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Saxon Karakorum Expedition

7/19/2001

The weather remained stable through the night and Christian, Markus and Ralf got up at 2.30 a.m. for a fast breakfast. They passed the chaotic Gasherbrum glacier until the ski depot, and continued their way on ski and rope to camp 1. Despite some stops for making video recordings, they got to camp 1 in five hours. Our tent was still in good condition despite some days of absence. Only a large frozen pool on the floor indicated newly-fallen snow that have got into the tent.

So they dried all stuff in the wonderful sunshine and had a comfortable day there. Olaf and Lydia made an additional resting day in the base camp to follow the other day. Ralf, Christian and Markus went to their sleeping backs at 6 p.m. because they wanted to climb up tomorrow morning.

7/20/2001

They day began already at 2.30 a.m. with melting snow and cooking. Unfortunately, Ralf had bad headache and decided to stay at camp 1 and to wait for Lydia and Olaf. Christian and Markus started at 3.30 o'clock to camp 2. The first part of their way (about half an hour) was flat across the ruggy Gasherbrum glacier, before they reached the steep southwest edge towards the Gasherbrum II.

The way is partly equipped with stationary ropes that were installed by previous expeditions and that are repaired and supplemented by each following expedition. So this exposed area is rather good secured. This is very important because there are commercial expeditions beside skilled ones. The members of the former would not get any meter to camp 2 without these aids. E.g. there is a Belgian giant expedition, that came with more than 300 (!) porters. And this morning, we became witness of a fatal accident when a Belgian fall down to death 200 meters. Obviously, he had no knowledge in securing techniques and his shocked partner had not any essential equipment either.

Four and an half hours later, Christian and Markus reached the place of camp 2 at 6550m altitude and erected a tent there.

Whereas Ralf was recreating in camp 1, Olaf and Lydia ascended from the base camp to camp 1. Because they did not want to go through the ruggy glacier alone, they joined another roped party. The progressed fast and already 5 hours later they arrived at Ralf who had expected them one hour later. So they started with an extended breakfast. When there is sunshine it is important to protect oneself against the sun. On sunny days, there are up to 35 degrees Celsius despite 6000 m altitude!

Grabbing ice, melting it and preparing tea are the main actions today. At the radio communication in the evening, they decided to climb up one camp higher each: Christian and Markus to 7000m for preparing the place for camp 3 (though they had not a tent for it, yet); Lydia, Ralf and Olaf to 6550m for supplying camp 2 with fuel, food, and the tent for camp 3.

7/21/2001

The early bird catches the worm: Times to get up were 2.30 and 2.00 o'clock at camp 2 and 1, respectively. Markus and Christian started at 3.40 a.m. together with four Austrian climbers. They had to prepare a new path because of the snow of the last days and so they alternated each other with this excreting work. After the first third, they had cold feet and decided to make a rest on a small platform, spreaded their isomats and crawled into their sleeping bags with all clothes to wait for the first sunrays. At about 6800m altitude, it became too hot in their sleeping bags after 2 hours, so they had to continue their way.

At 10 o'clock, they arrived at 7000m altitude, where camp 3 shall be established on a small platform. The weather was still fine and so they went into their sleeping bags again to make a rest. Three members of the Spanish expedition with which we share the permit, arrived half an hour later and erected their two tents. Christian and Markus could use one of them for the night so they had not to descend. Olaf, Lydia and Ralf arrived at camp 2 in the morning. And all we were witness of a giant spectacle. From the flanks of the Gasherbrum I, an huge avalanche ran downhill enlarging every second. It crossed the kilometers wide Gasherbrum glacier (and, therefore, our ascent route to camp 1!) to ran uphill the Gasherbrum VI for some hundred meters. A quarter of an hour later, when the snow precipitated, we were aware of total destruction. The huge power we could grasp when talking on radio with our cook at the base camp. Over there, they saw the giant avalanche and they had reacted promptly and properly. Before the shock wave arrived (about 15 minutes later), they have fixed the tents by stones. So, our large tents survived the shock wave, but a lot of tents of other expeditions were blown away.

7/22/2001

Still in the night, something happens that destroyed all of our plans: Suddenly, Lydia had an incredible headache, and felt worse every minute. As all medicine did not help, we suspected an acute altitude sickness. There is only one way of aid, immediate descent! So, Lydia, Ralf and Olaf had to prepare for it in the middle of the night. At 4.00 o'clock they were ready , but Lydia could hardly stand alone on her feet anymore. Finally, they made it to camp 1 with the great aid of Olaf and Ralf. The condition of Lydia did not improve in camp 1 and so they decided to return to the base camp. After an adventurous night passage through the seracs and the crevasses, they arrived at 11 p.m. at the base camp. Here, Lydia's condition became stable rapidly.

Christian and Markus descended to camp 2 with no idea what happened. When they arrived at the empty camp 2, they got the radio message, and after having a rest for some hours, they returned to camp 3 again to erect the tent there. They only needed two hours for the ascent because of their good adaptation and their rest before.

7/23/2001

Good news in the morning: Lydia felt as there was nothing. The Walter Brothers started their descent in the early morning at -20 degrees Celsius. Because there were dark clouds and the weather seems to get worse after some good days, they descended as fast as possible: 30 minutes from camp 3 to 2, 80 minutes to camp 1 and then, after a short rest, 2 hours on ski to the base camp. When they arrived there, it started snowing and sight decreased to some 100 meters.

We will stay at the base camp as long as the bad weather persists and ascent with the first sunrays for the first storm to the summit.

Markus Walter & Olaf Rieck, Gasherbrum base camp, 23.07.2001

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