American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Pakistan, K2 Ascent and Tragedy

  • Climbs And Expeditions
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  • Publication Year: 1994

K2 Ascent and Tragedy. Our expedition was composed of Slovenes Dr. Damijan Meško, Viki Grošelj, Davo Karnicar, Boštjan Kekec, Rado Nadvenik, Zvonko Požgaj, Boris Sedej and me as leader, Croat Stipe Božic, Mexican Carlos Carsolio, Swede Göran Kropp and Briton David Sharman. On May 18, we left Skardu aboard nine jeeps and reached Askole the same afternoon where a small army of porters was waiting. The approach march went without a hitch. We got to Base Camp on the Godwin Austen Glacier at 5100 meters on May 25 and paid off the 160 porters. The next day, we set up Advance Base at 5450 meters at the foot of the Abruzzi Ridge. Camp I was established on May 27, at first two tents, one of which was later ruined by the wind. Despite bad weather, we set up Camp II and III at 6700 amd 7250 meters on June 3 and 7. On June 10, an avalanche destroyed the tent at Camp III. Kropp and Sharman left the broken tent and retreated in the strong morning wind. That same day, Carsolio and Požgaj brought a new tent to 7300 meters. Because of the deep snow, they waited there for Božic and Grošelj and spent the day digging a snow cave. On June 12, all four plowed through the deep snow to the Shoulder and set up Camp IV at 7860 meters. Early on June 13, they set out for the summit in good weather but with deep snow. Kekec and Sedej left for Camp IV while Karnicar and Nadvešnik improved the route below and above Camp III. At 12:50 P.M. the two top ropes reported that they were about 20 minutes from the summit and that they would continue despite rapidly worsening weather. Their orientation and timing were wrong. They reached the summit at four P.M. and immediately began the descent to Camp IV where Kekec and Sedej were waiting. Grošelj found the tent at seven o’clock and Požgaj at eight, while Božic and Carsolio had to bivouac somewhere on the Shoulder. They got to Camp IV at four A.M. The weather was deteriorating even more, but more worrying was the condition of Kekec, who was uncharacteristically fatigued. Grošelj and Carsolio were to descend to Camp III to report on conditions for the evacuation. The former reached Karnicar and Nadvešnik at Camp III at noon but Carsolio did not arrive until ten P.M. The group at Camp IV postponed their descent until the following day while Kropp and Sharman left Base Camp with medicines and oxygen. In a lull in the storm on June 15, Božic, Sedej and Požgaj began the evacuation of Kekec, but he died soon after departure. The other three got to Camp III in the evening. The next day, their descent became even more precarious because of Božic’s snow blindness and Požgaj’s frostbitten toes and fingers. By June 18, everyone was back in Base Camp. A memorial service for Kekec was held at the Gilkey Memorial. Požgaj’s and Sedej’s injuries indicated a helicopter evacuation, which took place on the 20th. Only Kropp and Sharman were determined to have another go for the summit. Karnicar wanted to try, at least partly, his ambitious plan and to ski, if not from the summit, at least from the Shoulder. He had previously left his skis just below the Shoulder. On June 22, while Kropp and Sharman were climbing to Camp IV, he suffered a deep disappointment. His skis had disappeared, doubtless blown away by the wind. He returned to Base Camp. At two A.M. on June 23, Kropp and Sharman left Camp IV for the summit. With crampon problems, Sharman lagged behind, slipped and took a little fall. He descended. Kropp got to the summit at eleven A.M. Just as before, the weather changed around noon. He too had crampon problems and experienced a dangerous fall before getting to Camp IV, where he spent the night. His descent was also difficult. After a bivouac about 500 meters from Base Camp, he reached Base Camp on the morning of June 25, a day after Sharman, who also had had to bivouac when he could not find Advance Base. The remaining climbers left Base Camp on June 30 with 50 porters. We used no bottled oxygen and had no high-altitude porters. This was the 10th 8000er for Grošelj. We Slovenes have now climbed 13 of the 8000ers.

Tomaž Jamnik, Planinska zveza Slovenije

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