Gasherbrum II-express debrief: The first German ski descent of G2; a 17 hour roundtrip

Posted: Oct 17, 2006 02:03 pm EDT

( In August we managed to do a speed ascent on G2 followed by a complete ski descent, investing a total of 17 hours from ABC to ABC, German Luis Stitzinger reported to ExplorersWeb.

Teaming up with fellow skitourers Benedikt Böhm and Sebastian Haag, Luis launched a summit bid on GII four weeks after reaching BC. The plan was to apply alpine methods in Karakorum; climb and ski down an 8000er in only one day.

Testing Alps skitouring race methods in the Karakorum

In the Alps, if you travel really light and bring your skis, you can climb a series of peaks in one day. Fed by the same impulse that motivates today´s skitouring racers, some athletes, who shy away from the rumble of the competition events, seek other challenges to translate their abilities into higher levels.

Gasherbrum II might not come first to mind as a skitouring goal. The partially over fifty degrees steep, infamous "Banana" of the SW-Ridge, the crevassed zones, the knife edge summit ridge do not qualify for first rate skitouring terrain.

But this is exactly the point, says Stitzinger. After having skied down numerous steep classic ice faces on the 'Nordwände' (north faces) of the Alps and having tested our stamina in thin air on the easier grounds of ideal skiing mountains such as Mustagh Ata (7546 m) and Denali (6194 m), we wanted to combine both skills on a higher level."

"In this sense, skiing down is only the logical completion of 'running up' to achieve the fastest time possible. But it is also a sports discipline on its own, an independent style of movement.

Here is Luis expedition debrief with some cool pictures of his teams Gasherbrum express-climb:


"After approaching the mountain and acclimatizing with a DAV Summit Club Expedition, on August 2, 2006 we left base camp (5030 m) to climb the heavily crevassed Gasherbrum Glacier and proceeded through the icefall to Advanced Base Camp, 5900 m, at the foot of the Southwest Ridge of the mountain."

"The day ended up stormy, with heavy snow showers at night not ideal conditions for our planned adventure. Physically we were feeling fine and relaxed but our worries about the deteriorating weather kept us up for a long time. We ought to be sleeping, we wanted to start at 10 p.m., but the strong gusts of wind and the noisy splatter of the sleet on the tent fly told us another story."

"With little hope we postponed our departure several times that morning, until suddenly at 11 p.m. the skies cleared up. Although the unfrozen crust and the freshly fallen snow above would mean a big obstacle, we had to try our luck: According to the weather forecast this would be the last 'good' day before a series of really bad ones."

Pakistan Powder

"The stop watch started ticking at 11.15 p.m. The snow flats to the first rise of the ridge were mocking us with their unreliability. Every third step the crust broke and our feet sank deep into foul snow. Six hundred meters higher and ninety minutes later we passed camp 1 at 6550 m."

"The surface got harder and during the last half hour we were able to maintain a faster pace. We followed a steep snow and ice ridge to Camp 2 at 6950 m and then a long passage of mixed terrain comprising snow couloirs mingled with crumbly rock, up to Camp 3 (7450m) which we passed after hardly six hours."

"Temperatures were moderate; we were climbing in only a shirt and a soft-shell. We were already dreaming of making the ascent in less than10 hours, when the long traverse that separates the final headwall and the Summit (E-) from the Southwest Ridge greeted us with unwelcome Pakistan Powder."

"We sank in down to our knees breaking trail was hell. However, in spite of the snow load the slopes were stable, with avalanche hazard down to a minimum."

Summit - forget the view

"Eons later we reached the East Col at 7800 m and took a short rest. The fair skies had gone grey; thick clouds were wrapping the summit pyramid."

"'Only' the headwall was left now: 200 meters of 30 to 50° steep ground. In the lower part we plodded once again through deep powder snow. Higher up the snow got firmer but every second foothold broke down. We reached the summit ridge in a state of exhaustion. After the exposed knife-edge arête we stood at the highest point, the chronometer showing 12 hours 30 minutes."

"We had no time to enjoy the summit panorama. There was hardly any view to speak of, anyway. The weather was steadily declining. Without hesitating we stepped into our ski bindings and began descending."

"The scraping of our edges alerted climbers descending clipped to the fix ropes."

"We carved our turns down the summit slopes, with the fresh snow recently fallen making it almost a pleasure. Nevertheless the huffing and puffing of our breath stopped us every now than then, making a coherent track almost impossible."

"Then came the traverse: Speedy downhills, long turns, and our lungs finally getting a chance to recover. Leaving Camp 3 to our right, we approached one of the crux sections."

"In order to make a pure ski descent we had to avoid the mixed ground of the ridge and pass it to the left on windblown, bone-hard 50 degree steep slabs between icy seracs. The scraping of our edges alerted some climbers who were descending clipped to the fix ropes."

"We triggered small avalanches on every turn"

"We reached Camp 2 and continued through the seracs at the left side of the line of ascent. The slope below steeped up to now more than 50 degrees - the view down into the glacier basin breathtaking. More than once we almost got lost in the maze of seracs. In Camp 1 we took a short break, sucking the last drops out of our hydration systems. The last section down into the basin involved a tricky bypassing of some steep sections."

"Meanwhile the reading on our altimeters had dropped to 6300m and the snow had become a soggy mess. We triggered small avalanches on every turn. Luckily no one else was around so we only had to watch out for ourselves."

"Finally we reached the glacier plateau, and a few minutes later we entered ABC. The circle had been closed."

The first German ski descent of G2; a pure line of ascent

"Although we missed our original goal to complete the ascent in less than 10 hours, we had done the entire climb and descent in hardly 17 hours a climb which takes 5 days for most expeditions. Besides, the first German ski descent of G2 was ours and one of the few - if not the only - pure ones on the line of ascent, without taking skis off, using fixed ropes or any other assistance."

"What really counts though is that we had felt our body tensing and aching under the strain of 8000 meters and it worked! We had judged our potential right and used our reserves well. And we have also learned that any record is relative and vaining in the big mountains, where the elements play the major role and man is nothing but a walk-on spot. The only thing remaining: A unique experience!"

#Mountaineering #Mountaineering

Benedikt skiing down high above C4, at 7700m (click to enlarge).
ABC (or C1) at 5900 m. Clearly seen in background, the "Banana" shaped section on the SW-spur (click to enlarge).
DAV Summit Club group climbing between C2 and C3, at 6600 m (click to enlarge).

Benedikt and Luis climbing the steep part below C3, at 6800m (click to enlarge).
Luis ascending between C2 (6500 m) and C3 (6950 m).
Benedikt and Sebastian on the top - 8035m (click to enlarge).

Luis descending, just below C3. All images courtesy of Luis Stitzinger (click to enlarge).