The Wroclaw Karakoram Expedition to Broad Peak (Middle) (8016 m.)


(Translated by K. Glazek and A. Kits)

IN the summer of 1975, "II Wroclaw High Mountaineering Expedition Himalaya-Karakoram 1975" was active in the region of the Baltoro glacier. It was sent by the High Mountaineering Club in Wroclaw with the participation of Academic Alpine Club in Wrolaw and the Sudetes Group of GOPR (Mountain Volun¬tary Rescue Service).

The members : J. Ferenski (leader), S. Anioi, T. Barbacki, R. Bebak, K. Glazek, W. Jonak (doctor), J. Juszkrewicz, Z. Jurkowski, M. Kesicki, J. Kulis, B. Nowaczyk, M. Sajnog, A. Sikorski, A. Skoczylas, J. Woinica and the Pakistani liaison officer Cpt. Abdul Ghani.

After a fortnight of waiting for a flight from Islamabad to Baltistan our expedition landed on 13 June at Skardu. From the village Beha on the river Braldu, the expedition accompanied by 160 porters started on 15 June. On 29 June, it reached the Concordia plateau. After the consecutive strikes of the porters here, the members of the expedition started heavy ferry-trips from this place to the Base Camp on the middle moraine of the Godwin—Austen glacier (4950 m.). On July 4, K. Glazek, B. Nowaczyk and A. Sikorski fixed 400.metres Of ropes in the entry ; ,ullies of the west pillar of Broad Peak. They reached the rocky pur at an altitude of 5500 m. under a pretty big (about 500 m.) snow and ice field. The degree of difficulties in these gullies was IV-V and depended on the ice conditions, which changed during the course of our expedition and even during the same day.

In the upper part of the left gully is a narrow chimney which contained some metres of ice-fall and was a part of the route with special difficulties.

On 7 July, 12 people set up Camp 1 just above this ice and snowfield at the edge of the pillar, at an altitude of 5800 m. and supplied it with equipment and food. This camp was situated exactly at the same place as the Camp 1 of the Austrian )' Expedition in 1957 (leader Marcus Schmuck), which climbed Broad Peak Main (8047 m.). Above Camp 1, till the altitude of above 7300 m., we climbed along the edge of the pillar, but by a different route from that of the Austrian team. Our route was more difficult but at the same time it was more safe, because in the region where the Austrians had climbed we often saw avalanches. On 8 July, Camp 2 and on 13 July, Camp 3 were set up at altitudes of 6550 and 7200 m. respectively. On the way we fixed about 550 metres of ropes. Observations which were made from different points of the route and from Base Camp convinced us that the place we had chosen for Camp 3 was the safest and simultaneously the highest place for this purpose. The snow and ice-fields above were often (especially after periods of bad weather) swept by avalanches. So we decided (as did the Austrian expedition) to attack our summit from Camp 3.

After preparations, the leader of the expedition appointed 6 persons : A. Bebak, K. Glazek, M. Kesicki, J. Kulis, B. Nowaczyk and A. Sikorski to comprise the summit team. On 26 July, they left Base Camp and reached Camp 3 the next day. Our one and half month of experience showed that in this region of the Karakoram the periods of good weather lasted at least 4-5 days. So we still could expect 2-3 more days of good weather. The cloudless blue sky supported our judgement. We listened to the weather forecast of the Pakistan Radio for expeditions in the Karakoram. It was very optimistic and it did not foresee any weather changes for the coming days.

On the 28 July, at 3 a.m. we left Camp 3. There was a starry sky outside and the temperature was below —20° C, which is the sign of good weather. At 1.30 p.m. we were about 300 metres from the pass. At that time we still had not seen any clouds in the sky. There we had taken rest and talked with the Base Camp on the walkie-talkie. To enable us to climb faster we left behind some of our things (spare clothes, some food). Two hours later we reached the col between Middle and Main sum¬mits of Broad Peak group, our route Led through the above- mentioned snow and ice field, like that of the Austrians. These fields are closed from upper part by a threshold 50 metres long. There are two gullies leading through this pile upto the pass. In the upper part there were places of II-III degree of difficulties. To the left of them was easier and safer.

About 4 p.m. the summit team started from the col to climb through the ridge towards the summit. They were only five of us, as 100 metres from the col, R. Bebak turned back to Camp 3. From the pass the route progressed by the steep and narrow mixed (rock, ice and snow) ridge, from its north-east (Chinese) side of which breaks off as a vertical three kilometres long wall. Along the ridge there were very big cornices, Overhanging to the right. The ridge is banked by two faults : one as a huge overhanging rock block, just near the col, the Other as a horned vertical rock, just close to the top. Our team passed both of them along the rocky wall to the left side by a very difficult (IV+) climb. At about 7 p.m. a very strong wind suddenlybrought snowy clouds. The visibility became much worse, and it started to snow.

After reaching the horizontal part of the ridge, behind the second fault when leading the party, I went several metres ahead to find the highest point of it. The remaining four persons were waiting at the end of the rope in a place more protected from the wind. In a few minutes Kulis came to me and when the visibility improved for a while we found that the rise of the narrow rock and ice ridge that we had reached, was just the highest point. So we were finally on the summit of Broad Peak (Middle) (8016 m.) at about 7.30 p.m.

We left on the summit a coffee tin with the names of the participants of the expedition. So for the first time, a Polish team reached an unclimbed eight thousander. This ascent was technically more difficult than any that Polish alpinists had done so far in the mountains of the altitude of above 7000 metres. It is worthwhile to remark that the peak had not been attempted before although there had been several expeditions (e.g. Austrians, Japanese.) to the area. During the descent we had to place some abseils in the difficult places on the ridge. At about 9 p.m. there arose a hurricane wind and snowstorm mak¬ing it difficult for the members of the team to see and com¬municate with one another. Temporarily the visibility was not more than two metres (even by using forehead lamps). We were then about 30 metres from the pass. The last of us coming down with the help of the rope was Bohdan Nowaczyk. After some time Sikorski who had to help him by pulling the rope found out that Nowaczyk had fallen down together with the rope to the abrupt Chinese side of the ridge. He might have been .hurled by the wind. Neither calling nor searching with the forehead lamps brought any effect. The topographical fea¬ture made any rescue work impossible. We had to bivouac on the pass.

Under these circumstances the rest of the night was extremely difficult. Snowstorms, hurricane winds and no place to hide. We found it too difficult (and simply impossible) to dig any hole in the ice. Each of us tried to cover at least the face from the wind and to sleep a little. We had no sleeping bags and no tents. During the night the temperature fell to —35° C.

At 6 a.m. on 29 July when it brightened up we continued searching for Nowaczyk but without any result. The continuing snowstorm made all our efforts extremely difficult. We could not count on any help from the lower camps sooner than in 2 or 3 days. In the gully, coming down from the pass we hung on a makeshift rope tied up from individual loops and unbraided rescue belts. In the afternoon we decided to go down.

For the sake of security (danger of stone-fall) we walked through the gully one by one. I was to go down first, setting the route, making the steps in the ice and hard snow. I intended also find the rucksack with the valuable camera that we had left yesterday about 100 meters below the pass. We all were very exhausted by the altitude, snowstorm and the bivouac. The distance from the pass, which I covered yesterday in half an hour on the ascent, today took me three hours for descending. Some places were more difficult than yesterday due to pieces of hard snow blown by the wind, others due to fresh snow drifts. The visibility was very limited. Fortunately I found the rucksack with the camera under the snow. Because of the loom¬ing darkness I decided to bivouac just here in the ice-crack that I found. My callings out to the friends above were without any answer. Kesicki, who was next after me, was to take care of the remaining colleagues. Unfortunately, he (and after him Sikorski) slipped on hard snow. M. Kesicki dropped down and killed himself on the bassets of a hanging glacier. Later Kulis found evidence of his death but he did not find the body. Kulis slipped too but he managed to stop about 50 metres below me. So I went down, took his rucksack and brought him to the hole. Here we had the next nightmarish bivouac. Both of us were frostbitten. We had nothing to eat or to drink. The whole night there was a snowstorm and we were shaking with cold.

When daylight came we began to go down looking for our colleagues and the ice axe which Kulis lost falling down last evening. The weather improved a little. About 100 metres down we found the ice axe and a few metres further the dead Amdrei Sikorski covered by the snow. His body was lying head down¬wards. He was breathless and without pulse, and his temple was wounded. Since his face was not completely stiff, we performed for a long time the mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and external heart massage, unfortunately without any effect. We found neither the body of Kesicki nor the rucksacks which we left somewhere here on the day before yesterday.

The deaths of our friends were due to exceptionally unhappy coincidence of events, but first of all to the sudden and totally unforeseen deterioration in the weather. We were helpless in these conditions in the face of treacherous and dangerous nature. J. Kulis and I, after surviving two very difficult nightmarish bivouacs without sleeping bags and tents, at altitudes between 7800 and 7700 metres in snow storm and hurricane wind and in temperatures of -35 C., finally reached Base Camp with our friends' assistance during the night of 1 and 2 August. J. Kulis had frozen legs (later he had amputation of toes), and I had frozen hands and slightly frozen legs.

With a heavy heart we began the evacuation of Our Base Camp on 5 August, and reached Skardu after 11 days.


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