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Archive >> September 2009

Untagged  18 Sep 2009 12:00 AM
Dispatch 8: Part 3 of 3: Trouble on the Mountain by Don Bowie
(Webteam: This is the 3rd and final part of Dispatch 8. See previous 2 parts for the full story.) 

...A  few rappels later I found myself at a small icy stance with Billy. We both looked at each other and with various (not so creative) language and exclaimed how crazy it was that we were descending smack dab in the middle of the icefall.

Don rests on ice tools while Bruce rappels down to his stance in the icefall <em>Photo Don Bowie</em>

 

As we waited for Bruce to come down the rope, I stared above at the thousands of tons of overhanging and teetering loose blocks of ice above us. I could not conceive spending the entire rest of the day wandering around under such a threat, yet I knew that we would have to do just that. At these moments, I try to humor myself by recalling old Kung-Fu movies, when the grey-bearded master tells the student to "...think like...er...invisible man."

 

Billy looks on as Bruce rests at a rappel anchor in the middle of the icefall <em>Photo Don Bowie</em>

The last two rappels deposited the four of us in a narrow chute between ice serac walls. At the bottom of the chute we stood among huge chunks of ice and avalanche debris. After a quick rest we roped up again and I lead down the lower chute, trending left toward the bottom of the GIII west face. After punching through into a few black crevasses, I finally managed to find a safe way over to the face proper - albeit, under a whole new line of different seracs. Fresh snow and avalanche debris covered the lower slopes, and the four of us down climbed toward the bottom of the face roped together.

Guy negotiates the mixed traverse under huge hanging ice seracs <em>Photo Don Bowie</em>

 

 Just as I managed to punch through the bergshrund, Guy yelled, "Avalanche coming!". I looked up to see a white powder cloud spilling over the seracs above and hoped to myself that the slide would be no deeper than my head and shoulders - since that was the only part of me that was sticking out of the bergshrund hole.

 

Guy in the final rappel in the heart of the icefall <em>Photo Don Bowie</em>

A few hours later the four of us finally climbed across of the last of the avalanche debris and under the protection of the serac ice chunk hiding our Camp 2 tent. I shook everyone's hand and encouraged them for such a great effort - except for Bruce who was busy vomiting. (I encouraged him too. Just after.) It was an excellent effort by all and I felt very proud and thankful to be back in Camp 2. An hour or two later, as we lay brewing up in our sleeping bags, I measured Bruce's sats: 73%.

 

And there is one more twist:

The following day we roped up and descended down the glacier to G2 Camp 1. Upon arrival we noticed that the entire top of one of our VE25 tents had been ripped off, the fabric blowing in the wind. At first we suspected sabotage; that someone had torn or cut up one of our tents. I walked to a nearby Spanish member tent and asked an occupant if he had seen anything. I don't speak fluent Spanish, but did understand the phrase, "Grande boom". It appeared that one of the cheap Korean gas stove canisters had exploded in the tent only one hour after we left Camp 1 on July 7th. We did find various canister shrapnel around the tent, but the main canister body was long gone. I trust it landed somewhere on the glacier not too far from the Indian border. I haven't checked the news recently, but are there any recent border tensions between Pakistan and India?

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