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