THE expedition which put finally 8 people on the top of Gasherbrum II (8,035 m.) and 4 on the top of the previously highest unclimbed peak—Gasherbrum III (7,952 m.) has a rather long history.
At the beginning, the expedition was planned as a purely female Venture ofl quite international character. Later, for safety reasons, a team of male climbers from the High Mountain Club (Warsaw) was added. The men's team was supposed to act independently on the mountain and support the ladies team only in case of an emergency. The objectives Gasherbrum III (for women) and Gasherbrum II (for men) were selected. Un¬fortunately, the women climbers from USA, Canada and Australia got disheartened by the communicational problems and decided to quit, so the expedition virtually became a national one.
Finally the teams were selected as follows :
Ladies team : A. Bednarz, A. Chadwick (British, living in Poland), A. Czerwinska, S. Kysilkova (Czech climber), H. Krueger-Syrokomska, M. Mitkiewicz (expedition doctor), A. Okopinska, K. Palmowska and W. Rutkiewicz (leader).
Men's team : L. Cichy, M. Janas, A. Lapinski, J. Onyszkiewicz (leader), W. Wozniak, M. Zacheriasewicz, K. Zdzitowiecki.
Other members of the expedition were : E. Abgarowicz (photo¬grapher), Z. Pietrzkiewicz, A. Zajaczkowski (Polish TV camera¬men).
The National Council of Polish Women assumed the role of patrons to the ladies team and this team was also patronized in Pakistan by Begum Nusrat Bhutto—wife of the Prime Minister of Pakistan.
Basic financial support was supplied by the Ministry of Sport and Tourism and the Polish TV.
In the spring of 1975 Pakistani Government granted permission to climb Gasherbrum III only (as it turned out, Gasherbrum II was allocated to a French party).
So, in this situation, both teams decided to merge together under the leadership of Mrs. W. Rutkiewicz with J. Onyszkiewicz as a deputy leader.
The expedition arrived at Skardu on 26 May and the caravan started from Baha (the last point attainable by jeeps and tractors) two days later. The total load of the expedition amounted to 9 tons and the expedition suffered with the acute shortage of porters (it is enough to mention that there were two big expeditions operating on Baltoro already—American to K-2 and the French to Gasherbrum II, with the third one at¬tempting Biale, closely following). Labour disputes also contri¬buted to the slow progress of the caravan. At Concordia, as a result of the deteriorating weather, most of the porters left and a relay system of carrying loads, with the climbers playing the role of porters, had, to be implemented.
The Base Camp was finally reached by the advanced group of climbers on 16June, three days later the last group of porters delivered the remaining loads.
There it turned out that the French expedition was about to finish. After climbing the summit of Gasherbrum II on 18 June, the weather broke and the second attempt failed. The French then took advantage of the presence of porters and decided to go down. On 22 June the last French group set off leaving Gasherbrum II free.
Nevertheless, the route planned in Warsaw had already been climbed and despite the fact that Capt. Saeed Ahmed Malik had agreed on attempting Gasherbrum II, the only new route which could be climbed was the West ridge. So, the routes to Gasherbrum III and Gasherbrum II were overlapping for quite a distance—up to the col separating these two peaks. Both teams decided to operate together as one team until the col.
Camp 1 was established by the advance party on 19 June and stocked up by the next group on the 24th. The camp was situated above the second ice-fall of South Gasherbrum glacier at the altitude of 6000 m.
The struggle for the Camp 2 begun on the 28th. This day the .altitude of 6,350 m. was reached, following a steep ice-snow ridge a little on the left from the line taken in 1956 by the Austrian expedition. The weather was very unstable which slowed down the progress. Finally, on 4 July, Camp 2 was established on the spot used probably by the Austrians, at the altitude of 6,500 m.
It took five more days to establish and stock Camp 3 situated at the altitude of 7,350 m. just below the summit pyramid of Gasherbrum II.
Up to this point, the route was purely on snow and ice (40-50° with some places 60-70°) and required 1600 m. of fixed ropes.
There were two abortive attempts to set up Camp 4 on the col,. In both cases the climbers were forced to retreat from the altitude above 7000 m. by very poor weather and one metre of fresh snow.
On 19 July the first summit team set off from the Base Camp. It consisted of four climbers: Cichy, Janas, Onyszkiewicz and Zdzitowiecki. They planned to establish Camp 4 and make the summit bid straight away. One day later a group of 6 women (Bednarz, Chadwick, Czerwinska, Krueger-Syrokomska, Okopinskaand Rutkiewicz) followed the men's team. Four of them, the fittest, were supposed to attack Gasherbrum III.
The attempt failed again, because of the weather, when the men's team reached Camp 3. After another day of waiting for better weather, both teams returned to the Base Camp, where they met a miniature 2-men expedition consisting of P. Habeler and R. Messner who had arrived with the plan to attempt Gasherbrum II from the West. From then both expeditions had a common Base Camp and shared a common household.
At the end of July the weather got better and further action became possible. The previous experience seemed to indicate that the spells of reasonably good weather don't last longer than a couple of days, so the ascent should be rather quick. As a result, the idea of establishing a complete camp on the col had to be abandoned.
On 27 July the next two summit teams left the Base Camp, each consisting of four climbers (women's team : Bednarz, Chadwick, Krueger-Syrokomska, Rutkiewicz; men's team : Cichy, Janas, Onyszkiewicz and Zdzitwiecki). Habeler and Messner set off too, making their first load carrying. Leaving both of them in Camp 1, the Polish teams passed directly to Camp 2. The next day, however, the weather broke again forcing both teams to retreat from the altitude of 7000 m. back to Camp 2.
Another team (Lapinski, Palmowska, Wozniak), which climbed in front of summit teams, failed to set up another tent in Camp 3 and the number of climbers in the summit teams had to be reduced. Bednarz, Chadwick and Janas were sent down, the other summiters were waiting for better weather in Camp 2.
Finally on 31 July, the weather improved and the five remain¬ing climbers reached Camp 3.
Next day, despite a very strong wind, both teams set off for a final push. At 10 a.m. the col between the Gasherbrums was reached (7550 m.). It turned out that the West ridge of Gasherbrum II ends with a very steep rock band presenting quite serious technical problems. The North-west face seemed easier and the men's team decided to go on. The climb began at 11 a.m. and Cichy, Onyszkiewicz, Zdzitowiecki reached the summit after 6 hours of quite difficult ice and snow climbing. The main obstacle during the climb was very steep but at the same time deep snow and a very strong wind.
Krueger-Syrokomska and Rutkiewicz attempted in the mean¬time the East ridge of virgin Gasherbrum III but had to retreat very soon in face of considerable technical difficulties.
The men's team descended from Gasherbrum II via the easy East ridge and both teams met again at 7 p.m. in Camp 3. Next day all of them returned safely to the Base Camp.
On 4 August a second men's summit team set off (Janas, Lapinski, and Wozniak) with the plan to attempt Gasherbrum II by the East ridge. Negotiating with poor weather they reach¬ed Camp 2 on the 6th.
With the dwindling resources and the time running out a final bid for Gasherbrum III was decided. The team consisted of two pairs ; Chadwick-Rutkiewicz and Onyszkiewicz-Zdzitowiecki. They were followed by another group : KRUEGER-Syrokomska, Okopinska, Palmowska and Capt. Saeed. This group, in case of a failure, was supposed to repeat the attempt reinforced eventually by the fittest climbers from the first group.
The next day, in beautiful weather, the first team reached the Camp 2. This day Janas, Lapinski and Wozniak scored another success—the fourth ascent of Gasherbrum II.
The final bid for Gasherbrum III took place on 11 August. The route followed more or less the line of a big couloir in the centre of the East face. There was some difficult mixed climbing and more than 100 m. of fixed ropes were left on rocky traverses to facilitate the retreat.
Finally, the summit was reached by all four climbers at 5.30 p.m. The descent took about 3 hours and at 9.30 p.m. all climb¬ers reached the tent left by them on the col.
The next day Krueger-Syrokomska and Okopinska made another ascent of Gasherbrum II repeating the original route by the East ridge. Palmowska and Saeed retreated from the altitude of 7600 m.
Base Camp was evacuated on 20 August and the expedition was back in Islamabad on 9 September. The results of the expedition were :
It is worth mentioning that Gasherbrum III was then the highest virgin mountain climbed by ladies and Gasherbrum II is the first 8,000 m. peak climbed by European lady climbers. The last success is interesting also because the summit was reached by a purely female rope.
Photo : Rob Collister
30. Mrs. Netti Collister on summit of Consolation Peak
P. 18,760 ft. (5685 m.). Behind, left to right: Arjuna P. 20440 (6230m.), Brammah II, Dreikant 19,200 ft.? (climbed by Kolb in 1946), Flat Top 6001 m. partly obscured by the rock pinnacle. Col. 17,200 ft. is visible to the left of Brammah II, below the apparently vertical rock step in the skyline ridge running down from the summit. P. 19,350 ft. (5865 m.) is immediately in front of Brammah II merging in this photo with North face. Article page 88.
31. View from Southern Bay of Wakbal Glacier from Consolation Peak. Left to right: Flat Top, partly obscured by rock spire; Brammah I P 19,230 ft. (5830 m.), unknown peak c. 5800 m. Article page 88.
Photo : Rob Collister
32. Sickle moon from the east--looking across Wakbal Glacier from Consolation Peak, behind and its left are the tops of, left to right, P. 6013 m. and 'Eiger'. Article page 88.
Photo : Rob Colliester
33. K - 2 from Concordia. Article page 93.
Photo : Ewa Abgarowicz
34. Slopes of Gasherbrum I from Base Camp. Article page 93.
Photo : Ewa Abgarowicz
35. Sia Kangri from the Base Camp. Article page 93.
Photo : Ewa Abgarowicz
Photo : Ewa Abgarowicz
36. Gasherbrum III (left) and Gasherbrum II (right) from Base Camp. Article page 93.
Photo : W. Rutkiewicz
37. East Face of Gasherbrum III from Camp 3. The route followed the couloir in the centre of the rock face seen in the photo to reach the ridge and went to the main summit on the far left. Article page 93.
38. A Okopinska on the summit of Gasherbrum II --- Broad Peak and K - 2 in the background. Article page 93.
Photo : H. Krueger-Syrokomska
Photo : Janosz Ferenski
39. The group of Broad Peak seen from the Base Camp. Article page 105.
40. Looking North from summit of P. 5508 m. From right to left : Pt. 5600 m., P. 6200 m., P. 6100 m., Thui I.P. 6400 m. Article page 109.
41. Thui 1 - S taken from slopes of P. 6400 m. (Thui I) Borumbar glacier below left. Thui II behind on right. Arrows show highest point reached, via narrow couloir in the face. Article page 109
42. Thui II from summit of P. 6400 m. Final camp was on Col below left hand ridge. Article page 109