American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Pakistan, K2, South-Southeast Spur

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1997

K2, South-Southeast Spur, First Chilean Ascent. We departed for Pakistan on May 24, after more than one year of programming and intensive physical training. We arrived at Base Camp on June 11, after a few days in the capital of the country, Islamabad, and the hiring of the porters in the town of Skardu. We were a total of nine persons: seven mountaineers, one physician and one cameraman. (Mountaineers: Alberto Gana, Waldo Farias, Aldo Boitano, Misael Alvial, Michael Purcell, Cristian Garcia-Huidobro and Rodrigo Jordan, Expedition Leader; Physician: Alfonso Diaz; Cameraman: Cristian Buracchio).

A large Japanese expedition of 18 members arrived some days later to climb the same “Cesen Route” that we would take; that is, the south-southeast buttress. We agreed with them to carry on two completely independent ascents in fixing ropes as well as in setting camps. This agreement was entirely honored by both expeditions.

Little by little we fixed ropes and by the end of June we reached the place for Camp I, after climbing several complicated meters of ropes because of too much snow over rock. The spot was at 6300 meters in a narrow rock terrace with hardly any space for our tents.

The weather during this period—as well as during the whole expedition—was very bad, with two or three fair days followed by six to 10 days of foul weather. We continued fixing ropes and carrying loads and by the middle of July we established Camp II, at 7000 meters. Above 6500 meters the route is relatively simple, but it is necessary to walk in deep snow.

The weather remained bad but the sun showed again by the end of July. One Japanese, in a solo ascent, and four Italians took advantage of this spell, accomplishing the summit by the normal route. Unfortunately they arrived on the summit late in the day and one of the Italians died due to a fall during the night’s descent.

During this spell of good weather we fixed ropes up to 7400 meters and left a cache. The seven mountaineers reached the Shoulder, at 7600 meters, with all the supplies needed for the attack of the summit, to be carried out by four climbers.

The weather turned bad again and we had to wait 10 days to try for the summit. There was a spell of good weather on August 9. We climbed directly to Camp II without stopping to sleep at Camp I. We made the 2000 meters of difference in altitude in about 12 hours. We arrived rather tired due to deep snow, deposited by 10 days of snowfall.

The attack on the summit was carried out by Cristian Garcia-Huidobro, Misael Alvial, Michael Purcell and myself, Waldo Farias. Aldo Boitano helped carry supplies to the Shoulder.

The next day we climbed to Camp III on the Shoulder. We arrived exhausted because we had to climb by the Cesen Shovel through powder snow. That night we slept eight hours with oxygen to recover fully from the effort carried out during the previous two hard days. We choose to rest during the next day. It snowed lightly, but six Japanese made the summit using oxygen continuously during the climb and the descent.

We started shortly before 9 p.m. with our headlamps. We were heavily loaded, each one carrying a sleeping bag, and a share of a portable stove, a pot, a shovel and some food and water. Misael and I used oxygen for a while because we were very tired.

In the Bottleneck we found some ropes fixed by the Japanese the previous day. We left some things there to climb lighter. We stopped to rest in a terrace at 8400 meters and enjoyed a marvelous dawn. Here we shared oxygen with Cristian (we were carrying two bottles for the four of us) who continued breaking trail. We reached the summit after a few hours of climbing over easy slopes, but covered with deep and unstable powder snow. Cristian arrived at 9:15 a.m. and the rest at 10:30 a.m. We stayed on the summit for two hours and started down at 12:30 p.m. The descent was very difficult because Michael was extremely exhausted and walked slowly. We had to stop several times to wait for him. Night fell when we were at the Bottleneck, but finally, much spent but happy to be safe again, we arrived at the camp at 10:30 p.m. after trekking more than 25 hours.

The next day we descended safely to Base Camp. That same day six additional Japanese made it to the summit, completing twelve Japanese to reach the summit by this route.

Waldo Farias F., Chile

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