On the way to the base camp, some of the porters referred to them as "Punandi". This translates as "the strong ones". The locals remember Benedikt Bohm (31) and Sebastian Haag (31), both of whom stood atop the Gasherbrum II twice in four days in 2006. However, during their latest attempt at a speed record, the two Munich natives showed that even the strongest mountaineers have their limits - and also how dangerous it is to go beyond those limits. When you hear Bohm and Haag, members of the Dynafit GORE-TEX Team, say on their return from Broad Peak that they are delighted to be home, you know they genuinely mean it because not everybody was as lucky as they were. There were even moments when the Bavarians weren't sure they'd reach the base camp in one piece. In the end, they took 39 hours to complete the expedition instead of the 18 they were aiming for. But this really doesn't matter when you know why it took them this long.
The expedition to Broad Peak, the word's twelfth-highest mountain, still envelopes them like a "huge bubble" - distant, yet somehow still very close. Distant, because that world has nothing to do with this one right here. "Everything is reduced to the bare necessities," said Benedikt Bohm. It's very close because what they experienced was too dramatic to brush off easily. Bohm often thinks about the Italian mountaineer Cristina Castagna, a member of the SALEWA alpineXtrem Team, who died there. He even embraced his friend on a fore summit at 8,026 metres. He also still dwells on the descent with the totally exhausted Basti Haag. He gave his all, used up almost all of his reserves in the fight against himself - "you're always fighting against yourself".
Key section at 7,800 metres
To make it to the summit of Broad Peak (8,051m) and back to the base camp (4,800m) within 18 hours, descending on skis at gradients of up to 50 degrees: it was with this goal in mind that Bohm and Haag travelled to the Karakorum Mountains in Pakistan at the beginning of June. Days of unbearable waiting followed acclimatisation; their attempt at the summit was postponed time and again due to bad weather. They were finally ready on 17th July. At 10.15pm local time, Bohm and Haag start off, taking only the bare necessities in their packs: skis and boots, three litres of water, 20 PowerBar gels, warm clothing, emergency medical supplies. They were facing a height difference of 3,250 metres from the base camp to the summit. They made good headway to camp III at 7,000 metres. They agreed on one thing, no discussion: Haag took a short break in the tent. Bohm continued on alone. He had the advantage of the tracks left behind by the expeditions that left base camp III around midnight to make for the summit. At around 11am, he managed to overtake the other mountaineers on the key section at an altitude of 7,800 metres. He was still on schedule and feeling good.
No more thoughts on the main summit
The hardest part now began for Bohm: alternating with Summit Club mountain guide Stephan Schandelr and the Swiss mountaineer Cedric Hahlen, he set about the difficult task of preparing the route, at times in waist-deep snow. It took them almost four hours to cover a good 200 vertical metres on an exposed, overhung ridge to the fore summit. Bohm stood on the fore summit at 2.30pm, more than 16 hours after setting off'; he was just 20 vertical metres and one ridge away from the summit. Surprisingly, Haag reached the fore summit a short time after, accompanied by eight other mountaineers. He had to give his absolute all to get there. "I'm really empty; I've never been so empty," he said to the camera. On the descent, it became very clear just how empty he was. The main summit was not an option for any of the mountaineers. It was too late and too dangerous. All the mountaineers headed back down, including Cristina Castagna. Haag and Bohm would not find out until many hours later that their friend had slipped and fallen hundreds of metres. Help, when it came, was too late.
"We'll get down somehow."
For both of the Munich natives, a descent on skis was no longer on their minds. The main goal now was to guide Haag safely to the base camp at 7,000 metres and spend the night there. He had problems with his coordination. Cedric Hahlen kept him on a short rope and, Bohm - incredibly grateful for his help - climbed first. The group of three mountaineers made their way down, step by step. They originally calculated a maximum of four hours for the descent of 7,800 metres to the base camp. It took them five hours just to get to camp III. They had to stay overnight there, though they weren't prepared for it. The three men slept in a two-person tent - the tent belonging to Cristina Castagna and her partner Giampaolo Casarotto, convinced by the idea that: "we'll get down somehow." After hours lying awake - "I've never been as happy for a night to end" - Bohm and Haag set off again. Haag improved a little with every metre they descend. From 6,200 metres, they skied down, one curve at a time. They reached the base camp after 39 hours - having taken twice as long as originally planned. Haag's first sentence came straight from the heart: "I'm so glad we made it."
Just enjoy life
From an objective point of view, the venture was not a success - no speed record, no summit. But nobody speaks of failure. Not only because, "for us, the fore summit is like the main summit, and therefore it was a complete success", said Haag. And especially because it was about so much more than vertical metres and time. What it's really about is fate and experiences that take you to the limit; "Situations like those we experienced show you how close you are to death up there," explained Bohm. Haag, known to be cautious and sensible, can't explain why he didn't realise on time that he had reached his limit. No other projects are on the agenda at the moment. Haag and Bohm are enjoying life and everything we all take for granted, the things that become so valuable when we've had to do without them. There are few people out there who could be as happy and excited by the prospect of a hot chocolate and a croissant as Benedikt Bohm and Sebastian Haag.
The expedition stages can be viewed on the online platform http://4-seasons.tv as well as on www.sueddeutsche.de/speed.
Born in 1977 in Munich
- Dynafit Manaslu 32l backpack
- Dynafit Eruption down jacket
- Dynafit Manaslu gloves
- Dynafit Ski Touring Se7en Summits
- 20 PowerBar Powergels
- 10 PowerBar Ride Shots
- Oakley sunglasses and snow goggles
- SALEWA Claw Combi crampons (steel)
- SALEWA Eagle pick (steel)
Born in 1978 in Munich
- Dynafit SR Race Pro helmet
- Dynafit Snowdrift GORE-TEX® Proshell 3-layer jacket
- Dynafit Dy.N.A. Race Carbon poles
- Dynafit Dy.N.A. race boots
- 10 PowerBar Ride Bars
- Water with Performance Sports drink powder
- SALEWA Shorty ice screw
Speed Ascent Broad Peak
Karakorum Mountains in Pakistan
Broad Peak Height 8,051m
Expedition period 10.06.2009 - 28.07.2009
Attempted speed ascents 18.07.2009
Goal Speed record with subsequent ski descent in less than 18 hours
Current expedition progress CLICK HERE
GORE-TEX® Fabrics www.gore-tex.de
Deutscher Alpenverein (DAV) www.alpenverein.de
DAV Summit Club www.dav-summit-club.de