July 17, 2010
From stu in the usa office
Broad Peak Summit Bid called below the Col
Fabrizio called in from C3 (at about 10am local time) to let us know that the entire summit team was safe and sound and back in C3 after a great effort on the mountain. The snow conditions were apparently very bad and largely unconsolidated sugar snow. As they neared the col (perhaps 100m below) they felt a shift in the snow pack and made the decision to call it a day with the risk level simply unacceptable. Armed with more than 300m of rope they had brought for the summit ridge they were able to secure the descent quite safely and returned to C3 without mishap. A few of the other teams also turned about or had done so earlier while Fabrizio reported that a few very experienced climbers had continued on at that point. We’ll have more details when the team checks in again at the end of the day.
We spoke only for a few minutes as they were making preparations to clear camp 3 and begin the descent to BC. With Ed, Garth, Aziz and Farhad coming up to help they hope to clear out the mountain between today and tomorrow. As the weather becomes dangerously windy for a number of days the “Broad Peak only” folks have run out of time on the mountain and will head out on the 23rd or 24th after resting up for a few days. With planes to catch and lives to return to there simply is not any room to maneuver for several of them. A few of the Broad Peak only folks may opt to extend their stay as our permit on Broad Peak remains in force until the second week in August. Additionally some of our double team may come back over for an alpine run at the hill…we’ll see!
Rambling Reflections on Defeat
I have been thinking what to write if they had topped out and it would certainly have included a Norwegian first for Jo, a second 8000m summit for Chris in a short span (he topped out on Cho Oyu in May), a first 8000m summit for Ben and much more. It would have been fun!
Instead we have too look beyond the idea of the summit as a rationale for these long and demanding expeditions. For some it will be a last 8000m climb and serve as a memory bank for waking on hot summer days and daydreaming of crisp crunchy snow and views to the world below. For others it will be one more arrow in their climbing quiver to be brought out and used on another climb. Some small lesson gleaned from this experience will tip the balance in their favor in the years ahead to enable them to top out or return safely.
During expeditions I am often in contact with friends and family of climbers and we engage in often rich philosophical conversation about why their loved ones are off on these mountains. This year one member’s partner wrote to me “it is not successes in life that define a person. It is how they overcome defeat. I have yet to find a person of great accomplish or success that does not have these qualities” I am sure she is right and if anyone exemplifies this it would be Messner who
I watched a great documentary on Messner by Outside TV recently and it is hard to keep track of the times that Messer turned around on climbs knowing he was not yet ready. Each time he tried something new and unknown (like soloing Nanga Parbat or Everest!) he learned something new about himself and at the same time expressed himself and felt these were the reasons to climb. Not for the summit, not for someone else, but for expanding his own horizon and learning more about himself. These lessons and experiences enabled him (along with unmatched willpower) to go on to accomplish great things in mountaineering, adventuring and politics. I like that he hopes for each generation to enjoy the unknown and to wonder about the possible. He expresses an additional wish that the tracks of those who came before to be covered by wind and snow so that each young explorer to refind it for themselves.
Viestur’s writes early in his book on K2: “ Don’t ever do that again, if you want to stay alive. Listen to you instincts, and follow them.” (p4) He had gone on to the top along with Charlie Mace and Scott Fisher against his own inner doubts and notes it as the biggest mistake he made in mountaineering. He ascribes his error to pure indecision. Unable to decide to go up or down he followed the energy of the other two climbers. (To fans of the band Rush then the line “if you choose not to decide you still have made a choice!” may serve well!) He carried this experience and lesson with him on every expedition after and hard to know how many times that one arrow kept him out of harms way.
We each carry stories in our mind while we climb. The simpler and clearer they are, the more useful they are at high altitude, when hypoxia, cold and exhaustion robs us of our cognitive skills. Fabrizio, Chris and Ben bring with them many years of climbing on 8000m peaks and between them carry a wealth of small stories to help guide them to good choices. Our members have also come well armed - with years of climbing included trips to Everest and K2 among them.
In this case our team has had a great reason to turn about, listened to their inner stories, made the decision and followed their instincts. I am proud of the leadership, teamwork and prudence of our guides and members. They worked as a team to push the route and then agreed as a group to call the push and descend together. Well done!
We’ll have a larger update on the details of the summit bid in the next 24 hours to stay tuned!
Upcoming Climbs Confirmed
While the team has been on the hill we have had quite a few signups for trips ahead and now have the following trips confirmed with spaces remaining. Join FTA for one of these great trips!
• Ama dablam Oct 15 and Nov 4
• Everest BC and Island Peak Oct 15
• Cho Oyu 2010 confirmed with Fabrizio
None of these fit your schedule? We offer custom trips to all of these peaks and more! Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Exweb published a great history of K2 (www.explorersweb.com) as as we now begin to turn our energies to the “big mo-fo” it will be well worth the read. Also pick up a copy of Ed Viesturs K2 book for very genuine insight on expeditions to K2!
The mountains have rules. They are harsh rules, but they are there, and if you keep to them you are safe. A mountain is not like men. A mountain is sincere. The weapons to conquer it exist inside you, inside your soul." Walter Bonnatti