American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Pakistan—Karakoram, K2, South-Southwest Ridge Attempt

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1980

K2, South-Southwest Ridge Attempt. A strong, rather massive French expedition nearly climbed K2 by its very difficult south-southwest ridge. The leader was Bernard Mellet, the deputy leader, Yannick Seigneur and the others were Maurice Barrard, Pierre Beghin, Jean-Marc Boivin, Dr. Dominique Chaix, Patrick Cordier, Jean Coudray, Xavier Fargeas, Marc Galy, Yvan Ghirardini, Thierry Leroy, Dominique Marchai, Daniel Monad and Jean-Claude Mosca. There was also a ten-man publicity-film and television team. Using 1400 porters, they took ten days to get to Base Camp at 16,400 feet on the Godwin Austen Glacier, arriving on July 9. Aided by 50 of the porters, they established Camp I the next day at 18,375 feet. Above there, twelve porters were used until one of them died of a heart attack while carrying a load to Camp IV. (Another porter drowned in a stream while returning to Askole from Base Camp.) Camp II was carved out of the ice above the couloir at 20,675 feet in the col between the Angelus and the south-southwest ridge of K2. The route to Camp III at 22,800 feet was fixed by July 20, but bad weather stopped climbing until July 27. Camp IV was placed at 24,600 feet on August 1. Before the weather broke for the worse again, Mellet and Seigneur reached 25,600 feet, but from then on there was little good weather. The site for Camp V at 26,250 feet was reached on August 18 but not until September 1 could the first tent be pitched there. There were several attempts to get higher in the unstable weather. Boivin suffered a severe retinal hemorrhage and descended from Camp IV to Base Camp by hang-glider. On September 9 Monaci and Leroy left Camp VI, heading for the summit in unsettled weather. Monaci soon felt it hopeless and stopped but Leroy kept on for another 350 feet. However it was obvious that winter had come and the attempt was abandoned. (We are indebted to Yannick Seigneur for this information. He also points out that one can live for 2½ months at over 20,675 feet and go five times to 26,250 feet without oxygen and that one can climb UIAA Grade V+ rock at 27,225 feet.)

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