Wednesday 7 September 2011

Thinking of going to the Karakoram?

I've had a couple of emails over the last few weeks asking me how to go about organising a mountaineering trip to the Karakoram or Broad Peak and who we used to organise logistics/permits etc in Pakistan.

Firstly, I'm happy to answer questions if I have time, feel free to email:

If you're looking for a recommendation of an operator I'd highly recommend the operator we used: Lela Peak Expeditions

Email address:

Monday 8 August 2011

2 summits, 60 toes and 60 fingers

2 summits, 60 toes, 60 fingers (just) and heaps of photographs and memories. We're all recovering with respective families, wives, girlfriends and catching up on the monstrous email inboxes.

We arrived back late on Thursday afternoon into Manchester and went straight to a restaurant in Chorlton to fulfil some of the hunger cravings... red wine, mozzarella, duck salad and so on and so forth.

A big thank you to those of you that supported us whilst we were away either through email, text, blog comments or by pledging money to the DEC floods appeal. It was great to hear from you, even though in many cases we were unable to reply.

We saw much of the flood devastation in a number of valleys and support is very much needed for the region. If you still want to donate you can do here:

Who knows what next on the agenda, the email has already had its first suggestion for 2013...

Here's a tabloid style article about us that made it into the local Islamabad paper (Scott says he didn't say half of it):

And finally, the team would also like to pay its respects to Jeff (Chung Wai Hung from Hong Kong) who sadly died in a fall we witnessed from Base Camp on the 25th July. Our thoughts are with the rest of his team, his friends and his family. As we all said on the day: nobody deserves to die following our dreams...

Monday 1 August 2011

Back in Skardu and on the way home

It's been all quiet on the communication front lately, mainly because we've had a manic few days getting out of the Baltoro.


With the weather looking only so so for any summit attempts in the near future and the already succesful summits in the team we took the deicision to leave BC early.  There is only a small Taiwanese team and some Iranians attempting a new route left and breaking a new trail would be very difficult with only a few people, following the heavy snows we had towards the end of the month.  We managed to get a flight change to the 4th of August however this left us 5 days to get from BC to Islamabad.


Under normal conditions we would have been able to get out of the gondogoro la pass in 2-3 days however the weather prevented us going over the pass so we had to make to decision to "run" down the Baltoro in 3 days.  So what took 7 days on the way up has taken 3 on the way down.  Some sore feet, broken shoes, mardy mules and heavy packs, but we made it down.  It felt a bit like doing 3 marathons in 3 days, which in effect it probably roughly was in distance terms.


We're now in Skardu, having showered for the first time in a month and shaved the ridiculous beards off.  Now time to leave on the bus back down the KKH as there were no available seats on the flight back.  Fingers crossed for a better journey back than the 40 hours up.


Then off to the Marriot for a beer then home…  See you all in 4 days!

Tuesday 26 July 2011

Summit Success

Congratulations to Scott and Koldo (and the few others) who sumitted yesterday.

Sunday 24 July 2011

Celebrating the Aga Kahn's birthday

Although this was about a week ago, Team Taiwan just produced this little beauty of Rob having a dance for the Aga Kahn's birthday.


No beer or drugs involved just altitude induced hypoxia.


We're all chipping in for dancing lessons before his big day with Tracy next year.



Camp 3 tagged and a couple of summits

A small break in the weather saw JR, Duncan and Scott make it to camp 3 (7100m), Rob and Mason turned around about halfway up from camp 3.  An amazing effort from Mason so far who has nearly broken 7000m having only been to 3000m before this trip!


On 21st/22nd a Russian and French summited the main peak and two catalans also summited in a round trip of 30 hours from camp 3.  Given the high winds this is a very strong effort and the first summits of the year.  They're still up on the mountain so we're not aware of how they are.  Two are still up there as far as we know, hopefully they'll be seen descending soon but this will mean 2 days above camp 3 in high winds.


There's a lot of tough decisions going on as the weather forecasts are varied and the windspeeds are still high.  The Canadaian team is going for an attempt on the 25th along with Koldo from our team.  Scott and Duncan have waited at camp 2 hoping to go for a summit attempt with them.  They sound in good spirits and we’re hoping for the best for them but it will be a tough time staying above 6000m for 4 days.  Let's hope the forecaasts come in and the winds drop low enough for an easier summit than those previously.


JR descended from camp 3 to base camp yesterday with some frostnip to two fingers in his left hand (but nothing serious) and is waiting for another window later in the month to potentially go up with Rob, Mason and the Taiwan team should the weather allow it.  They are all now well acclimatized to have a strong attempt if the weather breaks.


Good luck to Scott and Duncan and everyone else on the mountain, fingers crossed for a break in the weather, successful summits and safe descents.

Thursday 21 July 2011

Weather grrrr...

How things can change in a few days…


The forecast was looking good for a summit window on the 26th / 27th and the team are lined up to be as acclimatized as they can be. Yesterday we received news that it had all changed due to movements in the subtropical Jetstream. We all hoped this would just be a one off rotten forecast and predictions / the models would come good again today, however it has just confirmed that this window has closed.


As time for most teams is running out everyone has been buzzing around base camp all day comparing weather forecasts and trying to come up with a strategy for an attempt. All forecasts seem to show the same uncertainty for a window… The main consensus at the moment is to try on the 24th when winds are looking the lowest.


Tonight the guys are sleeping at camp 2 and hoping to reach camp 3 early in the morning to access conditions. A team of 8 / 10 Spanish are due to start an attempt from camp 3 later this evening so we plan on getting some feedback on conditions from their experience.


So in brief the weather looks windy until the 25th with a drop on the 24th then precipitation is due on the 26th which would close our chances. Let's hope they have it wrong and some more opportunity's appear!!!


Nobody has the runs at the moment!!! So I have attached a picture of our toilet so we don’t forget what it looks like.  


Hope you are all well back home and the weather is better there.


PS The 40 pints of I.P.A. (Indian Pale Ale) is brewing very well and expected to be ready in 3 days.



Tuesday 19 July 2011

Weaher correction...

How things can change in 24 hours….!!!!


After our fantastic forecast of 2 days ago everything has changed and the Jetstream has fully descended onto the Karakorum - our 5 day clear weather window has been 'blown' out the water.  JR, john, Dunc and Robs attempt to reach camp 1 yesterday was abandoned due to poor and warm conditions on the mountain.  They returned to base camp late last night.  Scott is recovering from a case of the 'Karakorum Quick Step'.


So the wind has increased above 7500m dramatically, and the long range forecast looks very poor at the moment.  The weather window has closed firmly shut for our hopeful summit attempt of the 26th, 27th so we are sitting on our hands and waiting (praying) for change.  Camp1 and above has been enveloped in the clouds as I write, and the base camp winds are much like a winters day on the Cairngorm Plateaux (OK maybe not that bad).  Joy!!


The two commercial teams, led by Chris Syzmiec and Phil Crampton who were planning their summit bids very soon have decided, given the forecast, to leave base camp (meaning there will be no trail to the summit).  We will be working with the smaller teams now, if the weather improves to break the crucial trail to 8000m.  Everything hangs in the balance of the next few forecasts.


We sit and wait in hope of a change in the weather over the next week.  Cross your fingers for us.


A few food things we're missing in Base Camp, except the girlfriends of course!


JR - Greek Salad with Feta

Rob - Buster the Husky

John - A good cup of Yorkshire tea

Ben - Warm feet

Dunc - Biscuits

Scott - A smooth café latte


Final note, possibly the best news so far - the BPA (Broad Peak Ale) is three days into brew and master brewer Duncan says "Yeast is active, smelling good and its frothing well - 7 days to go".  The beer is the talk of base camp.


Monday 18 July 2011

Pushing upto camp 3

We haven't been able to blog much due to solar power issues but we've been able to charge using the Taiwanese generator thankfully.


We've had on and off weather, as you do in the Karakoram, but over the last week we've managed to get camp 1 (5600m)  and camp 2 (6100m) established.  Scott and Rob pushed up to camp 2 first putting up the tents, then JR, John, and Duncan moved up carrying the camp 3 tents, gas and some personal equipment.  It's good to be quite high on the mountain already, but tough for everyone acclimatizing to these levels.  Going straight to camp 2 felt like doing an Ironman with a paper bag on our heads.


Yesterday we visited the Gilkey memorial.  A resting place for those who have been lost on K2.  A rite of passage for any climber visiting the area, but a sombering place seeing both the famous names laid there and the human remains of those bodies who have sadly never made it down.  Strangely it is the only place we have seen around here where there are flowers growing and some life thriving.  This brought to an end 3 days of poor weather, lots of monopoly and cards and boredom in the base camp tents listening to the continual roar of the avalnches piling down the mountains as the falling snow settles.


Fortunately the weather forecast for the next 10 days looks good although above 7500m the windspeeds are high. 


Tonight we're setting off for camp 1, and with a short rest we'll be pushing upto camp 2 in the early hours, resting there and then pushing the trail upto camp 3 with our high altitude tents ready for our next push which will hopefully be upto the summit.  Unfortunately Scott's come down with bad guts again so won't be joining us but we're pretty sure he'll recover in time to get high up on the mountain with us before the summit push.


The forecast shows that wind speeds are due to drop on the 25th so we're planning on making a summit attempt on the 26th or 27th.  So far this season there haven't been any summits, although there have been a few attempts, all thwarted by snow conditions a couple of hundred metres below the col.  It looks like the next window will be the push for many of the teams so it wil be a good opportunity to work together to reach what we came here for.


Also, congratulations from the team to Tom and Juliet Baker who got married yesterday and who's wedding we missed.

Monday 11 July 2011

Finally at Base Camp

Just a short one as we've got charging issues (due to the perpetual snow storms blocking the solar energy!)


After a more tortuous walk in than expected we finally reached BC in a snow storm on Friday morning.  Upon arrival the clouds very briefly cleared giving us a view of the route and an impression of the enormous scale of the place.   The porters chanted a good luck song to us on reaching camp and did a great job of getting things in order in bleak conditions.  Ackbar told us that the porters don't normally work in such weather and the other teams were surprised to see us arrive.  We avoided a porter strike due to the tenacity of our Sirdar, Rasool.  Straight after this they pulled out their party trick of 2.5l bottles of coke.  We all broke quite easily, even at $11 per bottle (still cheaper than a Swiss alpine hut).  Given they had the inspiration to carry it up here after watching us guzzle coke in Askole we thought it only honourable to pay the asking price.  They do an incredible job carrying 30+kg up here mostly in sandals and shalwar.


The snow didn’t stop properly until this morning (Monday), but the team decided to try and get some kit up to camp 1, however knee deep snow and deeply buried lines forced a retreat at halfway.  John and Duncan stayed behind after they went down with some pretty severe vomiting on Saturday.  This coupled with a bit of AMS (due to the fairly rapid ascent to 5000m) has made for some major suffering over the last few days but they're both fixed now.  At one point, with fevers, we both had down suits on inside -40 bags and were still shivering.  This was all made better this morning to an incredible view of K2 summit straight out the tent door.


As it's the Aga Kahn's birthday today all the Balti staff across all the teams have put on a special lunch and dancing. (and listening to the continual small avalanches coming down off some of the slopes after the snowfall - none in route thankfully)


Hopefully the whole team is heading up to camp one tomorrow.  Given the weather is improving and we're still getting  BC in order, hopefully we'll be able to send some more detailed updates soon.





Tuesday 5 July 2011

Rest day in Paju

We arrived in Paju after a couple of days trekking through incredible scenery, views of Uli Biaho tower, Broad Peak and numerous other giants surrounding us. Paju lies beneath a huge vertical wall 600m bigger than El Capitan and probably climbed very few times if at all. At the end of the valley stands impressive rock towers of Great Trango and Cathedral Spire, a truly inspiring place and a great place to spend a rest day today.

Camp conversation has revolved a lot around the state of our bowels as we have all had a few problems since leaving Askole. Dunc was the first to go suprisingly, although all our money was on Scott after his history of stomach problems. Dunc was closely followed by Ben, then Mason from both ends, then Scott. Rob and John managed to avoid any major problems. We're all feeling much better now after a rest day and a pizza cooked by our legend of a chef, Isaac. A good effort on a camp stove!

We are all really psyched to head on to Urdukas tomorrow, traversing the awesome Trango range, it's going to be a longer day with more ascent and taking us much closer to Broad Peak base camp where we should arrive on Friday, In'shallah.


Sunday 3 July 2011

Time to get walking

3.30am and morning prayer calls out over the valley. Luckily we stay in bed until 5am but the chef's up getting breakfast ready. Today we start the walk, about 17km to Jula camp passing the end of the Latok group.

Some of the boys manage to scoff the breakfast so fast there is little left for some of the team and the Basque (who are 2 great guys and take it very well).

After the loads are dished out to the porters we set off walking along with the chef. The vista starts to get much more moutainous, many 5 and 6000m peaks pop up on the valley sides and the horizon. We get a small glimpse of the Latoks through the clouds. At our altitude of 3000m the peaks look miles above us, but we need to add another 2000m to those…

The karakoram is starting to feel a pretty out there, adventurous place. There are not many teams up here this year, I assume due to what they deem the "security issues" but so far all we have experienced is friendly and helpful people, all wanting to know our story. With care, Pakistan seems an amazing place to come. Life is harsh however, certainly here in the North, but the people are very relaxed and welcoming.

When we arrive at camp, Ackbar informs us he was a little late as he had to buy a cow, 2 goats and a number of chickens for us. I write this now looking at the cow chowing down on some grass, having walked itself to our camp. Tomorrow we have the 17km to walk into Paju at 3750m, so quite a jump in height, but everyone is coping fine so far with the altitude. Motivation is really high and it feels like the team's working well. We have rule where if someone has a paddy, or gets in a bad mood they have to pay $20 to tip the porters. This strategy seems to be working well for us so far, but not so well for the porters. We're looking forward to arriving in Paju and having our first proper rest day of the trip.

Saturday 2 July 2011

Askole and the porters

After 6 days we've arrived at the head of the road and met our chef, Isaac and the 95!? porters (see photo) that Lela have hired for us and the Basque team. We're glad to say the chef's cooking is, so far, excellent. The freshest chicken you could have; it wandered past the tent shortly before hitting the pan. We re-packed the bags into the 25kg porter loads ready for the morning.

We met one of the teachers from Greg Mortenson's first school in Korphe, just 10 minutes walk from here and we have been invited to visit on the way back. The father of one our expedition organisers was one of the first teachers at the school and is mentioned in 'Three Cups of Tea'. Ackbar and Anwar, the twins who run Lela, are not only providing a great service already but have done amazingly well, starting as porters at 15 and now running one of the most respected operations in the Karakoram, still aged only 29.

During the evening John taught the team (including the Basque) to play the card game Oh Hell, which I think is going to be a big time passer over the trip. An early night is needed for the 05.30 start to the trek.

Friday 1 July 2011

Arriving in Skardu and leaving for Askole

After a very long journey we finally made it to Skardu. We topped up on food and tried to get some sleep, but after arriving at 2am (and thenno extension having dinner) 4 of us had to be up at 8am to get our visa extended. We went to the visa office, but no such luck, they had been waiting a year for thje official stamp. After some negotiations and a long wait, we got a meeting with the deputy of gilgit-baltistan who tells us, "it will be sorted for our return, in'shallah."

The following day we took the 7 hour jeep ride to Askole. Long and bumpy, but we managed to get some pretty "pimped" rides. See the photo!

A few of the team have gone down with the usual gastro bugs but some swift doses of anti-biotics seems to have sorted it.

Tuesday 28 June 2011

Touch down

Touch down in Islamabad. Arrived after one of the biggest tropical storms they have had this summer, delaying are landing causing us to circle around a turbulent sky. Walking out of the plane was like walking into a greenhouse, lucky for us the rain had cooled the air to a semi bearable temperature, after 45'c the day before! We met our agent anwar and caught the bus to our hotel to finish what has been a relatively trouble free trip.

The potential for things going wrong were pretty large. Allowed only 30kg of luggage each we were probably on average 8 kg's over each but using a couple of ski bags, Lots of shuffling around of luggage, we managed to avoid excess baggage charges which, as we know from previous trips can be crippling! (Henry - £500 Iran.)

Another issue causing us concern was the 19,000 dollars we had to take in cash to pay our agent for services and the ministry for our helicopter bond. We counted it out in our hotel room feeling more like a game of monopoly rather than the equivalent of a house deposit or wedding costs. All handed over, no problems.

We were introduced to our liaison officer and the two spaniards who will be part of the expedition. They seem like a good bunch, up for a laugh.

On to skardu tomorrow....

Sunday 26 June 2011


A crazy few days finishing off work commitments, buying last minute things, gathering gear from several locations around the country all converging at a farewell meal at the Met in Manchester to say bye to our loved ones. It’s great to get together as a team (-Scott), swap tall stories about the training we have or haven’t been doing and begin the cutting banter which is always a key ingredient on our previous successful expeditions together. Good psyche, good banter and a good start to the expedition.

Massive amounts of time, money, organisation and planning have been put into this expedition and it’s finally come to the time to go and discover Pakistan and find out what climbing 8000m mountains are all about. We have had help from several people leading up to this point of which we are immensely grateful and would like to thank; our corporate sponsors, everyone who has donated to the DEC, Dream guides for the loan of sat phone and laptop, everyone who has given advice, and all our loved ones for being helpful, supportive and understanding.

The aims of the trip are of course for us all to get to the top of the mountain, but we all have the same belief that nothing is worth dying for, or even loosing a limb or finger, so with that in mind our main aim is to all come back safe and intact by looking out for each other. Having said that, I’m sure we are all keen to get to the summit first!

We will miss everyone and wish you all a great summer.

BP Ascent team.

Thursday 23 June 2011

Medical Supplies: A big thankyou

Just a huge thank you to a few people who gave us their time for solid advice and guidance about medical supplies and how to obtain them:

Jon Morgan, James Taylor and Kate Wilson.

Tuesday 21 June 2011

Explorer's Web and other links

So the expedition made it onto explorer's web, I assume they look through the permit issues:

Unfortunately it's subscription only but it doesn't really say much:

"A British Broad Peak Expedition will be led by John Roberts Matthew."

Yes, that's all it says, $11 subscription to see that and they've got my name wrong!  Interesting given that it's the site linking through the most traffic to this blog!

"The British Broad Peak (8048) Expedition will include John Roberts Matthew, Scott Mackenzie, Benjamin Wolstenholme, Duncan Gray Robinson, John David Mason and Robert Johnson Adie."

More route photos

Just had these sent through from Rob Adie:

Loving the fact it's described as PD+.  I hope sure, though I'm sure PD+ feels more like ABO at 8000m...

The cargo has landed

Most of the kit has arrived in Islamabad and is being handled by the agent.  Fingers crossed it's all still there!

Preparation is going well, just a few more things left to sort including finding a pharmacy to dish out our Dexamethasone prescription.

Friday 3 June 2011

Route info and photos

After a visit by some Pakistani climbers to the BMC's international meet we asked for some specific photos of parts of the route up Broad Peak.  Thanks to Rehmat Ullah for sending these across.

The main gully up to Camp one, this can be avoided by a steeper route on the left side of the buttress if it is particularly icy or avalanche prone.
© Rehmat Ullah
The route upto camp 2 with the camp just top the right of the rocks in the middleground
© Rehmat Ullah

The rocks just above the climbers are the bottom of camp 3, there is also a camp 3a a little higher for those not using camp 4 and pushing straight to the summit, which is what we plan to do.
© Rehmat Ullah
Thanks to Rehmat for the photos, it's great to have a bit more visualisation of the route, and the apparent mellowness of some sections, as there isn't a great deal of info out there.

However unfortunately Ueli Steck won't be there anymore to kick the steps in as he's cancelled his trip...

Friday 20 May 2011

Broad Peak 2011: Fundraising for Pakistan DEC floods appeal

Were raising money for the Pakistan floods appeal as part of the trip, please give generously.

The Team is aiming to raise £8051 (£1 per metre) for the DEC Pakistan Floods appeal.

To donate go to:

Disasters Emergency Committee

Charity Registration No. 1062638
Disasters Emergency Committee
The DEC unites the leading independent Humanitarian Agencies in the UK in their efforts to maximise income from the British Public to mount an effective humanitarian response to major disasters overseas.

Wednesday 11 May 2011


Things are starting to come together now, we had a "trial" pack at the weekend.  We're still resolving issues over what to cargo to Islamabad and what to try and get through on excess baggage but we're getting there.  Here's our detailed itinerary:

Itinerary of “ British Broad Peak Expedition 2011 

28 June/Day 01 -Arrival in Islamabad, Briefing at Alpine Club of Pakistan.Over night in Hotel.

29 June/Day 02 -  Fly to Skardu

30 June/Day 03 - Reserve day

01 July /Day 04 -Rest and preparation day in Skardu over night in Hotel

02 July /Day 05 -Drive to Askole over night in Tent

03 July/ Day 06 -Trek to Jula over night in camp

04 July/ Day 07 -Trek to Paju Over night in camp

05 July/ Day 08 -Rest day at Paju over night in camp

06 July/ Day 09 -Trek to Urdokas over night in camp

07 July/ Day 10 -Trek to Goro II over night in camp

08 July/ Day 11 -Trek to Broad Peak BC

09 July/ Day 12 -Climbing preparation day on Broad Peak BC

10 July to 01 August /Day 13 to 35 -Climbing activities on Broad Peak

02 Aug / Day 36 -Final Closing day at BC

03 Aug / Day 37 -Trek back to Goro I over night in camp

04 Aug / Day 38 -Trek back to Urdokas over night in camp

05 Aug / Day 39 -Trek back to Paju over night in camp

06 Aug / Day 40 -Trek back to Jula over night in camp

07 Aug / Day 41 -Trek to Askole

08 Aug / Day 42 -Trek to Skardu over night in Hotel

09 Aug / Day 43 - Fly back to Islamabad  over night in hotel

10 Aug / Day 44 - Debriefing over night in Hotel

11 Aug / Day 45 -Fly Back 

Tuesday 19 April 2011

Broad Peak - The walk in

I found this video today of a trek up to concordia - the walk in to Broad Peak. What in incredible place. Probably answers a big chunk of the question: Why do we do it?

7 weeks time and we're there...

Tuesday 29 March 2011

Success on Mount Damavand, Iran

Scott Mackenzie skiing from the summit
©John Roberts
3 of the team, John Roberts, Duncan Robinson and Scott Mackenzie (along with 2 others) made the 2nd British Ski descent of Mt Damavand, Iran (5671m) on the 19th March.

On the summit, 5671m
© Duncan Robinson
This was an ideal "training" peak for Broad Peak later in the year.

Individual blog posts:

UKC News Item:

Friday 11 March 2011

Flights: Qatar Airways

We're making progress with organisation, deposit paid, down suits ordered.  Flights are now booked using Qatar Airways.

Thanks to the Claudio Martinelli at the Flight Centre in Manchester who were really helpful in sorting everything out.

Thursday 24 February 2011

The Pakistani Tour Operator

As the first post we're hoping to document the planning and everything in the lead up to and during the expedition.

After some strong recommendations from a number of people including from the broadpeak2010 expedition we're using the Skardu based tour operator Lela Peaks.  There are a number of other operators out there but given the combination of recommendations, package and price seemed to make sense.

Hopefully they will live up to the recommendations and expectations.