IN THE middle of October 1982, shortly before midnight I reached. New Delhi after two days' overland travel through the monotonous plains of Punjab. I was coming back from my second visit to Islamabad with the great prospectus for the next year venture oil the ice-walls of Gasherbrums.
The night in New Delhi was clear and quiet. After many weeks', stay in the mountains I developed the natural inclination to watch the sky. Still each change in the air, though it has lost here its importance and dramatic impact on the day events, evoked instinctively uneasiness or relief. Over the still lively railway station area, crowded with beggars, homeless children and scabby dogs, there was glimmering the clear sky that already had time to absorb the heat of the day.
Relieved I sensed the end of my way. I travelled through the wide grassy fields of Shantipath. The night here was chilled by the dewfall and calmed by the shroud of fog drifting over the grass.
I was leaving behind the distresses of one more travel. Once more I was coming to an end. I was filled with an enormous calm. Though I was racked by the awareness of each shadow of the night and each trail of the fog was keenly touching my senses, I was clearly conscious also of the vast sky that was spread far in Karakoram over my two mountains. I knew this night trip through the foggy grass-fields was leading me to my mountains.
Certainly in Poland Jurek had already set the machinery going. And in a week, at long last I'll see Alex in Kathmandu and we'll start the game on his side. I still remember so well, exactly one year ago his tiny figure walking away down the broken moraine of the Barun glacier after the defeat on Makalu. I was watching then long time the small shape disappearing down in the glacier mess. Will I see you ever again?
Oh yes, in a week I'll see Alex again with all his dominating tranquillity and confidence, which I was always — when I look back through my mountains and even more through my anxious returns onto the plains, so much lacking and longing for. I'll see him again,and he'll make me believe for a while that I can seize this tranquillity as well.Photos 23-24
25. Disteghil Sar_______route of first ascent’ 1960. ---------route of second ascent by Spanish expedition’ 1982. Article 20 Photo : Kim Prunes
26. Disteghil Sar massif. Article 20
I came to the Polish Embassy. In the gym-hall there was the team of lads doming back from '$C2 and waiting for their flight to Poland. Though it was very late the boys were still not sleeping. In the room there was playing the gentle music bf 'Return to Forever’:
'So hallow my friend
Good to see you again'
There was the calm of the day passing away reigning in the room as well. The boys sunken in silence were sitting over the half-empty bottle of Indian whisky. One of them asked me.
'Voytek, did you hear about Alex?'
'What about Alex?'
There was dead silence for a while. The voice was singing:
'You've been gone for a while
Now you're back and I'm so glad
You are here'
'What about Alex?' I asked repeatedly. I looked at the faces, quiet and still. 'Alex's dead on Annapurna,' somebody answered.
'It's wonderful my friend
To see you again
Gasherbrum H (8035 m)
We set out for the mountains just two, of us accompanied by 20 porters carrying all necessary stuff for two months.
The last Karakoram winter was hard. The paths were still furrowed by the avalanches. The muddy, overswollen streams were breathing the rotting snow. The approach march was almost disaster. The weather we met on the Baltoro glacier was very miserable.
After 8 walking days, shortly before Concordia, we were stuck in the heart of the glacier in the heavy snowfall. For 3 successive nights and 2 days the porters have been freezing under the poor tarpaulin shelters. They've been desperately praying and singing Balti songs for the long night hours, shivering and moaning in the coldest morning hours. But the people here know the misery of their land well. When the food rations had almost run out we pushed on and in two days' hungry rush we managed to dig our way through the deep snow to the far corner of the Abruzzi glacier. Here at the altitude of 5100 m in the morning hours of 7 June 1983 we set up our base camp. The place was breathing the emptiness. That remote and desolate area was unusually deserted this summer. We found near the BC the Swiss expedition, but soon during our acclimatizing the Swiss moved down to the base of Broad Peak and we stayed on the mountains almost one month totally alone — just two without anybody else to look at orto talk to. The only talk was that of echoing avalanches, recalling the strange anxiety unknown on the plains.
Our first acclimatizing trip brought us over the Gasherbrum ice-fall and through the south cwm onto the Gasherbrum la (6500 m), and further along the southeast ridge to the summit of the distinctive snow-pyramid at c. 7200 m. The snow-spur of the pyramid was the test piece of our fortune. The snow was apparently cracking and our minds devoid of any trace of resolution and confidence. On the pyramid top we spent the third and the last night of our first trip. On the second acclimatizing trip we regained the pyramid and continued along the southeast ridge to the distinctive point 7772 m, clearly visible from the BC to the right of Gasherbrum II. The night spent on 7700 m gave us good acclimatization before the final attempt to complete our first target, the southeast ridge of Gasherbrum II. We did not establish any camps or deposits on the ridge except the cache left on Gasherbrum la, where the proper climb begins. The final assault, though on partly reconnoitred terrain, preserved the features of alpine-style ascent. On 29 June we pushed on in the very long march from the BC to Gasherbrum la. Next day we climbed up to 7400 m. On the last and summit day we traversed over the point 7772 m and after climbing the connecting ridge we reached the base of the summit cone of Gasherbrum II at 7700 m. This is the junction point with the original route. Here we left our rucksacks and after having a cup of tea we continued on. At 4 p.m. in the increasing wind we reached the short summit ridge and traversed onto its western side. Here the wind changed into a hurricane, threatening to blow us down any moment. Nailed down to the steep ice we fought our last metres through gusts to the summit. We stood on it soon after 4 p.m. The return to the eastern side was a relief. Next morning we started from the bivouac at 7700 down the original route totally unknown to us. During the night the weather deteriorated, the wind turned into stormy blizzard, slashing our faces with ice, plastering the glasses with snow. The visibility on the Moravec traverse was less then poor, between 10 to 30 m. After finding out the route in the storm till the top of the Moravec spur route-finding along the spur was;more obvious. After 10 hours of descent we reached the south Gasherbrum cwm, completing the very fine and long traverse of Gasherbrum II.
GdsMrbfurh I (Hidden Peak) (8068 m)
After descending to the BC came the hardest days of pur trip. "Totally lonely and isolated on our moraine we suffered 20 days of very" poor feather. The only company was the flock of ravens. The morning feeding of the birds was the only joy of the empty and resistant days. Our next objective was the virgin and very dangerr biis 2^00 southwest face of Hidden Peak (8068 m). During the bad days we managed to transport our 15 kg rucksacks to the base of our wall. Here we witnessed two huge ice-avalanches sweeping down through till the basin at the foot of our wall. The snowy clouds exploded up 1000 m around the bordering western ridge. These two avalanches remained in our minds for long hours in the BC, pushing us into horrifying visions, turning any trace of hope into fear. High on the wall there were mysterious snows and barriers, and three 'unknowns' waiting for us.
On 18 July came the first clearance and for the hundredth time joy and anxiety consumed us alternatively. In the early morning hours of 19 July it was snowing again, but surprisingly the day cleared up. Obviously the weather was improving. These were according to our schedule our last expedition days. On the evening of 20 July we expected our 5 porters in the BC. There was nobody to look after the camp or to keep the porters in the camp. Still we decided to set out early in the morning of 20 July. I buried our money and passport in the moraine. On the biggest piece of paper I could find in the BC. I drew the Hidden Peak and two climbers on its face — the arrows to the summit explaining our intention. I drew the BC at the bottom as well and 5 porters coming to it and again arrows showing the kitchen tent to sleep in. This was the message for the porters! Early morning at 3 a.m. we set out. At the daybreak we faced the deadly basin. There was the morning silence in the huge ice-barriers hanging all around. We switched off our brains and moved steadily into the danger. 10 minutes later we emerged from it. At 1 p.m. after climbing 1600 m, we faced the first unknown, the traverse over the rocky-rib onto the centre of the wall. The 40 m to be climbed were very badly protected, the very steep rock of grade V plastered with thin and wet snow. A third of the rock remained that evening still unclimbed. Cutting out the icy platform for the bivouac took away our last energy. Next morning we climbed finally onto the sun-flooded ice and rock face. We put away the rope and climbed carefully 300 m on the mixed ground of grade III covered again with powder snow, demanding from us extreme attention not to slide down. The weather was wonderful, the silence great and the sun dazzling/Exactly at noon we stood hesitantly in the permeating heat under the second unknown, — the vast snowfields in the serac zone. We tested the snow timidly, it was very bad, at places frightening and bottomless. But . . . for no reason the fear passed away and we tunnelled our way through the heavy snow trustfully. Only once I felt helpless and defenceless, when the pair of friendly ravens sailed smoothly away over 7000 m. The ravens played in the air* their black almost motionless wings glistening with the sun. I understood the ravens got the same sense of freedom as people. After winding our way up through the serac barrier we found our bivouac at 7400 m. On the next day, 22 July, we hoped to get to the summit. We get up at 2 a.m. At 5.30 a.m. we came out of the tent. The calm valleys were still plunged in the gloom, the bluish cold falling over us from the pale sky. High over the snowfield there was the third unknown waiting for us, — the rocky summit cone* There were three alternatives to climb over it. Making up our mind was almost painful. After half an hour of arguing and indecision we headed a bit to the right and aimed high to the south ridge without much confidence. Soon we touched the rock. After one pitch it was clear we wouldn't get over it before dusk. We changed our mind quickly and took another variation a bit higher. At 3 p.m. helplessly we had to turn down. When on the first abseil I heard Jurek cursing in Polish and I noticed from the corner of the eye my'crampon disappearing dowiti between the rocks I said 'O God'. Jurek was cursing and swearing. There were 2500 m down to the valley. Carefully, partly belayed, we climbed down to our bivouac. The prospects for the next day's descent were horrifying. I could hardly imagine moving down without one of the crampons oh hundred metres of the slippery rock and ice. It seemed so bad that instead of going down I decided to go up next day once more. We chose another seemingly more reasonable variation, this time a little lower on the south ridge. On 23 July again an early start. After half an hour's walk I heard the familiar and joyous ctirsing of Jurek, and I instantly knew this was the great message. He has found my crampon! Unbelievably, 500 m below the unfortunate abseil it got stuck in the soft snow exactly on our tiny trail. Soon we reached the south ridge. Unexpectedly the ridge provided much of unroped and pretty steep rock climbing of grade III. Above 8000 m while traversing the precipitous and dangerous rocks towards the east I was beset by doubts about the direction of our climb. Suddenly I noticed on the snow patch the small man burdened with the heavy rucksack. He was heading to the west. I had bad inkling.
'Hello friend, you are going the wrong way' I said. The motionless rocky shape on the snow expressed some ominous arid unreserved resoluteness.
What a devil! Perhaps he's right! He was bending his head quite positively and big steps towards west.
'Hello, Jurek!' I shouted for his help.
But Jurek was unyielding, he was climbing straight up high above mie. I smiled and thought admiringly of him.He's too good for the tricky gnome;'
At 2.30 p.m. we were on the summit.
When I looked down over the rotten Sinkiang mountains to the calm distant snowy hills I sensed the vague but familiar affinity to something great and enormously calm. I could never track it down or identify it inside me. This time it remained shapeless as well. I felt the affinity intensely though I couldn't see more than reddish, distant mountains, the motionless glaciers and the clouds silently coming up the valleys.
After descending to our tent the weather broke down. It started snowing. We burned our last gas and ate the last slice of bread. The next day we simply had to get to the BC. And we did. At 12 midnight!
The porters were wondering dubiously over my drawing: Next day started our return to the plains and to the people.