Friday, July 19, 2013

Broad Peak New Route: Iranian Climbers' Complicated Descent

Setting out from third bivouac at 8000m, three Iranian climbers reached the summit of Broad Peak on Tuesday morning (16th July), but they haven't been able to return to C3, yet. As of now, they are descending from the Pass (at around 7800m).

Iranian Route
In 2009, Iranian climbers attempted to conquer Broad Peak via a new route from Southwest Face. The route consists of two sections, a) Climbing Southwest face to C3 of standard route. b) From C3, going towards right, directly to the main summit. Following illustrations by Iranian Team further explain the route. In 2009, health related problems halted the team's progress at C3. Since then, Iranians have made multiple attempts to climb the route.

http://aaj.americanalpineclub.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/Iranian-Route-On-Broad-Peak.jpg
Iranian route to C3

http://koohnews.ir/images/azim/images/broad.jpg
Iranian route from C3 to Summit on Broad Peak (Green line on the left is Normal route, whereas green line on right depicts Denis Urubko and Serguey Samoilov 2005 line of ascent).

Ascent
This year five climbers were part of new route expedition. After acclimatizing and working the route, summit climb started last week. The team reached C3 without any alarming situation. Aidin Bozorgi, Pouya Keivan and Mojtaba Jarahi, left for the summit on Saturday (13th July). The conditions were tough. They managed to reach an altitude of 7350m and made the first bivouac there. Next day, the trio negotiated rocky terrain above Bivouac-1 and gained only 100 meters altitude. Bivouac-2 was at 7450m. On third day (15th July), they reached just below summit and bivouacked at 8000m.

Descent
On 16th July, all three climbers reached the summit in early hours of the day. As per plan, they were supposed to descend via normal route and reach C3 by the evening. Two members of the team, Ramin Shojaei and Afshin Saadi, were waiting for them in the camp.


The descent proved to be a bit more complicated than expected. They couldn't come down via standard route and had to bivouac two nights above C3. Yesternight, the climbers were at around 7700m. As per plan, today (18th July) they were supposed to climb 100m to reach normal route and come down to BC.


Upper Portions of standard route on Broad Peak (Source)

Communication on July 18th
Today at around 07:00AM, the climbers contacted BC and said that they are in need to food and water. After this, there hasn't been any communication with the climbers through out the day.

It appears that climbers in C3 were unable to go up due to health issues. Ramin Shojaei descended to C2 in the afternoon. Base Camp team arranged high altitude porters, who went up to C3, reaching there in late hours.

Aidin Bozorgi called the Base Camp again at19:55hrs Persian time (2025hrs local time). He was near the Broad Peak pass (at around 7800m).

Aidin said that their tent has been torn off, one of the climbers isn't in good condition and they are in need of food and water. Base Camp team assured him that help is on the way, and will reach them tomorrow. Aidin has been asked to share GPS coordinates to facilitate rescue teams in locating them.

Iranian Team before departure to Islamabad; Source


UPDATE- 1 (19-07-13): 1630hrs PST
Kooh News has shared details about rescue efforts.

6 am: Contact was made with Aidin. He said that, they are feeling like old crippled and are unable to move.
8 am: ​​Two Pakistani porters who went up from C3 at night, were observed traversing towards Broad Peak Pass.
9 am: Two Swiss climbers (Mike Horn & Fred Roux) from K2 BC, who came in for rescue operation, reached C1.
10am: Aidin contacted again, telling that their situation is critical.
01pm: The porters returned to C3, after making an unsuccessful attempt to reach the Pass. The Swiss team was approaching C2.

Meanwhile, Iranian Mountaineering Federation is discussing rescue options with Pakistani officials, and Sherpa & other climbers in the region to accelerate rescue attempts. Heli-search is out of question, as the Askari Aviation helicopters cannot fly beyond 6500m.

Image Source


UPDATE-2 (20-07-13): 2000hrs PST
Despite the continued search and rescue operations on Broad Peak, sadly, the climbers couldn't be reached, yet. From Kooh News reports, it appears that the contact with Aidin Bozorgi was lost after 1000AM yesterday (19th July), until a partial communication at 1330hrs this afternoon. Apparently, he was in bad shape and his words were scattered and irregular. After spending more than a week above 7000m, four days above 7700m and three days without food and water, such a deterioration in physical health is obvious. Unfortunately, Aidin couldn't share details about his position or health of his fellows (Pouya Keivan and Mojtaba Jarahi).

Today morning, two Sherpas went above C3 and searched areas around the Pass. It's reported that they climbed a little further towards a minor summit and located a body, slightly away from normal route. They suspect that the body might be of a deceased climber from an earlier expedition. Apparently, two Pakistani porters were also near the Pass, this afternoon.

Hoping a positive news from the team.

UPDATE-3 (20-07-13): 2200hrs PST
Aidin Bozorgi called at 1900hrs local time and asked for assistance, reports Kooh News. It appears that Aidin is unable to find the way down. He was alone and couldn't descend the big wall he had reached. Iranian Base Camp and home team are trying to estimate his location from available data.

Meanwhile, a helicopter is being arranged to transport climbers from K2 BC to Broad Peak, who will join rescue attempts. Also, Ramin Shojaei is trying to organize help from local climbers at BC.

UPDATE-4 (21-07-13): 0600hrs PST
Climbers involved in search & rescue mission must be on the move by now. Meanwhile, veteran Iranian climber Sabetian Abbas shares more information about rescue efforts. As per him, a helicopter will take German guide Thomas Laemmle and a porter, from Concordia to Broad Peak, with food, water and bottled oxygen. Thomas has already coordinated search operation for Polish climbers on GI, earlier this month. Also, to improve communication between BC and rescuers, a porter will take batteries for radio sets to higher camps.

Recall that two Swiss climbers, Sherpas and Pakistani altitude porters are already on the mountain and have been to the Pass (7800m), multiple times since Friday. They were unable to locate the climbers, who are stranded - away from normal route.

Hope that the brave young Iranians (all in their twenties) were able to survive another night without resources and the help reaches them, today. Fingers crossed.

http://lh4.ggpht.com/be6_jv2soj5VtHVCzNdggJbuiRxpS4KTFgEPPGFyOwFvcGocLD2luF6lP__NPBOS3qP84Ggn14j1R3V1jAZD
File photo of Iranians on Broad Peak. Source
 
UPDATE-5 (21-07-13): 1300hrs PST
Thomas Laemmle has reached the Base Camp as per plan. He along with others climbers took part in a flight to survey the mountain and establish some understanding about Aidin's location. They took photos of the mountain and are analyzing them, further.

There hasn't been any contact with Aidin Bozorgi, yet. Similarly there's a lack of communication with rescuers in higher camps, as their batteries have drained. A porter is going up with fresh batteries.

UPDATE-6 (21-07-13): 1930hrs PST
Unfortunately the help couldn't reach the Iranian climbers, so far and there hasn't been any contact with Aidin Bozorgi today, shares Arash Club. Rescue climbers are still present in C3. Apparently the pictures taken during heli-flight this morning have been of little help, while estimated location of climbers from the GPS data is depicted in image below, which is a difficult spot to reach.


UPDATE-7 (22-07-13): 0200hrs PST
We have been hoping for a miracle since July 18th, about the safe descent of three climbers, but it's the time to say goodbye to brave young men. With reference to an email from Adventure Tours Pakistan (ATP), agency facilitating Iranian Expedition, Kooh News reports, that the rescue attempts has been called off. Aidin Bozorgi, Pouya Keivan and Mojtaba Jarahi have been presumed dead. (read correction in update-8)

"With regret we conclude that the three Iranian mountaineers have lost the precious lives. We left no stone upturned to save the precious lives of our brothers but Allah Almighty had fixed the death of our beloved brothers on the heights of Karakorams!"

The three climbers spent nine days above 7000m, majority of them around 7800m. They are were without food, water and shelter since July 18th, fighting bravely against bitter cold, depleted oxygen and hunger. Being rescued from such an altitude is difficult, if not impossible. Pakistani Helicopters can fly to an altitude of 6500m, but climbers were stranded 1000 vertical meters higher. Still, expert mountain guide, Thomas Laemmle, made an attempt to look for them via a helicopter flight. Similarly complete area above C3 till summit was searched. Unfortunately, despite all these efforts, nothing paid off. Aidin Bozorgi, Pouya Keivan and Mojtaba Jarahi will remain on the mountain, probably forever.

Condolences to the families and friends of deceased climbers. May their souls rest in peace. (read correction in update-8)

UPDATE-8 (22-07-13): 0400hrs PST
Kooh News reports that the committee coordinating rescue attempts from Iran, says that although ATP believes the climbers are no more alive, the rescue operation will be abandoned only after discussion with on ground climbers. (Edit: it appears that search is still on).

Currently, Afshin Saadi along with a porter is in C3, whereas Ramin Shojaei is at Base Camp.

NOTE: There are some comments inquiring about decision on rescue operation.. Please understand that I am not involved in any such process, what-so-ever. I only share updates from various sources. The decision-making remains with Iranian Expedition members and families of missing climbers.

UPDATE-9 (22-07-13): 1600hrs PST
No updates are available about activities on the mountain, today. Meanwhile, Kooh News has posted an email chain discussing the way forward. The home-team is seeking advice from Thomas Laemmle and other climbers, whether to call off the rescue attempts as suggested by ATP official.

Weather, that has been stable so far, is deteriorating. It's reported that clouds and snow have started encapsulating the region.

UPDATE-10 (23-07-13) : 0430hrs PST
Apparently, adverse meteorological conditions halted the rescue operation yesterday, while Kooh News reports that a helicopter flight over the identified section of mountain is planned for today morning. The section of the mountain has been selected by comparing GPS data, satellite maps and pictures taken by Thomas Laemmle during previous aerial search. Helicopter flight is dependent on weather conditions.

Kooh News has also posted another chain of emails, where Iranian home-team seeks suggestions from two finest alpinists of this age, Denis Urubko and Simone Moro, about current situation. Kazakhstan born Russian Denis Urubko carved a new route on Southwest Face (Iranian team also worked on same face) of Broad Peak in 2005. Italian Simone Moro is also a helicopter pilot who made record-breaking rescues above 7500m in Nepal, this spring. Their experience says, sadly, the chances of survival of Aidin, Pouya and Mojtaba are non-existent.

Update-11 (23-07-13): 2000hrs PST
It's reported that aerial search planned for today morning couldn't be executed due to unfavorable meteorological conditions. Helicopter couldn't achieve the required height due to thick fog and lack of vision. Forecast suggests that weather in the region may remain same for few more days. Helicopter is back in Skardu, now.

Climber Scott Powrie was also on Broad Peak this summer, with FTA Expedition. "Bittersweet Homecoming" is his blog post about amazing time spent with Iranian climbers during the expedition. Scott's photos from the expedition can be viewed here.

UPDATE-12 (24-07-13): 1415hrs PST
Arash Mountain Club has posted the email received from Thomas Laemmle, after yesterday's search attempt. Formal word on Continuation or termination of search and rescue operation is awaited, at the moment.

Dear Homayoun,
Sorry I do have only an i-phone to type e-mails. Today we had a final press conference where i could state my opinion. I strongly belief none of the three Iranian climbers is alive anymore, due to the high altitude and dehydration. My second statement is, that there is no chance to evacuate their bodies because they are far away from the normal route in an altitude of minimum 7500 m. Helicopters will only evacuate people/bodies up to 5800m. Higher up everything has to be done by humans. There have been evacuations before in this altitude but only on the normal route. We do have two cluees there the bodies might be: 1) last thuraya phone call and 2) yellow spot on a photo. Both locations are above 7500m off the normal route and 500m in altitude away from summit and normal route. No chance for evacuation.


Illustration by Thomas Laemmle: 1) Written as 'Thuraya Call' and 'Yellow Spot' are two areas, where the climbers are expected to be. 2) 5800m line is limit of helicopter evacuation in Pakistan. Climbers are supposedly above 7500m. 3) As per Thomas' analysis, descent went wrong at Rocky Foresummit (8035m). Instead of going down towards pass, they took the wrong ridge.

I strongly belief as a mountaineer these three climbers don't want to risk someone life to get their dead bodies down. They loved the mountains why are not leaving them at this place which they liked so much? Two porters found the Iranian flag on top of the main summit. Therefore the Iranian Route on BP was successfully completed by the three climbers. It seems they took the wrong ridge down the rocky summit.

I hope i could have answered some of your questions. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with me if you have further questions.

Best regards
Thomas


UPDATE-13 (25-07-13): 1700hrs PST
Kooh News reports that after a meeting between families of missing climbers, Arash Mountain Club officials and a team of experts, the search operation on Broad Peak has formally been called off. The amazing feat of Aidin Bozorgi, Pouya Keivan and Mojtaba Jarahi comes to a tragic end. Heartfelt condolences to the friends and families of deceased climbers. May the departed souls of brave climbers rest in peace.

Two Americans, who shared logistics and BC services with Iranians, have some amazing words to say about the climbers.

Iranian Climbers were Quality Human Beings | Interview with John Quillen
"Iran could not have picked better representatives for the country" | Interview with Scott Powrie

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