ISLAMABAD: Eight amateur mountaineers felt in the clouds when two members of their international expedition scaled their first 8,000-metre plus peak in the Karakoram range.
“Mountain climbing is a daring and challenging sport that makes all senses react,” said the team leader, Scott Mackenzie, on return from the 8,051 metre high Broad Peak. It took the expedition nearly six arduous weeks to conquer the twelfth highest peak in the world late in July.
Extreme weather conditions made the group have second thoughts at times but it continued to push up. “The weather got so bad that most expeditions to Broad Peak abandoned their ascent and left except one team,” Mackenzie noted, praising the courage of his team of young climbers ranging in ages between 24 and 27.
Hypothermia and giant steep rocks were their enemies on those formidable heights.
It was a mix of nationalities and professions in the group. Besides the British climbers John Roberts, Mackenzie, Duncan Robinson, Rob Adie, Ben Wolstenhome and John Mason and two Spaniards Koldo Bika and Ikor Irondu. There was in the group an information technology consultant, an educationist, chemical engineer and a mountaineer who had climbed mountains in India, Nepal, South American and the French Alps.
But it was a different feeling for them in the Karakorams, “with more mountains on all sides than anyone of us had ever seen”.
“Broad Peak is bigger than we thought, but not as difficult or technical as we had imagined. It was just really big and cold and the steepness tearing at our nerves,” said another young team member.
The freezing cold was a constant element working against the climbers. The temperature dropped to 20 to 25 below zero during the nights.
But the expedition was lucky to have a short window of three days of good weather. “And we took advantage of it,” said Mackenzie.
The expedition, which was in Pakistan for the first time, enjoyed most the drive on the Karakoram Highway.
“It was amazing seeing the countryside like that,” the team leader said. Security concerns were “the last thing on our minds”. The atmosphere was completely opposite to what the western media portrayed.
The expedition also managed to raise $4,000 for the victims of the devastation that last year’s floods caused. “We saw the damages from the Babusar pass. Our friends had helped sponsor the trip. That was also the motivation behind this tour.”
With the Broad Peak out of the way, the expedition intends to obey their destiny and return for Gasherbrum I or II in about two years time - another 8,000 metres-plus of solid rock and ice that would bring many nausea and chill.