Himalayan Journal vol.43
The Himalayan Journal
Vol.43

Publication year:
1987

Editor:
Soli S. Mehta
Index
  1. THE ASCENT OF KULA KANGRI FROM TIBET
    (PROF KAZUMASA HIRAI)
  2. EDITORIAL
  3. KANGCHENJUNGA CLIMBED IN WINTER
    (ANDRZEJ MACHNIK)
  4. GYACHUNGKANG, 1986
    (LT COL JEAN-CLAUDE MARMIER)
  5. THE OTHER SIDE OF THE MERA
    (MAL DUFF)
  6. DHAULAGIRI 1984-85
    (ADAM BILCZEWSKI)
  7. DHAULAGIRI I EAST FACE
    (STANE BELAK AND MARJAN KREGAR)
  8. FIRST ASCENT OF SULI TOP
    (RAMAKANT S. MAHADIK)
  9. AN INDO-FRENCH MOUNTAIN ROUND-UP
    (COLONEL BALWANT S. SANDHU)
  10. POLICEMEN IN KEDAR BAMAK
    (P. M. DAS)
  11. INDO -SWEDISH EXPEDITION TO MERU 1986
    (MANDIP SINGH SOIN)
  12. A VERY MODEST MOUNTAIN
    (EMLYN THOMAS)
  13. BASPA AND ROPA, 1986
    (M. H. CONTRACTOR)
  14. A NOTE ON KINNAUR
    (HARISH KAPADIA)
  15. MENTHOSA; ALMOST
    (ALOKE SURIN)
  16. SIA KANGRI, 1986
    (MAJOR K. V. CHERIAN)
  17. SASER KANGRI III 1986
    (S. P. CHAMOLI)
  18. THE SOSBUN GLACIER BASIN
    (LINDSAY GRIFFIN)
  19. 1986 BRITISH K2 EXPEDITION
    (DAVE WILKINSON)
  20. AN ATTEMPT ON GASHERBRUM III, 1985
    (GEOFF COHEN)
  21. EXPEDITIONS AND NOTES
  22. IN MEMORIAM
  23. BOOK REVIEWS
  24. CORRESPONDENCE
  25. CLUB PROCEEDINGS, 1986

1986 BRITISH K2 EXPEDITION

DAVE WILKINSON

THE BRITISH K2 Expedition left for Pakistan in early May. There were 8 climbers: Al Rouse (leader), John Barry, Aid Burgess, Al Burgess, Phil Burke, Brian Hall, John Porter and Dave Wilkinson, and three others: Jim Curran (film), Bev Holt (doctor) and Jim Hargreaves (BC manager).

The objective was the unclimbed NW ridge of K2. This is the one leading up from the Savoia Saddle, and forms the border between Pakistan and China. An American party led by Jim Whit-taker attempted it in 1974.1 They started from the Savoia Saddle, but found a series of pinnacles on this lower section time-consuming, and had to give up before reaching the easy horizontal part of the ridge at 22,000 ft. In 1982,2 a Polish party by-passed these lower pinnacles, climbing the face to their right to reach the ridge at 22,000 ft. Above this they illogically chose to skirt to the left to almost join the N ridge (this proved later on to be the best line). They continued up parallel to the N ridge to their high point at over 8000 m, having used much fixed rope.

In spite of the alpine-style background of mary of our members, we decided that this objective was too big for us to attempt without fixed ropes and camps, but we would not use oxygen or high altitude porters.

In Skardu, we hired the services of an old fiiend Fida Hussain of Khapalu. He was to act as Sirdar, in charge of our 200 porters for the 12 days walk-in from Dasso to BC, £ job he did with admirable authority and patience.

The breath-taking walk up the desert Braldu valley with its green oasis villages, and on up the Baltoro glacier with spectacular rock peaks lower down, then the 8000 m giants around Concordia is too well known to need detailed description heie.

The Pakistanis are building a jeep road to the Last village, Askole (3 days walk from Dasso), but this appears to be well behind schedule. At present, jeeps drive only to Dasso. The main side stream here still has no bridge. Beyond Dasso, the jeep road extension continues on the north bank for 2 miles, then crosses the Braldu (bridge under construction) to continue on the south bank to a point several miles beyond Chokpo near the plark foot bridge over the Braldu at the rock-gorge. This is about ha.1 way from Dasso to Askole. The jeep road makes for much easier walking than the switchback path on the other side, but is stil without bridges. The continuation to Askole has not yet been started, and the next 2 miles look problematical for road building

1. See HJ. Vol. 36, p. .137.

2, See HCNL 36, p. 28.-Ed.

The old path on the north bank has to be re-joined here, for the 'Braldu gorge' - steep scree and rubble rising directly from the river. The 'upper path' is now easier than of old, being well-trodden by many parties. Early in the season (mid May) we were able to avoid the big hill before Chongo by crossing and re-crossing the Braldu by flimsy planks which soon after were swept away by the rising summer waters.

Several days later on the glacier, we had a hint of porter trouble with bad weather and snow at Liligo and Urdukas, but Fida Hus-sain soon sorted this out. Further on at Gore and Concordia the weather was very hard on the porters: thick mist, gentle fresh snow falling and lying at first ankle deep, then knee deep, and bitter cold nights. The porters (and Fida Hussain) earned our respect by their hardiness and cheerfulness in all this hardship. On the final day up to base camp our spirits were lifted as the weather cleared, with spectacular views of the mountains appearing through tattered cloud remnants.

K2 base camp is at about 16,500 ft near the junction of the Savoia and Godwin Austen glaciers. The usual place is on a radial moraine ('the strip') on the glacier just above the junction. This is where all other parties camped in 1986. We used another site half a mile away by a small spur below Angel Peak at the start of the Savoia glacier. This is just below the grave of Mario Puchoz (and a growing number of others!). From here, it was a long way (7 miles and 3520 ft) up the Savoia glacier to Camp 1 (passing a temporary ABC). Most of this was done on skis, which were a welcome change from walking up-hill, and gave five long easy downhill runs surpassing any others we had done for thrills, and plenty of hilarity with some fine tumbles. Jim Curran claims to be the only person ever to learn to ski at over 18,000 ft!

Brian had to return at this stage. He had injured a knee in a skiing accident in the Alps earlier in the year. This proved to be less well healed than hoped for, and was seriously aggravated by the walk-in and skiing so he reluctantly went home.

Two weeks were spent acclimatising and stocking Camp 1 on skis. The weather was very poor, but rapid progress could be made low on the mountain. Above Camp 1 the climbing started. We followed the Polish route up to the ridge crest, on mainly 50° snow and ice, with a few steeper rocky bits, about Alpine grade D. 2000 ft of height rise, required double this length of fixed rope due to extensive traverses.

The continuing poor weather combined with the long approach slowed us down, but then a six day good spell produced a spurt up to the ridge and beyond. Above the easy section from 22,000 to 22,500 ft, the NW ridge disappeared, fading out into a vague face with no well-defined line. K2 doesn't really have a NW ridge after all (at least not in the upper part). The mountain consisted of a maze of broken rocks at a moderate angle, with lines slanting leftwards. The Polish line seemed more sensible now, John Porter and Al Rouse pushed the route on to about 24,000 ft when this good spell ended in late June. John then ran out of time and had to go home to avoid losing his job. This left 6 climbers.

After more bad weather, another good 6 days were very frustrating. Deep fresh snow was slow to settle. Our efforts were burnt out with load carrying, and trail breaking, which had to be repeated the next day as tracks were covered with wind-blown snow. John Barry and Phil were not going well at this stage and went down, the remaining 4 then decided that the team's resources were now too thin to give a reasonable chance of success with 4000 ft still to go. So without going above the previous high point, we abandoned the route in favour of the Abruzzi Ridge.

The Abruzzi had been generously equipped with fixed ropes by the other parties, so offered good chances of a fast ascent now that we were well acclimatised. Nevertheless, a great pity to give up on the NW ridge.

A week later we romped rapidly up the fixed ropes on the Abruzzi in rather poor weather, then slid rapidly down as the hoped for improvement did not materialize, in fact it got worse. Then we spent 3 weeks sitting it out at base camp. The weather was good enough to climb many a lesser hill, but not K2, which remained largely cloud-enshrouded and wind-blasted. The frustration played heavily on our patience. Finally, on 28 July, our time was up, our porters came and we went home. Only Al Rouse remained for his ill-fated ascent.3
3. Al House joined a loosely-knit group to climb K2. He perished in a storm while returning.-Ed.