American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Pakistan, K2, via West Ridge

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1994

K2, via West Ridge. Our international expedition was led by Englishman Jonathan Pratt and me from the United States. We made the second ascent of the west ridge, which was first climbed in 1981 by Japanese Eiho Ohtani and Pakistani Nazir Sabir of the Waseda University expedition. Our members were Americans Greg Mortenson, Rob Allen, Scott Darsney, British Andrew Collins, Andrew Mayers, John Wakefield, Frenchman Etienne Fine, Canadian John Arnold, Welshman Dean James and Irishman Mike O’Shea. We established Base Camp, Advance Base, Camps I, II, III, IV and V at 4900, 5200, 5800, 6500, 6900, 7500 and 7800 meters on June 24, July 2, 3, 7, 12, 28 and August 16. We fixed 4000 meters of rope between 5700 and 7600 meters. A storm destroyed Camp II on July 15. On July 20, an avalanche hit Wakefield and Arnold below Camp I. Fine had to be rescued from Camp III on July 21 and again on August 2 from Camp IV with pulmonary edema. He also had frostbite this second time. He was evacuated by helicopter from Base Camp on August 5. On August 23, Wakefield had to be helicoptered out because of frostbite. On September 3, a sérac fall wiped out Base Camp. Late June and early July were very sunny, warm and calm. In late July and up until August 23, the weather was stormy, windy, cloudy with much snowfall. Late August and early September were sunny or partly cloudy with some light snow and wind, but generally good. On September 1, Pratt and I established a bivouac at 8200 meters. “Summit day” lasted for 31½ hours, from 6:30 A.M. on September 2 to two P.M. on September 3. I led first, placing and aiding on pitons to reach the “Magic Line” at 8350 meters. Pratt led from 8350 to 8550 meters on a steep, mixed section which was dangerous on the descent. We both led on the final section to the summit, which we reached at 11:30 P.M. For more than two hours we had traversed a long ridge which was not especially difficult and rather flat over a multitude of false summits. From the summit we could see the various ridges of K2 dropping away in all directions in the dim moonlight. After 20 seconds on top, enduring the biting wind and blowing snow, we hurried down to a bivouac at 8550 meters. During this rest on a ledge, Pratt fell off and narrowly escaped a death slide down the snow slope. Without a canister gas stove for frequent brew-ups, we could not have survived. We would not have succeeded without the powerful efforts of all team members in establishing camps, fixed lines, food caches and giving real partnership. Both Pratt and I have been to the summit of Everest. Pratt is the first Briton to have climbed K2 and survived the descent.

Daniel Mazur

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