June 30, 2008

Welcome to the Batura II Expedition – 2008 (July 5 – August 14)

Simone Moro’s and Hervè Barmasse’s departure date is set for July 5, 2008. They will arrive in Islamabad on the 8th of July and after sorting out bureaucratic formalities at the Pakistan Ministry of Tourism and preparing the mountaineering food and equipment for the next two months, this dynamic-duo will set off to climb Batura II. Follow Simone and Hervè’s progress on the mountain, by reading intriguing dispatch blogs and seeing beautiful pictures.

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The Approach
This dispatch blog will follow the team from the road to Chilas, to Aliabad, to Hassanabad, to trekking to their base camp on the Batokshi glacier (where they will install their base camp at approximately 3900 meters), and finally to Batura II. Simone and Hervè will dedicate almost two months of their time climbing the mountain and exploring the area.

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Simone Explains…Why Batura II!
It is a well known fact that there are hundreds of un-violated and unexplored mountains on our planet and I wanted to find the identity of the highest of these peaks. Batura II is 7762 meters and is located in Pakistan’s western Karakorum in the Batura Muztagh group. Batura II is also called Pik 31 or Hunza Kunji. It was extremely difficult to locate and find exact information on its history. Many internet sites and some publications listed it as one of the summits climbed in 1978 by a Japanese expedition. I then discovered, thanks to precious and scientific information from the German Wolfgang Heichel, that it had NEVER been climbed and that there have been 4 attempts to climb the summit. The first one in 1959 by an Anglo-German expedition, then in 1978 by the Japanese which was concluded by reaching Batura IV by Ishikawa Ito and Makoto Ohkubo, after having tried the Southern face of Batura II. It was the climber Ito that supplied the details concerning the climb and revealing the achievement of Batura IV. The Poles then tried in 1983 but they then fell back on Batura I after an attempt on Batura II. The Germans tried again in 2002. I was given information and pictures by Markus Walter, taken during their recent attempt. Thank God alpinism is anything but dead. There is still climbers who are trying to escape from its fossilization and in my small way I am trying to help this change.

Expedition_2008_batura03 Batura II with its 7762 meters represents the highest un-violated mountain on this earth. Even if there are still some fore-summits (or satellite summits) of mountains with a higher altitude that await to be climbed, for example Lhotse middle east 8376 m or Nupse central 7815 m and a few others, these summits are not considered independent and autonomous as is the case of Batura II which is thus identified even by its name (Batura II and not Batura east, or west, or central) as a mountain which is part of the Batura Muztagh group in the same way as those belonging to the Annapurna group, which were also identified with the names I,II, III, IV etc according to their altitude and independent location. The southern face of Batura II, the side which will be the object of our attempt, is definitely more difficult but less dangerous compared to the western face. It is the same face on which previous attempts were made, but which we will attempt by following a new and different line from what has been followed up until now.

Expedition_2008_batura06 My climbing partner will be the Italian alpinist Hervè Barmasse. It will only be the two of us in the whole region of Batura Muztagh and this will guarantee solitude and total independence which is at the core of our philosophy. If we add these factors to the extreme high altitude of the summit, the unknown factor of the ascent route and the complete “virginity” of the whole upper section of the mountain and the actual summit, we can only claim that our project is at the same time exciting, difficult and adventurous. Only in the depths of winter or in very few other situations or faces can you find this situation on an 8000 meter peak. – Simone Moro

July 3, 2008

Reflections from Simone Moro

Ath_simonehd There are too many people at 8000 meters, and each one is trying to complete the collection of 14 mountains higher than that fateful altitude. For those who do not aspire to the collection but nonetheless aim to reach the summit without a thought that in 95% of the cases it means climbing the “normal” route which though difficult, represents the first an ascent made half a century ago. Another fashion is of achieving the first ascent of one’s “category” on “X” summit; the first Italian, the first American, the first Senegalese, the first deaf man, the first lame man, the first woman, the first man to walk up backwards, the first white man, black, yellow, the fastest, the most handsome, the richest, the….most stupid. I myself have had encounters with some of the above and I myself have “sinned” by climbing up the normal routes, but I now understand that real alpinism travels along other tracks towards a vertical adventure, physical and mental. I therefore attempted, sometimes successfully, or by failing, winter ascents, new routes, traverses, speedy ascents, trying to grab the baton left by the great alpinists of the past. I tried in a few words to create my own alpinism, and not to clone what had been done so well in the past. Today’s extra-European alpinism has been reduced to shortsightedness with little imagination. With a few pleasant exceptions, alpinists are all categorized in the same way in terms of their climbing, thinking, in talking about themselves and in the way they conceive their direction and mountaineering “career”. Virgin mountains, new routes on unknown faces, repetitions of climbs achieved only once and never again revisited, winter ascents, traverses of a number of mountains and many other forms of alpinism are lacking from the current trend of mountaineering. There are very few people who undertake this new type of adventure, and are mainly from Eastern Europe or nonetheless rare individuals from the national and international panorama. The reasons for this are many, amongst the main reasons is the inability to accept a potential failure and the difficulty in terms of appealing to the greater public concerned that there will be no comparison with the 8000 meter ascents (if 6000-7000 meter peaks are chosen.) One needs only to look at any internet site in the pre-and post-monsoon seasons and you will be overwelmed by information regarding climbing on the highest peaks of the world…but for goodness sake…they are all the same, all in line.

Climbing mountains is always filled with uncertainty and hard work, I am the first person to confirm this, but as well as the physical effort one needs imagination, inventiveness, and a hunger for the unknown and adventure. It’s not whether or not you have a satellite phone that eliminates these assumptions. By using communication instruments, great pages of true alpinism can be told as well as very boring titanic exertions dragging oneself up a summit which has already been climbed a hundred times in the same style and along the same route. Even being unsuccessful acquires another flavor if one has attempted to play an innovative mountaineering match, different from the usual and current clichés. The most frequent questions asked in the global village of alpinists and mountaineering fans are “How many 8000 meter peaks have you climbed?” or “How many times have you climbed Everest?” and this now seems to be the measure by which to list and attribute merit. If you attempt a different type of alpinism, express yourself in many different languages or write books (and not let someone else write them for you), if you move well on all terrain (rock, ice, mixed), if you can recount what you do and what you feel in a fluent way, if you declare successes and failure with the same tone of voice, you are seen in a bad light and not tolerated in the eyes and minds of the main characters on the alpinism stage. Criticism and mistrust are the reactions to the above qualities. Messner, on the other hand, still the “number one”, should have taught something in terms of versatility of physical sporting aptitude and mental and entrepreneurial qualitie. – Reflections from Simone Moro

July 13, 2008

We arrived…

Hallo guys!! We are on line…

Summit_july13_221x221 We arrived 2 days ago in the Batura base camp after 6 days spent travelling by flight from Milan to Islamabad, organize all the burocratic procedure in the Pakistani capital and than driving along the Karakorum Highway by bus and than by jeep to the village of Bar. From there in 3 days trekking we reached the 4107 meters of our base camp. I was not used to spend 6 days only to arrive at the base of the mountain… in fact in the last expeditions I spent 2-3 weeks and more to realize the same transfers…

Simone_herve_july13_221x221 I’m with Herve Barmasse ad our dream is to reach the unclimbed summit of Batura II 7762 m, that is considered the highest unclimbed peak of the planet. There are also 2 other friends with us. They are the 2 young brothers Martin and Florian Riegler that are here to realize their first expedition and I suggested them a nice mountain named Darwo Chook 5800 m that I saw 3 years ago. They are sharing with us only the base camp and I’m “teaching” them all the procedures and “secrets” of a climbing expedition. They are very enthusiastic about this opportunity.

Nearsummit_july13_221x221 Today 13th July we did our first acclimatisation escursion-clims . I and Hervè reached the summit of Ya Chhish 5130 m and the 2 young brothers went till the base of their mountain.

Tomorrow we will take rest and after tomorrow we will start for our different climbs!

Ciao and stay tuned!

- Simone Moro

July 16, 2008

Arriving at Base Camp After Climb at Batokshi Peak

Herv_and_simone_on_batokshi_peak__2 Yesterday I prepared the new report to send you but I get the tragic news about our friend Karl Unterkircher. We were shoked and decided to be silent and postpone our report.

Now you get it:

Climbing_july16_4 Ciao!

I and Hervè just arrived to Base Camp after a fast climb in alpine style of Batokshi peak 6050. For me is the second time that I reach that summit. In 2005 I climbed using 2 camps but this time we climbed in 9 hours 30 min only. On the summit we set our tend and we spent the night in that fantastic place with an amazing sunset.

UNFORTUNATELY we had a bad surprise. On the other side of the mountain we saw a huge team of Korean (around 15 members + 3/4 high altitude porters) that are attempting our same mountain ….Batura II. They arrived some weeks ago and we saw a lot of climbers going up, setting camps and fix ropes…… It had been “terrible” to discover that another team is there and using a heavy style and high altitude porters to attempt the summit of Batura II. I don't like competition and make discussion so I cancel my project for Batura II.

Herv_on_the_summit_july16_3 Nobody knows about that Korean expedition and for that reason I and Hervè were climbing in super light style and very motivated. Now everything is changed, destroied. In fact from the summit of Batoshi peak weplanned to descent 100 mt in a big plateu and continue the climb along the same exact route that the korean already fixed and organized (they reached around 6700 m). There is no reason for me to continue and joint that kind of style to reach the summit. I will leave the korean free to continue, they arrived before us… and they are using the climbing style they like and prefer. I will change my plan and I will focus my climb on some unclimbed and unexplored mountains around our base camp. We are in Baltar Glacier, the Korean in the opposite valley on the Machuhar Glacier. I'm looking for a clean, respectful, light style, Alpinism, where the "exploration aspect" is the main goal. I don't want to reach the summit of the mountain without my personal ethic. That all.

Batura_july16_3 I hope you understand my decision. It look me stupid to climb in alpine and light style following the fix ropes and tracks of a huge expedition. Batura II is unclimbed and I really don't want to feel in competition and rush. Better change program and let the Korean free. I respect them and their decision and I hope to be the same.

Ciao

- Simone Moro

July 25, 2008

After 1 Week…

Slake_line Ciao! We are back, on line. After 1 week without electricity due a technical problem with our generator (it is completely broken after a 4 days “swimming” due heavy rain in BC) we finally get my second generator here in base camp. So starting from today we are again able to be in touch with the world.

Herve_boulder The past week, after our Batokshi peak 6050 m alpine style climb in 9 hours 30 minutes) had been spent from us climbing on the nice rock here around, bouldering and exercising on the slake line. We decided to stay here in BC because we gave our eventual support to the rescue team on Nanga Parbat, so we decided to be always ready here in case we have to be picked up from the helicopter rescue and fly to Nanga Parbat. Thanks God the 2 strong climbers on Nanga managed themselves all the situation and they came safe back till 5700 meters. They did a very good job. Bravi! From our side we also decided our goal instead Batura II (assaulted by a huge korean tem with High altitude Porters).

Martin_boulder_2_2 The mountain we decided to climb (we requested official climbing permit to Ministry of Tourism of Pakistan) is a very nice peak. The name of “our” peak is Beka Brakai Chhok and is nearly a 7000. Attempted already 3 times it remain unclimbed and is just in front of our base camp. I and Hervè will attempt it in alpine style and in a fast approach. We are only waiting for the permit and the good weather conditions that should start next Tuesday. We feel good and we are preparing our climb continuing to make exercise and bouldering here on the green base camp at 4107 m. We know that Beka Brakai Chhok (6940 m) will be not an easy climb…

- Simone Moro

July 29, 2008

13 Days at Base Camp

Baturabatokshi There are are already 13 days that we are in base camp after our climb of Batokshi Peak6050 m. We spent those days here in base camp climbing on the boulders here around, walking n the slake line, make some escursions, reparing our generators, but most of the time we were waiting for the good weather. In fact we get rain and snow and heavy clouds.

Now it looks that the wait is close to be finished. This morning we received the weather forecast from our friend of Insbrck,Karl Gabl, and he predict the arrival of high pressure and low wind starting from Wednesday till Sunday. That’s why this morning we were smiling doing our daily training  and we prepared our plans for beak Brakai Chhok 6940 m.

Batura2_big Wednesday Martin und Florian Riegler will start their trekking back to the village of Bar and than the long road trip to Islamabad. Their time is close to be finished and they have to go back in taly. They already told me their intention to come back here next year to complete what they started… In fact they climbed 14 pitches on the virgin wall of Darwo Chhok that is like a “El Capitan” situated between 4800 and 5800 m on Baltar Glacier. Probably I will come with them next year to continue that climb and realize a spectacular big wall climb I this wild place. I saw that face already in 2005 and suggested them and should be nice to realize the dream together….

- Simone Moro

August 10, 2008

Finally the Summit!

SUMMIT!! SUMMIT!! SUMMIT!!

81108blog_2 Beka Brakai Chhok nearly 7000 m (6940m) in not more a virgin mountain…. It had been difficult, delicate and had but finally me climbed it.

We knew about 2-3 attempts before and also this year in June there had been a couple of alpinist that attempted it. Beka Brakai Chhook is really a beautiful mountain . Before to describe our climb we would like to express or sadness for the tragic events on K2 and Nanga Parbat some weeks ago…

Simoneandherveonsummit I and Hervè decided to avoid the 8000 meters this summer (too many people) and try something different in a wild area as Baltar Glacier (we thought about Batura II). I had been before in 2005 and I knew the high potential of this area.

When we arrived we had the bad surprise to find a big Koren expedition, using heavy stile and high altitude porters to attempt the same mountain we thought… So we decided to let them completely free and change our program after the Batokshi peak acclimatisation/speed ascent.

Startinginthenight We immediately decided to attempt beak Brakai Chhok and we requested and paid regularly the climbing permit to the Pakistani authorities. We thanks our trekking agency (hunza Guides) and the Minister of Tourism to support us and accept our request.

So after a 13 days bad weather period and the climbing permit wait, we started for our climb at 5 a.m form the base of the face. We climbed in pure alpine style. No tends, sleeping bas, stove, nothing…

We climbed all the days on difficult section also vertical ice parts and mix climb. At 9:30 p we reached 6500 meters after a super delicate traverse on thin and exposed ridge. We decided to organize a bivouac and we jumped in a small crevasses under a serac and we spent the night there…. (very cold night). The day after we waited the sun to warm up and then we continued our climb till the top. The last part had been again very difficult and we climbed on rock and mix sing all our abilities and experience. At 14,30 we were on the top where we find and touch a huge cornice…

Viabekabrakaichook We were super happy and satisfied but simply at 50% of our climb…. We started to come down immediately and we choose a different route…more direct but dangerous. That’s why we tried to be as fast as we ca and taking care about the huge seracs on our heads…. Thanks us and God everything went in the right way and at midnight we returned to our tend at the base of the mountain. We took all our equipment and than we went directly to base camp that we reached at 3:00 a.m.

We are of course very satisfied about our climb. Fast, in super light style and on a virgin high peak. Exactly what we was looking for. This area has many other future possibility and probably I will be here again…soon…

- Simone Moro

August 12, 2008

Shimshal Climbing School

Shismshal_withehorn_3 We had been in the remote valley of Shimshal. We met the local people and authorities and we visited the families of the 2 high altitude porters died on k2 last week (rescuing 2 foreign climbers).

The project started and we did the first "lesson" showing videos and explaining our goal with the school. The responsible of the school will be Qudrat Ali and Shaheen baig who are 2 famous shimshali mountaineers and high altitude porters and had been with me in my last broad peak attempt It will be the first climbing school in Pakistan involving males and females TOGETHER…

Simone_ed_herv_2 My idea is to visit regurarly (1-2 times per year) and participate in teaching the students how to climb on rock, ice, mix and how to guide a client in low and high altitude. We also will organize some small climbs with some selected students on the 6000 and 7000 meters around shimshal. Many of those mountains are still unclimbed.

Alcuni_alleivi_e_allieve_2 Very soon I will provide some basic TNF products to the students and I will try to involve some my sponsor in providing climbing gear and equipment (ice axes, crampons, harnesses, helmets and so on). The students need all the basic products and equipment to start their activity.

The_nambardar_major_of_shimshal_2 The local people of Shimshal asked me to express their gratitude to the company and to all of you. They appreciated very much our sensibility and the soul of our project.

Ciao!

- Simone Moro