Masherbrum, the second round
It’s on! Waiting for the last few weeks was hard… since Peter and I had been in Pakistan last year to have a look at the massive northeast face of Masherbrum (7821m ) , this mountain had captivated us. We were impressed and the project spooked around in our mind, relentlessly. Everything in between our return last year and now was a preparation for that goal: a direct line through the virgin northeast face. A Russian expedition failed on this face in 2006, on many occasions, it has been dubbed “impossible”. 3500 meters of steep rock and ice, at an altitude of 5000 to almost 8000 meters. Whereas the challenge on Cerro Torre was free climbing, the challenge on this face is simply to get up at all.
After our first reconnaissance we knew a lot more about what the issues are with this mountain. We will change a few things with regard to that.
For the first expedition, we chose the obvious option of going to the mountain right away and acclimatise there - on the one hand we would maximise our time under the wall, and on the other we did not yet know how bad the acclimatisation climbs in the area would be. Now that we know the face well, we have decided to put up our tents below the 8051 meters high Broad Peak first, and acclimatise there.
The summit of the twelfth-highest mountain on Earth is not our objective though, we just want to go up to about 7500 meters on the standard route in order to get used to the thin air. Then, well acclimatised and hopefully still fresh, we intend walking towards the nearby Masherbrum. Once there, we will use a good weather window - which will hopefully show up - to attempt to climb the face over five days. No camps, no fixed lines, no bolts, in alpine style. We think that we have found a fairly big system of dihedrals and cracks that will allow us to breach the intimidating headwall. Should we get to the summit, we plan to descend on the South side over two more days to reach another base camp. That is the plan! Another small change will be the location of our Masherbrum base camp: No longer on the glacier, but on the moraine - not being on the ice the entire time should make our stay there a lot “nicer”!
The biggest change though has nothing to do with base camp or acclimatising: We will be three people this time! Our friend Hansjörg Auer from Ötztal will join us. We first really climbed together as a team of three this winter on the Sagwand when we did the first winter ascent of the Schiefer Riss. First, Hansjörg and I had attempted it, but we’d been forced to retreat - when Peter joined us the next time, we did it. Being three people in this sort of terrain has a lot of advantages, the margin of safety is much increased in case something unforeseen happens. In case someone gets injured, it’s much faster and easier to lower him when there are two people to do the job. Moreover, the task of leading is distributed to three people and everyone gets to make the best use of his strengths. The backpacks will be a bit lighter, and Hansjörgs morale and general motivation are an incredible advantage for every team.
After sending cargo last week, everything is ready now. We have checked everything twice and then once more, thought everything through - accordingly it is high time that the expedition begins!