Posted: Oct 03, 2012 03:07 pm EDT (Herve Barmasse) You got an awesome adventure and came back alive but your coveted summit was not even close. Is your glass half full or half empty?
Overdue (but worth the wait) because of the Manaslu events here goes Italian Herve Barmasse's Ogre debrief. And verdict.
Ogre North Face Attempt By Herve Barmasse
After five expeditions in Pakistan, where I’ve climbed untouched peaks and new routes up to 7000 m in different areas of Karakorum, I think that there is no other place like that one visited during my last trip. A geographical area at a Himalayan altitude, alike the Antarctica, with weather conditions typical of Patagonia or at least in this latest summer experience, which can make difficult and treacherous even an apparently easy ascent.
A place where even in July and August the approach to the foot of the mountains is made only on skis and the equipment has to be carried on sled as in Alaska. An area which is unique in all the Karakorum and probably also in the whole Himalaya range because of its particular features which in its own name “Snow Lake”, could not find a better description.
The “possible line”
After reaching the base camp at an altitude of 4700 m, without wasting time (also because Martino had already pulled out of the trip due to an intestinal infection), on 4th and 5th July equipped with skis and a sled, we went up the Sing Gang Glacier till the north face of the Ogre, 20 km/GPS away from the base camp, in order to familiarize with the possible climbing routes and start our acclimatization.
The size of this mountain is impressive together with its seracs and ledges which fringe the complex geometries like embroideries. A face showing some “weak points” whenever you accept all the risks of being incessantly exposed to heavy snow and ice falls. Thus, immediately we identified the “possible line” that is the north-east ridge, an ascent probably not technically too difficult but undoubtedly very treacherous.
The Capuchin monk
Once back at the Base Camp, on 7th July we left again equipped with skis to continue our acclimatization on an easy 5915m peak, the first one of this expedition. After a rest day and another one of bad weather, first we took the opportunity to explore the beautiful Solu Towers (a future objective for anyone in search for good rock almost without any approach) in order to optimize the acclimatization.
Then we set off again with skis and sled crossing the Snow Lake northwards, to climb a mountain 15 km/GPS away the base camp, whose profile resembles a Capuchin monk.
On 11 thJuly, the following day, we made the first ascent and traverse of this peak 6330m/GPS high. An ascent with no protectable mixed tracts (also because we didn’t have the adequate equipment) and waist-deep snow both on the ridge and on the very steep slopes. In other words one fell after another.
Ogre no go
After only a nine day stay at the base camp, we felt enough acclimatized and well trained for the 7285 meters to climb, confident that the other 22 days would have been more than enough to attempt the ascent.
At that time we couldn’t know that we were wrong! We went back to the foot of the Ogre and unfortunately this time only just to look at the wall and realize that we couldn’t have climbed it. So finally we collected all the equipment left there 28 days before.
As it often happens we had not reckoned both with weather or luck which always affect adversely any easy or difficult ascent anywhere on earth.
From 12th to 28th July it was as if winter had come back at the base camp. Only two days of good weather, useful to dry out our feather sleeping bags and take a break from the never-ending bad weather. During those two days we tried to play our cards with two other ascents.
First ski descent of untouched 5966m peak
On 18th July we attempted the ascent of a wonderful line of ice which we left after a 200m climb due to the heavy snowfalls and the lack of ice. So we went in search for a shelter from the incessant showers of snow and stones (one of which had hit first my helmet then my glasses and finally my nose).
On 22nd July, the second day of nice weather, after departing from the base camp, we climbed another easy and untouched 5966m peak also carrying out the first ski descent.
On 28th July the nice weather was back again and immediately we planned to reach the foot of Ogre in order to evaluate its conditions. Everything was white and also the rock walls though vertical were covered with a thick blanket of snow, often even more than a meter high.
So we had to yield before such a view as it made us understand rather clearly the end of our latest adventure.
Both positive and negative thoughts run through my mind. I wonder what this experience has left to me and how my eyes can now see the same old glass… either half empty or half full?
I know that now it’s no good whining. Every expedition is first of all a vacation, a journey, a life experience which gives us lots of emotions, memories and anecdotes.
So, even if we hadn’t been successful on Baintha Brakk, the 32 days spent in one of the most unknown places of the Karakorum have been a great opportunity for me. During the 13 days of good weather, within the total 32 days of stay at the base camp, we tried to acclimatize, climbing only wherever we could and devoting ourselves to record with photos and videos the images of an alpine area not experienced yet by the most.
I really hope that one day this enchanted place could become a destination place for many other climbers. Anyway, the end of a dream is only the beginning of a new adventure, but the memory of that day and particularly the moment in which we were obliged to give up, still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.
Nor did the ascent of the third unclimbed summit (reached after a funny, treacherous climb perhaps too risky for only a 5850 m peak), the umpteenth makeshift unable to change the flavor of an unsuccessful expedition and not up to replace the joy we would have felt if only did we attempt the Ogre’s unclimbed north face.
So I have to give up and accept the glass as half empty and the haul is “poor”.
The 2012 Ogre North Face (7285 m) attempt was led by alpinist, ski/snowboard instructor and Matterhorn mountain guide Herve Barmasse. He was joined by fellow alpinist and president of the storied Ragni di Lecco club Daniele Bernasconi. The third member (who dropped out due to illness) was mountain guide Martino Peterlongo, president of Trentino Mountain guides.