American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Pakistan, Broad Peak and K2

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1987

Broad Peak and K2. This expedition was a semi-commercial undertaking. Most of its members had little more in common than the DM 12,000 (about $6300) each had to pay into the expedition treasury. From West Germany came the leader, Dr. Karl Maria Herrligkoffer, Base Camp Manager Doris Kustermann, Heinrich Koch, Toni Freudig, Manfred Heinrich, Joachim Labisch, Markus Precht and scientist Dr. Irene Simon-Schnass; from Poland, Jerzy Kukuczka and Tadeusz Piotrowski; from Austria, Peter Wörgötter and Johann Hirschbichler; from Switzerland, Beda Fuster, Diego Wellig and Rolf Zemp; I have dual Swiss-USA citzenship. I was to produce a documentary film for West German television. After various problems on the approach, we established the Broad Peak Base Camp at 4900 meters near the start of the original first-ascent route. After a day at Base, they began to build up a line of three camps in expedition-style, while the K2 team moved out on July 7 to set up its Base Camp on the Godwin Austen moraine at 5100 meters near the start of a rib in the south face of K2, well to the left of the route attempted previously by Doug Scott. The Poles were determined to follow this rib and move up to the left of dangerous séracs in the center of the face in the hope of reaching the great Sickle Couloir and the summit slopes beyond the Bottle Neck. The three Swiss and Freudig gave the Poles initial support as far as Camp I, and Freudig carried to Camp II, but the Swiss indicated a strong dislike of the line, considering it a death-trap in case of a heavy snowfall. They asked Herrligkoffer, who had been helicoptered in from Payu to the Broad Peak Base on July 13 in celebration of his 70th birthday, for permission to attempt the normal Abruzzi Ridge on K2. This request was turned down. Fuster, Zemp and Wellig turned to Broad Peak, departing from K2 Base at three A.M. on June 19. They moved past Broad Peak Base and made a carry to Camp II at 6300 meters. They were joined there by Wörgötter and Prechtl, and on June 20 all five moved up to Camp III at 7400 meters. June 21, a beautiful day, saw the three Swiss, the Austrian and the German on top. The next day they were followed by Koch and Labisch, but these two went only to the 60-foot lower foresummit. The same foresummit was attained on July 6 by Freudig, Heinrich and our favorite Balti porter “Little Karim,” who had carried a hang-glider to the top of Gasherbrum II for Boivin the year before. Dr. Herrligkoffer’s health had declined at an alarming rate. On June 26 he and Doris Kustermann were picked up by helicopter and evacuated to Skardu. Wellig departed for home. Fuster and Zemp decided to disregard our leader’s veto and to climb K2 by the Abruzzi Ridge. The two left K2 Base Camp shortly after midnight on July 2. Breaking trail in knee-deep snow, they reached their first bivouac site at 6700 meters late in the afternoon. A strong wind kept them awake for most of the night and continued into the next day. At noon they started up again, using some of the fixed ropes of previous parties. A second bivouac was on a narrow ledge under a large rock which protected them from avalanches and falling rocks. On the third day they moved up the Black Pyramid, where they were joined by members of the QUOTA 8000 expedition who had followed their tracks. The third bivouac was at 7600 meters below the shoulder. At four P.M. on July 5 they all stood on the summit of K2 on a magnificent, almost windless day: four Italians, a Czechoslovakian, a Frenchman and two Swiss. It had taken Fuster and Zemp 3½ days from Base to top and it took another 1½ to descend. Weeks later, during a debriefing session at the Ministry of Tourism in Islamabad, the Swiss were asked to pay another Rs. 45,000 for having climbed K2 by a route other than the one specified in our official permit. Since none of us had that much money, the Ministry threatened Fuster and Zemp with a four-year ban. The successful new route of Kukuczka and Piotrowski and the tragic death of Piotrowski are covered elsewhere in this Journal.

Norman Dyhrenfurth

This AAJ article has been reformatted into HTML. Please contact us if you spot an error.