K2 Expedition departed 11th June 2016
Leader: Di Gilbert
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After a relaxing day in Skardu yesterday it is back to business. We have all the expedition equipment to unpack, dry and repack before it gets put into storage for next year. Last night we said goodbye to our awesome cook, our fantastic cook boy and our great high altitude porter. This morning Pete, Paul and Di said goodbye to Jake as he tried unsuccessfully to fly to Islamabad and now has 15 hours of overland transport to look forward to.
We are due to fly to Islamabad tomorrow if the Weather Gods permit.
From all the team, we would like to say a huge thank you for all the support, encouragement and giggles that we have received over the past 8 weeks. Signing out for the last time, the 2016 K2 British Expedition.
We have started the return trek to Askole. An early departure from a very quiet base camp saw us push down to Goro II. The weather is much better than the walk in with amazing views around Concordia. We have started to green on the hillsides for the first time and there is a warmth to the breeze. There is forgotten smells to be savoured and new faces to see. We will finally leave the Baltoro Glacier tomorrow and will be able to buy and drink as much pop as possible as we aim for Paiju.
The team are spending the last few days preparing for their departure. Sherpas have cleared down the mountain from Camp 3 all the way down to ABC and are looking to depart tomorrow.
They will trek back along the Baltoro glacier to Askole before flying to Skardu.
This has to be one of the hardest dispatches that in my 20+ career in the mountains I have had to write.
When we discovered that Camp 3 had been destroyed by an avalanche our small team regrouped at Camp 2 to discuss our options. We had lost equipment but nothing that wasn’t replaceable and could potentially be begged or borrowed from other teams. It was decided that we would return to base camp and regroup and try for one more summit attempt.
We are 4 climbers, who are fit and healthy and to make things worse there appears to be another weather window coming at the end of the month. We discussed the possibility of tackling the mountain alpine style, but when you have prepared for siege tactics, this really isn’t an option; we discussed the options of hiring other sherpas and we discussed the options of hiring all the High Altitude Pakistani Porters in camp – also not an option.
So, this is the last dispatch from K2 base camp. Our porters are due at the end of the month when we will make the return trip to Skardu.
We can hold our heads up high knowing that we were prepared to stay to the end of the season. This season the so called ‘Savage Mountain’ did not live up to her name. She shone in the evening moon and allowed us to climb her flanks. She was a pleasure to climb on providing us with some of the most spectacular views on the planet. She has provided us with magnificent memories and despite the bitter twist in the end, we will think fondly of our K2 expedition – after all, we are British.
We are unexpectedly back at base camp. We all felt strong heading up to Camp 1 with the intention of heading up to Camp 2 the following day. However, the weather had other ideas and Di, Pete, remained in Camp 1 for an extra night whereas Jake pushed on to Camp 2 to join the Sherpas at Camp 2. The weather was grim to say the least – blowing snow and a biting wind.
The following morning was better and despite Camp 1 being caught in the side currents of an avalanche the rest of the team headed up to Camp 2. Meanwhile Jake, Mingma, Phurba, Ashgar and Mohammed pushed onto Camp 3. However, it looks as if 7 days of previous snow finally took their toll and the boys were disappointed to see that nothing remained of Camp 3 – obviously an avalanche (there have been some spectacular ones to say the least) had wiped everything out. There was absolutely no trace of tents, fixing rope, or any equipment that had been cached in preparation for our summit bid.
We really did have no option but to return to base camp where we now have to restock and decide what to do. The team are in no question to return for another summit bid but we are losing a lot of man power as 3 big commercial expeditions throw in the towel. We certainly have the time, the equipment and the motivation to return but the big question is have we lost the only weather window this season? Suggestions on a postcard 🙂
AM – We must have spent about 7 days at base camp before returning back up the mountain for one last rotation before our summit attempt. It was uneventful up to Camp 1 and Camp 2 in fairly pleasant weather. From Camp 2 the intention was to head to Camp 3 for a sleep before returning back to base camp. Di showed the resolve of a gnat, and having moved very slowly for about 2 hours above Camp 2 got caught in a traffic jam – having waited for 2 hours going nowhere she returned to Camp 2 for the night – she ain’t going to wait for 2 hours behind a team in the UK so what’s new here? Pete, Paul and Jake made it to Camp 3 along with lots of other members from various teams.
The following day Phurba joined the rope fixing team and fixed to Camp 4 before all members returned to base camp. We have now been at base camp for 3 days and it hasn’t stopped raining (yes raining at 5000m) and snowing since we got down. With no solar, it is proving very hard to charge the computer which ain’t too great for team moral – how we love the snippets of news from the UK. We are a social team and this afternoon we are heading up town to Vanessa O’Brien’s for a movie and then this evening we have our French Canadian neighbours coming for dinner. Oh, the things we do to pass time. We are now patiently waiting for the weather to sort itself out and have one stab at a rather beautiful mountain.
PM – It looks like we will be resting tomorrow (20th July) and making our slow way up the mountain on the 21st. Most importantly it was Pete’s Birthday today. We are going to party this evening with a (single) can of beer – kindly given to us from the Poles for letting them use our tents early on. It is still snowing ….
Di just called with a quick update. Unfortunately they have had no signal for a few days but the team expect to send us a more detailed report and photos soon.
There was a team of Sherpas who went straight to Camp 2 (6700m) to complete the fixing of the ropes to Camp 3. We then followed them all up to Camp 2 for a night and feeling good they then moved up to Camp 3.
Di being a very polite lady allowed some other climbers to move before her and ended up getting caught up in a queue of 50 climbers. After waiting 3 hours she was too cold to move up to Camp 3 and left the team with the sherpas at Camp 3 for the night. Everyone will be joining up again back in Base Camp today.
Jake is busy documenting camp life for his blog including some great videos. It’s a great way to see the realities of Base Camp life so we’ve nicked them to include here. Enjoy and thanks Jake!
Through the Basecamp Keyhole Part 1: Welcome to the Thunderdome
Through the Basecamp Keyhole Part 2: The kitchen tent
Through the Basecamp Keyhole Part 3: Whats for dinner?
Through the Basecamp Keyhole Part 3: Meet the team – Lt Fahad
Through the Basecamp Keyhole Part 4: Meet the team – Phurba Sherpa
We have now been at Base Camp for four days, initially on rest days and subsequently with the weather. At Base Camp, there are only so many cups of tea one can drink and there is only so much chat to be had. Nonetheless, we muddle through. Yesterday was quite exciting for Di who was asked by the LO (Liaison Officer) to join in with the Eid celebrations (end of Ramadan), so with all the LO’s in camp and Team Leaders, she enjoyed an afternoon of feasting, singing and dancing. Coming from a small Scottish Highland town with a zero population of Pakistani, this was a real treat to witness and be part of.
As we members, laze around camp, our High Altitude Porters (HAPS) and Sherpa’s have been busy shuttling equipment up to Camp 2 – there was a great plan to push up to Camp 3 but once again the weather put a stop to that and they returned back down to base yesterday. The route has still not been managed to get fixed to Camp 3 but we are hopefully this will happen in the next weather window.
Di & Paul got a great treat this morning as Jorge walked into camp – we both had the pleasure of spending some time with Jorge in India last year – how exciting to see a familiar friendly face. Jorge had been on Broad Camp acclimitising and has now focused attention on K2.
No news is good news but we are all doing well despite both Di & Paul suffering from a 24 hours bug which saw both members lay horizontal for more than 24 hours – better at Base Camp than up the hill that’s all I can say. The joys of high altitude mountaineering …
On Thursday 30th June, Jake, Pete, Paul and Di make the return trip to Camp One. This is the first time that any of us sleep at Camp One and despite the precarious site of both tents we all survive the night. The following morning Jake, Pete and Di set off to Camp 2, Paul has a stonking headache and decides to remain an extra night at Camp One. The weather starts off fairly pleasantly but soon turns into a biting wind. Jake storms ahead and makes it to Camp 2 but with a rather large bottleneck of people at House’s Chimney, Di & Pete decide to camp at the bottom on the Chimney. Our third day on the mountain, saw Pete, Di and Paul all join Jake at Camp 2 for what turned into a cold and windy campsite. It probably wasn’t that bad with with spindrift blowing and tents flapping, things always seem worse than they actually are. An early departure the following day saw us return to base camp for some welcome cooking from the boys back at base.
We have now had 2 rest days and are enjoying the delights of base camp again. A team of Sherpa’s have returned back up to the mountain to try and fix to Camp 3 and our porters headed up to Camp 1 today to ferry some of our equipment up the mountain, the Sherpa’s will be joining them in Camp 2 tomorrow, if the weather allows.
It was with a heavy heart we all said goodbye to JB who just never seemed to acclimmitise. JB if you are ready this, you are already missed and Paul is slightly lost without your friendly banter.
Di has called on the sat phone with an update from the last few days. It’s been a busy time with all members of the team spending a night at Camp 2. Jake has managed two nights now. Di and Pete camped just below Camp 2 at House’s Chimney and everyone is fine back at Base Camp and resting while plans are made between all of the team leaders for sharing access between the teams.
We are having some problems with the generator so emails may be intermittent until this is sorted but the Sat phone is still giving us access to the team.
Wednesday 29th June
Let me tell you about camp life. K2 Base camp is situated at about 5087m on the Godwin Austen Glacier. We are surrounded by truly magnificent mountains; the the north we have the beautiful K2 and looking in a clockwise direction we have the Kharut Glacier Peaks, the Broad Peak Group, the Chogolisa group to the south beyond Concordia, the Khakhal Glacier peaks and finally the Praqpa Glacier peaks.
Base Camp is not quite your standard Caravan Club site. We are situated on a rocky glacier, which over time gradually melts out and requires some re-pitching of tents. We each have our own mountain tent at base camp, with every member have a different set up – for example Paul is opting for sleeping across the tent whereas Di is opting for the nest approach – by the time you actually have an 8000m peak sleeping bag, a down suit and various other down bits, there really isn’t much space left over. Beside the sleeping bag is always a head torch and a toilet roll for those unexpected evening toilet dashes.
We have a dining tent which has been suitable tarted up. Many things happen in the dining tent, mainly eating and drinking but also home to the Protein Party and the Coffee Club. The Protein Party is Paul’s baby having 6 weeks supply of various protein shakes, protein bars and various minging protein cookies. Thankfully Di can contribute to the party with an expeditions supply of Wild West Beef Jerky which is proving a huge success. The Coffee Club is once again Paul’s creation and with 3 avid coffee drinkers in the team and a coffee expresso maker, this is an excellent way to pass time.
The cook tent is where our cook team hang out and create the wonders that arrive on the dining table – they also sleep here in the evenings.
We have a shower tent – basically a small tent where you can stand up and with a blue bucket to stand in and a small bowl to throw water with, it does the job. We also have a toilet tent – this always provides great conversation. It’s basically a ditch where you squat and do your business. Pretty pungent and will probably required to be moved soon.
In the middle of our little camp we have Jakes chill out tent where temperatures sore when the sun is out and plummet when in the cloud.
We pass time by playing scrabble, reading, cards, socialising, washing and generally trying to keep healthy in a fairly harsh environment. We normally wake up around 0500 when the various Primus stoves around camp spark up, the crows start to crow and various music starts to play. It is easy to remain inside the tent until about 0700 when it becomes too hot. Breakfast for us at 0800, lunch at 1300 and dinner at 1900 with everyone in bed at 2000 – yes, party animals we are.
Monday 27th June
The alarm was set for 0100 this morning and at 0200 we probably woke up the entire camp as we trudged through the middle of it on our way to Camp 1. Navigating our way through the crevasse field in daylight is normally quite challenging – we have come to enjoy following (we do a lot of that) Pete on one of his Magical Mystery Tours – but under head torch was a new dimension. Finally we emerged in the other side and after a quick repack at ABC we set off the never ending snow slope to Camp 1.
The route to camp 1 follows the left edge of a rather large snow slope, nothing more than 40 degrees but when you are breathing through your arse, it often seems steeper. Pete is demonstrating that he is machine, not only getting to camp before the rest of us, but ahead of the Sherpa’s too. We will soon be attaching a bungee so that he can pull the remaining team members behind him.
We now have 2 tents erected at Camp 1 in both rather precarious situations, but it’s better than nothing. The great thing about a very long snow slope, is that you have a very big bum slide on the way down 🙂 Jake unfortunately is the latest victim of our bug that has worked it way through the team (quite literally) and has spent the day solving the broken computer so we now have comms again.
We are now going to enjoy a couple of rest days at base camp to recharge the batteries before launching back up the mountain.
Sunday 26th June
We opted for an early departure this morning, allowing us to reach Advanced Base Camp and return to Base Camp before the glacier turned into a torrent of water. It took us about 2.5 hours to reach ABC which is at the foot of the Abruzzi Spur at c.5300m. It was nice to walk on the crispy glacier in the morning and for us, it felt like we were finally starting to climb this impressive mountain.
We were accompanied today by Ashgar and Mohammad our 2 Pakistan High Altitude Porters giving both Mingma and Phurba more time to organise the loads for higher up the mountain.
We are a close team now, having spent over 2 weeks together and even our Liason Officer, Fahad is getting the Great British sense of humour.
The good news is that our Oxygen finally started to move from Askole early on the 25th so should be here in the next few days.
We have finally made it to K2 base camp. More importantly we have finally made it to K2 base camp with a full compliment of team members, support team and equipment. In normal circumstances I wouldn’t even think twice about this, but we are slowly learning that this is no normal mountain. Having departed the trail head some 8 days again, we have walked well over 100km; witnessed first hand the harsh reality of the life of a mountain mule; slowly watched our beloved ‘Madge’ numbers dwindle from 14 to 0; watch our sick billy goat get traded for a healthy nanny goat – which looking at the 4 legs by the kitchen tent this morning has finally left this world; employed well over 110 porters to get all our equipment and are already far too familiar with each others bowel movements.
We arrived at Base Camp to a very shy K2 yesterday – in fact we actually haven’t seen her in her full glory yet – it’s been chucking it down with snow for the past few days. We have managed to get Jake’s palatial MHW tent set up – lovingly called the Ops Tent/Chill Out Tent/Hot Box/Casino/Library/Map room/Store room/Medical centre depending on what time of day it is.
We will be attempting the Abruzzi Ridge and will be working in co-operation with a couple of the other big teams on the mountain and tomorrow, if the conditions allow, a team of Sherpa’s will try and fix to Camp I and hopefully to Camp II. We still have much to sort around base camp, our home for the next potentially 7 weeks.
The team are doing absolutely great – as I type this poor JB is manning the generator which is proving to be temperamental; Paul has just fallen in a mini crevasse up to his arse (shouldn’t laugh but we will); Jake has just done a video blog with a massive boggie hanging out of his nose; Pete is still constantly cursing his 28 year nephew for downloading poor music on his ipod; Mingma has just discover Reggie Reggie Sauce and Phurba still amazes us with his every changing wardrobe – without doubt the most fashionable Sherp on the mountain.
We will be having another relaxing day around BC tomorrow.
Currently we are 1 camp away from K2 Base Camp. Heavy cloud, no mountains to be seen unfortunately and also very cold!
All group are in great form having trekked a rather long way from Paiju to Urdukas. This unfortunately can’t be said for the chickens – only 4 left 🙁
Our oxygen has arrived in Skardu and will make its way up the trail. We get a long rest tomorrow before we launch up the glacier to Goro II. Thanks Di
We have successfully departed Skardu now to travel to Askole in jeeps. Hopefully it will be the most harrowing thing we do. We then trekked today to Jalu. All team are great. 12/14 chickens left. It is still beige everywhere we look but we can see white and it’s a good temperature now. Tomorrow we trek to Paiju followed by rest day.
We made lots of plans today to keep busy. First up we visited the Italian K2 museum which proved to be a bit of a history lesson. Next up with grabbed a taxi and headed down to the shangri la resort. A true little oasis. Back to the hotel and after a short wait our truck arrived from Islamabad with all the uk freight, Nepali freight and our bags. A manic hour followed trying to reorganise the loads in less than ideal conditions before we finally had time to organise our own equipment. Tomorrow we will hopefully depart to Askole and then the trek to base camp.
Our last night in Islambad was truly fantastic with dinner at the British High Commission compound comprising of fish and chips, steak, gin and tonic and beer – not necessarily in that order. A 0400 breakfast followed by a successful early morning flight to Skardu, flying around a spectacular looking Nanga Parbet.
The team are all now relaxing and will spent today purchasing last minute items. Our cargo will be arriving tomorrow so it will be all hands on deck to unpack and repack the loads for the porters with our planned departure on the 16th. It is still hot and beige – with bursts of green and in places (namely when standing over the open drains) a smell that is truly indescribable.
We’ve just finished our briefing today with the helicopter agency and the Pakistan alpine club. Some last minute shopping done and then a meeting with some of the fantastic staff from the British High Commission. Tea in a cup and saucer and home made cookies. Tomorrow we have a 0615 flight to Skardu. It is still hot and still beige.
We are now a 6/7 team, with Phurba having some visa problems but is due to fly here tomorrow. We are enjoying a quiet city (Ramadan) and have a meeting later today with our in country agent.
Islamabad is the capital of Pakistan with a city population of 2 million. Built in 1960 to replace Karachi as the capital and divided into 8 basic zones including commercial, diplomatic, administrative, residential and rural and green. We are in the blue zone relaxing in our hotel. It doesn’t look very blue outside, more beige. It is hot, very hot and Brits & Canadian are enjoying the air con 🙂
Our K2 team will be departing Saturday 11th June for their international flights to Islamabad in Pakistan on the 12th followed by a Ministry briefing and final preparations before flying to Skardu on the 14th.
Good luck to Di and the team from all of us at Adventure Peaks.