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Jagged Globe Gasherbrum II: Background

EverestNews.com will feature full dispatches from Jagged Globe. Jagged Globe was founded by Steve Bell. Steve has more than 20 years of mountaineering experience including winter ascents of the north faces of the Eiger and Matterhorn. He claims "Britain's first guided expedition to an 8000m peak and was the first Briton to lead clients to the summit of Everest." He has climbed all of the continental summits and is a fully qualified UIAGM mountain guide. Steve and Jagged Globe are known as one of the best guiding companies in the world. Some think the Best.

The most attainable 8,000m peak in the Karakoram, an ideal objective for a first 8,000er.

The Karakoram contains the greatest concentration of high altitude peaks in the world. Four 8,000m peaks straddle the Pakistan/China border within a few miles of each other: K2 8611m, Broad Peak 8047m, Gasherbrum I 8,068m and Gasherbrum II 8,035m. The vast accumulation of ice and glaciers surrounding these peaks has led to the Karakoram being called 'the third pole'.

This area was formerly part of the British Indian Empire prior to the emergence of Pakistan as an independent nation in 1947. In recent decades, it has become increasingly popular as a destination for adventurous trekkers and mountaineers. The landscape tends to be harsher than that found in mountainous areas of Nepal and India, and the tourist infrastructure is less developed. Consequently, the numbers of tourists is substantially less. Each year there are 50-60 expeditions attempting peaks over 6000 meters in the Karakoram, comprising over 500 climbers. In addition several thousand trekkers make the popular treks to visit the base camps of famous peaks such as Nanga Parbat and K2.

Instances of violence or robbery targeted at tourists are almost unknown, and the area is comparable in terms of safety with other parts of Asia - and certainly better than some. Although Pakistan occasionally gets a bad press in the west as a result of governmental corruption and incompetence, it remains a safe place to visit as a tourist, and a very safe and relaxing place to visit as part of an organized expedition. The people of the mountain valleys where you will spend most of your time are overwhelmingly friendly, welcoming and helpful. Their good humour will contribute greatly to your enjoyment of climbing in their mountain homeland.

Gasherbrum II is considered by some to be the safest and 'easiest' of the Karakoram 8,000m peaks. It is an ideal choice for suitably experienced climbers wishing to attempt their first 8000 meter peak. The route offers straightforward climbing in a superb and dramatic location. Well organized and adequately resourced expeditions to this peak have enjoyed high rates of success in recent years. An expedition to Gasherbrum II provides a more complete mountaineering experience than the commonly guided Tibetan 8000m peaks (Shishapangma and Cho Oyu) which can be reached by jeep roads. The walk to Gasherbrum II base camp along the Baltoro glacier has been described as one of the best treks in the world. This long approach by foot has the added advantage of providing excellent acclimatisation. 

The Expedition

This expedition is not a "guided" ascent. It will be a professionally led team of competent mountaineers who have enough experience to climb one of the world's highest mountains without undue risk.

The Climb

From base camp, the climbing can be divided into three distinct sections: The Icefall, the South West Ridge, and the diagonal traverse/summit ridge. The climb has few objective dangers. There are no very steep sections, and all the mountain camps are located in 'safe' sites. A variant of our ascent route has been skied in descent.

The Icefall

This is formed by a steepness in the Gasherbrum Glacier and has to be negotiated in order to reach the foot of G2. It is usual for all teams on the mountain to cooperate in creating and maintaining a safe route through this section. It certainly does not compare with the infamous Khumbu Icefall on Everest in terms of difficulty or danger. Steep or awkward sections will be roped and the entire route through the icefall will be marked with wands. Camp 1 will be placed at 5,950m above the icefall, near the foot of the South West Ridge. It is normal to climb from base camp to camp 1 in the early hours of the morning to avoid the heat of the sun. During the course of the expedition each member may make this journey 3 to 5 times. Initially this will take 7-8 hrs, but with increased fitness and acclimatisation the trip can be done in 4-5 hrs.

The South West Ridge

This is a well-defined snow ridge with a steep glacier/snow face on the right. The route alternates between the snow face and the ridge, following the easiest line up snow and ice slopes weaving between crevasses and short ice-cliffs. Although it is not difficult to climb, the route is consistently steep, which means height is gained quickly. Fixed rope will be placed on the entire route from Camp 1 to Camp 3, although the section from Camp 1 to Camp 2 is considerably steeper and more exposed than the section from Camp 2 to Camp 3. Camp 2 will be placed on a sheltered ledge at 6450m. Camp 3 is on a shoulder at 7,050m above the main part of the snow slope, while below the summit pyramid. Overall this section of the climb can be compared with the normal route on Mont Blanc du Tacul (grade Alpine PD). Camp 1 to Camp 2 will take 3-4 hrs once the fixed ropes are in place. Team members should expect to make this journey 2-3 times. Camp 2 to Camp 3 will also take 3-4 hrs, and it is normal to make this trip only twice: once to place some equipment at Camp 3 and then for a second time during the summit attempt.

The diagonal traverse and summit ridge

From Camp 3 the route continues up the SW ridge to 7,400m. This is the site of the rarely used Camp 4. A long rising diagonal traverse on snow then leads below the summit pyramid to join the east ridge at 7,750m. This is then followed in a gloriously exposed situation, but without any great difficulty, to the summit. The final steep 50m section will normally be equipped with fixed rope. With reasonable snow conditions, the summit day will usually involve 8-10 hrs of ascent starting at midnight. Descent can take 4-6 hrs, giving a 12-16 hr day.

Any steep or awkward sections of the climb will be equipped with fixed ropes and straightforward sections will be well marked with marker wands. The purpose of the ropes is twofold: firstly to assist with the ascent, but equally importantly as a safety measure in case of forced retreat in bad weather. Prior to the summit push, all members will need to help with the load carrying and placement of camps. This not only supports the logistic build-up on the mountain, which we will need for a safe ascent, but also provides essential acclimatisation for each member. Even so, high altitude porters do most of the load carrying in order to prevent members from burning themselves out before they can attempt the summit. Under normal circumstances, members will do no more load carrying than they require to move their personal equipment and assist in their acclimatisation. We aim to ensure that everyone will have plenty of rest prior to the summit attempt.

Safety and the Conduct of the Climb

Although many people have now climbed Gasherbrum II, the mountain and its potential dangers deserve respect by all those attempting it. Reaching the summit late in the day would be a serious mistake and our guides will ensure that sensible timings are adhered to. The aim of our expedition will be to get as many team members as possible to the summit. However, this will not be to the detriment of safety. Safety will govern all decision making on the mountain and will be based on the sound mountaineering judgment of our highly experienced mountain guides. To support our guides on the mountain, we at Jagged Globe will plan the expedition as thoroughly and carefully as possible using our own experience and knowledge of the mountain to maximum benefit. Ultimately, the leader will have sole discretion on the implementation of any plan to climb the mountain and he will ensure that safety remains the prime consideration.

The high mountains of the Himalaya, and Gasherbrum II in particular, are there for us to climb and to enjoy. Our priority will be to enable all team members to fulfill their potential on the mountain and to come home safely having had a life enhancing experience. Whether or not expedition members reach the top, the expedition should be an enjoyable and rewarding achievement that will form the basis of many long cherished memories and friendships.

The risk of death is of course high on any 8000 meter peak. At the end of 2000, there was 520 ascents of GII and only 16 deaths. However, the 16 are 16 people not coming home, including the great climber Felix Inurrategi was lost on GII in 2000 while he was coming down after reaching the Summit.

Jagged Globe Gasherbrum II 2001: Dispatches

Jagged Globe Gasherbrum II: Itinerary

Jagged Globe Gasherbrum II: David Hamilton Leader

Jagged Globe Gasherbrum II: Background

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