26/07/06: Day one
I slept through my alarm which sounded at 1am but was woken soon after by an avalanche somewhere on the slopes above our bivi sight. Not sure if it had been a dream I rose, packed my sack and had breakfast. Our bowls were still lined with grease leftover from the fatty Chinese noodles from last night having been unable to scrub it off. We ate our porridge with few complaints however. Within minutes of donning my crampons my newly installed front points clumsily struck their first target of the day in the form of my only platypus water bottle putting a big splice in its side. Fortunately Peter, my climbing partner, had two one litre water bottles, one of which he kindly leant me.
|Crossing the Hispar Glacier before sunset|
|The route we took to the summit. The red line marks the route we should have taken. The blue line indicates the route we did take to the summit.|
|Crevasses were numerous near the base of Haigutum East|
|Haigutum East's north face from close to the base of the mountain|
Our route had brought us out on an extensive snow field covered in a blanket of avalanche debris. The prospect of traversing it with seracs lining the route above us was not inviting but the snow field descended gently down to meet the way we should have come and probably wouldn’t take long to cross. Some of the snow looked fresh and I put two and two together to conclude that we were walking through the spot where we heard the avalanches fall earlier in the morning. The crossing fortunately passed without incident and we were soon on easy ground leading to the high bivi. Only a number of isolated crevasses presented an obstruction however these could all be skirted around. The only real tricky spot was crossing a thin strip of snow between two crevasses which looked undercut. Peter reminded me to jump the opposite way to him in the event of a fall but things passed without incident. Having been ill only a few days before this climb I was feeling more tired than normal as we approached the bivi sight and was glad that the day’s climbing was nearly over. A short distance before we reached the bivi another avalanche hurtled down the avalanche field we had crossed only an hour ago. Judging by its volume, and more to the point the high speed at which it tumbled down the mountain side, it would likely have been fatal had we been in its path.
|The avalanche that missed us by 1 hour|
Peter and I spent the afternoon in our bivi bags sleeping and watching nearby avalanches go off. The avalanche that had crashed down our route after we had crossed it was plaguing my mind. After being avalanched on Khan Tengri the previous year I was supposed to be adopting a less gung-ho approach to Alpine climbing but it was clear that I still played the odds too much.
I had slept poorly the previous night but found it hard to sleep in the baking midday sun. Peter on the other hand had no problem. I managed to finally get some kip after I used my walking poles to create a canopy inside my bivi bag and provide some ventilation. After more fatty Chinese noodles and a beautiful sunset where the mountain turned a lilac colour we retreated to our sleeping bags.
|View west to the Kunyang Chhish and Pumari Chhish massifs|
|Sunset over Haigutum East from our high bivi at 5150m|
27/07/06: Day 2
The alarm sounded again at 1am and by 2 we were starting our ascent. After days of good weather my first thoughts of the morning were pessimistic ones as I looked upon the lightning storm in the west. Hopefully it was too far away to interfere with our summit attempt I told myself.
|Route to the summit from our bivouac|
|Haigutum East's summit ridge|
|Me and Peter on the summit of Haigutum East|
Our descent back to the Hispar Glacier was problem free, avoiding the avalanche fields that we had crossed during our ascent. I also managed to retrieve Peter’s water bottle that I had dropped the previous day. By the time we reached the Hispar glacier it was 5.40pm. With over two hours of daylight remaining I could potentially have reached base camp by nightfall, however I was tired and dehydrated and soon fell behind Peter. Within days of climbing Haighatum East I was feeling sick again and it became apparent that I had climbed the peak between bouts of gardia. I stopped to rest and to drink water however urgency soon enveloped me and the thought of spending the night on the glacier was not an appealing one. A highway of ribbed white ice weaved its way along the centre of the Hispar Glacier and was broken up by numerous streams. I donned my crampons so that I could follow a direct line across the ice however a small glacial river on its northern edge with steep banks on either side blocked my path. I impatiently walked up and down its bank a short way hoping to find an easy way across or, even better, find the easy way by which we had come two days ago but could find neither. Dusk was closing in and I opted for a precarious crossing across some large boulders. I also split the seams of my sallopettes during the cross after stretching a few inches more than they would give at the crotch.
|Descent across the avalanche fields on Haigutum East|
I slept for about 14 hours!
|The Chinese tinned pork we bought in Karimabad that I wouldn't feed to a dog!|
I spent a day stitching my salopettes back together after the climb