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ALAN ROUSE: A MOUNTAINEER'S LIFE Jeff Birtles 1987 1st ed Hardcover DJ Fine
By Birtles, Geoff (Editor)
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London, 1987, 1st edition. 224 pp, b/w and color photos. Hardcover with dust jacket. Fine.

Biography of the noted British climber lost on K2 in 1986. Contributions from Chris Bonington, Brian Hall, Paul Nunn, Doug Scott and others. A posthumous portrait of the life and climbing achievements of Alan Rouse, who died on K2 in August 1986.

Alan Paul Rouse (December 19, 1951 -August 10, 1986) was the first British climber to reach the summit of the second highest mountain in the world K2 but died on the descent. He was born in Wallasey and began climbing at the age of sixteen, soon conquering many of the difficult climbs in North Wales. He attended Birkenhead School from 1963 to 1970 and Emmanuel College, Cambridge until 1973. At Cambridge he was distracted from his studies by climbing and by his hedonistic life-style. He was a highly sociable, but heavy drinker, by his own admission a 'womaniser', and liked to 'live on the edge'. As a result he only managed to gain an ordinary pass degree in Mathematics, despite showing early promise in the subject. On leaving Cambridge he worked periodically in teaching but was often away on climbing expeditions. He eventually become a professional mountaineer, lecturing, guiding, writing and acting as an adviser to the outdoor equipment trade.

He moved to Sheffield in easy reach of the rocks in the Peak District. Rouse became a highly experienced climber in places as far afield as Scotland, North Wales, Patagonia, Peru, the Alps, the Andes, New Zealand and Nepal. He was also elected vice-president of the British Mountaineering Council.

In 1980, Rouse, Dr. Michael Ward and Chris Bonington were among the few Europeans to visit China when they reopened some their mountain areas to foreign mountaineers. In the winter of 1980/81 Rouse led a British expedition to attempt Mount Everest by the West Ridge, without using oxygen or Sherpas in winter. The trip was not successful, but in the summer of 1981 he climbed Mount Kongur, a hitherto unclimbed peak in Western China with Bonnington, Joe Tasker and Peter Boardman.

K2 is regarded as a much more difficult climb than Mount Everest and has a high fatality rate. In 1983, Rouse made his first attempt on K2 with an international team by a new route up the south ridge.

1986 K2 Disaster

In 1986, Rouse returned as the leader of a British expedition and obtained a permit to climb the difficult West Ridge, instead of the conventional Abruzzi Ridge. After they had made several unsuccessful attempts to establish the camps on their chosen route, the British team members left, apart from a cameraman, Jim Curran.

Other expeditions had also been trying various routes at the same time, with and without oxygen. Six of these and Rouse decided to join forces to try the conventional route without a permit. There were four Austrian men, a Polish woman, Dobroslawa Miodowicz-Wolf and a British woman Julie Tullis, and Kurt Diemberger.

They reached Camp IV at (8,157 metres, 26,250 feet), the final staging post before the summit. However, for reasons that are still unclear, this impromptu team decided to wait a day before trying the final stage to the summit. On the following day, it was obvious that the weather was deteriorating, but Rouse and Wolf set out for the summit. However, Wolf quickly tired and dropped back, but Rouse continued. Because he was breaking the trail alone, two of the Austrian climbers Willi Bauer and Alfred Imitzer caught up to him and they reached the summit together on August 4, 1986.

On the way down they found Wolf asleep in the snow and persuaded her to descend. They also met another of the Austrians, Kurt Diemberger and Julie Tullis on their way up and also tried to persuade them to descend. These two also summitted but very late, at 7pm. On the descent, Tullis fell; she survived, but they had to spend the night in the open.

Eventually, all the climbers reached Camp IV, where a fourth Austrian Hannes Weiser waited. The seven waited for the storm to pass. However, the storm worsened with much snow, winds over 160 km/h, and sub-zero temperatures. Tullis died during the night of August 6-August7. The other six climbers stayed for the next three days, but remained barely conscious. On August 10, the snow stopped, but the temperature dropped and the wind continued unabated. The climbers, although severely weakened, decided that they had no option but to move.

However, Rouse, when conscious, was in agony, and the other climbers decided to leave him to save their own lives. Blinded, Imitzer and Wieser did not descend far before succumbing. Wolf vanished later on the descent after they had found that Camp III had been blown away. Only two, Diemberger and Bauer, of the seven climbers who had originally reached Camp IV on August 4 and August 5 reached Base Camp. Two American climbers and a porter also died on K2 in that storm. Diemberger and Bauer both suffered severe frostbite and lost many fingers and toes.

Alan Rouse is presumed to have died on August 10, 1986. He was survived by his girlfriend, Deborah Sweeney, who gave birth to their daughter, Holly, three weeks later. The library of the British Mountaineering Council is named in honour of Alan Rouse.


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