Summer 2013 | 8000m Peaks Wrap Up

The summer climbing season on 8000m peaks in Pakistan comes to an end as all mountaineers return home. The season will go down in the history of mountaineering as an eventful year filled with series of catastrophic incidents, ranging from Nanga Parbat Massacre to the loss of several seasoned climbers in Karakoram. Success stories were few and far between. There have been 22 causalities this season, including the murder of 11 climbers at Diamir Base Camp. K2 remained unclimbed, but despite the massacre at Diamir BC, 4 climbers made it to the Nanga Parbat top from Rupal side. There were 8 summits on Broad Peak, three via a new route variation. Around a dozen summits are also reported on GI and more than 30 on GII.

The Tragic Start 

While majority of Karakoram climbers were still on the way to their respective Base Camps and a couple of Nanga Parbat climbers still had to arrive in Pakistan, the worst violence incident in mountaineering history hit the Diamir BC. Around 50 climbers were attempting Kinshofer route on Diamir side of Nanga Parbat, this year. In first couple of weeks, bad weather and tough conditions didn’t allow the teams to reach C2. On 19th June, an avalanche struck the BC destroying six tents but fortunately everyone remained safe. Climbers recovered from the incident and resumed the climb.

On the night of June 22nd- 23rd majority of climbers were in C1 and C2 as part of acclimatization, gear shifting and higher camps establishment, when more than a dozen terrorists claiming to be TTP and Al-Qaeda members stormed the BC at around 10PM. At Base Camp, there were 11 foreigners and similar number of Pakistani climbers and BC staff. The attackers lined up everyone, looted the cash, destroyed their electronics equipment and shot them in upper parts of their body. 10 foreign climbers and a Pakistani BC staff member were killed, a Chinese military veteran, Zhang Jingchuan, ran away and narrowly escaped the death, while other Pakistanis were spared. The terrorists fled away from site before the arrival of security forces after sunrise.

Following the attack, everyone was evacuated from the region and Nanga Parbat Diamir side was closed for the climbing activities. Romanian team attempting Nanga Parbat from Rupal side also remained in state of chaos of a week, not knowing whether they will be allowed to proceed with expedition or not. Karakoram Highway was also shut for a few days, which resulted in several Karakoram teams getting stuck in Islamabad. Nonetheless, by the end of June, all climbing teams were moving forward with their climbing plans. Despite the scary incident at Diamir BC, only a couple of climbing expeditions were cancelled.

First Summit and Tragedy on Broad Peak

AMICAL alpin expedition, who reached the BC on June 12th, bagged first summit of the season on July 5th, when Josef Inhoger reached the Broad Peak summit. The expedition consisted of 24 climbers but the tough conditions didn’t allow anyone else to reach the top.

The news of success was followed by a tragic accident at BC. A German lady, Dana H who was part of another German expedition, fell into a glacial stream near the Base Camp. Her body was recovered two days later.

Loss of Polish Legendary Climber on GI

Still recovering from the tremor of Nanga Parbat massacre, the mountaineering community was jolted again by the loss of veteran climber and head of Polish Winter Himalayan Climbing 2010-2015 Project, Artur Hajzer, on GI. Artur and his partner Marcin Kaczkan were preparing for the forthcoming winter season, by climbing GI and GII. On July 7th, they tried to scale GI but bad weather forced them to turn back from 7600m. Communication with the duo was lost on descent and a search & rescue operation was arranged.

Rescuers were able to reach C2 on 9th July, where they found Marcin, who confirmed the death of Artur Hajzer. As per Marcin, Artur slipped and fell down while descending Japanese Couloir. His body was found near C2 and later buried at the same spot.

Burials at Altitude

Jacek Berbeka lead an expedition to Broad Peak this summer, hoping to find the bodies of his brother Maciej Berbeka and fellow climber Tomasz Kowalski. Maceij and Tomasz died above C4, after first winter ascent of Broad Peak in March. The team located body of Tomasz Kowalski at around 7900m and buried him away from the route and sight of climbers, while Maceij’s remains were not found. It’s believed that he fell into a large crevasse at 7700m.

Broad Peak New Variation and Tragedy on Descent

An Iranian team was on Broad Peak this season, trying to complete the new route on Southwest Face which the attempted in 2009. The new route overlapped with standard route near 7000m before diverting towards main summit. Since Iranians had already negotiated the route till C3 in 2009, they decide to attempt only the remaining section ie from C3 to Summit. The group reached C3 via normal route and left for summit on 13th July. Three members, Aidin Bozorgi, Pouya Keivan and Mojtaba Jarahi, made it to the top on July 16th, after bivouacking at 7350m, 7450m and 8000m, whereas two climbers remained in C3 as backup team.

The descent proved to be more complicated. Apparently, the three climbers took a wrong ridge down the Rocky Foresummit and lost the descent path. The climbers remained in constant communication with home team till the evening of July 20th, but unfortunately the help couldn’t reach them. It’s said that the situation was further complicated, as BC had no direct contact with climbers and information reaching from Iran, after layers of communication, was inconsistent. Missing climbers were announced dead on July 25th.

Spaniards Disappeared on GI

While the gloomy situation on Broad Peak was still continuing, another disastrous event started unfolding on GI. Seven Spaniards tried to reach GI summit on July 21st. An abrupt change in weather forced two of them to retreat at the start of summit bid; others continued to the top.

Again the descent was complex. One climber, David Lopez, was out of communication for more than 24hrs, but he eventually reached C1 on 22nd. Another climber Alfredo Garcia lost the route to C3, but eventually managed to reach the camp with the help of GPS coordinates. Alfredo remained stranded in C3 for several days, before coming down on 25th. Both David and Alfredo had turned back few hundred meters short of summit.

Xevi Gomez, Alvaro Paredes and Abel Alonso made it to the top that day, but disappeared on descent. After several search and rescue attempts, the three were presumed dead on July 27th.

Summits on Nanga Parbat

Amidst the series of tragic events of Karakoram, four Romanians - Marius Gane, Teo Vlad, Zsolt Torok, and Aurel Salasan - successfully summited Nanga Parbat from Rupal side via Schell’s Route on July 19th. The success on Nanga Parbat conveyed the message of hope and bravery, that terrorists can’t defeat the essence of climbing.

Dangerous conditions on K2

21 climbers with group of Sherpas and high altitude porters left BC on 24th July, hoping to summit on 28th, but the conditions on the mountain turned out to be too dangerous to climb. The teams aborted their summit bid on July 25th and eventually decided to return home.

Kiwi Father and Son

While everyone else retreated from C2 to Base Camp on July 26th, Kiwi father & son Marty Schmidt and Denali Schmidt, decided to progress to C3 on K2. Unfortunately, the following night a huge avalanche swept struck the campsite, killing both father and son. Denali was a young graduate and just climbed his first 8000m peak, Broad Peak, earlier this season. Marty was amongst the most beloved mountain guides. His passion, energy and courage were appreciated by a vast majority of climbers and trekkers.

Death of Czech Climber on GI

By the start of August, all but only a couple of Gasherbrum teams had left the mountains. Four members of an international expedition tried to scale GII but the difficult conditions on the mountain due to heat and snow melt forced them to retreat. With their departure, the only team left in the region was a four member Czech Expedition.

While two of the Czech climbers scaled GI and then GII via standard routes, Marek Holecek and Zdenek Hruby went for a new route on SW Face of GI. After an unsuccessful attempt on the wall, unfortunately, Zdenek Hruby died on descent after suffering a fall. Zdenek Hruby was one of the leading climbers from Czech Republic and the president of Czech Mountaineering Federation. The catastrophic season concluded with this tragic news. As of now, all teams are back to their respective countries.

GI and GII Summits

Although, the season was dominated by sad news, some climbers were successful in achieving their goals. Mariano Galvan was the first person to reach the top of both GI and GII this season, solo and without fixed ropes. At least, eight other climbers were also successful in scaling both GI and GII. Collectively there were more than 30 summits on GII and at least 13 on GI.

Russian, Alexei Kosjakow, was on Nanga Parbat as part of International Expedition and remained safe, as he was on the mountain when terrorists attacked the BC. Instead of returning home, Alexei joined Russian GI & GII Expedition and was successful in scaling both peaks.

Spanish climber, Oscar Cadiach, was successful in scaling GI which is his 13th 8000er. He only needs to ascend Broad Peak to complete 14x8000m quest.

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