American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Pakistan, Baintha Brakk, Southeast Buttress Attempt

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

Baintha Brakk, Southeast Buttress Attempt. Tom McMillan, Dr. Peter Crecelius and I arrived at Base Camp at 4450 meters on July 12. There was a Japanese team already on Baintha Brakk (the Ogre). Our proposed climbing route led to the head of the Choktoi Glacier where it flowed out of a basin creating a nasty icefall tucked up between Baintha Brakk and P 6960. The Japanese had worked a line through the icefall, but the séracs changed day by day. Not wanting to get into the icefall, we fixed 500 meters of line on some flanking ice slopes and rock walls that formed the right wall of the icefall. Our goal was the col at 5650 meters between P 6950 and Baintha Brakk. Peter and I established camp on the col on a platform cut out of the ice and snow. The climb to the col was steep snow, ice and mixed climbing for about 12 pitches. The Japanese had already fixed this dangerous gully with rope and invited us to share it with them. They were giving up. In the 20 days they had spent on the col, only seven had been good enough for climbing. They had fixed six pitches up moderate ice to the beginning of the 600-meter granite buttress above the col. They had fixed one pitch up the superb granite and left for us the fixed rope we needed to secure the buttress, the major difficulty. From its top we hoped to launch an alpine-style push of three to five days to the unclimbed east summit. We would have to ascend 600 meters of snow and ice, followed by 450 meters of steep but more moderate rock. The last unknown was the mostly horizontal ridge from the east to the main summit, which would take another 24 to 48 hours. Peter and I led four great pitches on the rock and ice of the pillar on July 31, the day after we reached the col. Then bad weather forced us back to Base Camp for a week. Tom had until this time been having terrible luck with his health. On August 8, the sun came out and we let avalanches fall for another day. At midnight, we set out for the col in one long push, but another storm sent us back to Base Camp after we had tried to wait it out. A second time this scenario was repeated. The weather didn’t begin to clear until the 20th. This time we gave it two days to consolidate. On August 22, we left again for the exhausting 12-hour climb to the col. Tom felt it would be his last attempt. Nevertheless, on August 23 and 24, Tom and Peter climbed six pitches of spectacular rock while I hauled fixed rope. We were back in the col at 6:30 P.M., exhausted, as the snow began to fall heavily. Fearing that we would be trapped, we began to descend in the twilight, barely able to find the way in the snowfall. Tom was now through with the climb. On August 26, the weather cleared. I knew that Peter and I had a very slim chance of climbing the mountain without a third man. It now took five hours just to ascend our ropes from the col to the high point. On the 28th, Peter and I went back up to the col in glorious but cold weather. The next day, I completed the pitch up the comer to a good stance. We hauled 1000 feet of rope to the belay and checked the easier rock above. On the 30th we ascended again for five hours to our high point and began a complicated mixed pitch across the face to reach the crest of the buttress. It took three hours. Though the weather was holding, I could not see how the two of us could make the ascent with a margin of safety. Three or four pitches remained of the pillar. After that and a rest, we would have to begin our alpine-style push. It was too much. Frustrated, we decided to give up. After 50 days, the Ogre was not in our grasp.

Carlos Buhler

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