In March 2003 I met my friend Athol in Islamabad and we made our way toward the west face of the massive Gasherbrum IV (7925m) in the Karakoram mountains. After eight days walk during the tail end of winter we arrived in base camp and started to figure out the mountain. We explored the Western Cwm and climbed the broad couloir to the col where the northwest ridge begins.

Soon we were ready to put in a big effort on the west face. We reached about half-way before being forced into our little tent by horrendous weather. After four days our situation was becoming increasingly desperate as constant snowfall and wind kept pushing us and our tiny tent off the ledge we'd cut into the slope, and we were rationing our limited food and fuel. So as the spindrift avalanches thundered down over and around us we retreated off the face. Bad weather continued in base camp while we re-grouped.

Soon enough we made another attempt on the mountain, this time via the northwest ridge. We again reached half-way before another storm moved in, pinning us down, the snow pushing in on the tent and forcing us to constantly dig ourselves out. Several claustrophobic days later we made an epic retreat down the northwest ridge to the safety of the Western Cwm.

Gasherbrum IV awaits as we walk-up the Baltoro glacier, late March 2003.

Gasherbrum IV west face from near Concordia on the final morning of our walk-in. We made our base camp at the foot of the rocky ridge on the left of the narrowest point on the glacier.

West face from base camp.

A closer (although very foreshortened) look at the west face.

Athol heading up to the west face from base camp.

West face at dawn from base camp.

Looking toward Concordia from base camp at night.

Near the mouth of the Baltoro glacier on the walk-in.

Athol and the incessant spindrift on the west face.

Climbing the initial, major couloir on the west face.

Athol at the top of the first couloir in worsening weather.

Near the top of the immense first couloir.

Climbing on the west face.

Climbing on the west face.

Looking for a way through on the west face.

Brewing up on the west face.

Athol on the west face.

Moving up the northwest ridge in worsening weather, not far above the col. Old fixed rope from previous expeditions can be seen on the right.

From the northwest ridge immediately prior to storm.

The waiting game on the northwest ridge.

Epic retreat off the northwest ridge.

In the Western Cwm, beaten but enlightened by our massive adventure.

Near base camp.

On the KKH, heading to Gilgit then Karimabad.