10 December 2018

Spatnik basecamp – that was close!

Posted by Dave Petley

Spantik basecamp – that was close!

In August Shanyan Anwer posted the following video onto Youtube, showing an extraordinary near-miss for a camp, and its occupants, from a large boulder:-

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Near-misses do not come much more near than that.  The video was apparently shot at Spantik basecamp, located between Baltistan and Hunza in northern Pakistan. In fact the video, which is very short, is worth closer inspection. Early in the video the boulder can be seen heading down the slope towards the camp:-

Spantik basecamp

The first sign of the boulder at Spantik basecamp. Still from a Youtube video.

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Just how close this rock came to the camp, and the person holding the camera, can be seen here:-

Spantik basecamp

The boulder as it flew over the camp at Spantik basecamp. Still from a Youtube video.

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Next of course it comes terrifyingly close to another person:-

Spantik basecamp

A very near miss for a person at Spantik basecamp. Still from a Youtube video.

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This video does emphasise a few points about rockfalls.  The boulder is tabular in shape, which in some circumstances can generate extreme mobility.   This happens when the boulder starts to rotate around its shortest axis, behaving like a wheel. In such conditions boulders are comparatively stable, skipping down the slope in large bounces. As the boulder itself is uneven, and the surface is very rough, the path is somewhat unpredictable.  In this case the boulder appears to bounced away from the people located downslope of the camera, in part because it struck softer debris, which absorbed some of the energy of the rock.

There is little doubt that this was a very lucky escape.  That boulder could have struck any of the people or any of the tents.

Acknowledgement

Thanks to Fabien for pointing this one out to me. I had somehow missed it during the summer! It is a remarkable video.