Back in the “world”, time seems abundant; a commodity rarely in short supply and never concrete enough to feel as if it were literally slipping though ones fingers. Even when “drinking from the CS [work] fire hose” time is always available if one tries – utilizing it is simply a case of organization and working at a somewhat frenetic rate. However frenzied, there is never a sense of ‘running out” of time – never a feeling there will never be “no more”.
My attempt to summit K2 is however, most definitely time-dependent. Much like Mount Everest there is a Nature dictated window through which I must attempt to pass in order to succeed. Miss it, through either not being adequately acclimatized, suffering a lack of operational readiness or Nature herself simply changing her mind and the many weeks of pain, effort, filth and tedium are all for naught.
We lost another valuable day yesterday owning to a small difference of opinion between some of our staff and a third party on the mountain, which dictated a brief hiatus and suspension of our rope-fixing effort. The differences were debated and resolved back at BC in very short order, but nevertheless the day and the vertical advances we had planned were all shunted back 24 hours.
These delays, albeit trivial to the casual observer, feel overly significant to people like me, who don’t have limitless time available to achieve my goal. That being said, we have been very lucky with weather and logistics to date; it just doesn’t feel that way.
This is best explained as Tait paranoia – I am fully aware that all has been done that can be done, but that clock continues remorselessly and ticks ever louder in my ears. Some may recognize my race against time mentality - I don’t think this is an expedition phenomenon!
So, our Sherpas left this morning at 4am, hauling a large quantity of oxygen bottles for stockpiling at C3 and C4, in anticipation of our summit attempt. Both the climbers and Sherpa will use the oxygen – there are no “oxygenless” ascents planned.
All being well I will leave at 3-4 am tomorrow morning hauling a heavy pack containing Oxygen, my down suit, food, Thermarest, pee bottle, extra clothing, water, spare heavy gloves, medical/toiletries, ice axe, camera, sat phone and avalanche transceiver and begin the slog to C2. After one night perched on this forbidding ice shelf, I will slog another vertical 1000+m to an even more inhospitable C3 and hunker down for a further night. The oxygen will be limited at this altitude and it is likely that sleep will be fleeting. However this is the high-altitude shock ones body needs to be ready for the rigours of summit day.
Having suffered C3 night, I will descend to BC for a rest [and wash] and then rest in anticipation of our summit push, which I hope Nature will facilitate a matter of a few days later.
The current weather forecast is for relatively fine weather for the next 2 days followed by a narrow and shallow trough, with light precipitation followed by [fingers crossed] relatively fine weather once again. The “typical” summit week has historically been the last week of July and I am praying to all Deities that this hold to be true in 2015.
I have reached the stage in the expedition where I repeatedly scroll through my iPad and iPhone pictures – it happens every time. The expeditions break down into segments or phases; I have now reached the “stare at pictures of family and home stage” – its painful.
That being said, I am encouraged by our progress to date, and if the old adage “nothing good comes without a great deal of effort” is true, we are on course for a happy ending. We just need Lady Nature to sympathise.
For the uninitiated, I am attempting to climb K2 on behalf of the NSPCC, a UK anti-sexual abuse charity, partly to raise awareness of the daily horrors inflicted of very young children and partly to raise funds to combat these heinous crimes before they happen.
Any donation to the cause, large or small is more appreciated than I can articulate. The money is used carefully and intelligently; I can attest to this fact having previously been a Trustee.
Please consider donating – and to those who have been so kind to have done so, thank you.
All my expeditions past and present have been 100% self-funded. All the money donated goes directly to the Charity and the children who need it.
C2 View from BC -Distant
C2 View from BC - Medium
C2 View from BC through telescope...
I write cross-legged on the floor of my admittedly warmish tent with the deflating sound of what has been a day of constant snow.
Today “should” have been a relatively good day, at least good enough for the advance Sherpa team to navigate to C2 and then C3, hauling loads and setting tents. Our turn to ascend would have come one day later, following in their hard won footsteps and allowing us the [perhaps] necessary overnight stay at an altitude of 7300/7500m.
However, it was not to be – the weather surprised, the Sherpas baled from the hill and the day has been written off.
I have done little but lie on my back within my green womb like tent, read my Kindle, listen to music off my micro-speaker, download my mails, film a “piece to camera” for Discovery Channel lamenting how miserable the day is and occasionally dozing.
The day was broken for a valuable hour by an “Oxygen briefing”, during which our High Altitude facemasks and regulators were distributed. This interval in the endless tedium at least gave us the brief and much appreciated impression that we were indeed climbing the mountain and that at some point we would be called upon to use the equipment – there are times when one wonders whether this opportunity will ever come – however, we have been weather-lucky todate.
K2 is notoriously hard to climb – not just because its so dangerous and steep, but because the weather is erratic and the weather windows that grant access to the summit elusive. There have been many expeditions who have returned empty handed, the weather having treated their endeavors and aspirations with utter contempt.
However, despite having been away form home one month to the day, the expedition is nevertheless “young” and fears of such failure unjustified at this point – but days like this make you think.
Days like this also make one reflect on family and home. It’s impossible not to. My previous expeditions have been characterized by sudden waves of intense homesickness and a sense of loss as I visualize Vanessa and the kids carrying on with their lives - one craves even the simplest of things; walking around Sainsbury’s feels like heaven. It sounds funny, but it’s so very true.
From here, four weeks in, and now onwards, my major battle will be with my mind, followed closely by the mountain. When and if nature offers me a sliver of opportunity I will take it, but until that moment occurs the minute-by-minute mental battle with myself will continue.
One has to be strong, accept that time slips like grain through ones fingers, accept that life continues unconcerned just 12 hours flight time away, accept that despite all the pain and suffering you may not be offered a chance, but also accept that your family is there, always will be there and will love you whatever happens.
One has to keep looking forward, focus on success and not acquiesce to the demons that dance in the mind ever more forcefully as time passes, intent on gaining secure purchase and removing you from the game.
It cannot and wont happen.
But I do miss my Vanessa.
Mask and regulator
Bleak view from my tent..
The weather has closed in a little preventing firstly the Sherpas moving higher in advance of the climbing team - the C3 sleep night has been pushed one day for now. In the interim I'm counting the squares in my tent ceiling.........
In the interim.....some pics and new videos....
I miss my Vanessa....
A yak bites the dust...
Staring out of the front door...
Real estate to die for..
One chilly valley today...
Clear deep blue skies greeted my first peep from the tent this morning – the days have been baking hot and the long nights just below zero – much better than the horrendous conditions reported in many previous year’s expeditions. Grateful for small mercies I hauled myself upright and did my morning 360 degree twirl, taking in the breathtaking vista.
First into the mess-tent I set up my BGAN and laptop combo and logged onto the Internet and sucked down my e-mails, both personal and business. It’s a nice time of day and with coffee cup cradled in both hands I ploughed though photos of Vanessa and the boys enjoying St Tropez [the download highlight], a mail from FN News who are kindly now covering the attempt, queries about how many videos I painstakingly uploaded yesterday, a mail confirming that the website dispatches now “pop open” for easier reading [thanks Seb] and finally 200 mails from the office.
Breakfast was a pancake and coffee affair and dispensed with quickly as my tent needed remedial work. Given the intraday heat the glacier is rapidly changing shape to the extent that there are numerous free flowing rivers running through camp that grow in ferocity as the day warms. On of these streams saw fit to run beneath my tent and hence the whole platform appears to want to leave for Islamabad. A little re engineering later the tent’s bid for freedom seems to have been halted.
2 am tomorrow morning a team of 6 of us leave the comforts of BC for one night at C2 [6200m] and a further night at C3 [7300m]. It will be a brutal couple of days but when completed we will be effectively “ready” for a summit attempt, having roughly duplicated the Everest acclimatization schedule. The key to me will be leaving early enough to arrive at C2 before I get pulverized by the brutal sun. I have a few aches and pains and intend to avoid setting land-speed records. Tomorrow will be my turn to be tail end Charlie….
Yesterday afternoon I had the dubious pleasure of witnessing and filming the slaughter of the camp yak. I didn’t relish the prospect and had only tentatively covered the previous episode in Goru. I resolutely held my ground, camera in hand and didn’t even flinch as gore sprayed my shoes and trousers. It took a lot of willpower, but this everyday occurrence, alien to me, has now been committed to film – I think the guys at Discovery will get a shock when they review!
I considered adding photos of the poor beast mid-execution, but decided against it, choosing to simply include a picture of myself grimacing and trying to hold the camera still [and not run].
One of our number left for home yesterday. Bo Parfitt, my early expedition tent mate was whisked away but a pair of Pakistani military helicopters late yesterday afternoon and is no doubt already comfortably ensconced in Business Class USA bound. It’s been a pleasure Bo and hope all is good with you.
More later – probably in 3 days time.
Witness to a Yak beheading..
I peeled myself from my Rolls Royce of sleeping bags [PHD Designs] at 02:45 am on the morning of the 5/7/15, bracing myself against the cold. The frost had glazed the inside of my tent, and reflected the glare of my headlamp turning the interior into a diamond grotto. I firstly slipped on my inner boots and then the hard shells, collected my remaining gear together and stepped out into a crystal clear but cold night.
The full moon bathed the surrounding peaks and moraine with its creamy light - I stood and marveled at the sheer beauty of this place, before I was jolted back to reality by a rifle crack ice shift between my feet. “Breakfast” was brief - toast and coffee and we were on our way.
I had never previously visited the base of Broad Peak and owing to the fact it would have been impossible to find in the semi dark without some form of guide, had asked one of my fellow climbers who had numerous visits under his belt to show me the way – he kindly obliged, despite the miserable hour.
At 04:45, an hour and fifteen minutes after leaving BC we parted company at the foot of the vast peak. I would have become very lost had he not been so kind, as the journey crossed waves of ice moraine, crevasses and a vast stretch of jumbled rock moraine. The route had been marked with small Chortons [piles of rocks] but owing to both the dark and some succumbing to ice movement and melt, the Chortons could not be relied upon to guide.
He waved goodbye leaving me to attach my crampons, remove any comfort clothing, tighten my hardness, select the appropriate music and start climbing. The gradient was kind at first, but soon crossed through the unpleasant side of 50 degrees. The foot of Broad Peak was similarly scarred with vast piles of previous avalanche debris, but for some reason this didn’t seem as threatening as it had at the foot of K2. Essentially, it felt more comfortable because it wasn’t possible to see where the avalanche had originated – on K2 the vast killer seracs simply cling to the rock face above you and almost taunt you whilst grinning with jagged teeth [I’m clearly getting paranoid].
Immediately breathless, I found the first 45 minutes a bit of a struggle. However, soon after that I found my movement and breathing rhythm and settled into casual advance. I didn’t push too hard, as I was destined to pick up a tent and sleeping bag from the C1 store tent, further adding to my backpack burden.
I stopped quite regularly to take pictures of the surrounding vista, which was literally breathtaking. It’s so easy to stare at your boots or into the endless white mountain face as you climb and miss nature at its very best. The horizon is a sea of sharks teeth peaks interrupted suddenly by huge K2 – a mutant sharks tooth. I hope the panorama picture attached gives some perspective – we are trying to alter the website to throw the pictures up at pop-ups – time will tell.
I arrived at C1, a small collection of 3 tents perched on a pseudo plateau at circa 7am, loaded my penalty extra load and quickly set off savouring a brief sip of water. I could see the tail end of the C1 overnight team some 60 vertical metres above me, and somewhat typically, set off to catch them or die trying. I really should learn.
I was suddenly very cold – this happens to me. One minute I’m cruising along in a t-shirt warm as toast, and seconds later my fingers are numb. I screeched to an abrupt halt, unpacked the tent, sleeping bag on the side of the sheer ice face and salvaged my whopper, cozy gloves and Arctryx coat from the bowels of my pack – then repacked. Now shielded from the surprise wind I continued on my way.
The approach to C2 [6200m] was a little steep – but time and time again I found myself grinning to myself. Very few people were ever likely to know what I was experiencing – words would fail miserably to describe, so I found myself relishing the exposure, the views and the simple exhilaration of being relatively solo – drinking in the uniqueness of the moment.
C2 was suddenly upon me – it was 09:30. I was tired as the extra load was a test and a novelty. I set about hacking myself a flattish tent base from the snow and rock, finally erecting my tent into which I fell with relish. It was then I discovered that I had left my Thermarest [inflatable mattress] back at BC in my tent – I had simply forgotten it when I had left earlier that morning. This would prove to be a painful, miserable mistake – the kind one only does once. I slept on a simple inch foam mat against the snow. There was no way on earth that I could get warm so I drifted in and out of exhausted sleep praying like a zealot that dawn would break.
Finally the immobile hands of my watch released me from the freezing torture – it was 5:15 am and time to descend, which I did with jetpack attached, finally arriving back in BC at 08:45 am. The trudge back up the moraine from the foot of the mountain to our BC home was sun-induced challenge, but the toast I wolfed down upon arrival made it all worthwhile.
It feels my hands are cursed – I slipped and fell within the waves of sharp ice that border the core of the moraine as it glides quietly down the valley. I wasn’t wearing gloves at this point, having backpacked them, and the razor sharp ice cut into the palm of my hands as if emulating broken glass. It seems as if there is nothing I can do to protect them.
Anyway, an afternoon of work calls awaited, but first I washed both my body and clothes, ate and drank my fill and took Ibuprofen to offset the pain in my right knee. One decent sleep tonight and I will be reborn – I hope.
I can’t wait for the sleeping bag to envelop me – I will dream of Vanessa and the kids having fun in the South of France and BCBS and FRTB…
Pre Dawn K2 enrolee Broad Peak Base
The C1 - C2 slog...
K2 from BP [6000M]
K2 and surround Panorama
I lay awake at 4:45 this morning listening to the shifting ice beneath me. I was toasty warm and well slept, but had been woken repeatedly during the night by the “rifle crack” report of the moving glacier. One can sense the extreme pressures at work maybe inches, maybe metres beneath you straining to release. As I lay there, music gently in my ears, I ran through my vocabulary, trying to dredge up the words that would best describe this unnerving sound. At first I was content with the imagined sound of a very high tension steel cable shearing, but finally settled on the crack of a high-power rifle. I don’t mind living with this beast of nature as long as the blue ice beneath my tent doesn’t yawn and swallow me.
Eyes now fully open I set about wet-wiping myself to an appropriate and socially acceptable state. However, I am limiting myself to one luxurious, femininely perfumed wet-wipe per day and hence work my body North to South! Next, I rubbed copious amounts of Savlon antiseptic cream into the skin around my fingernails, an area I always suffer with at altitude. The same scars, received on numerous previous expeditions, start to become painful and then, almost inexplicably, peel open. The worst is my left thumb, which splits across the top, opening like a crevasse, as if the bone within is growing of its own accord. Nothing I do seems to help, but the preemptive work with a variety of creams seems to have at least delayed the process a little – small mercies.
As I hauled on my clothes, I reflected on the previous, avalanche prone afternoon. At one point a huge chunk of ice, part of a gigantic, threatening serac some 1000m above the foot of the Cesen route had let go and plunged vertically into the valley below – directly across the route I had used the previous day to ascend to and descend from C1. I heard the roar, leapt from my tent and gazed in horrified awe and an immense ice cloud ballooned across the valley. The foot of the Cesen is a good 45-minute trudge from our BC, but it soon became obvious that this gigantic cloud of snow, ice and impact wind would certainly reach and “dust” BC despite this distance! I had no time to grab my big camera, but had my iPhone [music] to hand and snapped off a few shots before the diving into my tent as the mini snowstorm gale hit us and soaked everything.
The force of these events is truly staggering and not appreciated until experienced first hand. The sound they make is utterly unique and having suffered under one such, but much smaller avalanche in 2013, I feel my blood chill in my veins every time. Incidentally, I got playfully blamed for yesterdays avalanche as I had just done my laundry and bedecked my tent in [relatively] clean clothes only an hour before. Therefore it was “all my fault “etc.
The previous day was also notable for another first – my first interview, where I acted as interviewer! Soon after lunch I asked Russell Brice if he would like to/or accept to being interviewed. We have known each other for an age and been through a ton of daring-do – not least my 5 Everest summits, for which I owe him a great deal.
I set up the cameras, attached the radio-mikes, consulted notes given to my by the Discovery crew and tried to find a picturesque site out of the constant wind. This is trying to find a soccer fan in New Zealand, but I did my best. I admit to being a tad nervous beforehand, but in minutes and thanks to Russ’s willingness to be very frank and honest, I was able to discard the bulk of my pre-arranged questions and just let things flow. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, however, I am in no doubt that if the copious footage I have shot ever morphs into a programme, it will probably come with a health warning – “shot by idiot amateur”. However, this enthusiastic amateur plans to interview all those who fancy being interviewed [subject to their English language skills.]
A team left early this morning with the goal of climbing to C1 [5650m] on Broad Peak, K2’s sister mountain, with the intention of spending the night, before moving on to C2 [6300M] to spend a second, before descending. I have personally chosen to skip the C1 experience and instead leave tonight to climb directly to C2 tonight and spend my one night at C2. I don’t consider there to be any benefit to staying at C1 5650m and chose to stay at BC and stay strong.
I am trying to mimic the Everest acclimatization I now know so well and would never dream of staying at C1 [5900m] on Everest, instead bolting directly to C2 [6400M], so there is much method in my madness. I know my body at altitude and see no benefit in yo-yoing up and down for the hell of it.
So, this afternoon will be spent pinning down two more interview victims and preparing my gear for tonight’s climb, which will see me exiting the sleeping bag at 2:30. I loathe climbing in the sun.
I want to take this opportunity to thank all those who have donated to my cause. Before I left London on the 13th June, I think I had managed to thank personally, albeit it briefly, all those who had donated to “my kids” and the Nspcc. I cannot describe how touched I am. However, I want to take this moment to also thank those who have donated post my departure that I will be unable to send an e-mail of thanks – but thank you!!
The next dispatch will probably be on Monday, once I am back down from BPC2 and safely back in K2BC.
Fingers crossed and more later.
Just below C1 on K2
03:30am is a lousy time to wake, especially given the violence of my Jimmy Hendrix iPhone alarm – I need to change it to something less brutal. However, I was instantly thrust into the “Camp1 day” – the day a group of 6/7 of us would force ourselves through numerous pain barriers and “tag” the small rectangle of snow and rock that will constitute the first of perhaps 4 camps on the hill.
I say perhaps because its possible we totally sidestep Camp 1 in the future and instead suck it up and push straight on to Camp2 [6300m]. Camp 1 has the look of a way station or storage plateau - not a suitable place to assemble a group of habitable tents.
The inside of my tent wasn’t cold at all so I wasted no time in applying sun-block [you see, I do learn from mistakes], applying strips of Elastoplast to my feet and shins [prevention is way better than cure], shoehorning myself into my harness and finally easing myself into my Sportive high-altitude boots, last worn in 2013.
There was no Hoare frost on the tent interior so I felt confident wearing minimal clothing as once my “engine” is running I tend to generate a ton of heat – I much prefer to run cold at first and build my own warmth, than expire in a sweaty mess having donned too many layers.
I turned on both my avalanche transponder and radio and joined the others in the mess tent for a quick but necessary breakfast of coffee and toast. Then it dawned on me that the loo was calling and I would have to negotiate this knee breaking exercise and at the same time try and sidestep the restrictions of my harness – all in 5 minutes flat. There is a comedy sketch to be written about this comical but ludicrously undignified moment. One needs to see oneself at this moment and laugh – all pretense at sophistication and elegance that one clings to “back in the world” is lost instantly as one crouches over a putrid barrel – and I mean putrid. Some people simply don’t have an aiming ability!
With relief etched all over my face I rejoined the others and led the group out of camp, up the freezing moraine towards the foot of K2, the Cesen route. I felt supremely comfortable with my pace and fitness and despite cold hands knew I had made the right decision to dress frugally. I pulled away from the group and after 40 minutes arrived at the foot of the ice face - the point where I needed to don helmet and crampons. I could see the Sherpas perhaps 300m above me, but it was not clear which of the array of trampled snow tracks were the most recent.
As I looked up, I noticed a huge pile of avalanche debris, almost with the appearance of popcorn – millions of almost spherical balls of snow and ice, each the size of a typical football. This was the residue of very recent huge avalanches, emanating from an enormous serac looming over me some 1000 metres above – it is colossal and frankly terrifying. I put the obvious risk out of my mind and started moving forward and chose what I thought were the most livid tracks to follow. I soon found myself alone and without ropes in a narrow couloir with what appeared to be a small cliff blocking my route – I had chosen the incorrect route. The tracks had suddenly stopped and it was then immediately obvious that the Sherpas had experimented with this option, chosen against and reversed course.
I couldn’t be bothered to descend and instead pushed forward suddenly very aware of by vulnerability. The cliff was only 2 meters high, but covered in clear ice. I could not afford a single mistake and eased myself up and over; conscious that to slip was to probably die. I was relived to make it – its interesting quite how focused one can become at times….
Clear of the cliff, I rejoined the main track and clipped into the rope that had so far avoided me and started climbing in earnest. One step in front of another, two deep breathes per step, each boot and crampon searching for firm and reassured purchase. The minutes and hours passed until my regular rhythm brought me to a halt behind the rear most Sherpa of the gallant rope fixing team. The guys on point of the 7-man team were and had been fixing pitons and snow stakes in the surface and building very secure anchor points for the rope that will run from the foot of the mountain to the summit.
The delay was inevitable, but necessary as these superbly talented guys will only work at the pace where their job is done perfectly. However, time and distance passed and finally, now in the baking sun and hence very crumbly snow, we arrived at the C1 plateau – nice to tag, but not a destination of note. The views were/are superb - absolutely beautiful – and this is only 6000m and 2600m to go.
I chose not to linger, and instead launched into my descent. I, like most, thoroughly dislike descending. It’s an exhausting, joint busting procedure that because of the erratic non-rhythm robs you of oxygen. However, with every step plunging me into thigh deep snow, I all but slid down the 1000m we had earlier climbed in 30 minutes, using the rope as a rudimentary brake.
Finally at the foot of the fixed ropes and “crampon point”, I stripped off excess clothing and helmet, gasping with relief and began the painful last 40-minute [now slushy] moraine trek back to BC. I admit to being tired when I finally threw down my pack and spread my equipment in the baking sun to dry. I chose not to pause however, and grabbed a couple of bowls of warm water and quickly shaved, washed and changed clothes. I now felt like I had been to my local gym for a 7-hour beast of a workout and just showered. I know however, that I will sleep like a corpse tonight, but also know my right knee will complain as well.
The harsh sun is still baking BC and the lovely sound of glacial melt is all around. The tiny streams that snake under the glacial ice like veins are quickly turning into arteries – by the time we leave this place the trickle will be a roar.
Its no coincidence that my tent platform is going South in this BC heat – this reconstruction is my job for tomorrow morning as I’m resting and writing the rest of this afternoon.
Ps: As I hope you know I am climbing on behalf of the Nspcc and sexually abused kids – If you find this ongoing story enjoyable please consider donating to the cause? Many thaks
Full moon over Broad Peak
K2 at dusk..
View down valley from K2
Broad Peak views from K2C1
Is it possible for factor 30-sun cream to fail? Is there such thing as a dubious batch? Despite liberally coating myself in the glutinous stuff the harsh high altitude sun managed to sufficiently penetrate this chemical protection and burn my face to the bone. Like an adolescent python I’ve been shedding clumps of skin ever since. The two nights post my roasting were very uncomfortable with even the pillow proving too harsh to rest against – thank the Lord for Savlon cream…
However, the discomfort has thankfully abated and I now look like I have a terrible pigmentation problem, with areas of my face baby-bum pink and other areas Pakistani Porter brown – not a good look.
Base camp now has a solid feel. Its taken a couple of days of hard work building large and small rock tent bases that hope to stand the test of time and resist the glacial ice melt. However, despite my tent base being spirit level flat 2 days ago, I can sense a degree of subsidence, which will demand re-engineering sometime tomorrow afternoon. If I don’t address the problem my sleep will be interrupted – something to be avoided at all costs.
So, we now have two base camps – one at the foot of K2 and the other at the foot of Broad Peak, about an hours trek away down the valley. I admit to being less than excited at the prospect of practicing or even summiting Broad Peak, despite this mountain being one of the 14, 8000m peaks of the world. It would be no easy feat to climb, but my mind is totally focused on K2 – I hope this myopia doesn’t hinder me.
A small group of seven Sherpas left camp early this morning on a mission to fix ropes to K2 Camp 1 and if lucky Camp 2. We have chosen to climb the Cesen or Polish route rather than the more popular Abruzzi route because it appears, despite being significantly steeper, less prone to avalanche. As I may have mentioned before, the real threat on K2 is the weather - especially as it pertains to avalanche. K2 is both relatively isolated relative to its Sister Mountains compared to the way in which Everest appears “integrated” with its surrounding peaks, and as such appears to act as an autonomous weather magnet. Couple this phenomenon with the fact K2 is notably steeper than Everest and one has a model avalanche factory. The skill is dodging them!
At 05:30 this morning, and before the Sherpas left on their roping mission we held our expedition Puja, or blessing. This is an important and integral part of Nepalese mountain culture or religion and typically, in the Khumbu, lasts a fidgety two hours. In essence the lead Sherpa or Sherpa with a strongest religious background leads a succession of pleasantly monotone chanting prayers – the other Sherpas all joining in almost like a chorus. There is rice throwing and whisky sipping [yes at 5:30 am] and lost of milk-tea and biscuit consumption. I did my best to film the experience, but with so many people, Sherpa, cook and climber all squeezed into one mess-tent the condensation was biblical leaving my camera lens useless. Wipe, film, wipe, film, etc. I’m confident I captured the essentials though.
The team left soon after and once I had downed my own breakfast, some 2 hours later, I set of in pursuit. My primary intention was to push my lungs by racing to the bottom of the fixed ropes the Sherpa team had recently installed and then race back. I pushed hard out of the blocks and to my satisfaction found that all the hours of gym pain had paid off – at least at 5100m.
Some 40 minutes after leaving BC I stood gazing up at the Sherpas now some 400m above me, inching themselves up the slope that, to me, didn’t look any harder than the Lhotse face on Everest’s South side. However, as I previously mentioned, its all about the snow depth and stability. With a last wistful glance I turned and motored back down glacier towards BC and a top to toe wash!
Finally squeaky clean for the fist time on almost 3 weeks, I set about trying to get the last element of my communication setup working, but gave up after an hour of precious battery consumption – I will persevere, but only when the sun provides me with power!
The Sherpas arrived back into camp at 11:30 am having run out of rope to fix at perhaps 100m shy of the prospective C1. However they reported good conditions and firm anchors for the ropes – all good signs. With this good news in hand, it was decided that a small group and I should climb to C1 tomorrow morning, running a little behind the same group of Sherpas who would return with more rope to finish the job. This will give me an extra 800 of altitude and move my body to the next stage. I urged that we leave camp 30 minutes after the Sherpas leave a 4am, so that we ascend in the cold [when one works hardest] and descend before any sun scorches the face. I wasn’t popular, but hey ho it was agreed. So, an early night in store for me.
It will be good to push once again and finally sink my crampons into the flesh of K2. Progress is all about good weather – I have everything crossed.
So at midnight London time tonight I will once again haul myself from the seductive warmth of my sleeping bag and set foot on the hill. Its odd and unsettling embarking on these climbs knowing my wife Vanessa and my kids are all tucked up in bed – I love and miss them so b****Y much.
Anyway, more later
The loo - this tests one knee joints..
Amazing what can be created in a tent
More K2 BC Photos.