The weather is simply everything – success or failure is now totally dependent on conditions that we deem suitable for a relatively safe summit attempt. Last Monday we awoke to both rain and very “wet” snow. There is what we are terming a “lazy cloud system” hovering over the region, meaning we are experiencing cloud, snow and rain, little wind and unseasonably high temperatures – the freezing point actually being found as high as 6000m!
This weather pattern has, instead of crusting the snow, keeping it “dry” and hence providing a stable surface to walk on, turned the snow to a “wet and bottomless” surface. This bottomless snow is very hard to break-trail through and is also just perfect avalanche conditions – as we saw tragically on Broad Peak.
Rock fall is the second byproduct of the warm weather – rock usually bound in place by ice is now dropping freely providing a second lethal hazard. A number of people here have been struck including one of our Sherpas who damaged his knee.
So despite what appear to be somewhat idyllic conditions at BC; sometimes a sweltering, t-shirt and flip-flop world, the mountains rain down debris. Every 15 minutes as the day’s temperature rises, one can hear yet another avalanche or rock fall echoing around the valley, constantly reminding us all just how vulnerable we currently are.
And so we wait – the forecast, which we receive daily from Switzerland, points to reasonable weather for today and tomorrow at BC, but afternoon snow higher on the mountain. The difficulty is estimating the degree of precipitation and therein lays the danger. To be caught high on the mountain in a severe blizzard spells a very bad end.
The 25/27th alludes to a considerable atmospheric pressure change – the sort of thing pilots avoid like the plague – perhaps a thunderstorm – which alludes to a snow dump. This wont be as bad as it suggests as long as the temperature drops!
So, all in all, allowing for a currently accurate forecast we have no choice but to wait. The last week of July has historically been the “summit week” on K2, but this obviously isn’t set in stone – as we now know.
Yesterday afternoon a contingent from our team trekked down to Broad Peak BC to offer help to the injured lady climber – the survivor of Monday’s avalanche. It turned out that their help was very much needed. In the end three doctors attended the lady who had suffered a very bad lower leg injury/broken ankle/compound fracture/exposed bone etc.
The team essentially built a mini hospital and operating table and finally worked in quite extreme conditions to straighten and set this lady’s leg under a general anesthetic. The wound was flushed and cleaned as best they could and she was administered a course of intravenous antibiotics. The team, returned to BC late in the afternoon after a job well done. This poor lady has been waiting for helicopter extraction, but the weather has simply been too bad further down the valley towards Skardu military airbase to allow flight. Lord knows what this poor woman is going through and quite what the long-term effects of only “temporary” medical treatment will have on her health and leg going forward. I wish her all luck and hope the Heli can come today. They’re for the grace of God etc.….
It seems my dispatches will either become shorter or less frequent whilst we wait for a suitable weather window prospect – there isn’t much to say. My personal problem with simply waiting is the pain of being away from home is simply exacerbated. I understand the weather threat, but the prospect of being away from Vanessa an extra week compared to what I recently expected is literally torture.
Point me in the direction of the mountain, tell me to climb and I am good. Tell me to sit in isolation, away from the one who means the most, waiting for a possible chance to climb and I suffer.
Anyway, thanks for all the messages of support. I cannot be more grateful.
The operating table...