Our real goals: demonstrate courage and encourage others

by Jeff Messner

Trekking above Pheriche. Photo by Didrik Johnck

Trekking above Pheriche. Photo by Didrik Johnck

October 13 PHERICHE, NEPAL – As we are about to separate to our two summit expeditions, I want to remind you that Lobuche and Everest Base Camp is not the goal. The goal is to demonstrate the courage and resilience of you, our injured soldier; and to encourage others who have been injured that they too can accomplish exceptional goals.

We are very thankful to our ten Everest summit TEAMmates who have been instrumental in bringing the TEAM together. The 2001 Everest TEAM members offered to guide us so they too could give back to others in celebration of their successful Everest summit. They had hoped that just as they had benefited from a new level of confidence that transformed their lives, this expedition would do the same for the injured soldiers. We are deeply indebted to them for all of their tremendous personal and organizational support of the expedition.

The mental and physical challenge of the Himalayan Mountains has inspired us.

Tomorrow we split into two groups, one to summit Lobouche and one to summit Kala Patar and trek to Everest Base Camp. Our goal is to climb as high as safely possible and to descend safely. We are very proud that you have accepted this challenge and accomplished so much to be here in Pheriche at 14,130 feet. The last few days have been a transitional opportunity as you have crossed a huge threshold and the next few days will help you become the person you want to be. There will be many challenges as big as Everest and Lobuche in your future, such as career, family, community, or whatever it may be.

You have sacrificed and given so much through your military service and injuries, we hope you will take this experience and lesson from this expedition and turn it into your Adversity Advantage.

Ike guiding Steve through the rocks. Photo by Didrik Johnck.

Ike guiding Steve through the rocks. Photo by Didrik Johnck.


Lobuche High Camp: Stars over the mountains

by Ike Isaacson

Scenes from the trail. Photo by Didrik Johnck.

Scenes from the trail. Photo by Didrik Johnck.

Oct 12 LOBUCHE HIGH CAMP – Here we are at Lobuche High Camp. This is the highest that I have ever been in my life! This is very exciting. I got to to sleep around 8pm last night and woke up around 2am. I’m a bit tired but very healthy and happy. The Zopkio that carry most of our gear kept me company last night while I watched the stars over the mountains.

What an incredible place. We will be pressing to the summit around 2am which will make for a very busy night. Our only light will be from our headlamps as we push up the snowy summit. I expect us to summit the peak around 7am, exhausted yet having the time of my life.

Thank you for all of the support and prayers.

I hope to be sending out summit photos soon.

Ike Isaacson

Ike Isaacson


Lobuche Base Camp tour by Luis Benitez

by Didrik Johnck

Oct 11 LOBUCHE BASE CAMP – Outward Bound’s Luis Benitez takes us on a tour of Lobuche Base Camp as inhabited by Soldiers to the Summit Himalayan 2010 Expedition. Luis gives a shout out to sponsor Quaker for the oats and other eats and to the whole sherpa team for the good care they’re taking of the team.

Luis Benitez at Lobuche Base Camp

Luis Benitez at Lobuche Base Camp


The Long Goodbye

Well we have finally reached the tipping point. Today, after going up on the route with FINALLY improved weather, we returned to basecamp to make the decision that would point us in one direction or another. After observing the condtion of our route, rockfall, snow condtions, and knowing that teams on the Abruzzi Route just beside us have lost ENTIRE camps due to wind, we reached a conclusion.
Wendell Berry, one of my favorite authors, said it best; “When going back makes sense, then you are going ahead”.
The decision we have come to is just that. We have decided that given our timeline, the route conditions, and the forecast for yet MORE snow and wind, that this year is not our year for reaching the summit of K2.
While making a decison like this is always hard, and we are very hopeful that our colleauges and friends that remain here will reach the summit, our margin for safety does not in all good consience allow us to push higher. 3 others on our team will be departing with us as well.
I have told Katrina often that the mark of a seasoned mountaineer is being able to make decisions like this, and walk away with your head held high, understanding that by simply “showing up and giving it your all” that you have crossed a bridge that few dare to tread upon.
As another favorite saying goes; ‘”Their are old mountaineers, and their are bold mountaineers, but their are no old, bold mountaineers”. We all plan to be old AND bold, hence the path we have chosen.
This will be our last dispatch for this expedition, as the focus now will shift to the massive task of moving us and all our equipment down the valley. With weather potentially coming back in we are still undecided if we will go over a high pass to cut off a few days for the trek out, or if the weather does indeed roll back in, simply head back down the way we came up. Time will tell.
We would deeply like to thank our sponsors, STS Capital Partners and Sherpa Adventure Gear, and I personally would like to thank Outward Bound USA for truly believing in the spirit of adventure and personal growth, regardless of the outcome.
Till nextime, via con dios!

Katrina, Luis, Lakpa, and Tshering

Group at the base of the route


Time to part

So the time had come for the crew to split and say goodbye!
The Broad Peaker’s headed out today, and we moved up to K2 basecamp where we have spent the day working hard to build platforms and setup camp. Yet another weather system has moved in bringing scattered snow and wind. Lets hope it gets better soon. The clock is ticking..

K2 and Broad Peak teams


climb to 22k

Todays efforts were not without reward. After a sleep at c2, we took a “walk” about 1/2way towards camp3, reaching 6600m or about 22,000ft.
A perfect amount for our next round which will hopefully see us sleeping at c3 , about 400m higher then where we went today, and then being done with our time on Broad Peak.
This year has proven to be a weather challenge, as some friends who tried for the summit last night found out.
They were all turned back by thigh deep snow at about 7,900m.
Some years here we are told, snow can shut everything down, even with good sun! Such is climbing life in Pakistan.
more tomorrow hopefully from basecamp!

above c2 steep and fun


punch thru

We did it! The weather has been holding steady so after sleeping at c1 last night we made the move to c2 today, where we will be sleeping over 20,000ft.
reports of more sugar snow up high will impact how high we “tag” tomorrow. we are hoping to go about 1/2way to c3 then zoom all the way back to base for a rest. 2-3 nights on the hill when you are acclimating is about as much as you should do per climbing cycle. more than that, unless you are on a summit push, you literally start to waste away!
for now, we are all in good health and spirits!
stay tuned!



Camp 1 to Camp 2 then all the way back to basecamp

In climbing, sometimes you have those days, those days where you “walk the line” between turning tail and running down, and digging in and pushing forward. Today was one of those days. Our weather forecast we recieved last night was not a good one. A storm was on the way, a big one this time, that would effectively close down climbing on the mountain for a few days. After settling into Camp1 for the night, we deliberated what to do, and all agreed that if it started up overnight, we would be up at 1st light and head downhill. We woke up this morning to a light dusting of snow on the tent and a looming sky. As we all agreed it was worth it to “go up and take a look”, we headed out of camp with the intention of trying to “touch” camp2 at just over 20,000ft (6,000m).
We knew that breaking that barrier would put us in good shape for the next cycle up the hill to then sleep at camp2 and continue getting used to the ever thinning air.
The weather however, had other plans. First the winds came, then that transported what is called sugar snow. Imagine if you will a jar of sugar, now give that jar a tilt so the sugar inside sits at about a 45-55 degree angle, now imagine, at 18-20,000ft, in freezing winds, walking up that sugar. Thats exactly what we were faced with.
Lapka, Katrina and I often talked about the ego associated with climbing. For myself being back with Outward Bound these past few years has showed me a different perspective on this. We always say, “challenge yourself, and change your world”. But I would add to that, there are times, days not unlike this one, where you have to become the animal that proper society tells you not to. You must in your heart believe you can do things that other people think are crazy, and you must believe you can do them well, for this is how you survive sometimes up here. Ego? Hardly. Simply a belief that you have more in you than you know.
Despite the rolling waves of poor weather, we continued upward, with an eye towards avalanche danger, and by 11.15am we were at camp2.
At this point a big thank you needs to go out to Fabrizio and our HAP’s (High Altitude Porters) for doing such an amazing job fixing line for the route. There are few people on this planet that can match these guys strength, and for that we are greatful. We rested, re fueled, and “hustled” back to camp1 and then to basecamp in time for a 2pm late lunch. Katrina is feeling strong, and we are all satisfied that this rotation up the hill went better than expected. So let the storm come! For now, we are content to be faced with a few rest days, and a newfound belief in whats possible.
Till tomorrow.

Luis headed to c2

Katrina headed to c2

Lapka and Tshering at c2


Basecamp gathering

Todays rest day was filled with preparations for our hopeful move to camp1 tomorrow. Everyone stayed at basecamp today, not just the 2nd wave of climbers, due to bad weather all over the valley. Its been snowing most of the day, with hints of sun here and there.
So like most families, what do you do when everyone is in town? Have a get together!
Word went out up and down basecamp to all teams that were around to come over for tea and a visit. Seems like no one turned down the invite! The dining tent was heaving with people most of the afternoon. A group from Spain, a group of Slovak’s, some fantastic world class skiers from Dynafit attempting to ski Broad Peak, (one of whom is actually from Breckenridge, Colorado, close to my home! Nice to get some hometown boys representing up here!)
Mike Horn, a Swiss, who has done more polar exploration than most folks dream about, and the list goes on and on. The stories and laughter went well into the afternoon, in multiple languages, fueled by various blends of “firewater” that most teams have brought with them. For the Spanish, wine, for the Slovak’s, some type of high grade rocket fuel, for the gringos like us, scotch all around!
If the weather clears like it is supposed to we will be moving up to camp1 for a “overnight” tomorrow. We will keep you posted.

the gangs all here


Camp one shuffle

4am is never an easy time to get up, no matter what job you have. Our job today was to climb to camp1 to drop off food/fuel/personal gear.
Imagine a nice 45min walk across a glacier, outfitted in all your climbing gear, and all bundled up against the cold, then imagine getting on a ladder tilted at about a 45 degree angle. Climbing this ladder for about 4 1/2 hours. Thats about the size of what we did today. We arrived at camp1 around 10am, deposited our loads, and raced back down the ropes in time for lunch here at basecamp. All in all quite a productive day.
The four of us are pretty tired, so tomorrow will be a rest day.
More pics and fun info then!

Luis Katrina and Tshering en route to camp one


Final prep

Greetings everyone. Today was spent adjusting our loads for our carry to camp1 tomorrow. Fabrizio and crew have made fantastic progress fixing towards camp2, and we are carrying up more rope to support that process, plus our personal gear. Round trip should be about 8 hours all going well. Some of us may stay high for a few more hours and help fix rope higher if the need arises, we shall see.
Other than that, it will be early to bed for all of us, as 4.30am always comes earlier than you think.

Lapka and Tshering packing food


The Broad

Greetings everyone. Today was another day of sorting and re packing for our 1st carry up to camp 1 day after tomorrow.
Everyone is in fine form and we were all excited to be breaking into the snacks and treats we brought from home. A bit of cheese and crackers, pistachio nuts, jelly beans, all the really important stuff came out today!
We also looked over our mountain food and what will go where when why and how. Thus is life on an expedition. The afternoon snows have returned so we have all retreated to our respective tents. Lapka and Tshering are listening to a station from India on their shortwave, Katrina is rocking out on her headphones, and I of course am in my tent “geeking out” with all the communications gear trying to get the dispatch out!
The clouds and snow this afternoon have prevented me from charging everything right up, but I was able to catch this shot right out my front door this morning. Broad Peak! K2 which is a view out the other door wasnt cooperating with the cloud cover today. I guess she wants to stay a surprise for later!
Tonight most of the team is in basecamp with us, with a few folks that arrived a few days before us already on a rotation to sleep at camp1 tonight. I have a serious match with Joe from Norway to see if I can defend my connect4 champion title (a game for 10 year olds, but lots of fun for us at 16,000ft)!
Katrina has enjoyed hanging out with one of our trekkers, Nikki, who is Garth’s girlfriend. I know she has appreciated the “girl time” in the midst of all the stinky hairy climbing beasts.
All’s well here for now!

WIll the real Broad Peak please stand up



After a snowy and windy walk, we made it to basecamp! Over lunch we met the rest of the team that were a few days ahead. There are folks from South Africa, Australia, USA, and believe it or not, another girl from Canada which Katrina was quite pleased about!
We then kicked into high gear to build tent platforms out of the glacial rubble, setup tents, and generally spent the afternoon phaffing around. (phaff; to move slow at 16,000ft or higher, which is where we are now)! You can sense K2 and Broad Peak looming in the clouds above and around us….very surreal.
With the weather batteries are low, so with hopefully some sun, we will try to charge up and give you a more proper tour of basecamp.
Till then this is Broad Peak BC, signing off!

Basecamp of Broad Peak


First views

Today’s walk was fairly straightforward. 4hrs and then quickly erecting the tents against the gentle snowfall that had rolled in. We are a 1/2 days walk away from Broad Peak basecamp, which in turn is 45min away from K2 basecamp!
Concordia is supposed to be the 1st place you get good views of K2, but with the weather we didnt get our hopes up.
However, lo and behold, after lunch the clouds started to part, the sun came out, and we caught our 1st close up glimpses of both K2 (on the left in the distance) and Broad Peak (close in on the right).
We are all very jazzed to be so close to the end of our trekking phase, and the start of our climbing one.
Stay tuned!


Walking onto the Baltoro Glacier

Today’s walk saw us finally walking on the Baltoro Glacier proper. This is high and wild country, with parts having no clear route, and other parts where you are leaping from rock to rock to avoid the glacial streams threading thru the landscape. Needless to say, its a beautiful place. The group are all doing well, and enjoying the company of climbers headed off to other mountains, but at this point we are all still trekking together up valley. Don Bowie who has been here many times over the years, pointed out to us and an Italian team some of the giants as we walked by; Nameless tower and Trango tower to name a few.
Walking with these Balti porters, you begin to develop a healthy respect for just how strong these guys are. There are no teahouses up here to duck into for a quick visit and meal, no clear trail, the going is tough without yak support, few carry animals, and yet these guys do it all with a smile on their face. They are a passionate people, and take great pride in their work.
We are camping at about 13,500ft tonight, and tomorrow takes us even higher. Hopefully if all continues as planned, we should be in Broad Peak basecamp in a few days.
Cheers to all!

Kat and Don and Tshering check out Namless and Trango Towers

Porter lunchbreak


Paju Camp

Greetings everyone.
Today was another 7hr 90degree scorcher, but we arrived in Paju Camp by early afternoon. Mercifully some clouds have moved in making hanging out in tents bearable.
Lapka and I were looking at pics in his book on k2 about expeditions here in the ’70’s, Kat took a “bucket shower” which consisted of hiding in a shower stall out of the wind with a bucket of water, and Tshering and I have been playing with satellite phone equipment as usual!
We managed to pick up the bbc on shortwave today, so caught up with a bit of world cup action!
It’s nice to hear how the rest of the world is doing! Tomorrow will be a rest day so our Balti porters have organized some danciing for tonight! Ian promises to do the funky chicken and I will be there camera in hand to record all!
Stay tuned for what I am sure will be great pics!

Paju Camp

Porter tea time


jhola camp

our apologies gang. we are fine in camp after a 7hr walk, but cant get a good signal on the bgan to send a dispatch and the pda wont upload photos!
aaah the beauty of tech time in the hills! more tomorrow when we have it sorted. for now, the team is all fine and happy to be moving on foot!



What a day! For our final jeep ride to the “trailhead”, the road did not dissapoint!
Intense 4wheel drive roads, followed by massive breakdowns of machines, finally saw us reach Askole by mid afternoon. There were a few hair raising moments, especially when we saw a suspension bridge that was on the road we were travelling twisted and broken from a recent flood!
All is well now and we are all settled in here in Askole finalizing the sorting of our loads, and hiring our porters for the walk to basecamp!
It will be nice to finally be on foot travel again!

K2 STS 2010 Team

destroyed bridge

anyone have the wrench?



After an intense 30hr bus ride, over rugged roads, and driving by the mouth of the Swat Valley, which has been a Taliban stronghold till recently, we made it at about 2am to the serene and pristine Skardu!
This village is really where the Karakoram HImalayas begin, and our adventure continues! We arent fully done with autos yet, as we are still loading into a jeep tomorrow for our final leg under auto power to Askole. From there we will be on foot for another 5 days or so to Broad Peak basecamp, which is about 1hr walking away from K2 basecamp.
We will be acclimating on Broad, to prepare for K2, so it will be an amazing experience to climb on 2 8000m peaks this season! Lets hope we get to summit at least one of them!
Katrina, Lakpa and Tshering are all doing well, and we were busy today re packing loads, and enjoying the scenery while strategizing over our maps about our chosen route on K2.
We have met up with other Broad Peak climbers for this leg of our journey, as other K2 folks are a day ahead of us.
Stay tuned as it can only get more interesting from here!

skardu valley


maps and planning


Departing Islamabad

This has been an amazing couple of days! We have endeavored to see the sights and sounds of this wonderful city, taking in all the bazaar’s and markets in and around the city. Everything from Afgani carpets to dates and nuts, we have seen and experienced it all!
Today we finally fly to Skardu to begin our journey up valley. We are hearing reports of large amounts of snow this year up around Concordia, stay tuned as we go to find out!

Every fruit on the planet

Dates and nuts from all over the region

Lakpa contemplates a Afgani rug



After years in the planning and even more in the dreaming of this trip, we are all here in Pakistan safe and sound. Dinner was a buzz of chatter about past trips, and eager anticipation about our current adventure.
We shared all of our Sherpa Adventure Gear with Kat, and made plans for an early breakfast to be ready for the flight for Skardu. Alas, I just got word that we will not be flying tomorrow, but the next day due to oversold flights up valley. Here is where “Inshallah” comes into its own.
The plan now is to fly day after tomorrow, if we cant get on a flight, then it is onward to a 36hr drive up the Karakoram Highway towards Skardu, we will keep you posted as we know more!
Till then….

Lakpa and Luis

The gangs all here


Puja and Preparation

Puja day! A buddist ceremony might seem out of place when it comes to climbing in Islamic Pakistan, but the four of us felt like it was an important ceremony regardless of where you are climbing. As the Rimpoche Lama said to us today, “you dont stop doing what you believe just because you are far from home”. How true.
So today Lakpa Tshering and I went to Bodanath to recieve our blessing. We brought prayer flags to string over basecamp once we arrive, and went to see the RImpoche. All three of us felt better for the experience!
Then a quick visit to one of our sponors headquarters, Sherpa Adventure Gear, and we are back in the shade trying to escape the mid day heat!
Katrina arrived in Islamabad at about 2.30am today, so she is the 1st of our team on the ground. The three of us will fly tomorrow afternoon, Inshallah. ( You will see this a lot on this trip, loosely translated it means “if God wills it”).
Stay tuned!


Lakpa and Tshering