The summer 2009 Philippe Gatta tried to climb Gasherbrum II (8 035 m), Gasherbrum I (8 068 m) and Broad Peak (8 047 m) without supplementary oxygen. Philippe teamed up with Gorgan Wildberger and Serap Jangbu Sherpa. Serap had only Gasherbrum 1, Broad Peak and Nanga Parbat left to complete the list of 14 8000 meters. Serap, Gorgan and Philippe were sharing base camp services with Altitude Junkies and ATP.
The weather has been very bad with lots of snow and constant high winds in altitude (50 km/h to 80 km/h). In 6 weeks of expeditions, they never had a good weather window for a safe summit bid. When they tried, they had to turn back in storms and avalanche conditions (see the blog for more details). Overall 2009 has been a bad year in Karakoram with very few successes. At the time Philippe left the base camp nobody had summitted Gasherbrum 1 and Broad Peak and Ueli Steck was the only one who succeeded Gasherbrum 2 during an impressive and bold solo ascent.
The conditions improved slightly a few weeks later allowing Veikka Gustafsson, Kazuya Hiraide and a Bulgarian team to reach the top of Gasherbrum 1. Veikka completed his 14x8000ers quest. Later on, Oh Eun-sun and a Spanish team also reached the top of Gasherbrum 1. On Gasherbrum 2, the Iranian team turned back 50-100m below the summit while a Spanish mountaineer disappeared near the summit the same day. Nobody reached the true summit of Broad Peak and unfortunately a few deaths were reported on Broad Peak and K2. On Gasherbrum 6, Daniela Teixeira and Paulo Roxo made several attempts but had to turn back because of poor snow condition and avalanches. For similar reasons, Don Bowie, David Falt, Bruce Normand, Guy McKinnon and Billy Peirson couldn’t reach the top of Gasherbrum 3 and 4. Arian Lemal who was on a Gasherbrum 1 / Gasherbrum 2 expedition has made significant efforts to collect abandoned rubbish at Gasherbrum BC and camp 1, like he did previously on Aconcagua.
Gasherbrum I (8 068 m), Gasherbrum II (8 035 m) and Broad Peak (8 047 m) are located in the Karakoram range (West of the Himalayas) in the Northwestern part of Pakistan, at the borders of Pakistan, India and China. This Range has 4 peaks above 8 000 meters: K2 (8 611m), Gasherbrum I and II and Broad Peak, more than 60 peaks above 7 000 meters and even more 6 000 meters peaks.
Philippe, Gasherbrum IV and III behind (Photo Gorgan Wildberger)
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The team arrived in Islamabad on June 6th. The flight from Islamabad to Skardu has been canceled several times so they finally drove along the Karakoram highway. This 28 hours bus ride was rough but they finally arrived in Skardu on the 10th.
They reached Askole (2 950 m) a few days later, after 7 hours of Jeep from Skardu (120 km). On June 13, they started the trekking from Askole to the Gasherbrum base camp.
Askole (2 950 m) - Jhula (3 100 m): 5h45 walk. ~20 km. Elevations: +430 / -330m. Overall it's a good trail which leaves the grassy camp of Askole and follows a sandy trail along the river. It can be really hot in the sun.
Jhula - Paiju (3 450 m): 5h30 walk. ~21 km. Elevations: +430 / -190m. Another day on the sandy trail that follows the river. Paiju is a plaisant camp site with some trees. It offers great views over the Nameless Tower (East of Trango).
Paiju - Urdukas (4 050 m): 6h45 walk. ~19 km. Elevations: +1000m / -390m. The trail continues after Paiju for ~1 hour and then continues on the Baltoro glacier. From there on, the walk is 100% on the glacier moraine. It is rough, constantly zigzaging and going up and down. Urdukas is on the slopes above the glacier, on the South side. There are some grass and outstanding views over the Trango Tower.
Urdukas - Goro 2 (4 300 m): 4h35 walk. ~14 km. Elevations: +510m / -215m. After Urdukas the trail continues in the center of the Baltoro glacier. When the weather is clear, one can see the Masherbrum, Mustagh Tower, Gasherbrum IV and Broad Peak. Goro 2 camp site is on the glacier.
Goro 2 - Shagring (4 750 m): 7h walk. ~19km (3h30, ~11km up to Concordia). Elevations: +760m / -340m. From Goro 2, the trail continues in the center of the glacier up to Concordia. Concordia is the junction of several glaciers: Baltoro, Abruzzi, Godwin Austin and Vigne. The view from Concordia is amazing and probably one of the nicest in the world. We can see two 8000 meters peaks -K2 and Broad Peak, and countless peaks over 6000 m. It's is recommended to continue and camp at Shagring which is much cleaner than Concordia. The trek to the K2 and Broad Peak, goes to the North on the Godwin Austin glacier. The trek to the Gasherbrums goes to Southeast on the Baltoro glacier. The trek to the Gondogoro Pass goes to the Southwest on the Vigne glacier.
Shagring - Gasherbrum BC (5 150 m): 3h30 walk. ~11 km. Elevations: +500m / -210m. The walk to the Gasherbrum BC is relatively short along the Baltoro and the Abruzzi glaciers. There are outstanding views over the Gasherbrum peaks, Chogolisa, Mitra Peak and Baltoro Kangri. The base camp is located on the central moraine of the Abruzzi glacier, just below the start of the Icefall leading to the Gasherbrum 1.
Trekking from Gasherbrum BC to Gondogoro and Hushe:
Gasherbrum BC - Ali Camp (5 050 m): 8h walk. ~19 km. Elevations: +400 / -500m. The beginning of the trek is the same than on the way up. At the junction with the Baltoro glacier (when it turns toward the North), leave the central moraine going to Shagring and traverse the glacier toward the West. Cross several moraines and ice until you reach a trail on the extreme West side of the glacier. Continue to go down toward the Vigne glacier. Turn left to follow the Vigne glacier upwards. Cross it to reach its West side. Continue up to the Ali Camp. There are several rivers on the glacier and they can be very tricky to cross, especially below Ali Camp. There are not so many good spots at this camp and this is plenty of rubbish.
Ali Camp - Gondogoro Pass (5 680 m) - Shaisho (3 400 m): 12h walk (3h45 up to the Gondogoro). ~28 km. Elevations: +900 / -2300m. We left Ali Camp at 1am. Here again there were several rivers to cross. There was plenty of snow but the trail was good. There were fixed ropes all the way from the bottom of the Gondogoro face up to the Col, and on the way down as well. There was so much snow that the scree on the South side was completely covered. We stopped for lunch at Huespah which is a nice camp site with a great view over Leila Peak. After Huespah it is still a long way to Shaisho which is another nice camp under the trees along a river.
Gasherbrum II (formaly K4) is part of the greater Gasherbrum group of 6 peaks and is the world’s 13th highest mountain.
The first ascent was made on 8th July 1956 by Fritz Moravec, Josef Larch and Hans Willenpart. Since then, 871 climbers reached the top.
The normal route follows the Southwest ridge.
The base camp is set at 5 150 m, Camp 1 at 5 950 m, Camp 2 at 6 450 m and Camp 3 at 7 000 m.
Gasherbrum I (also called Hidden Peak or K5) is the highest of the Gasherbrum’s, the 11th highest peak in the world and it is the second highest in the Karakoram Range.
The first ascent was made July 5 1958 by Nicholas B. Clinch, Pete Schoening and Andy Kauffman. Since then, only 265 climbers reached the top. It's one of the less climbed 8 000 meters Peak.
The most common route is the Japanese Couloir. It is more technical and challenging than Gasherbrum II and Broad Peak. The base camp and the camp 1 are shared with the Gasherbrum II, the Camp 2 is at 6 250 m (21,150ft) and the Camp 3 at 7 200 m (23,625ft).
Philippe Gatta in the Icefall,
Gasherbrum I behind (Photo Gorgan Wildberger)
Broad Peak is the 12th highest mountain in the world. It is located on the western Baltoro glacier opposite to the K2.
It has been named for its triple summit and long crest (~2 km long). It has 3 summits: the Main Summit at 8 047 m, Central Summit 8 016 m and North Summit 7 550 m.
First ascent was made in 1957 by Hermann Buhl, Fritz Wintersteller, Kurt Diemberger and Marcus Schmuck in alpine style. Since then, 385 climbers reached the top.
The normal route follows the West ridge. The base camp is at 4 950 m, C1 at 5 800 m, C2 at 6 300 m and C3 at 7 100 m.