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Asia, China, Chinese Karakoram, Madame Butterfly, Attempt

Madame Butterfly, Attempt. On August 16, five of us arrived in Islamabad, capital of Pakistan, and hired a car to take us to the Chinese border. After changing vehicles at the Kunjerab Pass, we arrived in Kashgar, Xinjang Province, China, on August 22. Two more members and our Chinese translator, who flew in from Beijing, met us in Kashgar. We now comprised an international team from six nations. After two days of tense negotiations with the Chinese Mountaineering Association, we set off for the “trail head” at Mazar Dara. On August 26, we arrived at the army post in Mazar and were told that, due to road blocks, the jeeps would go no further. This increased our trip by 25 kilometers of walking. We met our camel caravan, and together with the Tadjik camel drivers loaded the 10 beasts who would carry the bulk of our equipment during the next 26 days.

On August 29, we crossed the 4800-meter Aghil Dawan Pass in high winds. There was no snow on the ground in the pass. After two more days of walking, we arrived in K2 Base Camp, to the north of the peak, at 4200 meters on August 31. The two days we spent in Base Camp were consumed with hiking up the K2 Glacier to reach the Advanced Base Camp, exploring steep rocky slopes above Base Camp, as well as cleaning up several large piles of half-burned trash left by this year’s expeditions. When we left, we retraced our steps to the foot of the Aghil Dawan pass, then continued up the Shaksgam river, and, on September 6, reached the terminus of the Gasherbrum Glacier, at 4100 meters, where our camel drivers refused to proceed any further. They stated that they had never been in that area before, were feeling afraid, and wanted to return to more familiar surroundings. Our group split into three parts, and communicated by walkie- talkie radios in order to better explore and take advantage of being in this unique region.

For the next eight days, Cao Jun, Bill O’Neill, and Michael Hussain went straight up the Gasherbrum Glacier to climb several astonishingly grand ice pinnacles. Patricia Peterson, Michel Hedouin, and Anotouza Sedjo climbed the medial ridge that lies between the Gasherbrum and Urdok Glaciers. Andrew Dunn and Daniel Mazur crossed low down on the same ridge, then went up the Urdok Glacier, in order to attempt a 6000-meter peak that Andrew later named Madame Butterfly. This unclimbed peak lies at the base of the Gasherbrum range, and yields incredible views of the entire Gasherbrum and K2 massif, as well as K2 itself, as seen from the west.

The climb of Madame Butterfly failed 150 meters below the summit on September 13. Dunn and Mazur ran out of time, even after being granted a two day extension by the rest of the team over the walkie-talkie radio. The peak contains some exciting mixed ice, snow, and rock face climbing. A complex series of arêtes, scree-filled gullies, serac walls, and ice/snow slopes leads one up the main west face to the high summit ridge. Some portions of the face seemed to be avalanche prone, but fortunately remained stable. The summit is actually a twin peak divided by a long ridge, and, of course, the higher peak is also the furthest.

The team headed back, arriving in Kashgar on September 21, and made their way back to Beijing by plane.

Daniel Mazur