Gasherbrum: Route to Camp 1 Open But Risky

The route to Camp 1 on the Gasherbrums is finally open, but crossing the hazardous glacier remains difficult, as Horia Colibasanu’s close call shows.

The start of the Gasherbrum season was quite chaotic, as the few teams in place — mainly small groups of independent climbers — tried to find a way through the broken Gasherbrum Glacier. Each followed a different path but shared information on their progress. For many days, there was, frankly, not a lot of progress to share.

Searching for a passage

Lukasz Supergan of Poland tried again last week. He and his partner managed to reach 5,300m. Progress was slow on the dangerous terrain in the dark, but the sun destabilized the glacier even more, making night travel preferable. After they returned, they learned that a French team had finally found a way to Camp 1.

“The French team was thus the first to open a route through the icefall this year,” Supergan reported. “A day later, the Seven Summits Treks team came out to the icefall, with their nine Sherpas, who know the route from the previous year. In one outing, they crossed the route on the left, where we were operating, and opened access to the plateau above the icefall…so now we have two routes to choose from.”

The Polish climber planned to hurry to Camp 1 for a first acclimatization trip. The idea was to return to Base Camp before tomorrow’s expected snowstorm.

For the task, he joined with Luke Smithwick’s American team and with Romanians Horia Colibasanu and Silviu Balan. They reached Camp 1 at 6,000m yesterday.

“The trail was much longer and harder than I thought,” Colibasanu wrote. “[It was] hot even at 3 am when we left.”

Everyone was on skis, which made the going somewhat easier.

Snow bridge collapses

However, the skis didn’t save Colibasanu when a snow bridge collapsed under his weight, plunging the climber into a crevasse. Colibasanu described what happened next:

After they both kept me on the rope, I asked them to drop me a meter below. Although they hesitated for a moment, not believing that I enjoyed the crevasse so much, they simultaneously executed the maneuver and lowered me onto an ice sill about six meters deep. There I managed to put my skis and backpack down on a 40cm ledge, put on my crampons and take the two ice axes from the backpack.

a huge icefall of seracs at the feet of Gasherbrum peaks

The broken Gasherbrum Glacier. Photo: Lukasz Supergan


I [wondered if I should] abandon the skis, but I didn’t, thinking that I would need them later, even though I knew that it would be much more difficult to get out of the crevasse with the skis on the pack…

At a signal of the loudest possible shout from the crevasse, the boys began to pull the rope, and I, on ice axes, began to advance toward the exit. The last two meters, the wall became overhanging, so I…passed to the other side of the crevasse. The biggest problem was the actual exit, because the edges were snow, not ice, and the axes didn’t stick. Finally, pushing myself with my legs I managed to lean my chest on the edge and take off my backpack and push it over the crevasse.A strong pull of Silviu’s rope and I was safe, breathless. Fortunately, without a single scratch.

the climbers inside a tent

Supergan, Valan, and Colibasanu in their tent at Camp 1 on Gasherbrum. Photo: Horia Colibasanu

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides graduated university in journalism and specializes in high-altitude mountaineering and expedition news. She has been writing about climbing and mountaineering, adventure and outdoor sports for 20+ years.

Prior to that, Angela Benavides spent time at/worked at a number of local and international media. She is also experienced in outdoor-sport consultancy for sponsoring corporations, press manager and communication executive, and a published author.