Asia, Pakistan, Gasherbrum III, Southwest Ridge Attempt

Publication Year: 1986.

Gasherbrum III, Southwest Ridge Attempt. Our objective had been the north ridge of Gasherbrum III, which was reconnoitered by Cassin in 1958. In the event, we tackled instead the long, rocky southwest ridge, which rises from the top of the dangerous 800-meter icefall between Gasherbrum II and Gasherbrum IV. Our party, comprising Paul Nunn, Clive Rowland, Des Rubens and me, arrived at Gasherbrum Base Camp on July 11. After placing an intermediate camp halfway up the first icefall, we placed Camp II at 6000 meters at the base of the southeast rib of Gasherbrum II, which was being attempted by numerous parties. By the end of July, we had found a route through the second icefall, with an ice cave halfway up, and had established an ice cave in the remote upper cirque between Gasherbrum III and IV. A five-day period of very bad weather sent us down to Base Camp, and Rowland and our liaison officer departed soon afterwards. On August 11 we regained Camp II in very deep snow. Nunn then departed, leaving the two of us to make the final attempt. We remade the trail to the upper cirque and embarked on the ridge on August 14. The wind was very strong and the weather poor. The climbing was mixed II to III by Scottish or Alpine standards. We bivouacked at 7400 meters on a very exposed patch of snow. On the 15th we left all the bivouac gear behind and attempted to reach the summit. After four hours of unroped climbing, we had to start climbing in pitches and this slowed us considerably. We reached 7700 meters, just below a horizontal step that lies below the summit tower, but bad weather and lack of time compelled a retreat. Des Rubens contracted frostbite in our second bivouac, but we regained Base safely on August 19. The circus-like atmosphere of the Gasherbrum Base Camp, the rubbish left by other expeditions and the strains of a busy social life were not the sort of pressures we had been expecting. A major task was tidying up the huge amount of junk left by other expeditions.

Geoffrey Cohen, Scottish Mountaineering Club