Tom Ballard Reports From Nanga Parbat, Part II

Tom Ballard, Daniele Nardi and Co. continue to spend more time shoveling than climbing. Here, with light edits, the British climber gives us further insight into the past few days on the mountain:

After high winds pushed them back to Base Camp, they started again…

Breaking trail was hard work. We didn’t descend onto the glacier at first because of the avalanche danger. The next day, we easily followed our nicely made path and then ventured down onto the glacier, following a rather circumspect route. I was in front with my mini skis, but I was still struggling with the skins not sticking in the cold. I made a big mistake in not applying fresh glue before coming to Pakistan. Every hundred metres or so, one skin slipped off, I’d curse, maybe a second curse, then I’d slide a warm bottle along the skin to reactivate the glue. I’d then jump on the skis and rush off to make some ground before the next slippage (and the next cursing).

It snowed lightly all day, which kept the temperature bearable. Deep snow meant that it took almost six hours to reach Camp 1. I say Camp 1, when actually what we found was just snow. Abundant snow. So Karim, Daniele and I started a chain gang to dig out the tent with the one shovel we had fortuitously carried up. After a lot of work, the tent was excavated, a broken pole mended and the tent re-pitched. Now, to find the second tent. An hour and several deep holes later, we still hadn’t found it. It was time for a cozy night in the (fortunately) three-man tent.

Digging out the buried tent at Camp 1. Photo: Tom Ballard/Montane


And all they found was …

Blue sky the next morning meant cold temperatures. We spent two fruitless hours looking for the other tent. The only sign was a freeze-dried meal, a plastic sack and a broken guy line attached to a rock. We assume that the tent was blown away. Most of our gear was in the surviving tent. Sadly, Karim’s crampons were lost, so he dejectedly headed back to Base Camp whilst Daniele and I slogged up to Camp 2. A lot of digging to be done here too. Finally, the battered tent was unearthed from beneath several metres of snow. It had two broken poles and was bent out of shape. Everything inside was in good condition, though.

The third day dawned exceptionally clear and cold. We had repaired the tent the best we could, replacing the broken and misshapen poles with poles from a spare tent – a fiddly job at room temperature, never mind far below zero. Every time you take off your outer gloves, your fingers become numb extraordinarily quickly. Then we lit the stove to bring some life back into our hands. We spent the afternoon lying in our sleeping bags. Fortunately, I had T.E. Lawrence to keep me entertained. That, and the snoring of my partner-in-crime. I could barely make it through a chapter before my fingers became too cold to turn the pages. Reading whilst wearing gloves is never a pleasant experience. Around 8pm my watch showed -22°C inside the tent. That increased to a rather pleasant -8°C with both stoves going. During the evening, many avalanches swept down from above.

Slogging through deep powder. Photo: Tom Ballard/Montane


Undeterred, they headed up toward a non-existent Camp 3…

Another clear and cold day. Off we set for Camp 3. It really was cold; a bitter breeze swept down from above. The unpleasant feeling of cold fingers and the agony of the hot aches cycle repeated several times before we arrived at what had been Camp 3. Sunshine made things almost pleasant, while it lasted. The sun lit the Mummery Spur directly above us.

Of the tent and all our gear, there was no sign. Buried under several tons of snow. Tiredly, we dug several deep holes, in vain. We had to descend since we had nowhere to sleep, especially since the wind up high was increasing and forming some incredible clouds. We had a brew and a bite to eat at Camp 2, and continued to Camp 1. Then I had the pleasure to don skis. I reckon I got in about seven really awesome powder turns down the steepest part. The rest of the time, I was straight lining through deep snow or shuffling on the flatter sections. We were rewarded with glorious alpenglow as the sun set. Absolutely stunning, almost worth the trip down just to see it.

Although Ballard ends his post on a positive note, with the loss of gear and the continually heavy snow, you have to wonder how much longer they can continue…

Tom Ballard’s edited post comes from a sponsor’s press release, which can be found in full here.


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Winter 8000’er Update: Despair on Nanga Parbat, K2 Climbers Still Hopeful

Tom Ballard Reports from Nanga Parbat

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