Challenge of K2: A History of the Savage Mountain by Richard Sale

Challenge of K2: A History of the Savage Mountain by Richard Sale

Author:Richard Sale
Language: eng
Format: epub
Tags: SPORTS & RECREATION / Mountaineering
Publisher: Pen and Sword
Published: 2011-12-13T05:00:00+00:00

French on the South Face, Japanese on the West Ridge, 1981

In 1981 an expedition to the still unclimbed West Ridge was mounted by the Alpine Club of Japan’s Waseda University, Tokyo. The leader was Teruo Matsuura.15 The alpine clubs of Japan’s universities are a leading source of mountaineers, who retain their university club membership after graduation, so that the clubs are capable of calling upon numerous high-class mountaineers to mount their own expeditions. In 1979 a team from the Waseda Club made the first ascent of the North Ridge of Rakaposhi (7788m/25,552ft), that success, and the view of K2 from the summit, providing the incentive to attempt the higher peak. From the start the Japanese decided to attempt a new route. Aware that the West Ridge was unexplored above about 7000m, that was the chosen line.

Matsuura’s summary of the climb says it was a six-man team, but, as indicated by the photographs of team members and his article in AAJ, there were actually thirteen Japanese, one being the team doctor, plus the Pakistani Nazir Ahmad Sabir, as well as the standard Pakistani liaison officer. Sabir, a Hunza, had been a high-altitude porter with the Japanese 1977 expedition and had made a rapid transition to fully fledged climber, good enough to be invited to be a member of the climbing team. The Japanese attempt was forced to climb late in the season as early permission had been granted to a team of four led by the Frenchman Yannick Seigneur; the others were the French climber Jean Afanassieff and the Germans Reinhard Karl and Hans Martin Goetz. This team, using no porters on the mountain, attempted to climb a new route on the mountain’s South-East Face. Following a rib on the true left side of the De Filippi Glacier, the team intended to cross the huge face diagonally to reach the Abruzzi Spur near the base of the Shoulder. Beset by bad weather, however, the four men eventually retreated from a height of about 7400m (24,300ft).

The Japanese now had the mountain to themselves. They were also aided by their liaison officer being able to persuade three hundred porters to carry all the way to their proposed Base Camp, when they had originally thought they might only be able to get a very much smaller number to shuttle loads from the Abruzzi Base Camp. On the mountain the Japanese followed the British line, placing two camps, the second at 6600m (21,650ft). Above this, easy climbing led to the first major difficulty, a 40m (130ft) cliff where a loop of rope indicated they were on the line of the British 1980 attempt. The cliff had been described by Joe Tasker as ‘extremely difficult and steep’, and required, Matsuura says, the Japanese climbers to rope up before Eiho Otani ‘muscled his way up’. Above the cliff, Camp III was established at 7100m (23,300ft), at the high point of the British attempt.

Bad weather had delayed the establishment of Camp III for six days, but now the


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