BROAD PEAK: A MACC Fund sponsored Expedition
Sandy and Rick Allen’s ill-fated summit attempt – and incredible rescue – earlier this summer fast became one of the most famous expeditions of the season. The expedition received funding from the Montane Alpine Club Climbing Fund, alongside other bodies. All words and pictures by Sandy Allen.
Broad Peak was first climbed to the summit by an Austrian expedition in 1957, and there remain many opportunities for technical unclimbed new lines on this mountain. Our expedition’s main objective was either to try a new unclimbed line on the very steep and technical SW face of the central summit or an attempt on the unclimbed South Ridge. Neither of these two objectives was attempted due to an incident while acclimatising.
Our Expedition arrived at Broad Peak normal route (1957) Base Camp on the 9th June 2018 after a 9-day approach. Our plan was to acclimatise to about 7000 metres on the normal route and once we all felt well and acclimatised at this altitude we would then try a new unclimbed line. We had in mind several unclimbed lines to choose from, our preferred option being the unclimbed south Ridge of Broad Peak, however we also had a very fine technical line on the SW Face which was the line we presented to the MEF committee for our grant application. However, on seeing this line the upper rock sections appeared rather blank slabs with continued technical difficulties. During our first three weeks at Base Camp, the weather was very unsettled with much snow fall. We were able to push our acclimatisation programme on the normal route but the snow was building up on the technical faces making an attempt our planned SW Face objective increasingly unlikely so we set our sights on the unclimbed South Ridge.
By 7th July S Allan and R Allen had spent one night at Camp 3, approximately 6900m) and in the very strong winds with poor forecast S Allan decided to descend back to base camp. K Tekieli and S Vrba arrived at Camp 3 while S Allan was descending and the three members decided to spend the night at Camp 3 for acclimatisation purposes. That evening (8th July ) the weather remained very windy with falling snow. At around 8.00pm R Allen decided to push ahead and try for the summit, Note: It was previously agreed all members that if we went to the summit via the normal route we would only attempt it in good perfect weather so as not to exhaust ourselves for our main objective. Because the weather was so bad K Tekieli decided not to go any higher, S Vrba accompanied R Allen for the first hour or so but found the weather too bad and encouraged R Allen to turn back but R Allen kept going towards the high col which leads to the summit while S Vrba returned to Camp 3.
Back at Camp 3 S Vrba and K Tekieli watched R Allen’s progress and they were sure that he arrived at the col between the central and main summit at 6 pm that night, a traverse that normally takes 6 hours or so. R Allen then went out of sight and went to the summit. K Tekieli and S Vrba did not see him again until 6.30 pm the following night. As they watched him descend they lost sight of him as he descended into a small hollow which meant they could not see him from their position and they kept watching fully expecting him to appear again. However, he did not appear and S Vrba rushed up towards the location but could see no signs of him or any tracks in the snow. He assumed he had fallen into a crevasse or had fallen off. S Vrba returned to Camp 3 and after several hours of waiting they (Tekieli and Vrba) decided to leave one tent up for R Allen with all his equipment tidy and ready for his arrival and then descended as the weather was still very bad and they assumed that R Allen had gone missing presumed dead.
S Allan was at Base Camp having spent a day and night there. It was on the morning of 10Th July when friends (Piotr Pablus working with Andrej Bargel) came running from K2 Base Camp reporting that they had seen a black dot high on the mountain at around 7300 metres. They had sent up a drone (operated by Bartek Bargel from K2 Base Camp) and saw a body, seemingly dead and very still with blue clothing on. S Allan assumed from the colour of the clothing that this may have been R Allen, so he instigated a rescue attempt. By this time K Tekieli and S Vrba were close to reaching Base Camp. S Allan with the help of various Liaison officers managed to contact climbers who were now making their way up towards Camp 3 in improving weather and three of them decided that they would try and assist R Allen. The drone flown from K 2 Base Camp flew again and was used to give the rescuers an indication of R Allen’s position. Eventually, after several hours of trying to reach R Allen, the climbers reported by radio that they were not great technical climbers and did not have the equipment to go into the complicated terrain of seracs and crevasses where R Allen was situated, so had to turn back. At Base Camp S Allan got in touch with Dan Mazur who was at Camp 2 and heading very slowly up to Camp 3. Dan with his Sherpas decided to try and assist R Allen and sped up their rate of ascent to try and reach Camp 3 before nightfall and by 6.00 pm they had arrived at Camp 3 and with the help of the drone flying in front they were able to assist R Allen and bring him back to Camp 3 where he spent the night. The following day they took R Allen down to Camp 1 and the following day back to Base Camp.
R Allen had sustained some cuts above his eye, frostbite on his toes and had very large dark bruising under both eyes. We could only assume that he had fallen off, slid down about 600 metres and came to a stop. We are assuming he was unconscious for most of that night as when the drone initially saw him he was completely still and the thoughts were that he was dead. However, by mid-morning when the drone located him for the second time we could see some small arm movements from R Allen which indicated he was indeed alive and eventually he began to move and was ableto traverse towards his rescuers, albeit it very slowly.
On his rescue R Allen at first resisted any help and the rescuers said he behaved very aggressively towards them. Later he acquiesced and was grateful to all who assisted him. S Allan assured the rescuers that such behaviour was totally out of character for R Allen and they should consider that he must have had a head injury and probably did not remember anything of his accident. Prior to departing Base Camp R Allen cleared up all misunderstanding with everyone at Base Camp who were involved with his rescue.
R Allen on the advice of Polish doctors decided to fly out from Broad Peak Base Camp accompanied by S Allan on 14th July.
Several days later, K Tekieli and S Vrba decided to try a shorter and more direct less technical unclimbed line on Broad Peak’s North Summit but after a full night and day of very fast and light climbing they were caught in large rock fall which struck S Vrba on the leg which lead to K Tekieli having to lower S Vrba several pitches where our Polish friends from K2 Base Camp helped to carry S Vrba back to Base Camp where a surgeon stitched his leg and they too had to be helicoptered out to Skardu and on to Islamabad.
Base Camp was cleared by our staff and all rubbish and equipment including tents etc were brought back to Skardu to storage and the remainder flown back to Europe.