This just in from Sebastian “Basti” Haag and Benedikt “Beni” Bohm, the Dynafit athletes doing a speed climb and ski descent of Gasherbraum II. No doubt there is a bit of hype associated with this. On the other hand, speed in alpinism is cool and these guys are doing an excellent job, so it is fun to report:
After several relaxing days in base camp to fuel up for our first summit assault, we climbed to Camp One. Since we were pushing up the mountain as per schedule, were ready for the first summit push last Saturday, July 29th. Starting from Camp 3, which lies on an altitude of 6900 meters, we still had to climb 1135 meters, which is a demanding distance at that altitude.
The starting signal fell at midnight. It was a clear night, the weather couldnâ€™t have been better. Using axe and crampons the whole way up, we didnâ€™t want to think about the ski run down while ascending the steep passages. We also had some heavy traffic since there are many people hanging on the fixed ropes.
We hit the summit at exactly 8 AM on Saturday, July 29th. It was a great feeling and a perfect day! There was no wind and it wasnâ€™t cold, so we could fully enjoy the feeling to be on top of one of the highest mountains on earth.
The boys celebrating an 8,000 meter summit. Question is, what are those climbing skins doing on those skis. No doubt a remnant from some wishful thinking a few thousand meters below.
But the greatest challenge was still waiting for us: the longest and most technically demanding ski descent we had ever attempted.
The descent began with a ride over a narrow summit ridge. On the left side Pakistan, on the right side China, steep 1000 meter walls on both sides. We continued through steep and huge icefalls. The wind had blown away a lot of snow, so we had very unpleasant conditions [editor’s note: nice understatement!]. In addition to that we had to find ways around some steep pitches that would have been impossible to ski. We had to be extremely focused since we couldnâ€™t risk falling. There were a few very hazardous situations, but in the end we succeeded to ski down up to the icefall.
Happy but exhausted we rested for a short time in camp 1 until it got colder and it was less dangerous to walk across the crevasse-bridges through the icefall. We had to struggle through ice and mucky snow and it was by far the most dangerous ski run we’ve ever done. A few months ago, Hans Kammerlander had discouraged us from attempting this descent — we now know what he was talking about. Weâ€™re glad that we took the chance and succeeded. The whole run was 2500 meters long, from the summit down to the icefall, without using ropes or unstrapping our skis.
If big wave surfing in Hawaii is the ultimate kick for surfers, the ultimate challenge for ski mountaineers is a ski run down Gasherbrum II.
We’re thinking about going for the summit a second time, and we’ll keep you updated.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.