not been seen since and the Iranian team tried to signal him at camp four with their headlamps when he did not return to high camp later that evening.

At around 10pm on the evening of the 21st, a flashlight was seen trying to signal the climbers at camp one at around 7,600 meters, just below the traverse. This was thought to be the missing climber and a group of climbers decided to ascend at first light to assist if possible. Unfortunately the weather became bad overnight and none of the climbers departed in the morning due to dangerous whiteout conditions. A helicopter was organized to make a flyby and possibly locate the missing climber, but has still been unable to depart Skardu due to the current bad weather conditions.

Phil Crampton

Dispatch #17 – July 20, 2009 – Base Camp

The recent weather forecasts have been predicting extremely strong winds at camp two and above. From where we sit at base camp all we can see are cloudless beautiful sky with no visible signs of strong winds on Gasherbrum I and the surrounding peaks. It’s quite a frustrating situation, as we obviously know that there are strong winds high on the mountain.

A group of climbers risked the heavy loaded slopes on Gasherbrum II between camp two and three, and got in position for a summit attempt on the 19th. They awoke to strong winds and whiteout conditions and aborted their attempt. A similar situation was faced by a small group of climbers who got into position on Gasherbrum I high camp on the same evening. We believe there are a few climbers who proceeded to camp four on GII but we still have no word on their progress.

We still plan to make our summit schedule based on the predicted wind speeds and we are expecting them to drop to a decent level in the next few days going on the data we have received.

The team seems to be very relaxed with the slow progress we have made with the weather but we still think we have time to accomplish what we came to Pakistan for.

Phil Crampton

Dispatch #16 – July 16, 2009 – Base Camp

Base Camp is going to be a quiet place in a few days time as several teams have ran out of time or decided the weather is too bad to continue.

Our friends, David and Adele from Jagged Globe and their members will be leaving on the 19th as well as Herbert and his Amical group from Germany. We have worked very closely with Jagged Globe this season in fixing ropes on the route and consulting each other with our respective weather reports. We will miss them and look forward to running into them on another hill somewhere in the near future.

The weather forecast for the next week predicts good conditions as far as sunny days to consolidate the heavy snowfall, but the winds, due to the close proximity of the jet stream, are expected to be between 50-80 km/h with gusts of up to 120 km/h. Our forecasts only are somewhat accurate for a week in advance so we hope that the winds subside after the 21st. With all the information in hand we have decided to stay close to base camp for obvious reasons.

Two of our members are also planning to leave in the next few days. Ian has to be back in the UK for the start of his around the world yacht race. Climbing and then sailing, he’s quite the international playboy. Philippe has decided to return home and get back to work sooner than later and the weather has obviously been a big factor for his decision. We will miss them both and look forward to climbing with them in the future.

Phil Crampton

Dispatch #15 – July 14, 2009 – Base Camp

Our summit push was abruptly halted at camp two by gale force winds and a large amount of fresh snow.

We all moved into position at camp two on July 12th hoping to make the climb to camp three the following day. Pasang Gumba and Pasang Sherpa climbed directly from base camp to camp three with the intention of fixing rope to camp four on the morning of the 13th.

On the 13th, unlucky for some, definitely for us, we awoke to about 6 inches of fresh snow at camp two. After talking to the Sherpas on the radio at camp three, we realized that there was too much new snow on the slope between two and three to continue. The slope was already loaded, although consolidated, from the previous storm, so this combined with the strong winds above 7,000 meters made the Sherpas decide to descend quickly.

The continued snowfall all afternoon and evening plus all day on the 14th has left us stuck at base camp to wait for some good weather and some time for the snow to consolidate. One of the weather forecasts we are consulting has informed us that the jet stream will be above us until the 21st, possibly the 26th. We were expecting some wind up high but now the snow has started again to throw more challenges into the mix.

The team members are all in good health although it’s hard to have high spirits back at base camp when snow falls all day, especially after an aborted summit attempt. We have the time to sit and wait it out, hopefully sooner than later.

Phil Crampton

Dispatch #14 – July 11, 2009 – Base Camp

The first group of climbers have now left base camp for a summit attempt on Gasherbrum II. Ian, Mark and Michael are now in camp one and will be joined in camp two tomorrow by Gordon, Arian, myself and the Sherpas. The three of us decided to spend another night at base camp and make the short climb directly to camp two to avoid another night sleeping on the hill.

Once again, the various weather forecasts are contradicting each other, so we have no choice but to go for the summit during this first window of somewhat lower wind speeds. The jet stream is still lingering above the Karakorum, so we plan to dress appropriately for the summit push as we could possibly expect winds of up to 50 km/h. A few days later the experts are predicting 70 km/h plus winds so we hope that the first window is tolerable.

Serap Jangbu Sherpa has started to fix the ropes in the Japanese Couloir with the help of two HAP’s. He will return to base camp tomorrow and wait for the lull in the wind and our Gasherbrum I climbers to be ready for another summit push.

Phil Crampton

Dispatch #13 – July 8, 2009 – Base Camp

The team are all now down at base camp after spending the evening at camp one. We have been down at 5,100 meters for the past 6-7 days so a night at close to 6,000 meters was decided to be a good idea for exercise and acclimatization purposes.

Gordon, Ian and myself enjoy the creature comforts of base camp too much and we decided to climb to camp one and descend later the same day to enjoy the warmer lower elevation, not to mention the tasty food prepared by our talented cooks.

Upon reaching camp one, Gordon, John Furneaux from the Canada West expedition and myself proceed to break trail to the start of the fixed ropes that lead to camp two. Both Gordon and John are professional ski patrol guys and have extensive avalanche experience. We found a suitable steep slope and dug an avalanche pit to assess the snow pack conditions. Both the experts decided that the conditions required a few more days to consolidate. I was just there to break trail.

We have been comparing our weather forecasts with those from Jagged Globe and we are expecting the jet stream to make a dramatic appearance tomorrow for a few days. If all goes to plan, it will leave as suddenly as it arrived and allow us to get high on Gasherbrum II with manageable wind speeds.

Our Sherpa crew and Jagged’s HAP’s plan to retrieve the fixed ropes tomorrow that are buried to camp two. If the ropes are buried too deep the crew will re-fix the route where necessary, if the weather and snow conditions allow.

The Junkies still have another 30 days at base camp or above, so we are all confident we will get the weather window needed to allow us to summit Gasherbrum II and hopefully we can knock off Gasherbrum I as well.

Phil Crampton

Dispatch #12 – July 6, 2009 – Base Camp

Correction: I stated an error in our last dispatch which should have read that the weather forecast from Nepal has been pretty accurate so far. I apologize about this error.

The new forecasts predict somewhat good weather for the next few days although we are expecting the jet stream to return to the mountain on the 9th and 10th. We are hoping that the possible precipitation forecast for the 9th does not happen as the slopes on Gasherbrum II between camp two and three are loaded with fresh snow at the moment. We have decided to sit tight at base camp and allow the snow to consolidate but it may take longer than we hoped if we receive more snowfall.

If Gasherbrum II needs more time to stabilize we will hopefully start to make some progress on Gasherbrum I. We have met with the Korean, Spanish and Bulgarian teams attempting the mountain this season and the general consensus is that they wish for our Sherpas to fix the route up the Japanese Couloir and above. Most of these teams have just arrived so there is no rush for our Sherpa crew to fix the rope just yet.

The fresh snow has buried the ropes that we have fixed from camp one to three and hopefully we can retrieve them easily, if not we have enough rope and hardware collected from the other teams to re-fix the route if necessary.

There has been a lot of co-operation between all teams on both Gasherbrum II and I this season and we just hope that weather decides to co-operate with us.

Phil Crampton

Dispatch #11 – July 3, 2009 – Base Camp

All of our team members and Sherpas are at base camp resting waiting for the weather to improve for our summit attempt on Gasherbrum II.

We have been consulting our three main weather forecast services from Austria, Switzerland and Nepal and we still have no definite date when to expect the conditions to improve. All three forecasts have been similar in their predictions but the weather has proved them wrong. We were expecting a heavy snowfall on July 4th but this has been pushed back to July 6th and with this in mind we are sitting tight at base camp. The predicted good days produced snow and the bad days produced sun.

Apart from this little patch of bad weather hindering us we have made good progress since arriving at base camp. Our Sherpas and some HAP’s from Jagged Globe have already fixed rope from camp one to camp three and we are planning to fix more rope from camp three to the location of the rarely used camp four for safety. The Sherpas also plan to fix around 150-200 meters of rope on the upper sections of the summit ridge on our summit day.

A meeting was called and held by the Jagged Globe expedition the other day in regards to the rope fixing. David Hamilton, a veteran of many Karakorum expeditions, hosted the meeting, which was attended by all the groups present at base camp. It was suggested that the smaller groups contribute rope and hardware to the rope fixing pool or if not possible a financial contribution of around $100-$150 per climber. There are a few large teams with 10-20 members and other teams with only 4 so the idea is to make the ropes accessible at a fair price for all climbers as one commercial team on Broad Peak are asking $300 per climber for using the fixed ropes they have placed. All the groups either donated equipment or some money and some both.

The conditions of the route above camp two are not favorable for safe travel at the moment and with more snow predicted we may switch our attention to start the route on Gasherbrum I. Altitude Junkies have agreed to fix the route on Gasherbrum I using our talented team of five Sherpas and we have asked for no financial contribution whatsoever from the other GI climbers. We plan to use the rope and hardware collected from the collective Gasherbrum expeditions to fix the route as we have already used a considerable amount of our own equipment on GII.

There is going to be no fireworks, burgers or beer for us tomorrow but we wish all our readers a very safe and happy 4th of July.

Phil Crampton

Dispatch #10 – June 29, 2009 – Base Camp

We have been pretty busy since our last dispatch, apart from the two rest days where we had no sun whatsoever to recharge our electronics. The weather at present is glorious so we have to charge our batteries before the bad weather approaches

We spent our first night on the mountain at camp one on the 24th. All the team members spent the night and the following day we departed to base camp while three of our Sherpas and three of Jagged Globe’s HAP’s stayed on the mountain and fixed the route to camp two. The Sherpas descended to base camp later that afternoon.

Two rest days were enjoyed by the members and the Sherpas and we all went back up the hill on the 28th. Michael Odell is now with the expedition after his climb in the Alps, so Michael and Mark along with Tarke Sherpa spent the night at camp one and the following day continued to camp two. Ian, Arian, Gordon and myself, along with Pasang Gumba, Temba and Pasang Sherpa all climbed directly to camp two. The team members and myself departed early morning on the 29th for base camp where we saw Mark, Michael and Tarke going up to camp two. The Sherpas along with two HAP’s were going to fix the route to camp three and then descend if time allowed.

Philippe and Gorgan climbed to camp one and then camp two on the 27th and 28th respectively and are planning to spend a second night at camp two for their personal acclimatization needs before departing for base camp.

Our weather forecast coincides with another groups forecast so we are expecting a front to move in over the next few days which will slow our progress down somewhat. We have already got camp one and two established and are hoping to make a summit attempt on Gasherbrum II after the bad weather has past and when the snow conditions allow.

Phil Crampton

Dispatch #9 – June 23, 2009 – Base Camp

Yesterday we held our Puja ceremony and immediately after took a stroll on the glacier up to the icefall. It felt good to stretch our legs and get our crampons and harnesses on, although the early morning heat reflecting off the glacier made it unbearably hot. We reviewed roped up glacier travel as we have a few different nationalities of climbers with different climbing styles and we wanted to make sure we are all on the same page once on the glacier proper. We returned in time for a delicious lunch of pizza and jumbo fries prepared by our kitchen staff.

We listed our climbing Sherpas in a previous dispatch so now it’s time to list our expedition kitchen and trekking staff.

Ashed Karim (Head Cook)
Ehshan Ullbaig (Assistant Cook)
Shezad Alam (Kitchen Assistant)
Zakir Hussain (Kitchen Assistant)
Salman Ali (Trekking Guide)
Ghullam Mahdi (Trekking Cook)

Today we rest while our Sherpas establish and stock camp one as we plan to climb there tomorrow and spend the night. The following day at camp one the members will possibly explore the first part of the route to camp two in the early morning before returning to base camp for lunch.

Our trekkers; Cassidy Briggs, Bob Carney and Anna Gata all departed base camp today after breakfast. They were hoping to go over the Gondogoro La but the pass still remains closed due to the heavy snowfall the area has received recently. Luckily for them they found some objectives yesterday to get their crampons on and their ice axes out.

We are expecting five days of good weather going on the recent weather forecasts and with this in mind, Dave Hamilton, the leader of the Jagged Globe Expedition and myself met yesterday to discuss the fixed ropes on Gasherbrum II. There are an expected ten teams on Gasherbrum II this season and already around six or seven of the teams are present at base camp. Few teams have any help as far as HAP’s and we are the only team we believe with Sherpa support present at base camp at the moment.

We hope to take advantage of the good weather and a few of the teams have agreed on donating the following amounts of gear and staff to start to fix the ropes this season on Gasherbrum II.

Altitude Junkies will provide 4 Sherpas, 1,200 meters of rope and hardware.
Amical will provide 800 meters of rope and hardware.
Jagged Globe will provide 3 HAP’s, 1,200 meters of rope and hardware.

Weather permitting we plan to have the HAP’s and Sherpas start to fix ropes to camp two on the 25th. Dave Hamilton and myself will assist the Sherpas and HAP’s if needed in the rope fixing and weather and snow conditions permitting, we will try to continue fixing above camp two to camp three if possible. We would like to make as much progress as possible, giving us the maximum chance to summit both Gasherbrum II and I this season.

Phil Crampton

Dispatch #8 – June 21, 2009 – Base Camp

The glorious weather this morning at base camp allowed for some amazing views of Gasherbrum I and the surrounding peaks. The group collectively voted on a late 8 AM breakfast and the rest of the day was spent taking photos, bathing, doing laundry, sending emails and catching up on sleep.

Tomorrow we will hold our Puja Ceremony and after it’s conclusion we will take a stroll on the glacier up to the icefall to stretch our legs. The route through the icefall and up to camp one has already been established by our next door neighbors, the first expedition who arrived at base camp some time ago, a small international team attempting both Gasherbrum III and IV.

The porters who carried our loads from Askole to Base Camp, do this trek with the bare essentials of clothing and gear. Their footwear, clothing and eyewear are all inadequate for the high elevation of the trek to base camp. Several of the porters have suffered from snow blindness even though they were wearing sunglasses because their glasses are cheap and have no UV protection whatsoever.

Altitude Junkies would like to start a porter program to collect old glacier glasses from climbers who have spare pairs lying around which they no longer have any use for. These then can be given to the porters who need this essential eyewear. Anyone interested in donating old glasses that are in New York can drop them off at the Dusk Lounge at 147 West 24th Street, New York. For climbers who are coming to Nepal for the fall climbing season, any donations can be dropped off at the Altitude Junkies office in Thamel. Gear companies who have any old inventory they need shifting, this would be a good cause indeed so please feel free to contact us. Some of our climbers have already donated spare sunglasses to the porters during the trek in and we plan to give more at the conclusion of the trek out.

Phil Crampton

Dispatch #7 – June 20, 2009 – Base Camp

We apologize about the delay in posting our latest dispatch as we have been unable to charge our computers due to the bad weather for solar charging during the last few days of the trek.

We followed our planned trekking schedule until the morning we were supposed to depart the campsite known as Goro II. It had snowed all afternoon and evening the prior day and the snow continued on the morning of the 18th. This weather meant that the porters would not budge until it improved, which it didn’t, so we had a forced rest day.

The following day we reached the campsite called Shagring and had lunch at Concordia on the way. We all got to see K2 and Broad Peak in their full glory without any clouds whatsoever obliterating our view. The previous days snow was quickly forgotten after this rare sight and many photos were taken by the team members, including myself which is quite a rarity.

Our base camp has now been established and we will finely tune our tent platforms tomorrow as we plan to take a few well-deserved rest days. The trekkers have decided to stay with the team at Gasherbrum base camp for a few extra days as they have already got the views that they wanted of K2 and Broad Peak.

Temba and Pasang Sherpa arrived at base camp today and we are expecting Michael Odell to arrive in a few days fresh from climbing in the Alps. Unfortunately, Mark Dickson suffered a broken ankle while trekking out from a successful climb Mera and Island Peak in Nepal a few weeks ago. Mark had gone there to climb both peaks for acclimatization before heading to Pakistan and going on doctors orders in London, he has to miss our Gasherbrum double header this summer to avoid further injury. Hopefully he is all healed in time for our Manaslu expedition in the fall.

Phil Crampton

Dispatch #6 – June 15, 2009 – Paiyu

Organizing our porter loads in Askole went much smoother and quicker than we had anticipated going on previous experiences. After weighing all the loads, we finally needed 140 porters in total for our first loads to go up to base camp. We expect to be using many more porters over the duration of the expedition to re-supply the team with fresh meat and vegetables to keep our climbers well nourished.

The first day of trekking saw us reach the Jhola campsite and the following day we reached the campsite known as Paiyu. Today is a well-deserved rest day at Paiyu for our team of climbers and trekkers. The campsite has the benefit of some shelter from the sun with a scattering of trees, which we managed to camp underneath for the two evenings we will reside here.

The trek so far has seen perfect weather conditions. The mornings are brisk with clear skies and glorious views and then the clouds roll in for some afternoon cloud coverage bringing the temperature down to a comfortable level for trekking. Early evenings are once again seeing clearing skies for more photo opportunities. Our umbrellas have only been used to shelter us from the sun so far, so let’s hope this weather continues.

We still have four more days of trekking to go until reaching Gasherbrum Base Camp so we will make the most of this day to read, relax, do laundry and the like. We will try to get the computer and satellite modem charged if possible so we can keep everyone up to date with our progress on the trek.

Phil Crampton

Dispatch #5 – June 12, 2009 – Askole

The Jeep Willy ride from Skardu to Askole was as hair raising as always with the exposed windy roads, rickety suspension bridges and somewhat deep stream crossings. Our Liaison Officer from the Pakistan Army, Major Kiani and I traveled several hours behind the rest of the group, as we had to get some last minute paperwork with the respective government offices completed. We had hoped that Temba and Pasang Sherpa would make the Skardu flight from Islamabad and that they could join us for the drive to Askole, but guess what, the flight was canceled again. We discovered the flight did make it on the morning of 10th, after we decided to drive the previous afternoon and on hearing this news it made the drive from Islamabad seem even longer than it actually was.

All the team members, both the climbers and the trekkers are all doing well and looking forward to some Karakorum exercise. The trekking group will accompany the expedition to base camp and spend a few nights with the climbing team before heading over to Concordia for the evening and then to K2 base camp for a couple of nights. After this they will cross over the Gondogoro La pass, which reaches an elevation of 5,600 meters from where it is possible to see the five of the 8,000-meter peaks that lie in Pakistan. Gordon Ferguson will be accompanying the trekkers to K2 base camp and will visit with some Canadian friends who are climbing on Broad Peak before taking the group over the pass.

Tomorrow we start the amazing trek up to Gasherbrum base camp and if possible we will try and send dispatches on the trek, although this depends on what time we reach our respective camps each evening and the ability for us to charge our batteries by solar panels.

Phil Crampton

Dispatch #4 – June 10, 2009 – Skardu

The Skardu morning flight we were supposed to take on the 8th was once again canceled for the fourth straight day. After checking in at the airport and going through security our flight was delayed for an hour or so, but we felt confident we could fly until an hour or so later when it was finally canceled for the day. We had tried for two consecutive days to fly and with the flights operating so sporadically at the moment we decided collectively as a group that we better drive to Skardu as soon as possible in case of further delays.

We finally arrived in Skardu this evening after spending yesterday evening in Besham. The drive from Besham took 8 hours, due to the worsening road conditions and this was followed today with another long drive to Skardu. For some members of the group, this was their first drive along the Karakorum Highway, which has to be one of the most scenic drives in the world. For some of the others, myself included, we were looking forward to the short flight with amazing views of Nanga Parbat. Hopefully the return flight from Skardu in roughly two and a half months time will allow for some incredible scenic aerial photography.

Now we get to enjoy the great food that the Masherbrum Hotel prepares as we repack our gear for the porters loads. We have to pick up some last minute supplies at the markets in Skardu and hopefully can find some items to substitute the food and drink we usually have at our Puja ceremony. Our prayer flags have been blessed by a Lama in Kathmandu as the Puja is a very important ritual for our five visiting Sherpas before we commence climbing the Gasherbrums.

Phil Crampton

Dispatch #3 – June 8, 2009 – Islamabad

It is beginning to feel just like late May in the Khumbu, Nepal, waiting for the weather to improve so one is able to fly out of Lukla back to Kathmandu at the end of an expedition. We didn’t make the Skardu flight roster today as two days of cancelled flights and the respective collective passengers were trying to fly to Skardu. We are hoping that the rescheduled afternoon flight makes it and we can get out tomorrow morning. We have decided to fly both ways from Islamabad to Skardu rater than driving up the Karakorum Highway due to the present political situation in Pakistan, so I guess it’s back to the nearby ice cream parlors later this afternoon.

Our team members are now ready to get the expedition started proper and get to Skardu although the English team members seem to be content occupying their free time watching the world cricket tournament on television that is taking place in England at the moment.

Philippe Gatta and Serap Jangbu Sherpa are going to be attempting the summit of both Gasherbrum I and II and then will head over to Broad Peak later this summer and also try for that peak. They have a tighter schedule than the rest of the team so let’s hope we are only one day behind our intended schedule.

Both Mark Dickson and Michael Odell are presently climbing in the European Alps, not sure exactly where, but we look forward to them joining our expedition in about a weeks time or so behind the rest of the group. Hopefully we are not still in Islamabad when they arrive, although some of us are enjoying the relaxed pace and attitude of the locals, especially at our comfortable hotel.

Phil Crampton

Dispatch #2 – June 7, 2009 – Islamabad

Most of our expedition members have now arrived in Islamabad and all going to plan we should all be flying to Skardu tomorrow morning. The Islamabad-Skardu flights are now running again after a few days of cancellations, due to weather conditions in Skardu. Hopefully the passenger waiting list is not too long and we can get out tomorrow morning.

The Sherpas and I spent all day Thursday traveling to Islamabad. We flew via Karachi, this making the usually short flight an all day journey. Pasang Gumba, Tarke and Serap Jangbu Sherpa did a great job of making sure our 30 duffel bags and barrels all made the various connecting flights using only the few trolleys available at each airport.

Our two other climbing Sherpas, Temba and Pasang Sherpa along with one member, Gorgan, are still in Kathmandu waiting for their Pakistan visas to be issued and will be joining us at base camp a few days behind the rest of the group.

We have been informed from the Alpine Club of Pakistan that the number of expeditions visiting Pakistan this summer has dropped considerably from last year and the 2008 numbers of climbers were down from the previous year. The 2007 season saw many teams on both Gasherbrum I and II but we are expecting a much smaller number of climbers this season. We are hoping that all the teams in attendance will work together in establishing the route, and hopefully the weather cooperates for every teams success.

Phil Crampton

Dispatch #1 - June 2, 2008 - Kathmandu

Welcome to the expedition dispatches from the combined Altitude Junkies-Project Himalaya Gasherbrum double header expedition. We are posting this dispatch from Kathmandu, Nepal as we have still not yet quite reached Islamabad, Pakistan, after the conclusion of our Everest expedition this spring. We will be in Pakistan very soon and as always, enjoying the hospitality of our Pakistani hosts.

Our expedition team this year consists of the following members who are going to be attempting both the summits of Gasherbrum II and I.

Ian Cartwright (UK)
Phil Crampton (UK/USA)
Mark Dickson (UK)
Gordon Ferguson (Canada)
Mark Horrell (UK)
Arian Lamal (France)
Michael Odell (UK)

The following climbers are climbing independently from the Junkies but will be provided with base camp and the lower camps one and two.

Serap Jangbu Sherpa (Nepal)
Philippe Gata (France)
Gorgan Wildberger (France)

This year we are bringing four our own Sherpa crew fresh off the slopes of Everest to assist our Pakistani High Altitude Porters. Our Sherpa climbing staff consist of:

Pasang Gumba Sherpa (Sirdar)
Pasang Sherpa
Tarke Sherpa
Temba Sherpa

Hopefully you will follow our progress with our regular dispatches posted on this website.

Phil Crampton


Contact us: info@altitudejunkies.com