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 Broad Peak 2001 - The Uncertainty Continues

Though the climbing season for Broad Peak ended over one month ago, there a still growing uncertainty regarding how many teams actually reached the Main summit (8047 meters) this year. A pair of climbers from each of the Alaskan and Bulgarian teams reached the main summit on July 22 and July 23, respectively. Both ascents have been documented with photographs and are not in dispute. In addition, the Argentinian, Alaskan, Bulgarian and Estonian teams placed members on the slightly shorter Rocky Summit (8030 meters) on July 20, July 22, July 22 and July 23, respectively. The Swiss and French/British teams did not manage to reach the summit this year. It is also known that the joint Chinese/Pakistani expedition reached "a summit" in early July, and this is where the confusion arises.

Before delving into the arising confusion over the Chinese ascent, a brief description of the summit ridge of Broad Peak is in order. Summit day begins with an ascending traverse of the bowl from 7,000+ meters to the 7800 meters col between Broad Peak's 8013 meters central summit and its 8047 meters main summit. The next 200 meters is almost entirely fixed up the very exposed rock and snow ridge. This steep ridge ends suddenly atop the 8030 meter rocky foresummit (aka the Rocky Summit or sometimes referred to as the False Summit). As referenced in Fanshawe and Venables' excellent book "Himalaya Alpine Style", "it is at least another hour from there to the distant summit proper (8047 meters)." Later, the text describes the long traverse from here to the main summit, "And there is the sheer distance to be covered at an altitude where, for most people, every step requires a huge effort. Many opt for the marginally lower foresummit, but to avoid later regrets, it is necessary to force oneself on to the distant summit proper." This description is corroborated by a telling photo in Doug Scott's "Himalayan Climber". The photo is captioned, "Broad Peak from the west. The original route goes to the col and along the long skyline ridge to the right to the main summit." The steep ridge from the col to the foresummit and both the rocky foresummit and the main summit are clearly visible, connected by the 1 km long summit ridge, all over 8,000 m. Though from the summit ridge it may or may not be clear which peak is higher, these two references demonstrate that the distant peak is accepted as the 8047 meters Main summit of Broad. One must traverse this 1 km long summit ridge to truly claim an ascent of Broad Peak as we understand it.

Correspondence with one of the members of the Chinese/Pakistani team reveals that they likely stopped at the Rocky Summit, falsely believing this was in fact the main summit. Their explanation: "we have the knowledge of the Main summit is that one which you called Rocky summit. The place which you mentioned (as the) real summit is the far summit."  The correspondence continues, "I heard by some of the old climbers when you are at the Rocky summit the far summit looks higher and when you are at the (real) summit the rocky summit looks higher." 

Based on accepted thought referred earlier, the Chinese/Pakistani team were confused due to incorrect information and did not realize that the main summit (their "far summit") was at the far end of the summit ridge. Interestingly, a member of the successful Alaskan team disputes this Chinese/Pakistani description of the apparent comparative height of the rocky and main summits. "When we were on both the rocky foresummit and the distant main summit, there was no uncertainty about which was the higher peak. From BOTH vantages, the distant summit appeared higher. Period." The Alaskan Team's account continues, "During our traverse to the main summit, we followed footsteps for about 100 meters from the foresummit, then the footsteps ended, far, far short of the main summit." It is established that the 8030 meter Rocky Summit (foresummit) is NOT the Main summit of Broad Peak. One must traverse the 1 km summit ridge to reach the 8047 meter Main summit. What has not been fully confirmed is whether or not the Chinese completed the traverse to the Main summit. EverestNews.com has received and published photographic evidence supporting the Alaskan ascent on this web site on August 28. We are still awaiting photographs from the Chinese/Pakistani expedition.

While both Summits are recognized as Summits of Broad Peak, it would be an unfortunate surprise for the Chinese/Pakistani members if they truly believed they had reached the Main summit, yet descended before making the final traverse. Could the member of the Chinese/Pakistani team be correct that the Rocky Summit is actually higher than the Main Summit of Broad Peak? New measurements of Broad Peak could change the height, but until such time, we must use accepted measurements. Those are the vagaries of mountaineering. Climbers in the past have been known to "think" they Summited Lhotse only to find out later they stopped short of the true Summit. The more we investigate Questioned Summits, the more we believe several climbers in history "believed for various reasons", they have reached the true Summit of a peak, when in fact they were short. Stayed tuned for future developments.

For Background here

1.) See the 8/25/2001: 2001 Alaska USA Broad Peak Expedition Updates report and the MUST SEE PICTURES !!!

2.) The Pictures from the Rocky Summit and Main Summit of Broad Peak. Note some pictures are very large, but show details they you will want to see. 

2.) All the reports from Broad Peak 2001: Broad Peak 2001 Expedition and News page for reports from the Argentinian and Estonian expeditions and more...

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