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Broad Peak Expedition 2009

June – July 2009: Almost a South African first
A team of four South Africans attempted to summit Broad Peak, at 8 047 metres, the world’s 12th highest mountain, situated in the Karakoram region of Pakistan. The team comprised of Ronnie Muhl, Mike Patterson, Alex Harris (who have all summited Everest) and Douard Le Roux.

The journey
The South African team left for Islamabad on 28 May to spend two nights finalising logistics before flying to Skardu, the district headquarters of Pakistan and the gateway to the great monoliths of Pakistan. From Skardu they drove to Askole, the last inhabited village in the region, before commencing the incredible trek up the mighty Baltoro Glacier to Concordia, the heart of the most heavily glaciated region outside the Polar area.

From there they moved into Base Camp where they begin acclimatising. They hunkered down in Base Camp waiting for better weather, to the sound of avalanches tumbling down K2.

Sadly, this did not happen, and the journey to the summit of Broad Peak ended for the team as they realized that she was not going to permit them to stand on her peak this time.
These majestic mountains are climbed on their terms only, not ours.

Friday, 10 July 2009
Having reached Camp 3, Alex was not feeling strong and he had not given his body a chance to acclimatise thoroughly. He made the decision to head for home. The climbers headed back for Base Camp and with bad weather predicted for the next seven days, packed up to go home.

Broad Peak was not going to allow Alex the opportunity to stand proudly on her summit . . . this time.

Thursday, 9 July 2009
Good weather is predicted for the next few days, so an effort was made to push to Camp 3. At the time of writing, it is uncertain what progress Alex has made.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009
Rest day in Camp 2.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009
Alex climbed up to Camp 2, which took seven-and-a-half hours. The altitude took its toll, but Alex coped with the workload.

Friday, 3 to Monday, 6 July 2009
K2Alex and Pawel were stuck in Base Camp waiting for the weather to clear. A massive avalanche fell from K2, which scared the small team in Base Camp. Many teams have left K2 and no one has yet been above Camp 3 on Broad Peak, due to the heavy snowfall and weather conditions.

Thursday, 2 July 2009
Douard left Base Camp and walked to Askole with the French team in two days and two hours. On the first day they walked nonstop for 16 hours. This must be some kind of a record!

Wednesday, 1 July 2009
Douard packed his gear in Base Camp to the sound of avalanches falling down Broad Peak. He bid Alex farewell.

Monday, 29 to Tuesday, 30 June 2009
Mike and Ronnie arrived in Islamabad. They organised the packing of their gear for the last time, before flying back to South Africa. Douard has had enough of sitting around in Base Camp and has decided to return home. He will walk out with Ludo, Antoinne and Elizabeth (the French climbers) and leave Alex to climb with Pawel, the Polish climber.

Thursday, 25 to Saturday, 28 June 2009
The weather has continued to be a challenge in the Karakoram and the three French climbers have decided that they will not make another summit attempt. They have decided to leave Base Camp in a few days’ time.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009
Broad PeakAfter our third night at Camp 1, we hustled back down to Base Camp in high winds. We spent the day there. We then made a decision to head back up to Camp 2 in one go. It was a tough day and the journey took us ten-and-a-half hours to complete. At 6000 metres, with the wind howling around us, we had no option but to spend a restless night at Camp 2. This would help with our acclimatisation. We then returned to Base Camp in high winds, with the weather looking grim.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009
There is not much to report today. We have had a rest day and will spend our third night at Camp 1. If the weather changes, we will head to Camp 2, but in the meantime we are enjoying the spectacular views.

Monday, 22 June 2009
View from BCAlex: These have been an eventful couple of days. We were sad to see Ronnie and Mike leave us yesterday to head home and we sympathise with them. We simply have to stick it out as we headed up to Camp 1. There are no ropes in place yet and the climbing was tricky with some quite steep sections. The views were fantastic as we spent the night in Camp 1. Today was our second day here. We are being really cautious as we watched a late sunset and appreciated the fantastic evening light. We are now at 5700 metres and are both missing home – we have had warmer places to be in, but we have a job to do. Signing off, from Camp 1.

Sunday, 21 June 2009
Mike and Ronnie left Base Camp soon after 7 am and arrived in Urdukas twelve hours later. Douard and Alex plan to climb to Camp 1 to begin the acclimatisation process.

Saturday, 20 June 2009
K2Mike and Ronnie have unfortunately decided to leave the expedition due to unrelated personal commitments and will leave Base Camp tomorrow morning. Douard and Alex are going to do their best to place the South African flag on the summit of Broad Peak on behalf of the team.

Friday, 19 June 2009
The weather in Base Camp started improving. Alex and Douard went climbing while Mike and Ronnie relaxed and rested in Base Camp.

Thursday, 18 June 2009
Heavy snow in Base CampIt snowed even more heavily last night than it had the night before and once again the teams are confined to Base Camp. The weather is absolutely miserable and everyone is feeling despondent. The forecast for the next two days is not promising. We’ve not heard from the team since Thursday. We will update you all as soon as we have news.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009
playing pokerThe South African team was pushed back by heavy snowfall during the night and we abandoned our attempt to reach Camp 1. The risk of avalanche was too great – all the climbers have withdrawn from the mountain. Broad Peak will decide when she will be climbed and she will be climbed on her terms and not ours. The team spent the day playing bridge and spending time with the French climbers. We are on our own here.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009
Base CampTo our relief, the rest of our gear finally arrived in Base Camp. Our high-altitude food and crucial pieces of climbing gear for Alex and Douard were here at last. Alex was incredibly excited about his salami and bottle of red wine! We spent the day preparing for two nights at Camp 1. The plan is to leave early tomorrow morning. The weather forecast is not great, but it is crucial to acclimatise higher up on the mountain.

Monday, 15 June 2009
GlacierEmma left Base Camp early this morning with Ahmed and some porters. They are hiking for four days and hope to back home in by next week. Douard left early for Camp 1 with the intention of dropping tents, stove and fuel there. He was away for over eight hours and his climb was successful. The rest of the team relaxed in Base Camp and anxiously awaited the delivery of our equipment. We witnessed a number of avalanches on Broad Peak – always an incredible sight to behold.

Sunday, 14 June 2009
En route to Camp1Another cold morning greeted us when we woke. This time it was -6 °C inside our tents! We had an early breakfast and left for the base of Broad Peak. The slope is steep, but the snow is in good condition. No big commercial expeditions have arrived yet. The rest of our expedition gear is not in Base Camp yet. This is a major concern. We hope to be in Camp 1 in a few days’ time.

Saturday, 13 June 2009
K2It was -5 °C outside the tent when we woke up this morning! Pawel pushed to Camp 1 with the intention of spending two nights there. There was an Austrian couple climbing too. After breakfast, we trekked up to K2 Base Camp and memorial site dedicated to those who have died on the world’s second highest mountain. We got back to camp before the weather turned and in time for lunch. It became very cold again, and we all huddled in our sleeping bags until dinnertime.

Friday, 12 June 2009
Base CampThe weather in Base Camp was magnificent this morning. We even had a chance to have a hot shower. Just before lunch, one of the French climbers, Antoinne, paraglided from Camp 3 on Broad Peak and landed 12 minutes later in Base Camp. It was spectacular to witness! His climbing partners were unfortunately unsuccessful in their summit bid because of the thick snow. Later, it became extremely cold and we stayed in our tents.

Thursday, 11 June 2009
South African flagThere are three French climbers on Broad Peak at the moment, hoping to push for the summit tomorrow. Meanwhile, we are organising ourselves, unpacking bags, setting up our tents and washing clothes. The South African flag is proudly flying in Base Camp.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009
ConcordiaWe left Goro at 7 am and made our way up to Concordia, a confluence of the Baltoro, Gondogoro and Godwin Austin glaciers. We soon found ourselves in deepish snow, which made the going fairly tough. It took us four-and-a-half hours to get to Concordia where we rested for half an hour and had some lunch. We pushed on up the Godwin Austin Glacier and, after a rough three-and-a-half hours, we reach Broad Peak Base Camp. We were all exhausted and cold but relieved to be in Base Camp. The weather cleared in the early evening and the views of K2 and Broad Peak were breathtaking, at 4900 metres. We are excited to finally be here.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009
No news received from the team. They would have travelled from Urdukas to Goro..

Sunday, 7 June 2009
Trango-seriesWe left camp at 9 am and did a 3-hour trek along the Baltoro terrain to our next camp at Urdukas. En route we saw the Trango-series, but unfortunately it was misty and our views were compromised. It snowed a little in the afternoon. The scenery is still incredible, even though it has been cloudy these last few days.

Saturday, 6 June 2009
Baltoro GlacierThe team left Ayo after an early breakfast and trekked to the snout of the Baltoro Glacier, one of the largest glaciers in the world. Here we beheld the source of the mighty Indus River as it makes it's way down to Karachi. It was misty and getting increasingly colder with snowfall in the last few hours of our journey to the Khoburtse camp. We walked for six hours on the rough terrain of the massive Baltoro. Once we had recovered and warmed ourselves, we enjoyed a game of bridge, then retired to watch the singing and drumming of the Balti porters.

Friday, 5 June 2009
mess tentThe team spent the day resting in Paiju, 3400 metres above sea level. It rained for most of the night and the high ground is covered in fresh snow. The good news is that our gear finally arrived in Islamabad and was sent on to Base Camp. The bad news: the cook has run out of chicken so we won't be eating meat for a few days. After a late breakfast, we played bridge and after lunch, we played cards, then had an early dinner and went to bed. The rain continues to fall, as does the temperature.

Thursday, 04 June 2009
KarakoramThe South African team has many porters accompanying them to Base Camp. They have travelled 67 km over the last two days and look forward to a rest day in Paiju. A Polish climber, Pawel joined their expedition. He has been to the Karakoram on two previous occasions and his experience in this region is invaluable.
We are very concerned about our gear – it was sent via cargo and has not arrived yet. If it doesn’t arrive in the next few days, it could jeopardise the expedition.
Alex and Ronnie are each suffering from a cold; otherwise everyone is well.

Wednesday, 03 June 2009
Indus River ValleyToday the trekking adventure has finally begun. We left Askole just before 8 am and arrived in Jhula just after 2.30 pm.
Although it is extremely hot on trek, the walk up Indus River valley is spectacular. We are now at 3200 metres. Our camp was pitched and we rested until dinnertime. We are all a little weary and as a result we climbed into our sleeping bags early.

Tuesday, 02 June 2009
Drive to AskolWe are in contact with the SA Team via satellite phone, and the connection is not always very clear. As a result, much of the received information is unclear. What we do know follows:
Emma is much better and we started the 120 km trip to Base Camp. With the steep cliffs on either side, the narrow roads are only wide enough to fit one Jeep. The road became inaccessible and we had to get out to prevent the Jeep from rolling hundreds of meters down to the river below. We had to walk the last kilometres into Base Camp. That afternoon we rested and later, dinner was served.
The adventure has certainly begun.

Monday, 01 June 2009
Shopping in SkarduWe spent the morning doing last minute shopping. Bought some snowshoes and ice picks at Hassansadpara. We hiked around the area, but Emma did not join us as she was feeling sick and was up all night.
After lunch we packed our gear into 25 kg loads for the porters, who we will meet for the first time today. We were introduced to the cooking staff, Base Camp manager and high altitude porter.
The adventure is about to begin.

Sunday, 31 May 2009
Masherbrum HotelThe flight to Skardu must undoubtedly be one of the most spectacular in the world, with incredible views of Nanga Parbat, K2, the Gasherbrums and Broad Peak. We checked into the Masherbrum Hotel, a vast improvement on the Regency in Islamabad. After lunch we took a stroll into the village. Ronnie and Douard had their heads shaved, much to the amusement of the rest of the team and the locals who gathered around in their droves. Emma, Douard's wife, will accompany us to Base Camp and there was no way that she could escape the stares of the locals – there are no European women in Skardu. The views from our hotel are awesome.

Saturday, 30 May 2009
We touched down in Islamabad at four in the morning and met Asghar Ali Porik, the head of our logistics company. Islamabad has been declared a red alert zone, so the plan is to spend as little time as possible here. The hotel we were booked into is a complete dump. There was no water in the bathroom and after ordering lunch, we were informed that the kitchen had run out of gas. Most of the day was spent finalising those last minute logistical issues and visiting the ministry office to pick up our permit. We were, however, able to watch the Bulls thrash the Chiefs 61 to 17. The team looks forward to flying to Skardu.

Friday, 29 May 2009
We spent the day relaxing at the Grand Regency Hotel in Doha. Fortunately we were indoors, as Doha experienced their hottest day in seven years – it was 49 °C. In the evening we caught a flight to Islamabad.

Thursday, 28 May 2009
The team flew on Qatar Airways to Doha, after an incredibly stressful day trying to resolve a major misunderstanding regarding excess baggage. It was a tremendous relief to finally board the plane. The team flew business class compliments of Qatar Airways.

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