BROAD PEAK, SOUTHWEST FACE

Posted on: March 1, 2006


In 1957 a small Austrian team first reached the summit of Broad Peak (8047) via a route on the north side. This area comprises other routes as well, and established lines join the north ridge to the summit from the west and east; but on the south side, there was nothing.

Our expedition—six climbers from Italy and Sergey Samoilov and I from Kazakhstan—wanted to climb Broad Peak by a new route from the south. We established our base camp near Concordia at the start of the Falchan Glacier on July 5 at ca. 4700 meters and immediately began to study our proposed line. Cornices, difficult rock and ice, avalanches: everybody felt it was too difficult and dangerous. The expedition leader, Roberto Piantoni, informed Sergey and me about a new plan... but after acclimatizing to 7200 meters on the normal route, I returned to the original dream. Sergey supported me without any doubts. After a good rest and scrupulous preparation, on July 19 we started up the southwest face.

We spent three days in the Black and Yellow rockbands (at 6300 meters and 6530-6750 meters respectively) with demanding climbing: some pitches of 5.10b and 5.10d were a pleasure in crampons. I had trained hard since spring for this route, and now I got my results. We encountered one section of A2 at 6570 meters, and a section of M5 at 6750 meters. We used all our equipment to overcome these parts, including our two fifty-five-meter ropes.

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The weather, which had been fine for the first three days, broke down during the night at 7000 meters—the first bivouac since our initial one, at 6100 meters, in which we had been able to lie down instead of sit—and now clouds refreshed the slopes. We started early the next morning, but lost time in new, deep snow. At around 7400 meters small avalanches began to occur nearby; we avoided them by climbing on rock ribs. Drytooling in deep fog (up to M6+) took me into a special world. I saw nothing around me; I could follow only my intuition. We spent the night sitting on a little platform at 7500 meters and continued our way to nowhere the next morning, in falling snow, on shattered rock. Only the subsequent evening did we discover we'd arrived at the end of the wall. It was our first day without food, and our last with water. Our plan was to climb in five days, with one in reserve. But hidden difficulties and bad weather had cost us an additional day.

When we reached a tiny flat place at 7800 meters, we fell asleep (only one of us could lie down). One sleeping bag, one down jacket, one Gore-Tex, one Polartex... for each, you ask? No, for both of us. In the morning a heavy wind swept away the clouds. Thick fog covered the mountains below 7500 meters. On the South-Southeast Spur of Broad Peak, where we arrived the next day at 7950 meters, the wind grew powerful. I fought against it, looking for protection in the rock (M4+). Step by step we continued, through the high altitude, through the almost-black sky. When I saw the summit flag, I forgot everything and felt stronger.

The wind tried to blow us from the top. The panoramic view included only the highest points of the earth. It was an empty world, and only two men in it.... 11:30 a.m., July 25.

Sometimes humans need to open boundaries themselves. For me the Southwest Face (5.10d A2 M6+ 70 degree, 2546m) of Broad Peak became one such moment. I hope my future ambitions remain honorable. The expedition has ended, but I will never forget these days on one of the most difficult mountains in my life.

Denis Urubko, Almaty, Kazakstan

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