Dispatches

Our summer 2016 Mont Blanc expedition is underway with climbers exploring the beautiful Chamonix valley in the French Alps. Chamonix is where the first winter olympics were held in 1924 and is also considered the ‘birthplace’ of climbing.

Yesterday Irena & Aparna climbed the Cosmiques Arete ridge.  Guide Jayson Simons-Jones will teach alpine mountain skills in preparation for Mont Blanc in a few days time. Right now Chamonix is in the midst of an above average heatwave, and this allowed our team to make a completely crampon free ascent of this alpine classic mixed rock snow and ice ridge climb (II+ AD / 5.6)

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Irena & Aparna enjoying a rare quiet day and beauty spot for lunch at 3600M on the super Classic Cosmiques Arete.
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Climbing the Aiguille du Toule 3600M on a perfect bluebird summer day on the French / Italian border
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This past week our climbers had an action packed two day climb of Mount Rainier in Washington State. Starting at an elevation of 5,400 feet at Paradise our team, led by Garrett Madison, made the three hour ascent with gear to Camp Muir (10,188). Camp Muir is a high altitude refuge for all climbers and provides a staging point between the Muir Snowfield and the Cowlitz Glacier.

After setting up camp and eating a delicious dinner, our climbing team prepared for the long night of climbing ahead. After waking up at 11pm to a full moon, we gathered our gear and roped up before heading off toward the summit. As the hours passed we worked our way across three ladder crossings over large crevasse’s. Nearing the summit we were pleasantly warmed up by the sun breaking over the distant horizon with a spectacular red and orange sky.

All members of our team successfully made it to the summit and had a wonderful time on the mountain. We look forward to returning to Mount Rainier again in 2017!

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Our summer 2016 climbing programs here in the Pacific Northwest are off to a great start with another beautiful summit of Mt. Baker! This 3 day climb takes you to the top of an active glaciated stratovolcano in the North Cascades of Washington in the United States. At an elevation of 10,781ft (3,286 m) our climbing team reached the third highest point in Washington State with views of many of the notable mountains scattered across the horizon.

Pat Timson, a highly accomplished alpinist, guided this climb and was able to share over 25 years of experience as our climbing team made their ascent to the summit of Mt. Baker.

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“After our summit attempt on K2 we trekked out over the Gondogoro pass; rocks, snow & ice, a jeep ride then flight today back to Islamabad. Nobody summited K2 for the second year in a row. Feeling very happy & lucky to be heading home after a great expedition!”

Garrett Madison – 2016 K2 Expedition Leader

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Our 2016 K2 climbers are now trekking out of the Karakoram as they begin the long journey back home. Below is a collection of beautiful photos taken by climber Stuart Erskine as well as a overview of the season ending avalanche that took out our high camps.

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“The avalanche passed by us and a lot of our oxygen bottles made huge bangs as they exploded hitting rocks and debris. We lost all our summit supplies from Camp 3 and Camp 4 including our tents, over 40 full O2 bottles, ropes to fix to the summit, equipment and personal supples. It spelt the end of our chances of summiting K2 for 2016. Very unlucky to loose everything needed to summit, but so so lucky we were not in Camp 3 when the avalanche went through camp as we would have had 40 to 60 people in Camp 3. Nobody was injured or killed in the avalanche. All teams lost everything required to summit K2 for 2016, so nobody will summit for 2016. The same event happened in 2015.”

-Stuart Erskine

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Camp 2 on K2.

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Garrett Madison climbing on the fixed ropes from Camp 1 to Camp 2 on K2 on July 22, 2016. Broad Peak the 12 highest mountain in the world is on the left. The Godwin Austin glacier flowing down the valley to Concordia, which is the junction where the Godwin Austin glacier meets the Baltoro glacier.

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A few climbers camp just before the bottleneck between Camp 1 and Camp 2 on K2 during the 2016 climbing season. Other than the regular camps 1, 2, 3 and 4, this is one of the only level places on K2 to pitch a tent.

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Climbing from Camp 1 to Camp 2 on July 22, 2016 during our third and final summit rotation on K2 for 2016.

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Arriving at Camp 1 on K2 on July 21, 2016 in fog, snow and wind.

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Arriving at Camp 1 on July 21, 2016 on our third and final summit rotation on K2.

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Trekking at 4:30 AM from K2 Base Camp to Camp 1 up the Godwin Austin glacier to the start of the Abruzi Ridge route on July 21, 2016 on our third and final summit rotation on K2.

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Trekking at 5:30 AM from K2 Base Camp to Camp 1 up the Godwin Austin glacier to the start of the Abruzi Ridge route on July 21, 2016 on our third and final summit rotation on K2.

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Returning to K2 Base Camp after the massive avalanche took out Camp 3 and Camp 4.

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The upper Karakoram Valley is very desolate and barren. It’s extremely hard to find any form of plant life. Showing Broad Peak and the Godwin Austin glacier.

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Wait, there is life! With the guidance of our Pakistani military Liaison Officer we found a very small pocket of diversified plant life in the upper Karakoram Valley on the side of Angel Peak and K2.

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Broad Peak, the Godwin Austin glacier and K2 Base Camp seen from the small location where plants and flowers where found and photographed.

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From left, Angel Peak, K2 and Broad Peak at night with trailing stars in the sky. You can see a light from K2 Base Camp.

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The upper Karakoram Valley of Northeastern Pakistan is a barren and desolate place and it is very difficult to find any form of life. On our 2016 Expedition to climb K2 we found a small area on the side of Angel Peak and K2 of very diversified plant life included mosses, lichens, grasses and flowering plants.

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Our team is now back down in base camp after our K2 summit attempt. Tomorrow was supposed to be our summit day, the weather currently looks perfect as predicted, clear skies and no wind. We had everything in position for our summit attempt, after about 5 weeks of preparations, we had established our high camps, had climbed to camp 3, and were looking forward to our summit. But it was not meant to be, as when we were preparing to climb from camp 1 to camp 2 on the morning of July 23, we saw a big avalanche come down the mountain. We later learned that this avalanche was massive, had started somewhere near our camp 4, and had covered nearly a third of the mountain down to the base,  taking out our camps 3 & 4, nothing was left. We were lucky that we were not in these camps when the avalanche occurred. Without our equipment for our summit attempt (tents, oxygen, ropes, food, etc) we cannot continue our climb, we are now heading home, as are all teams. Yesterday we searched the avalanche debris field at the base of the mountain, about 7000′ below where the slide began,  but found nothing,  as the debris was around 10-20 ft. deep in most areas. We will leave base camp in a couple of days and trek out,  then fly or drive to Islamabad and fly home. Even though we did not make the summit we had a great experience and and are thankful for the time we had in this beautiful mountain range. -Garrett Madison

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Massive avalanche on K2, camps 3 and 4 totally gone without a trace: All members currently safe in camp 2. Expedition now finished as all equipment for summit attempt (tents, oxygen, ropes, food, etc) has been lost.

-Garrett Madison

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Expedition leader Garrett Madison called in this morning to report that the team has safely reached Camp 1 and are now pinned down with harsh weather conditions. The team will wait and see if the weather stabilizes before moving higher on K2.

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This is a wind graph that we use to make data driven decisions on K2. Michael Fagin and team at West Coast Weather provide our expeditions around the world with advanced forecasting models. Michael Fagin has a background in weather forecasting for major expedition groups that climb K2 and other climbing venues. He is experienced in climate data retrieval and analysis for clients around the world.

K2 Wind Graph

*Forecast issued on July 22, 2016 and weather needs to be monitored as the weather patterns can and do change over time.

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Our climbers and guides climbing to Camp 1.

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In one day or so our international expedition of four climbers, two guides and six Sherpas will be leaving on their third and final climbing rotation, their K2 summit rotation. We expect the summit rotation to take six days to summit and return to K2 Base Camp.

Beautiful photos taken by Stuart Erskine.

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This is the first time we’ve seen K2 in a week or so as it has been non-stop fog and blowing snow.

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Broad Peak, the Godwin Austin Glacier and K2 Base Camp from partway up K2 Glacier.

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K2 glacier looking up to K2.

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K2 glacier and K2 in the middle, with Angle Peak to the left and Broad Peak to the right.

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At K2 Base Camp we’ve had snow, fog and rain for over a week now since July 13, 2016. This is our first nice day of weather and we are experiencing a lot of avalanches. This avalanche coming high off K2 from the bottleneck at over 27,000 ft has some serious propulsion and just misses the top of K2 Base Camp. The debris goes all the way across the valley towards the base of Broad Peak.

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Life is a balance. Stuart, a rock and K2.

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Stuart and his Sherpa climbed up onto the K2 glacier to the base of K2 to ponder their upcoming summit bid and contemplate safe passage on the mountain.

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The Madison Mountaineering USA International K2 Expedition are having a 7-8 day break between their second rotation that got them up as high as Camp 3 at 24,500 ft on K2 and their final K2 summit rotation. During that rest time it’s important for the guides, climbers and Sherpas to eat well, stay healthy and active.

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Photos taken by K2 2016 climber Stuart Erskine

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Climbers, Guides, Sherpas and Porters at Camp 3 at 24,500 ft or 7,550 meters in the morning during their second rotation. Everyone is getting ready to head back down to K2 Base Camp after the weather conditions changed and high summit winds started for the next 6-10 days. Broad Peak the 12th highest mountain in the world at 8,051 meters or 26,414 ft high is in the background right. The high summit winds are obvious on the summit of Broad Peak in this photo and K2 is 560 meters or 1,837 ft higher than Broad Peak.

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Garrett and Simba climbing down part of the Black Pyramid from Camp 3 to Camp 2 on K2.

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Climbers, Sherpas and Porters resting part way down from K2 Camp 3 at 24,500 ft and on their way to Advance Base Camp (ABC) at 17,500 ft. K2 is so steep, rocky and icy that 80 to 90 percent of the 7,000 ft climb down has to be done by repelling on fixed ropes for most climbers which will take about 8 to 9 hours. This is normally followed by a 2 to 3 hour trek from ABC at 17,500 ft to K2 Base Camp at 16,500 ft, all in the same day.

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An avalanche across the valley from Broad Peak Base Camp. Avalanches, rock and ice fall are regular occurrences each day during the climbing season in the Karakoram Mountain Range. The mountains are very steep and the constant changes in temperature, weather and ground conditions creates a lot of falling debris which can be very dangerous for climbers and their support teams.

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Anyone have the phone number for the K2 Fire Department?

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During this rest day the two guides and four climbers walked down to Broad Peak Base Camp which is about three hours round trip. Broad Peak is the neighboring mountain to K2 and is the 12th highest mountain in the world at 8,051 meters or 26,414 ft high. In this photo the Madison Mountaineering team is enjoying some hospitality from a climbing team attempting to climb Broad Peak, in their dinning tent.

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Our four climbers and two guides with the staff from Broad Peak Base Camp when we trekked down to visit their Base Camp.

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Our chef Antony and his kitchen staff are barbecuing some fresh chicken for supper.

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