American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Pakistan, Broad Peak Ascent and Tragedy and Attempts on K2

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1984

Broad Peak Ascent and Tragedy and Attempts on K2. After various reconnaissances on and around K2 by some members of the expedition, on June 22 Andy Parkin and Alan Rouse set off up the normal route on Broad Peak alpine- style. They all felt that their reconnaissance excursions had served to help acclimatization. Not wishing to advance too fast, Parkin and Rouse kept their first two days comparatively short. On the third day they were joined at their 24,600-foot bivouac by Frenchman Jean Afanassieff and Roger Baxter-Jones. They took turns on June 25 breaking trail in the deep snow and reached the col between the summits at ten A.M. The rocky knife-edges and big cornices of the mile-long summit ridge were the crux of the route. It was slow going but eventually they made it in clear, still weather. After another bivouac, they descended to Base Camp, meeting at 21,000 feet Peter Thexton and Greg Child, who had started climbing the previous afternoon, June 25, and had climbed all night. At feet they met Doug Scott with American Stephen Sustad and Don Whil- lans with Pakistani Gohar Shah, who had set off that morning. When the first two reached the 21,000-foot bivouac, they found Thexton and Child asleep. Whillans and Gohar Shah spent the night of June 26 at 20,500 feet and the night of June 27 at 22,800 feet. On June 27 Scott and Sustad climbed to bivouac at feet above the ice cliff and Child and Thexton at 24,600 feet just below it. On June 28 Child and Thexton started late and climbed slowly. Coming down from the summit, which they reached at 11:30, Scott and Sustad met the second pair still only halfway to the false summit. These two never made it. Exhausted, they turned back an hour from the summit. At first Child could barely move and was urged on by Thexton. Then the roles reversed. Thexton was near collapse and struggled down, supported by Child. They descended through the col, down the slope in the dark and finally at two A.M. over the 65-foot ice cliff to their tent, in which were Whillans and Gohar Shah. They all attended to Thexton, who seemed somewhat revived by a warm drink. At dawn Thexton asked for water, but before they could give it to him, he died. In his last minutes his lungs gurgled loudly, apparently from pulmonary edema.

Before the Broad Peak ascents, Rouse, Parkin and Sustad had gone 3000 feet up the south ridge direct of K2, a route to the left of the Abruzzi ridge which the French and Germans had unsuccessfully attempted in 1981. (A.A.J., 1982, page 273.) They gave up after an earthquake loosened avalanches that poured down both sides of the ridge. After Broad Peak, a number of the expedition headed for home, but Afanassieff, Baxter-Jones, Parkin and Scott made a second attempt on the K2 south face direct, hoping to join the Abruzzi ridge at the shoulder at 25,000 feet. They climbed fast on the first day, reaching 21,000 feet, 4500 vertical feet above Base Camp. On the second and third days they climbed difficult terrain to bivouac at 22,000 and 23,500 feet. On July 23, despite deep snow, they fought their way to 24,600 feet, within 400 feet of the shoulder and the Abruzzi ridge. In the night the weather turned foul. The next morning Parkin led up for 100 feet when Afanassieff suddently announced that he could not see properly, that he had a pain around his kidneys and that his arms and fingers felt numb. They had no choice but to retreat, which they accomplished in two days. Baxter-Jones stayed on after the others left and with Mari Abrego of the Spanish expedition climbed the Abruzzi ridge to the shoulder and up the serac barrier to 27,100 feet. Threatening bad weather and deep snow drove them back. (This information was kindly supplied to the Editor by Doug Scott.)

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