American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Pakistan, K2 Attempt, Rescue, Recovery of Bodies of Long-Lost Climbers and Micro-Hydroelectric Project

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

K2 Attempt, Rescue, Recovery of Bodies of Long-Lost Climbers and Micro-Hydroelectric Project. Our members were my wife Julie-Ann Clyma, Alan Hinkes, Victor Saunders and I as leader. We arrived at Base Camp on June 30 and made rapid progress on the Abruzzi Spur. On the very first foray, Saunders and Hinkes carried a tent to 6500 meters. My wife and I established Camps I and II at 6180 and 6740 meters on July 6 and 7. Bad weather started on July 8. Because of very strong winds, it was not possible to reach Camp III until the 30th when a snow cave was dug at 7350 meters. We had also carried tents, food and fuel to establish the final camp on the Shoulder at 8000 meters but at that stage, we became entangled with tragedy. Following a summit bid from two other expeditions and the subsequent death of three climbers, Rafael Jensen from the Swedish expedition was exhausted and frostbitten. Hinkes and Saunders helped him down from 7600 meters to the snow cave, where my wife and I looked after him overnight. The next day, in very poor weather, we two helped the injured climber by lowering him down the old fixed ropes on the route. This caused a heart-stopping moment when one of the fixed ropes snapped with the Swede and me attached. Fortunately everyone got down without further incident. At this stage, we made two unusual discoveries. Close to Base Camp, old clothes and bones were positively identified as being those of Art Gilkey, who had been swept away in an avalanche almost exactly 40 years earlier in the 1953 expedition. Also amongst the Base Camp tents a few scraps of bones and clothing were found and thought to be from the 1939 expedition when Dudley Wolfe and three Sherpas disappeared. These were later identified as probably being the remains of Pasang Kitar Sherpa. Strong winds and daily snowfall kept us in Base Camp until August 13. After setting off from Base, the fine weather lasted less than 18 hours and we were trapped by a blizzard at Camp II. On August 19 and in very strong winds we set off for Camp III, where we found extreme avalanche potential and our snow cave buried under six feet of fresh snow. We were lucky to retrieve our equipment and descended in darkness to Camp II. We cleared the mountain on the 20th. As part of a two-year project supported by Eastern Electricity (of England), we oversaw the installation of a second micro-hydroelectricity project at one of the villages passed on the approach to Base Camp. These installations were requested by two villages and carried out by the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme, a development charity in northern Pakistan. They are seen as having a positive impact on local living standards and on the local environment.

Roger Payne, Alpine Club

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