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Asia, Pakistan, Karakoram, Batura Muztagh, Beka Brakai Chhok, Attempt

Beka Brakai Chhok, attempt. On July 2 my climbing partner Malcolm Bass (U.K.) and I turned back at 6,400m on our attempt to make the first ascent of Beka Brakai Chhok (6,940m). For me it was the second retreat—I’d failed on the peak the previous year with Lydia Bradey.

On June 25 Malcolm and I established Camp 4 at ca 6,000m, several steep pitches below the southwest ridge, and prepared for a summit day that would see us up the final 900m and back to camp in what we hoped would be no more than 24 hours. But during the night the barometric pressure dropped sharply, and it started to snow. Never mind, we could do with a rest day, we surmised, not realizing that intermittent snowstorms would continue for seven days.

After an aborted try for the summit during a brief clear spell on the second day of storms, we made a pact to stretch our food for as long as possible. Thus began a pattern of watching the barometer for any rise in pressure, packing each night for an early start, and fruitlessly setting the alarm to wake us periodically to check the weather. It was a nerve-wracking time; we could see our opportunity slipping away as our resources dwindled.

But on the afternoon of July 1 the weather suddenly cleared. By now we were eating little, trying to hold food back for our summit bid, but now we threw caution to the wind, ate the last of the porridge, and headed off. We climbed through deep, fresh snow to the southwest ridge, then began traversing the ridge as the sun rose. The climbing got harder the farther we traversed toward the summit, and the snow became increasingly unconsolidated, to the point where we could no longer build anchors. After half an hour on one lead, Malcolm yelled that he was coming back. “This will go on for several hours, and I don’t think we can justify the danger,” he said. I agreed. I was desperately disappointed but wanted to live to climb another day.

Pat Deavoll, New Zealand