American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Pakistan, Baltoro Muztagh – Other, Gasherbrum IV, West Face to South Ridge, Attempt

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2008

Gasherbrum IV, west face to south ridge, attempt. My desire to visit the Baltoro dates from long ago, but many things had to fall into place before it could happen. One night, after a few too many drinks, I managed to convince Jordi Corominas. I had always dreamed of Gasherbrum IV, Bonatti’s mountain, and Jordi was also excited about an alpine-style attempt on the west face. The municipality of Vall de Boi gave us financial support, and by early June we were there.

The Baltoro is spectacular, including the approach from the desert, Concordia, and everything along the way. Except for the mega-expeditions with lots of porters. I wasn’t too happy about them.

To acclimatize we climbed partway up the American-Australian route on the northwest ridge. We took only a 100m length of 5mm rope and perched our tent in a col at 6,500m. From there we managed to climb to 6,900m, right below a big serac. After descending to base camp, I went across to Broad Peak base camp to visit Spanish friends and climbed to 7,000m to further my acclimatization.

After a week of constant snowstorms, we finally gave our objective a try. On July 18 we started late and by the following day had reached the top of the serac, where we set up our tent. We used the rope only on the glacier and to overcome the serac. The second day dawned with mist and wind, but we charged on and at 7,100m found traces of passage from previous attempts to climb the south ridge. We reached 7,200m and pitched our tent on the crest of the ridge. However, the weather took a turn for the worse. We had to stay in the tent for the rest of the afternoon and all the following day. It wasn’t until the morning of the third day that the weather improved. We climbed a couple of pitches but soon realized that with limited food and gas we would not go far. We could see Camp 1 across from us on Gasherbrum II, and it looked inviting, so we headed down that way.

After more than a day’s rest in Camp 1 we made an attempt on Gasherbrum II. I started from camp after dinner with friends from Spain, while Jordi waited until 8 a.m. I turned around at 7,600m with cold feet and a number of other excuses. However, Jordi went on to reach the summit in a single push, joining our friend Jordi Marmolejo, who had slept at Camp 3.

The experience was very gratifying. To try a mountain like Gasherbrum IV in alpine style and with such a good partner was a treat. What I did not like was all the garbage on the normal route on Gasherbrum II and the peakbaggers’ fixation with fixed rope. They charge on without much planning and with little thought for the descent. It is a surprise that there are not more accidents. The guardian angel must work overtime above 7,000m. [Editor’s note: This report was accidentally omitted from the 2007 AAJ. The attempt took place in 2006.]

Oriol Baró, Spain (translated by Rolando Garibotti)

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