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  Mountain Madness Gasherbrum II Expedition Update

Copyright© Billy Pierson

Gasherbrum II Expedition Dispatch #9, July 26th 2007

We came back to base camp on the 20th expecting to have 2-3 days of rest before heading back up for our summit push. We have already established Camp I and II, and have provisions ready for establishing Camp III en route to the top. There are very few teams left at base camp and the New Zealanders, Japanese, Italians, Hungarians and ourselves are all that remain. All the other teams are climbing Gasherbrum I and so far this season there have been no summits of GII from the Pakistan side. A couple of Italians summated GII from the Chinese side, but there has been some confusion on how many actually summated from their party of 3.

The remaining groups have been comparing their weather forecast coming from Seattle, Geneva and Budapest and all the forecast are the same. We have received daily heavy snowfall since the 21st and it is likely it will continue through the 28th. The slopes of both GI and GII are loaded with snow so we have no choice but to wait for good weather and let the snow consolidate. A small two day weather window is expected for the 29th and 30th but this will be insufficient time to allow us to climb above Camp II. We are all looking for the illusive 7-day weather window to allow us a shot at the summit, Phil Crampton.

Gasherbrum II Expedition Dispatch #8, July 22nd 2007

After the loud crack I knew exactly what had happened and what was about to happen next. I told the Italians to dig a quick hole and get in the self arrest position, as they did so I saw an immense amount of snow and ice cascade over top of the large serac that protects Camp II.

This amazing site soon turned to horror as we saw climbing equipment, clothing and finally a climber topple over the top of the serac and down the mountain. The Italians and I were never in any real danger for the avalanche didn't hit the route of the climb from Camp I to Camp II, but we did get covered in snow from the sheer blast of the avalanche. Part of the route down low was covered with small debris but was nothing compared to the huge ice blocks that covered the upper part of the mountain.

I immediately radioed Camp II and spoke with my good friend Ryan Walters, who had also just arrived Camp II, and immediately began to organize a rescue attempt to recover the injured climbers above Camp II, while I traversed the waist deep snow to try and dig out one of the buried climbers. This story and the events that followed have already made their way to many newspapers and websites so I wont get into great detail about what all happened thereafter, but briefly, out of the 5 climbers that were caught in the slide, 2 were killed and 3 seriously injured. I was unable to recover the climber in the buried debris but was able to recover some clothing for the family back home.

A dramatic helicopter rescue from Camp II had to be aborted and a long wait from extraction from Camp I was only made possible by the intervening of the President of Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf, giving the order for two helicopters to land at Camp I to assist in the rescue. Climbers from the US, Britain, Australia, Switzerland, Germany and Pakistan all worked together for 3 days to produce an amazing rescue of 2 seriously injured climbers who are now recovering in a hospital. We pass along our condolences to the families of the climbers who lost their lives, Phil Crampton.

Gasherbrum II Expedition Dispatch #7, July 21st, 2007

Mark, Eric, Elly and myself climbed to Camp I on the 16th. Mark was suffering from an ear infection and decided to turn around just as we entered the cwm and started to rope up. The day was perfect with overcast skies and cool temperatures all the way to Camp I. That evening we received 12-18 inches of new snow and it continued to snow lightly the following day. This meant we would have to put our plans to stock Camp III on hold for a while.

We sent Elly back down to base camp with a roped team in hope that he would return with Mark in a few days so we could all make an attempt to Camp III together as a team. The 18th was a beautiful day so Eric and I took the opportunity to explore the route up to Camp II with the possibility of stashing a few tents their. We departed at 7:00am and soon the reached the highpoint of the day at 9:30am. Here, Eric decided to cash his load and return to Camp I as the route became steep and technical requiring the use of fixed ropes.

I continued up to Camp II alone where I erected 2 tents and stashed a few stoves and gas. While stashing gear at Camp II I looked up and was surprised to see 5 climbers making their way up to Camp III. There had been much new snow over the last 2 days, and the steeper slopes of the upper part of the mountain are very prone to slides in these conditions. As I departed Camp II to return back to Camp I, I came across two Italian climbers making their way up to Camp II. As we exchanged comments of the snow conditions on the upper part of the mountain, our conversation was sharply interrupted by a huge crack from way above, Phil Crampton.

Gasherbrum II Expedition Dispatch #6

The Tibetan Mountaineering Association Climbing team summated GI on July 12th with 7 Tibetans and 4 Pakistani climbers in the early hours of the morning. The summit group consisted of 3 Tibetan sherpas including 1 who completed his 14th 8,000m peak.

We had hoped to climb back to camp I today but the forecast is still snowing and will continue for the next few days. Base camp is starting to look like a ghost town with all expeditions packing up for the season except the New Zealanders and ourselves.

We have a real loose plan to establish camp II on the 17th and Camp III on the 19th. With a possible summit attempt on the 20th if all goes well. Mark and Eric have opted for using supplemental since we have decide not too establish camp IV and rather have opted for a longer summit day from Camp III at 7,000m. We still have another 28 days left at Base camp so if all goes well we will give Gasherbrum I a try after our success on Gasherbrum II. That’s all for now, Phil Crampton.

Gasherbrum II Expedition Dispatch #5, July 12th 2007

Our weather forecast was for clouds in the morning and clear skies in the afternoon for the night of July. Going on this information we decided to depart base camp at 6:00 am rather than the usual 4:00 am to Camp I in order to use the cloud cover for protection against the sun. It was a perfect day, too perfect in fact, with clear skies all day which made the trip to Camp I extremely tiresome. By 11:00 am it was reading 110 degrees as we rolled in to the Advanced Base Camp.

We decided to take temporary shelter here under a tent sheet, and were joined by our Catalan friends for a quick nap. They decided to continue on to Camp 1 at 4:00 pm, against our advice that their might be weak snow bridges due to the extreme heat. We decided to stay the night at ABC and then continued on to Camp 1 early the next morning. We discovered that one of the Catalans had fallen into a crevasse the previous day and had broken two fingers. They were successful in extracting their friend from the crevasse but it had taken two hours and they were left exhausted from the experience. We reached Camp I to the thundering sounds of avalanches, a reminder that the previous days snowfall mixed with the high temps can be a bad recipe. Our only moment of drama was Mark’s broken crampon arriving just before Camp 1. But, we were able to establish Camp 1, setting up our North Face Tents and readying ourselves for a carry up to Camp II. More to come, Phil Crampton.

Gasherbrum II Expedition Dispatch #4, July 7th 2007

The weather on the morning of the 5th foiled my plan to climb up to camp I. I met with the leaders of the Australian and Spanish expeditions for breakfast at 2:00am and collectively we decided that the conditions were not the ideal to travel through the icefall and cwm that morning. There had been snowfall from midnight onwards and the winds had been steadily increasing so we decided to take a rest day.

The weather improved later in the day much to our surprise and going against all forecasts we had received. Eric Mark and myself decided to climb to camp I and we departed basecamp at 4:00am on the morning of the 6th. By 4:30am it was daylight and we were making our way through the heavily crevassed icefall. Both Mark and Eric stated that the crevasses here are much larger than any that they had seen on Denali. We reached the ABC camp or Camp .5 and Eric decided that this was far enough for him for the day. Mark and myself continued to camp I and dropped off a load of tents and food.

We are still without our high altitude porter, as his climbing gear has still not arrived from Concordia. The porters have gone on strike, which is not uncommon here in the Karokoram and we are still minus one barrel of gear. We are doing much better than some others, as the catlans are still missing three loads of high altitude gear and the New Zealanders that have been here for ten days are still missing the majority of their gear which is hindering their progress on the mountain.

Last night we received some heavy snow at basecamp and it has continued to snow throughout the day, so we will wait for the forecast before making our next move. If the forecast is good we will climb and sleep at camp I on the 9th and 10th and explore the route and climb to camp II if the conditions are favorable. More to come soon, Phil Crampton.

Gasherbrum II Expedition Dispatch #3

July 4th! but no fireworks in the Karakoram, however we were fortunate enough to have a good weather day and see K2, Broad peak Gasherbrum V, IV, and I as well as many other peaks on our trek to concordia. Today July 5th we arrived at basecamp and quickly jumped to the task of establishing a great camp! We were visited by friends from an Australian expedition who have been at basecamp for three weeks and are frustrated with the bad weather they have been experiencing. Tomorrow Erik and Mark will take a well deserved rest day, while I and a high altitude porter will carry loads through the icefall to camp I. We will have breakfast at 2:00am with the Australian group as to not wake our cooking staff and will start the climb there soon after. The Mountain Madness porter health clinic is officially closed for the expedition, we have treated over 35 porters on our trek in with the most serious injury being a porter with severely gashed fingers from loading a horse. The weather forecast predicts overcast skies two days from now so hopefully the high altitude porter and I will be down before then. That's all for now!

Phil Crampton.

Gasherbrum II Expedition Dispatch #2

Today we have a rest at the payu campground 3325M. This was followed by a 7 hour jeep ride to askoli where we camped for the night. Eric Mark and I are all in good health and setting a good pace to Gasherbrum basecamp in anticipation for the climbing ahead of us. We are trekking in with a catalyn group with whom we shared the jeep from islamabad with. They are now a group of five for one of their team descended because of mild Pulmadary edema and is descended to askoli and has departed their expedition. They are very keen to eduacate us on the difference between the catalyn and spanish language much to the delight of Mark who likes to point out the similiarities of the two languages. Thats it for now from the Gasherbrum II expedition.

Phil Crampton

Gasherbrum II Expedition Dispatch #1

The Mountain Madness Gasherbrum II expedition started off with the arrival of Eric and Mark in Islamabad. Islamabad in the summer is always hot and we are looking forward to getting to higher elevations and cooler weather. The local Pakistani residents of Islamabad are very hospitable towards us and we feel safe here even though western media portrays Pakistan as a place one should not visit due to the safety factor. The Karakoram definitely rival the Himalayas for pure beauty and climbing objectives and is proven by the more than 100 expeditions signed in for expeditions in this region. Tomorrow, the 25th, we plan to drive the Chilath and then on to Skardu where we will spend two days and pack our gear for the porter loads. If all goes to plan, the 28th we will start our jeep drive to Askoli where we will start our trek to Gasherbrum base camp the following day. We hope to keep everyone informed with our progress throughout the expedition, that's all for now.

Phil Crampton


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