American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Pakistan, Karakoram, Baltoro Mustagh—Other, Peak 5,607m, Northwest Face, Attempt

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2007

Peak 5,607m, northwest face, attempt. Our small expedition arrived at base camp on July 22, hoping to make the first free ascent of Lobsang Spire (5,707m) by a new route on the south face. After a reconnaissance, we abandoned this plan, feeling the route would need different logistics from those we wished to employ. There is an alpine super-route alternative, but it would require more snow than was present. Instead, we turned to our second objective, an unnamed 5,607m peak opposite the spire that had been attempted by Germans in 2000. After crossing the unstable glacier and approaching via a loose couloir, we made two attempts on the northwest face, finding the granite to be generally excellent. On our first attempt we climbed 12 pitches from scrambling to British E4 6a, using only removable protection, passing the German high point, before a sleepless night without sleeping bags in freezing rain sent us packing. On our second attempt, this time with sleeping bags, we reached the same point. It snowed heavily. We estimate we were only four pitches from the summit when we retreated.

When leaving for Skardu, we found it something of a task convincing our guide that we had to thoroughly clean our base camp and that we needed an extra porter to carry the rubbish out. Both on the way in and out we were shocked at the attitude among parties to leave rubbish for camp staff to clear up, and we felt that the camp site at Paiju, while having generally good facilities, with toilets and water systems provided by the UNDP, was being poorly maintained by local staff.

Anne and John Arran, Alpine Club

Editors note: The following report concerns events on Broad Peak's normal route. It is included to raise awareness of the selfless deeds performed by Egocheaga and Morawski, despite the fact that such actions should be standard in the mountains, not the exception.

It may be apposite here to quote from the 2002 Tyrol Declaration on Best Practice in Mountain Sports, where in section six, under Emergencies, there is a statement: “If any person we meet - regardless if it is a fellow climber, a porter, or another local inhabitant - needs help, we must do everything in our power to provide qualified support as quickly as possible. There is no ‘morality-free zone’ in climbing.” Or Doug Scott, writing in the 2006 Alpine Journal: “We are all capable of heroic deeds. …It is just that sometimes we lose the plot and are only reminded of our obligations after returning. By then a visit to the summit will forever be a hollow victory if we fail another in need.”

On July 5 Sepp Bachmair and Peter Ressmann, from our 10-member Austro-German expedition, climbed in a single push from base camp to Camp 3, catching up with our leader, Markus Kronthaler. Together they left for the summit at 11:30 p.m. Climbing behind a strong Spanish group and two other climbers, they arrived at the 7,800m col between the central and main summits at 12:30 p.m. on July 6. Continuing ahead of his partners, Ressmann reached the main summit at 6 p.m. Three Spanish also summited earlier that afternoon, among them Dr. Jorge Egocheaga, who made a speed ascent (21 hours roundtrip between base camp and summit). On the descent Ressmann met his partners, who had decided to bivouac in a crevasse at 7,950m. Ressmann continued down to his ski cache at 7,500m and skied down to Camp 3 by moonlight, arriving at 11:45 p.m. The next day he skied to the base of the mountain. Previously, the highest ski descent from Broad Peak had been from 7,000m in 1994 by Hans Kammerlander. Ressmann believes it may be possible to ski the whole route from the main summit, though a short section below the col is often rocky and would have to be rappelled.

After their bivouac Bachmair and Kronthaler continued slowly, not reaching the main summit until 3-3:30 p.m. on July 7. On the way down Kronthaler's strength gave out halfway between the top and the foresummit. Through the night Bachmair tried to support, drag, and even carry his partner but to no avail. Kronthaler died of dehydration and exhaustion at 6 a.m. on July 8. Bachmair continued his descent to the notch, where he came across a Polish-Slovaki- an rope. One Pole, Piotr Morawski, gave up his summit bid and accompanied Bachmair down to Camp 3. (Morawski reached the summit solo the next day.) Above Camp 3 they were met by Jorge Egocheaga, who, despite his speed ascent two days earlier, had immediately offered to climb back up again and help. He nursed Bachmair during the night and, with two Argentineans, accompanied him down to base camp on July 9.

Our expedition extends heartfelt thanks to Dr. Jorge Egocheaga and Piotr Morawski for their extraordinary efforts in helping Sepp Bachmair. The support we received from them and every other expedition on the mountain will be a lasting memory and was notably different from the selfish acts seen on Everest in the spring of 2006.

Jochen Hemmleb, German Alpine Club (DAV)

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