Broad Peak: hope now lost for Iranians and drama shifts to Gasherbrum I - Updated

Posted by Lindsay Griffin on 25/07/2013
Broad Peak from K2 to the north. Broad Peak Foresummit marked (BF). Normal route descends ridge towards camera then down big snow slopes right. The Iranians appear to have descended from the Foresummit part way down the rocky spur forming the right skyline. Bruce Normand

It now seems certain that the three Iranians who completed a new route on the southwest side of 8,051m Broad Peak will not be coming back, their bodies remaining out of reach high on the mountain.

As reported previously Aidin Bozorgi, Pouya Keivan and Mojtaba Jarabi reached the main summit in the early morning of 16 July.

From here it should have been a relatively easy descent along the Normal Route to reach their two friends waiting at Camp 3.

This descent involves first traversing the frontier ridge northwest to Broad Peak Foresummit (aka Rocky Summit, 8,034m), then continuing more or less north down the ridge to the ca 7,850m pass before Broad Peak Central, and from there west down generally moderately-angled but crevassed slopes to Camp 3.

But they didn't arrive that night, nor the next day. Using their satellite phone the Iranians communicated that on the night of the 17th, making their second bivouac after leaving the summit, they were around 7,700m but had strayed from the Normal Route and would have to ascend ca 100m to regain it.

The two Iranians in support at Camp 3, not well enough to ascend and help their fellow climbers, were forced to return to base camp and arrange Pakistan high altitude helpers for a rescue bid.

Late that night Borzorgi contacted base camp to say his team was out of food and water, were bivouacking in the open as their tent had blown away, and one of the group was in poor health.

On the morning of the 19th Borzorgi again made contact, saying they were now in a bad state and unable to move.

Later that day Pakistan climbers made an unsuccessful bid to reach the 7,850m pass from Camp 3.

On the 20th Borzorgi made contact, his speech now faulty. Two Sherpas climbed up to the pass and searched the area, but could see no trace of the Iranians. Pakistan climbers also appear to have carried out a similar search.

A few hours later Borzorgi again made contact, asking for an update with regard to a rescue. It seems he was now on his own and was on top a steep wall that he couldn't descend.

The German guide Thomas Lämmle was helicoptered to the mountain from nearby Concordia, making an attempt to spot the stricken climbers from the air.

By this time GPS coordinates of the last Thuraya satellite call from Borzorgi had been thoroughly analysed, placing it on the rocky wall of the west face well south of the Normal Route.

The conclusion is that three Iranians reached the Foresummit but then lost their bearings and instead of following the main ridge towards the pass, took a subsidiary spur to the left (roughly west).

Descending in this direction would lead to increasing steepness and into the vicinity of the difficult terrain climbed by Carlos Carsolio on his 1994.

After the 20th there was no more contact from Borzorgi and on the 22nd the weather, that had so far been stable, started to deteriorate, making further aerial searches futile.

By this time the Iranians had been above 7,000m for nine days, most of these above 7,700m, and probably four of these without food, water or a tent.

It was a tragic end to an impressive and successful new route on the world's 12th highest mountain.

There have been many other expeditions on the Normal Route this season, one of which was a small Polish team led by Jacek Berbeka.

Jacek is the brother of Maciej Berbeka, who with Tomasz Kowalski disappeared high on the mountain after making the first winter ascent early this year.

The Polish team hoped to find the bodies and give them a decent burial. In this they were partially successful.

Earlier in the season a German-led commercial expedition sighted Kowalski's body in the ca 7,850m pass before the Foresummit, the point where he had last made contact.

In a six-hour effort the Poles took the body away from the route and buried it. However, of Maciej Berbeka there was no trace, perhaps confirming the supposition that he fell into one of the large crevasses at ca 7,700m.

However, the two Sherpas who, as reported above, were searching for the Iranians near the pass, climbed a little further towards a minor summit, quite possibly the small "bump" on the ridge leading to Broad Peak Central.

Here, they found a body, and though obviously not one of the Iranians, they were unable to make an indentification.

Climbers missing on Gasherbrum I

No sooner were mountaineers coming to accept the fact of the Iranians' demise, than attention shifted to nearby Gasherbrum I, where on the 21st seven Spanish climbers set out from Camp 3 above the Japanese Couloir on the Normal Route.

Noticing a change in the weather, two turned back quickly, while two others turned back shortly before reaching the summit.

But Abel Alonso, Xevi Gomez and Alvero Paredes successfully reached the summit that afternoon.

However, early in the morning of Monday 22nd, Alfredo Garcia, one of the two  climbers who had turned back close to the summit, reported by satellite phone that he had spent a night in the open, unable to find Camp 3. He asked for assistance in the form of GPS coordinates for the camp.

His family at home got this information, sent it to him, and he later regained the camp safely, where there was enough food and shelter for him to sit out the storm.

That same day the three Spanish summiteers also made contact from high on the mountain, though the phone went dead, most likely due to battery failure.

Since then there has been no contact from these three, and bad weather prevented any rescue attempt until the 25th, when a climber managed to reach Camp 3 and help Garcia descend.

UPDATE

On 26 July, five days after Alonso, Gomez and Paredes reached the summit, the return of good weather allowed a helicopter search of the mountain. Sadly no trace was seen of the three missing climbers.

Given their lack of food and shelter during the preceding days of adverse weather, it has been concluded that the three Spanish are no longer alive, and the remaining members of their expedition have officially called off any further rescue attempts. This was the first 8,000m summit reached by the missing  climbers, though two had previously been high on Cho Oyu.
 



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Anonymous User
26/07/2013
R.I.P heroes. No one is to blame in this event other than the stupid Iranian Federation of Mountaineering who let these brave and ambitious climbers to die just to prove that no one can achieve anything in this country by acting independently. Their life was the price they had to pay for not wanting to go through the stupid bureaucracy put in place by the federation. And ironically the federation releases and statement and blames the sanctions!!!
Anonymous User
28/07/2013
Hi Anonymous, Ditto. I also deem it a fatal neglect to the Iranian boring bureaucratic requirements. I also read Laemmle's notes who kept chronicle of their post-ascend event when they were lost. he was given their last call's details and could easily spot them in the mountains via Thuraya wireless system, however it seems nobody else in Iran was interested in asking him for the coordinates. I'm mentioning him as an authentic source in access because Thuraya (UAE based incorporation who had already helped some arabs find their camel and path in Rub'al Khali desert via this system Thyraya) had allegedly refused to give its data to the Iranian officials asking for it

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