Broad Peak (Pakistan)

June-92 (Commercial Expedition)

By: R.J. Secor


I joined a commercial expedition to Broad Peak (8060m; 26,443') in Pakistan this summer. The international expedition was organized by Himalayan Kingdoms of Bristol, England, and the leader was Martin Barnicott (Wales), with climbing leader Russell Brice (New Zealand). The clients included Fulvio Fresia (an Italian who lives in Paris), Dr. Stuart Hutchinson (a Canadian who is moving to LA), Mikko Valanne (Finland), David Craven (England), and Constantin Lacatusu (Romania).

The most serious injury on the expedition occurred before the expedition started. I managed to get hit by a polo hall while viewing a game in Skardu on June 14. On June 16 we took jeeps to Dassu, where we successfully negotiated our way across a 'broken' bridge, and the next day we rebuilt a washed out road before arriving at Askole, the trailhead. Our 104 porters approached the mountain with us the classic way, via the Baltoro Glacier, and arrived at base camp beneath the standard 1957 west spur route on June 23. There was a lot of snow on the mountain, and we were welcomed by a huge avalanche that dusted our camp shortly after our arrival.

We established Camp I at 5600m (19,000') on June 28, Camp II at 6700m (22,000') on July 2, and Camp III at 7300m (24,000') on July 8. After a few days of rest at base camp while sitting out some inclement weather, we returned to the site of Camp III on July 15, only to find that it had disappeared, presumably in an avalanche. The snow was up to my thighs while climbing between Camps II & III, an exhausting experience. It was decided to abandon the climb due to the deep and unstable snow conditions. Constantin Lacatusu elected to join an American expedition, and he reached the summit of Broad Peak in early August. But he suffered frostbitten toes on the summit day, and he is recuperating in a London hospital as I write these words. The rest of the expedition and a trekking party of 7 left base camp on July 22 with 74 porters.

We returned to civilization via the Gondogoro La, a pass that links the Baltoro with the Hushe River valley to the south. The search for a southern approach to (or exit from) the Baltoro -has an interesting history. In 1911 William and Fanny Workman visited the "Ghondokoro" Glacier, and determined that no pass existed that lead to the Baltoro. The 1955 Harvard Karakoram expedition reached the same conclusion. In 1974 a party under the leadership (or "directorship") of SCMA Honorary Member Nick Clinch succeeded in crossing the Masherbrum La, the first known crossing between the Baltoro Glacier and the Hushe Valley. But Masherbrum La is a technical route (a north to south crossing involves rappels; a south to north crossing would require front-pointing through ice falls) and it is not suitable for porters.

From conversations. with liaison officers, sirdars, and porters, it appears that the first crossing of the Gondogoro La occurred in 1969 by Mohammad Fakhar-ul-Haq who served as sirdar for a trekking group from Belgium. Since that time it has been crossed several times by trekking groups and mountaineering expeditions. The 1991 Mexican Broad Peak Expedition approached the Baltoro via this route, as did two Spanish Broad Peak expeditions, this year, and Robert and Peter Green of the SCMA crossed the pass on their return from K2 this summer. I found it to be a simple route (but one porter was killed in a crevasse fall last year) and I am surprised that this route was not discovered earlier (but with the worldwide decrease in snow and ice in the last years of the twentieth century, it may have been an impassable route in 1911 and 1955!).

In any event, from Broad Peak Base Camp we hiked past Concordia and up the western bank of the Vigne Glacier. We camped close to where the western branch of the Vigne Glaoier meets the main glacier at 4900m (16,100'). On July 23 we ascended the western glacier and climbed to the top of Gondogoro La; the angle never exceeded 30 degrees but there were some huge crevasses that had snow bridges. Our porters from Hushe crossed the pass without undue difficulty; most wore crampons over their sandles or worn-out galoshes. My altimeter read 18,800' (5730)m on the summit of the pass, and if K2 and Gasherbrum IV were in the correct places, and if my compass wasn't giving false readings. then I estimated that Gondogoro La was located at 35" 39.O'N, 70" 29.j"E. The south side of the pass consisted of steep, loose rook (class 3 in places) with patches of snow, followed by loose scree at bottom. We followed the northern lateral moraine or the Gondogoro Glacier down to where the eastern lobe of the glacier forks at a nice gravel campsite among some meadows at an elevation of 4700m (15,400'). Two more days of travel down the Gundogoro Glacier brought us to the village of Hushe. We traveled by jeep from Hushe to Skardu on July 26, with considerable delays along the way to sample delicious apricots.


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