Summer Climbs 2017: Late Season Summit of Broad Peak Called into Question

7 15 BroadPeak

The climbing season in the Karakoram may have ended a couple of weeks back, but there is still news to share. It seems that a late season bid on Broad Peak that was thought to have resulted in successful summits may not have reached the top after all, and now – days later – at least one climber has withdrawn his claims for actually reaching the summit of the mountain.

The news of this story broke last week while I was backpacking in Tahoe, but Alan Arnette has all of the important information. The expedition in question was led by none other than Mingma Gyalji Sherpa of Dreamers Destination. News of the summit was met with amazement, as the team had previously climbed K2 just a few days earlier. Mingma and his team, along with climbers Ali Raza, John Snorri Sigurjónsson and Fredrik Sträng left that mountain only to arrive in Base Camp on Broad Peak a day later, and immediately launch their summit bid. Being well acclimatized, they made short order out of the mountain, reaching the top a few days later.

But now that everyone has gone back home, and the summit photos have been examined, Sträng isn’t so sure that the team actually reached the top. Here’s what he ad to say about the situation and why he has now withdrawn his claim of a BP summit:

The reason for me abandoning the claim is that I am not 100 % sure any more if we truly made it to the main summit or not. When we (5 Sherpas, 1 Pakistani and 3 clients on Mingma Sherpas team and I) “summited” it was in a snow blizzard, poor visibility and in treacherous terrain.

“I immediately asked Ali Raza on the “summit”, “is this the summit?”. Ali was on the main summit 1-week prior our attempt and have summited twice before our attempt. He should know where the main summit is and I don’t see why he should lie about being on the wrong summit. When I asked him for the third time “is this really the summit!?” he became irritated and said “YES!”. I looked around, I was confused, I had studied the route many times (I even made 3 summit attempts in 2012 when I tried to climb Broad Peak) but at that altitude and in that snow blizzard I simply did not recognise myself from the pictures that I had seen. But I was also overwhelmed by Ali Raza and other members who where totally convinced that this was the right spot. For those of you who have not been on Broad Peak I would like to inform that Broad Peak summit ridge is a complicated one and especially in a snow blizzard. 

Nima Sherpas altimeter showed 8047 m so this should be it!? When I came home researcher Eberhard Jurgalski contacted expedition leader Mingma Sherpa and me asking questions about our summit videos. I had long discussions with Eberhard and we e-mailed images back and forth and started an investigation cross-checking summit pictures with other summit pictures. Something was not right. Most of our group was still in Pakistan with chapatti-slow-internet so it was hard scrutinising the material since we could simply not send it. Then finally we got a GPS coordinate from John Snorri Sigurjónsson who climbed with O2 with us on Broad Peak and the GPS showed 8030.89 m (probably 17 m short from the summit). We double checked the position of the GPS coordinate and things did not match with the main summit. Something was clearly wrong but we also know that GPS sometimes works poorly and for instance when John had summited K2 with O2 in Mingmas group one week earlier the GPS did not show the correct altitude on the summit of K2. Instead it showed around 8600 m (about 11 meters short from the summit) so the GPS alone could not verify our true position. 

We looked further and started comparing summit videos from for instance the Turkish climber Tunc Findik who had been on Broad Peak main summit one-week prior our attempt and when we zoomed in the images (remember that our summit video is in a snow blizzard so this was hard work) I felt and so did Eberhard that they did not match 100%.”

As Alan points out in his analysis of the story, Mingma G’s team had similar issues earlier in the season on Nanga Parbat too, reaching the summit in a storm, only to discover later that they may not have topped out at the right spot after all. Following that climb, Mingma was quick to admit the mistake, but so far the Dreamers Destination squad had remained mum on the latest round of speculation.

Alan’s article also looks at a few “false summits” from the past, some of which were genuine mistakes, while others were attempts to deceive the mountaineering community. He also briefly touches on other climbers who have come under scrutiny for not providing enough proof of their summit claims, including the late-great Ueli Steck and more recently Kilian Jornet, who has not produced much in the way of credible evidence of his double Everest summit this past spring.

Where this story goes from here is anyone’s guess and whether or not Mingma G will weigh in remains to be seen. But for at least one climber, the summit on Broad Peak remains elusive, and no doubt Sträng will return at some point to finish what he started.  

Kraig Becker