WE LEFT SKARDU in the pre-dawn cool on 26 August, 1990 en route for Hushe along the familiar jeep tracks. Our only problem was the breakdown of one of the jeeps about 8 km short of Bellagond bridge. Although alternative transport was found, the delay meant we arrived at Hushe in darkness amidst the chaos of well-known faces from the year before and shouted greetings.

The next day was spent sorting out porter loads, followed by three days walking-in in blazing sunshine via Wotsit and Spanser, then up the moraine on the right-side of the Chogolisa glacier arriving on 30 August at base camp on a grey, wet day.

The next few days were spent carrying loads higher up the valley and in reconnoitring the area. The only real obstacle was the glacial-melt river leading off the Beusten glacier which had to be crossed very early in the morning if you wanted to keep your feet dry! Eventually Graham constructed a tyrolean traverse over this which aided movement no end, and was to prove invaluable later in the trip.

Thus by 2 September we had established BC, set up a gear/food cache higher up the glacier and pushed a route through via the old Italian BC site beneath Raven Peak (which although a better site was now sadly short of water) then along the moraine until we were forced onto the glacier itself, from where the route to the base of the icefall was relatively straight-forward.

The next few days were spent doing acclimatization climbs in the area around BC. Victor climbed an easy gully to a small col on the ridge above BC (approx 5000 m) from where there were excellent views across the Beusten glacier and up the Chogolisa glacier to the base of the Trinity face above the icefall. Kevin, Colin and one of the cooks Izaq, also climbed the ridge further up the valley.

The SE face of Trinity peak is approximately 1600 m in height, with the summit being at c. 6800 m. It is punctuated half-way across by a steep mixed ridge which leads direct to the summit. This ridge with a low-lying step followed by a steep rock buttress, then a final corniced arete leading to the headwall was the route we were attempting to climb. The entire mountain is protected by an icefall which covers the width of the valley, although it is split in the middle by a large rognon which seemed the only feasible route onto the upper basin.

Trinity peak and the icefall with central rock.

Trinity peak and the icefall with central rock. (Victor Radvils)

Until this point we had never seen the base of the mountain as all our photos from the year before were taken from lower down the valley. So it was good to see that although the left hand side of the face was worse than expected, with several very large bergschrunds, the central spur appeared feasible.

The following day Kevin and Colin left to climb a steep gully on Raven Peak (6500), planning to bivvy beneath it and then start the route During the night, hoping to be up and down within a day. As it turned Out they ended up climbing and descending for 36 solid hours on mixed Ground of up to Scottish grade IV!

Whilst they were occupied thus, the remainder of the team slogged up to the back of the Beusten glacier then climbed to a high col at the back of the basin in time for the dawn.

By the time everyone had returned to BC we felt ready to start on the mountain properly. Hence the next day, on 6 September, Mark, Victor, Duncan, Qraham and Ronnie set off to establish ABC and carry loads up to the foot of the face.

We walked up to the foot of the icefall in an utterly calm, brightly moonlit night. Half way up the glacier we saw a luminous green light — we assume it was a meteorite which shot across overhead from the south and burnt out seemingly only a few hundred feet overhead.

Realising the icefall was too complicated to climb for the first time in darkness we bivvied for a few hours then re-started at first light.

We threaded our way through large fins and towers of ice trying to keep to a vague series of chutes and icegullies. By 9 o'clock we had reached the base of the rognon itself, and were surprised to find an Alpine meadow complete with ice-melt stream protected from the ice by two large arms of moraine. The spot was so idyllic in comparison with the barrenness around us that it was the obvious site for ABC.

Leaving the other three to set up the tents Mark and Victor decided to try to push the route through to the top of the rognon and to dump some gear.

They followed the very left-hand edge of the rognon itself, in the gap between the seracs and the rock wall, stepping across deep holes one foot on rock, one foot on ice. Mark who was 5 m in front of Victor had just discovered a ledge system running back right onto the rognon which seemed to be the key to reaching the top when an entire ice-wall directly above them collapsed, the ice falling directly down the gully system they were in.

Mark, who was by the ledges, managed to run to safety, but Victor was forced to run across a rock slab wearing his crampons, trying to keep his feet on a ripple in the rock. Just short of a ledge his feet skated off the rock and he fell 10-15 m dislocating his shoulder while trying to stop himself. He came to a halt by jamming his foot across the bottom of a small runnel, injuring his ankle, whilst on the other side of the small spur of rock the ice crashed past.

In a great deal of pain but in response to Mark's urgent commands io get back up to relative safety Victor struggled up to him on the verge of unconsciousness. From full steam ahead the day had turned Into a rout. While Mark descended to the lip of the rognon above the new ABC site, Victor followed mainly by shuffling along on his behind. By the time he arrived two ropes had. been set up down the rock-face and he was lowered down to the camp.

By now, nearly 4 hours after the accident, Victor's shoulder had gone Into spasm and despite the combined efforts of his friends they were unable to relocate it. As he was having great difficulty walking and the descent through the icefall was out of the question Ronnie and Graham set off to try to secure a helicopter from Skardu.

From this point the expedition split into two separate objectives — the first was to evacuate Victor out of the valley and into hospital, the second was still to try to climb the central spur.

Over the next 6 days Graham and Ronnie with the invaluable aid of the LO Asghar Ali Poreek shuttled to and from BC and Skardu, spending frustrating hours trying to arrange a helicopter to fly to ABC. Finally on the 13th with the promise of a1 helicopter, the following day it BC, Victor was lowered through the icefall and managed to walk back to BC via the tyrolean traverse, where a helipad had been built with the assistance of friends from Hushe.

At the same time, Mark, Colin, Kevin and Duncan continued carrying loads, established Cl above the rognon using the fixed ropes left on the rock-face from Victor's descent, and on the 11th Mark and Colin i limbed a subsidiary point of about 6000 m on excellent ice on the f«r right of the Trinity ridge overlooking the Chogolisa la, which they named 'Bongo Herman Peak.' From here they could see a safe, climbable qully to the right of the central spur which would allow the team to r«ach the spur high up.

By late on the 13th frustrated by the lack of assistance from the air force, and with Victor able to walk using a ski-pole the decision was made to cancel the helicopter. Mohammad Izaq the 2nd cook descended overnight to Hushe then onto Skardu to arrange a jeep. At 10 a.m. on the 15th Victor and porter Rosi Ali left for Hushe. Just over 24 hours later after an epic walk-out and through-the-night drive to reach Skardu in time for the morning flight, Victor was admitted to hospital in Islamabad where his shoulder was finally re-located. Unable to climb, five days later he flew back to Britain with Ronnie who had run out of time.

Meanwhile back on the mountain, on the 18th and 19th, the five remaining team members had moved Cl higher almost to the base of the spur, and were ready to make a summit attempt. But due to rapidly deteriorating weather conditions, they retreated to the relative luxury of ABC. After a further 2 days of steady snowfall, they returned to BC in an attempt to conserve food and gas supplies on the mountain itself.

On the 22nd Graham and Duncan left for K7 for a recce. The next day in good weather Mark, Kevin and Colin return to ABC then continued on up to Cl (the fifth time they had made this trip through the shifting ice).

By now running short on time they decide to switch from the central spur to the easier right-hand col and then the long whale-back ridge to the summit. But yet again the weather broke down, by the next morning nearly half a meter of snow had fallen and in atrocious conditions they retreated to ABC. The snow continued all day.

The next day, the 26th, the mountain was abandoned. The gear and fixed rope were stripped and ABC was packed up. In grey, cold weather the team returned to base camp carrying monstrous loads.

Over the next week several attempts were made to try rock routes on smaller peaks in the area, but the weather was never settled enough to get more than 5-6 pitches done before the next storm arrived. Life became increasingly miserable at BC, with temperatures below — 10°C at night, snow lying down to 3700 m, and the cook tent getting flooded out!

Finally around 5 October, with snow now appearing to be permanent on most faces, the decision was made to abandon base camp and return to Britain. Winter had arrived to the valley and time had run out.

Members: Victor Radvils (leader), Kevin Murphy, Colin Jamieson, Mark Miller, Duncan Talbert, Graham Lipp, Ronnie Robb.


A British team in the Karakoram, Chogolisa glacier, in September 1990. Trinity Peak (c. 6800 m) and several other peaks were attempted.


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