American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Western China, K2 North Ridge Attempt

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

K2 North Ridge Attempt. We started from Rawalpindi in Pakistan on May 11, crossed the Khunjerab Pass and reached Kashgar on May 16. We were six climbers: Gérard Bretin, François Marsigny, Pierre Royer, Frédéric Valet, my wife Annie and I. Jacques Vallet was the doctor. We left Mazar, the last military post in the Kunlun mountains, on May 20. It took six days to arrive at “Base Camp” at Sughet Jungal at 3800 meters with our 60 camels, 20 camel drivers, donkeys and sheep! As we were far from the real Base Camp at the foot of K2 at 4900 meters, we were helped by four Sherpas, who had joined us in Rawalpindi and had come from Kathmandu, to carry between the two camps. This took six to eight hours of harsh walking. Despite poor weather and very hard ice on the first slopes, we made good progress. Camps I and II had been established at 5600 and 6600 meters by June 20. Ropes were fixed up to 6000 meters. The first part of the ridge was quite dangerous because of rockfall and avalanches. By the end of June we dismantled Camp I, although the trip from Base Camp to Camp II was long: 1700 meters and 7 to 10 hours. Early in July we made the first summit attempt. Between 6600 and 7600 meters on mixed ground with deep snow in the couloirs, it took me only four hours. Two tents were put at Camp III at 7600 meters, but the next day we were pushed back down by a storm. After that, we never had more than two or three days of continuous stable weather. Six attempts during July went for nothing. Annie climbed to 6600 meters but had to abandon because of an old knee twist. On August 8, Royer, Marsigny and I reached Camp IV at 7950 meters above a 300-meter climb on very loose rock slabs. Bretin and Valet, exhausted by ten weeks at altitude, had given up at Camp III. Unfortunately a snowstorm coming from the southwest prevented our climbing the last 600 meters. Since the others didn’t want to try again, I decided to go alone. It was an intimidating experience to be on a great mountain without the support of companions. On August 14, I reached the beginning of the snow traverse at 8000 meters just above Camp IV and then descended to camp. In the morning I had to escape from a blizzard. I waited one complete day at Camp II as the lower slopes seemed dangerous. In a white-out I reached Base Camp on August 17. With 15 camels (two were lost coming to Sughet Jungal) we left and had some difficulties crossing the Shaksgam River in flood.

Pierre Beghin, Club Alpin Français

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