American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Pakistan, K2 Attempt

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1989

K2 Attempt. On May 10, Pete Athans, Steve Matous, Andrew Lapkass, my brother Alan and I arrived in Islamabad. Athans and I began travelling north on the Karakoram Highway with 70 prepacked loads in a privately hired local bus on May 17. Meanwhile the rest of the group flew directly to Skardu. On the 18th, the bus, gear and we two were taken over by 70 gun-bearing Suni Muslims, who wanted a fast ride to Gilgit. The situation deteriorated sufficiently to seal off all access roads to Gilgit for eight days. Luckily we and the gear were released, but we had to wait until the siege of Gilgit was taken care of by the military. Thus delayed, we left Skardu only on May 27. Base Camp was reached on June 7 and all local porters were paid off. On June 10, the weather cleared. The next eleven days provided us with reasonable but cold weather and we were able to push our acclimatization to reach the site of Camp III at 24,600 feet on the Abruzzi Ridge. We returned to Base Camp. On June 25, we began climbing. Not yet fully acclimatized, we still hoped to leave our high point for the summit, climb overnight and not sleep, thus reducing the risk of pulmonary and cerebral edema. We never got the chance to test our theory as the weather closed in on June 27. For the next six weeks, we launched five more serious attempts, but the weather only allowed us to get to 25,000 feet before forcing us down again. An exceptionally heavy mantle of snow lay on the upper reaches of the peak. After each successive attempt, we noticed that the layer of fresh snow was becoming deeper and more unconsolidated. We could not believe that five consecutive days of good weather was too much to expect. It never materialized and so on August 10 we had to abandon our climb. Our experience led us to believe that a small group of friends—and we are closer friends now than before—can safely tackle a high and difficult peak and still hold the same hope of success as a much larger group. In fact, we did as well and perhaps better than larger expeditions who were around us at the same time.

Adrian Burgess, A.A.C. and Alpine Climbing Group

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