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Author: Valery Babanov, Canada

Two new routes in Karakorum. Pakistan.
Summer 2008.

An idea of switching over from 7000 and starting passing new technical routs on 8000 came to my mind last autumn, in 2007, after ascent to Janna in Himalayas .

There passing difficult sections on 7500 m above sea level I understood that individual abilities are much greater and the next boundary lies much further: somewhere beyond 8 kilometers.

In themselves ascents on 8000 by classical ways didn't interest me, but new, technical routes were the right thing.

 In this spring together with Nicolay Tomnyanin we made a quite bold attempt to make a new light-style route to Dhaulagiri (8167 m) from its western part.

The mountain held out easily.

For not returning with nothing we ascended to its summit by classic rout. Certainly we wanted something different.

 But I didn't worry much because I knew that in a month is planned another expedition, this time to Pakistan , to Karakorum . The permission was received for ascent to three 8000: Broad Peak (8047 m), Hidden Peak (8068 m), and Gasherbrum 2 (8035 m).

There I hoped to “win back” for the failure on Dhaulagiri .

There were six of us who came to Pakistan – two French: Antoine Girard, Elisabeth Revol and four Russian: Valery Shamalo, Pavel Chochia, Viktor Afanas'ev and me as a leader.

Viktor had to be my main partner in forthcoming ascents. I knew that Vitya had rather good experience in technical ascents in our mountains, plus ascents to 7000.

 And what is very important, he had already had a 8000 to his credit, and it was K2 summit. And he had a great wish. That's why I believed that everything will be OK. The plans were great – three 8000, all by new routs in light alpine style.

I matured an idea of these routs for more than a year. Last winter when I was in Moscow I suggested my idea of several 8000 by new routs to Vladimir and Sergey Bogdanovy, the leaders of “Bask” company, my new sponsors. They liked the idea very much and I obtained their financial support. Also I suggested this project to Vitya and he easily agreed to take part.

But even this was not enough.

Expedition for two was too expensive.

That's why we came to idea of expending it and inviting more people who would want to ascend to the same summits but by classic routs. Thus it became six of us.

On the 15-th of June all the participants of our expedition got together in Islamabad , the capital of Pakistan . After finishing all necessary formalities and buying most of food in a couple of days we leaved the city pining away with 40 centigrade heat.

In next two days we were in Skardu, one day later – in Askole. Further there are no roads – only paths.

All the load is further transferred by local porters. 

The caravan of porters was long – 150 people.

One more week of trekking and at last on June 26 we installed the Base camp on 4900 m high at the foot of Broad Peak .

This summit was the first aim of our expedition.

 This day we became unwilling witnesses of a tragedy on the slopes of Broad Peak . While ascending to the peak and abseiling on the height of 6500 m Slovak alpinist Vlado Plulik escaped. Presumably he fell from the abrupt ice. His body was not found.

In any case life is going on and in a couple of days after our arrival at the Base camp all of us came for acclimatization to the classic route on Broad Peak . After sunny days during the trekking the weather turned to bad: the snowfalls began.

But even this moment could not interfere with our desire to ascend quickly as high as possible. At the same time a team from Belorussia operated on the slopes of Broad Peak as well as our neighbors by the Base camp, Ukrainians Sergey Ershov and Igor Svergun.  

 Unfortunately, not everyone in our team was lucky enough and in a week one of the participants of the expedition – Antoin Girar – was urgently evacuated to Skarda by helicopter on suspicion of appendicitis.

Thus five of us remained.

Acclimatization for 7100 m took one and a half week. Only after it Vitya and I came to the main ascent, planned as a new route.

Valera Shamalo, Pavel and Elizabeth were also ready to ascend to Broad Peak in classic way.

A few words about new route.

The route goes along the beautiful buttress, clearly standing out against a general relief of the western wall of Broad Peak . For me it was a great riddle: why no one has still passed this route?

Though I guessed: may be everyone was afraid of huge overhanging grey ice in the middle of the wall.

 From time to time big blocks broke off and fell down with crash, reminding that hanging glacier is still alive.

But from our first days in the Base camp we attentively explored the wall through binoculars and found a safe way through this 100-meter hanging ice barrier.

 My inner voice told me that the way was chosen correctly and everything will be all right.

On July 9, early in the morning, Vitya and I came to the ascent. The weather wasn't nice. Spindrift despondently fell from the hard, low clouds. The initial weight of our rucksacks was nearly 20 kilograms per person. But it didn't matter any more. Everyone was deep in himself in his thoughts and in the same time on the Mountain.

In spite of the weather which didn't please us during the entire ascent, on the fourth day we already reached 7000 m and climbed through the vertical, somewhere overhanging grey ice.

One can say that it was a crux section of the route. On the fourth day of our ascent we came to the 7500 m altitude mark. The success seemed to be near because all the major difficulties were already behind. It remained 300 m high of a simple slope till the bridge, and further – along the ridge to the peak.

The weather became worse in the night – the snow never let up.

I was frightened of an extensive 45 degree slope covered with snow which was just above us. It was an ideal place for snow-slips. The place of the tent could become a trap for us.

 The first snow-slip struck in 3 AM. The tent held out, but we were little frightened being inside of it. We decided to start dressing. Then the snow-slips began to come every 15-20 minutes.

The jokes were over it was the time just to survive in that situation. We were afraid that our tent won't hold out during the next stroke and it will be simply torn down. This situation went on till the morning.

Then the snow subsided a little, and we got a chance to dig ourselves into bergshrund. Moving upwards or somewhere else was out of the question.

Next morning brought a cloudless blue sky and the huge slopes of Broad Peak overweight with fresh snow.

We had to leave that place and we made a decision terrifying in its probable consequences – to traverse all the slope to the right, where the classic route lies. For a moment we were afraid of just thinking of this. But we had no choice. Sometimes being waist-deep in snow, be starter a risky traverse.

The circumstances were favorable and we reached the third camp on 7100 m, undercutting “only” a couple of small snow-slides. We were alone. We phoned to Sergey Bershov and Igor and obtained a permission to use their tent in the third camp and something in it. The Byelorussians permitted us to take some of their food. We must thank them all for help. There we decided to have a rest one more day and then to go on ascend.

 On the next day, July 16, several people including three people from our expedition ascended to the camp. They were Valera , Pavel and Elizabeth . Among them ascended several Spaniards, the Portuguese and a Korean woman.

Everybody planned to go on ascend early in the next morning. The weather forecasts told that day would be nice – just for the ascent to the major peak.

Everything went off as it was planned: on July 17 at 4 AM we started a hard ascent with deep snow to the bridge 7800 m and then along the ridge to the summit.

Vitya and I ascended to the peak at 19.30 PM, just when the Sun began to set. The view was unforgettable. What can be better then such moments?

The descent from the peak to the tents of the third camp we already made in full darkness, in the light of our lanterns.

 About midnight, soon after twelve, tired but happy, we sank on the snow near the tents on the altitude 7100 m. We felt that we had won. First of all it was a victory over ourselves, all the rest is later on.

 In the same day Valery Shamalo, Pavel Chochia and Elizabeth Revo ascended to the peak. The victory was complete. Everybody was happy.

The characteristics of the rout to Broad Peak : 3000 m, VI, WI 5, M6, 90 degree (max abrupt sections). But the expedition wasn't finished. Ahead two more 8000 were waiting for us: Hidden Peak (Gasherbrum 1) and Gasherbrum 2. It was in two days from our Base camp near Broad Peak .

 On July 23, all our team (five people plus two cooks) arrived at the Gasherbrum Base camp situated 5100 m high. Because of a good acclimatization in previous ascent, there was nothing to wait for, except for the weather.

 Our next aim was a new route in pair along the south-western wall of Gasherbrum 1 peak, in alpine style. Vitya and I were determined and full of strength. Our success on Broad Peak gave us an additional impulse for realization of something new.

In several days, when most of expeditions descended, the weather turned to nice. But exactly now, when it was reasonably to go ascend, because the weather permitted, many expeditions left the Base Camp.

 After leaving of the Base Camp on July 28, early in the next morning we started to ascend on Hidden Peak by a new route. Valera , Pavel and Elizabeth started couple of days earlier. In their plans they have two 8000, but by classic routs.

After wishing good luck to each other everyone went to “his” summit.

 One could say that our ascent with Vitya was ideal, but for a stone which flew into our tent at night between July 30 and 31. It happened when we were sleeping, on the altitude 6900 m and it is a real wonder that everyone is alive. But it is a separate story. Just in a few words: the skin on Vityas' head was badly cut and the wound bled, but the bone luckily remained undamaged. But it was luck because everything could be much worse.

I can only add that my partner displayed outstanding courage when he decided to continue the ascent to the peak.

He could say: “I must go down” and I would unhesitatingly turn back from the route.

But on August 1, at 3 PM, tired but happy, we stood on the peak. Our joy about the victory we could share with our friends. Valera , Pavel and Elizabeth stood next to us. For a lucky chance our routs crossed on the altitude 7800 m and we met. No one could even suppose that.

 First we descended from the peak together, but then our ways varied: Vitya and I went to our tent on the altitude 7200 m, on the new rout, and the others continued to descend to their camp.

Next time we met in the Base Camp in a couple of days. Everybody was happy. And we had a reason. Valery Shamalo, Pavel Chochia and Elizabeth Revo visited three 8000 during less than a month.

Vitya and I passed two new routs: to Broad Peak and to Gasherbrum 1 during three weeks.

 About the route to Gasherbrum 1.

The climbing itself starts from bergshrund on the altitude 5800 m.

Mainly it is ice and snow. Sometimes mixed sections are found (ice, stone).

Until the altitude 7600 m, where our line meets Jugoslav route of 80-th years, it is a new rout.

General characteristic of the rout: 2300 m, VI, WI 4, M5, 80 degrees (max abrupt parts).

I'd like to add that in four days after our return to the Base camp we tried to go on ascent on the third planned 8000: Gasherbrum 2 (hidden peak).

But the weather as well as general tiredness after the previous ascent (it was only four days after our descent) didn't leave us a chance to ascend.

The expedition was over, we went down.

Everyone took what he had obtained here.

But we were the only people who knew it.


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