Today, we woke up at 6:00am, packed up our very damp equipment, had breakfast at the tea house, and began the trek to Bagara in the cool morning hours. Not long after we crossed the Myagdi Khola (Khola means river), we stopped for a tea break. We resumed our trek after this in the hot mid-morning temperatures, and I eventually broke away from the group to go my own pace. A few hours later, we arrived to Bagara at 6824ft/2080m where we had lunch inside a small hut and continued down in light rain to the place where we were to establish our camp. Shortly after arriving, the rain intensified, then turned to hail. We felt awful for the porters who were stuck out in this weather and applauded when they finally arrived. We set up camp, had dinner in a small tea house, and went to sleep early to beautiful bird songs and the occasional rooster call (which at first was nice, but later became a nuisance).
Today, we woke up early, packed up our things, and said farewell to Jeremy, as he doesn’t have time to trek to Dhaulagiri basecamp anymore thanks to the change in our plans. He decided instead to trek part of the Annapurna circuit via Poon Hill before heading home. We all already miss him and it hasn’t even been a day. We began trekking through Darbang and walked on a dirt road for the first few hours of the trek. We aren’t following the traditional trekking route, instead opting for a variant that is slightly shorter and meets up with the normal trekking route on day 2. We enjoyed the cool calm morning, and were gifted with views of Dhaulagiri II, III and V up the valley (we are climbing the highest, which is Dhaulagiri I). We eventually reached the end of the road, and the route became steep as we climbed up and down the face of the foothills surrounding the Myagdi Khola. As the cool temperatures of the morning gave way to extremely hot temperatures and high humidity, we did our best to stay cool and hydrated. We reached Kalleni, where we took a break for tea and made friends with a local toddler then continued for a few more hours until we reached Khamla. The plan had originally been to continue onto Jukepani, however, since we hadn’t seen our porters all day and saw no sign of them when we looked back, we decided to stop in Khamla for lunch and remain here for the night. The camp was located among terraced farmland, and we were surrounded with chickens, roosters, water buffalo, dogs, and horses. The location was absolutely stunning. We waited for a few hours, worried that we would experience the same disappointment we had at Yak Kharka. Thankfully, the porters followed through and all of our equipment made it to Khamla. We settled in for the evening, had a relaxed dinner in a tea house close to where we had our tents pitched, and went to bed.
Today, we woke up at 6:00am, packed up our equipment, had breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant, and walked our bags down to the place just outside of town where our bus was waiting for us. The bus ride was even more turbulent than before, and we all hit our heads on something along the way. We found it strange how many people the bus stopped to pick up and drop off along the way, despite apparently being a bus hired just to take us down. We eventually made it to Beni, where we had a late lunch. We were met by another staff member from Prestige Adventure, who tried to order us the two cheapest things on the menu (rice and French fries, as if that’s a meal), insisting that we must only get one or at most two different dishes for the entire table. We pushed back and managed to get some protein into the meal. Afterwards, we carried on, completing the drive to Darbang. When we arrived, we had no hotel reservation (despite the tour operator having three days’ notice and a definite arrival date), and we waited around for awhile while our poor trekking guide worked to figure something out. After some time, we managed to snag four small rooms, and we spent the rest of the afternoon organizing gear, taking much-needed showers, and charging our electronics. We had a traditional Nepali dahl set meal and went to sleep early. Tomorrow, we will begin our trek to Dhaulagiri Base Camp.
Today, we woke up, had a quick breakfast, and walked through town, past the temple, toward Thorung La. The well-marked, steep route passes by a number of small guesthouses and shelters along the way. All of the climbers and one of the trekkers (Jeremy, who shattered his previous altitude record of 14,410ft) made it to the top, while all of the trekkers broke altitude records but turned back before reaching the pass. Overall, the day was a huge success and was a much-needed change from the logistical nightmare we have been dealing with so far on the expedition. We descended quickly, witnessing a beautiful sunset along the way, and had dinner in our hotel. Tomorrow, we will drive from Muktinath to Darbang, where we will begin the trek to Dhaulagiri base camp the following day.
Today we had breakfast and awaited the arrival of our bags from the small shepherd’s hut. We packed up our things and the bus to Beni arrived in the late morning. After much deliberation and an argument with our tour operator, we finally decided to head in the opposite direction from Beni and drive to Muktinath at 12,171ft/3710m elevation. We weren’t confident that the porters would be ready to leave the following day from Darbang since the person who was to arrange them hadn’t even arrived in the city where they were to be sourced. We didn’t want to spend an extended amount of time at very low elevation and lose the acclimatization that we had gained from our hike to Yak Kharka and from sleeping in Marpha. Muktinath is a sacred place for both Hindus and Buddhists and the name means “place of liberation”. The Tibetan Buddhist tradition states that Guru Rinpoche, also known as Padmasambhava, the founder of Tibetan Buddhism, had meditated at Muktinath on his way to Tibet. After arriving to this beautiful sacred town, we all felt liberated from our earlier troubles and more at peace. After checking into our hotel and having dinner, we were greeted with stunning views of Dhaulagiri as the sun fell behind the range, our first glimpse of our climbing objective since arriving to Nepal. The energy of our group shifted and we all had smiles on our faces. We plan on waking up early tomorrow to climb up to Thorong La, a high mountain pass with an elevation of 17,769 ft/5416m, returning in the early evening, and leaving Muktinath for Darbang the following day to begin our trek to Dhaulagiri Basecamp, working under the assumption that 3 full days should be sufficient time to ensure that we have porters ready upon our arrival.
Today, Ryan, Jeremy and I woke up at 6:30am to a beautiful view of Nilgiri. We waited for our tents to dry a bit, and after some time, our breakfast and water arrived from below (we went to sleep last night without water or food; only what we had left from the morning and the bars we had packed for the day). We ate, then began our descent to Marpha. We were told that the group gear (kitchen tent, cooking equipment, and tents) would be sent up from Alu Bari to Yak Kharka today so that when we leave Marpha tomorrow, we are assured to have a camp to arrive to. We arrived without incident to Marpha in the late morning and had lunch. While we were eating, our trekking guide informed us that the remaining porters had run away AGAIN; this time apparently due to the fact that a couple of trekkers and their porters had disappeared days before during bad weather on that same route. Having already changed our plans once due to the fiasco that had occurred just the day before, I told him I needed some time to think and decided to visit with a friend who was in Marpha. Jeremy and I spent the afternoon visiting with Eva Zarzuelo who was on K2 with me in 2016. We hiked up to a temple high above town and were joined by a very friendly temple dog, who followed us all over on our walk. After this, we returned to the hotel and had dinner and discussed a new plan that had been made to bring down our bags from the stone hut on donkeys and take a bus in the late morning back down to Beni to begin the trek via the longer, easier route that starts in Darbang. We discussed possible alternate plans at dinner and went to bed not knowing what to expect the following day.
Today we woke up at 7:00am, ate a quick breakfast, and prepared our bags for the trek to Yak Kharka. We headed into town where the route began and headed up the foothills surrounding Marpha. What began as a relatively well-established trail turned into goat tracks. We worked our way up these steep slopes as the winds picked up. An ice ring began to form around the sun and we knew it wouldn’t be long before precipitation followed. We turned a corner at 11,750 ft (3581m) and rain began to fall, accelerated by the intense gusty winds. We stopped to put on our waterproof gear, and continued on to a small shelter, where we stopped to have some water. It was here where we realized that even the porters didn’t know the route. We continued as the rain turned to snow and crossed a gully to begin the climb up grassy slopes toward Yak Kharka. The storm intensified, at times causing whiteouts, and the staff that had accompanied us did not know the way. Ryan descended from Yak Kharka to see where the porters were and met us. Badia, Mauricio, their Sherpa, and Ryan had been waiting for an hour in the intense snow with no shelter and were beginning to get cold (fortunately Ryan had packed his small 1-man tent, which provided some limited shelter while things were sorted). Communication broke down between the porters and the staff and it became evident that continuing up the remaining 700ft to Yak Kharka would not be wise with no sign of the tents anywhere and all of us soaking wet thanks to the very wet snow that was falling. We made the decision to descend to Alu Bari (3900m/12,795ft), decreasing the distance that the porters with the tents and cooking equipment would have to go before reaching us. We took refuge from the storm inside a small stone shepherd’s hut with a fire burning inside (set by one of our porters) to warm up and waited for the rest of the porters to arrive. As the light began to fade and there was no sign of anyone coming up, it became clear that we needed to descend, as we didn’t have sleeping bags, tents, food or a stove and a few in our team were beginning to show signs of hypothermia. We began our descent in the dark at 7:00pm and arrived to another stone shelter where we discovered all of our equipment abandoned inside. We were told that two porters had been injured and the rest had run away. We discussed our plan, and decided that Ryan, Jeremy and I would stay there overnight while the others continued the descent to Marpha. We set up our personal tents on the roof of the stone structure and guarded the equipment with our cook. We ate a few bars and drank some of the remaining water we had from the morning and settled in for the night. The clouds parted, the winds died down and we were treated to stunning view of Nilgiri across the valley underneath billions of stars on a moonless night. Moments like these make all of my frustrations disappear, and despite all of the things that had gone wrong today, I felt lucky to be standing on that dirty rooftop with such humbling surroundings.
Today, we woke up in Beni at 4:00am and left our hotel at 4:30am. We were told that we needed to walk down the street to where the bus was waiting, however, after more than an hour of walking, the bus was nowhere to be found. We waited awhile and made friends in Galeshwar (pictured above) while the staff tried to find the bus, and finally, it arrived. The drive took seven hours and the route had two roadblocks that could only be passed during short intervals, so after the delays of the morning, we rushed to make it in time to get past before they closed the road. Fortunately, we managed to get by these obstructions and arrived in the late afternoon to Marpha (8760 ft/2670m). The wind picked up significantly, so we settled into our modest accommodations, ate lunch, and ventured into town to explore this charming town. We visited the local Buddhist monastery and were invited in by one of the monks. We returned to our hotel in the late evening, as it began to rain, had dinner in the hotel’s restaurant, and went to sleep. Tomorrow, we plan on waking up at 7:00am, eating breakfast, and beginning our trek to Yak Kharka.
Today, we woke up early, had a quick breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant, and finished packing our bags for the porters. Once this was done, we headed to the airport, where we waited for hours for our delayed flight to board. Thankfully, despite a torrential downpour earlier in the morning, the flight departed, and we arrived to Pokhara in less than a half hour. We collected our bags, had a nice lunch by the lakeside, and continued our journey by road to Beni. The road was washed out in many places and was a lot rougher than I remember it being from the last time I was here (in 2010). We arrived after dark to Beni, found a hotel, ate a sparse dinner, and went to bed.
Today, we spent the morning sorting equipment. Since our group plans on trekking using an accelerated schedule, we must send most of our equipment directly to Dhaulagiri Base Camp via the normal trekking route, and only bring crucial equipment for the trek with us on our accelerated trek. After this was finished, Lina, Javier, and her trekking group from Spain arrived to the hotel. We caught up with them, finalized details about our expedition with Parajuli, then went to La Dolce Vida in Thamel for lunch. I spent the remainder of the afternoon repacking my gear for the porters. After this was finished, we all went to the Third Eye restaurant with Lina’s group for a delicious local dinner.
Today, Simon, Wendy and I woke up at 5:30 am in Abu Dhabi, enjoyed an extensive breakfast buffet in our hotel, then ventured out into the city. We took a taxi to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the largest mosque in the United Arab Emirates, and toured the grounds all morning. The mosque, designed by Syrian architect Yousef Abdelky, was constructed between 1996 and 2007 and covers an area of more than 30 acres. Designed to unite the cultural diversity of the Islamic world, the mosque takes inspiration from Persian, Mughal, Indo-Islamic and Alexandrian mosques. Its archways are quintessentially Moorish and its minarets classically Arab. I found this pluralism of influence to be a welcome change from the rhetoric that we find evermore present in the US media, as it acknowledges the enormous diversity within Islam, while American media lumps the entirety of the religion into a monolithic ideology. Afterwards, we headed back to check out and continued on to the airport. We flew again on Etihad airlines, which we will never do again, and arrived at 8pm to Kathmandu. We were greeted by Parajuli and his staff at the airport, headed to our hotel, and went to sleep.
These past days, I waited for the weather window to materialize but it never did. We received heavy snow when the Meteotest forecast said to expect 0cm precipitation, and high winds blasted the upper slopes. After the night of heavy snow that prevented me from leaving base camp for Camp II, Camp III was wiped out by an enormous avalanche while the majority of the commercial expeditions were waiting in Camp II. This resulted in what was claimed to be the loss of all of the oxygen that they had stashed in Camp III (approximately $200,000 dollars of oxygen between the three big commercial teams). This however, turned out not to be the case. Though the tents and the equipment they contained were in fact lost due to the avalanche, there remained a large cache of Kobler’s oxygen (at least 40 bottles) in Camp III, meaning that at least some if not all of his clients could have still made an attempt despite the loss of some gear (most of which could have been either borrowed or sent up from Skardu). This information was of course not conveyed to his clients so they willingly left base camp under the assumption that they could no longer attempt this mountain with supplemental oxygen. After the big teams threw in the towel, a number of us got together to discuss another attempt. Before we met, my liaison officer came to my tent to tell me that since some of my permit were leaving, that I must also leave in four days. This would completely eliminate my chance to try the mountain again. I argued with him for some time before he finally said that if a group of us decided to stay, he could call GB council to get new orders. This means that the entire conversation was completely unnecessary and that he simply wanted to cause unnecessary trouble. The attendees of the meeting to discuss another attempt included Rob (American), Vanessa (American) and her Sherpas, the Hungarian team, and the British Team, along with their two Sherpas. The first thing we discussed was the safety of the upper slopes. Many of us believed, myself included, that the upper mountain was safer now than it had been all of July thanks to the enormous avalanche that unloaded the excess snow from the upper slopes. However, the Sherpas were convinced that since the commercial expeditions had left, that the upper mountain was unsafe. A number of us pointed out that it was the fact that they had lost oxygen and gear and that they were already planning on leaving earlier in July that motivated their departure, not the conclusion that the mountain was unsafe. This did not put their worries to rest, and by the end of the meeting it became clear that the Sherpas were out. We then began considering an alpine attempt without the aid of Sherpas or High Altitude Porters. It was at this point that I assessed my condition. I had touched Camp III, but had not slept there, so I did not feel sufficiently prepared for a safe summit attempt without oxygen. The alpine attempt would also require us to carry more than usual, as we would need to bring along rope and some rock pitons and snow bars. My lack of acclimatization would surely slow me down. I made the decision to end my expedition, as I felt that it wouldn’t be safe to attempt the mountain without sufficient acclimatization. That afternoon, we called for the porters and began preparing for our departure. I plan on descending via Gondogoro La, a high pass that cuts the length of the trek considerably, and spares us another journey down the Baltoro. We will end the trek in the beautiful village of Hushe. I will spend a night in Kande with Akbar’s family, then make the four-hour jeep ride down the well-maintained road to Skardu. The road from Askole to Skardu (the road we would have to take were we not going via Gondogoro La) has three points where it is necessary to change jeeps. After my decision was made, I heard that everyone else had also decided to end their expeditions. The weather changed in the last few days and we received heavy snow in base camp. I will leave for Concordia tomorrow (July 29th), spend a day there so that Manzoor and the Liaison officer from Gasherbrum II can meet me, then continue on to Ali Camp (July 31st), wake up at 1am to climb over the pass, and camp one more night in Shaisho (August 1st) before trekking the remaining distance to Hushe (August 2nd). It’s always hard to walk away from two months of hard work on a mountain, but I got to enjoy my time here with my mountain family (pictured above). I am so grateful to have such amazing people to share this special experience with. Until the next expedition! Thank you for sharing this adventure with me!
These past five days have been spent waiting out bad weather that has brought heavy snowfall and high winds to K2. The commercial expeditions (Seven Summits, Kobler and Partners, and Madison Mountaineering) ended up pushing off their departure dates so that they could allow their members the opportunity for a summit push. Yesterday, I had an incredibly unpleasant interaction with the owner of one of the commercial expeditions, Kari Kobler. He arrived to my mess tent after breakfast and called for me to come out. He apparently hadn’t paid his Sherpas enough money for the work they were brought from Nepal to do on the mountain (fixing the route for the clients who paid $35,000 dollars a piece to be here). Therefore, he was asking climbers throughout base camp to subsidize this service for him. The problem with his request is that the Sherpas are here on tourist visas, meaning that what he was asking for me to do is to participate in an illegal business transaction whereby I would be soliciting services from someone in Pakistan who was not permitted to supply these services for profit. Were they to have acquired work visas for their Sherpas, or used Pakistani high altitude porters, this would not have been the case. Regardless of this fact, I told him that due to the similarity of his request to that of Wilco before the 2008 disaster, I would prefer that he make this request after the summit push. He immediately blew up at me and said that he was “ashamed of his fellow western climbers” and that “this was pennies to us”. He claimed that he had “kicked the ass of another American climber in Everest base camp who had refused to pay” and then stormed off. As a student who is applying to medical schools and who has spent upwards of $5000.00 so far this summer on medical school application fees alone, I can say that the amount that he was asking from me was far from inconsequential. These are the words of someone who has been making enormous profits off of rich clients for decades. He has clearly lost touch with the average climber. I also plan on returning to Pakistan and would prefer not to break the law here and end up banned from climbing in Pakistan like other foreign climbers have been this year. Therefore, I have decided not to pay (he stormed off yelling how ashamed he was and not listening to a word I had to say about it, so he clearly didn’t care anyway). After this unpleasant interaction, I was told that he treats his base camp staff the same way and that this behavior was very typical of him. Most climbers have left for Camp I today and will be climbing to Camp II tomorrow. I plan on climbing from Base Camp to Camp II tomorrow if the weather remains stable. We received word this evening that our Camp I tent has been damaged and that the contents inside are wet. I am very grateful that the deposit I left inside the Camp I tent is still there, as this contains my down pants, stove, and other vital equipment. Were it to have blown away, my expedition would have been over. We also received word that some of the Camp II tents have blown away or been destroyed. I hope to learn before leaving tomorrow if my Camp II tent is still there. Currently, my goal is to attempt the summit of K2 on the 26th of July. But of course, this plan is dependent on the weather remaining somewhat stable and on my own physical condition. I have not yet slept in Camp III, so attempting to summit during this window is a stretch. I intend to listen to my body and turn around if I feel unwell at any point along the way.
Today, after a stormy night, I woke up and was finally forced by the lack of sun to use the generator to charge my laptop and satellite modem. After breakfast, Domi, Eva, Mauricio, and Badia came to visit. Mauricio patched up his climbing boots while the rest of us strategized about the summit window. Domi was able to spend a night in Camp III while everyone else had descended. I feel that I must sleep a night in Camp III and descend before I will be ready for an ascent of K2 without oxygen. The timing will be tricky as heavy snow will make the final slopes to Camp III avalanche prone and difficult to pass. But we remain optimistic as we have till the 5th of August before we must begin the trek down and the normal summit window on K2 usually falls on the last few days of July.
Today, I attempted to sleep in, but woke up at 5:30am. I waited in my tent until I heard Akbar start up the stove then went to the mess tent. I had a relaxed breakfast, said goodbye to Martin and Jorge (Spain) then showered and received a visit from Badia and Mauricio. After lunch, I worked on secondary applications as the last people on the mountain descended in preparation for what was forecast to be horrible weather. It rained most of the afternoon in base camp, and cleared a bit in the evening. The forecast looks bad for the next couple of days, so I intend to remain in base camp where I will recover and wait for lower winds before making another attempt to sleep in Camp III before the summit bid.
Today, I woke up at 5am, packed up my equipment and started up towards Camp III. I carried everything I would need to sleep in Camp III in case I felt healthy when I arrived, but this backfired quickly. The beginning of the route from lower Camp II to Camp III required passage through the very narrow House’s Chimney. My backpack was completely full, with a mattress pad and shovel attached to the right side. I made my way up the technical chimney, the shovel scraping the rocky sides as I struggled to take the next step. I arrived to the top breathless and took a few minutes to catch my breath before continuing on. The terrain above the chimney was very steep and the deep snow gave way every step. After a couple of hours of climbing, I decided to return to Base Camp, as the winds were blasting the serac, above which lies Camp III. I am after all, here to enjoy myself. I carefully made my way back to Camp II, prepared a deposit to leave in my tent, then descended to Camp I, rappelling almost the entire way. I was amazed to see how steep the terrain was between Camp I and Camp II. Only when descending was I able to fully grasp the grade of these slopes. I arrived in less than an hour to Camp I, dumped most of my gear into the tent, and proceeded down to ABC. A number of us got stuck behind an elderly Korean climber who was being helped down the fixed lines by two Sherpas. The waiting added at least an extra 1.5 hours to the descent, but I managed to make it back to Base Camp well before dark. I said my hellos to Badia and Mauricio, who had descended first thing in the morning, then made my way to my mess tent where Akbar prepared me a tea. I was amazed at the amount of energy I still had after climbing nearly 12 hours. I ate dinner, unpacked my gear, and got an early night.
Today, I waited till the sun hit the tent to begin my climb to Camp II, knowing that the winds would die down in the afternoon. Again, the weather was cloudy with a strong breeze which made climbing the steep slopes to Camp II more tolerable. I carried everything I needed for the night so I had an extremely heavy pack. Despite this, I made it to Camp II in under four hours. Normally Camp II is placed just above House’s chimney, however, due to the crowds of commercial expedition members whose tents had been placed earlier by Sherpas and High Altitude Porters, I elected to place my Camp II just beneath the chimney. This location encountered less wind and was less crowded. Upon arriving, I spent the better part of an hour carving out a platform into the steep slope, and securing my tent to old fixed lines and a broken tent from another season. Once this was done, I settled in, made water, and relaxed. Badia and Mauricio arrived from their climb towards Camp III in the late afternoon. They will spend another night here in Camp II before descending to Base Camp tomorrow. Eva and Domi also arrived from Base Camp and we all chatted before bed. Tomorrow, I intend to climb towards Camp III before descending to Base Camp before the bad weather on the 14th.
Today, I woke up at 3:30am, packed up my equipment, had a nice breakfast in the warm mess tent, and began climbing the glacier to ABC. The route from base camp to ABC is quite boring as it skirts the base of K2. That said, the mountain gave a spectacular show, with winds blasting the higher camps as the sun hit the peak. I also had the privilege of seeing fresh snow leopard prints on the glacier. I arrived in good time to ABC, put on my crampons and harness, and began climbing up the steep slopes to Camp I. The day was cloudy, which made for enjoyable climbing. Though winds were visibly blasting the upper flanks of the mountains, I only had to contend with a light breeze on my way to Camp I. Having departed one day after the commercial expeditions, I only had to worry about a few climbers who were descending on the fixed lines. I made good time to Camp I, arriving in just 5 hours, and settled in for the evening. The only other person in Camp I was one of Vanessa’s Sherpas, who was quite friendly. We chatted for a bit then went to sleep as the sun set and the temperature dropped.
Today, I woke up early, had a delicious breakfast, and prepared my pack for the climb toward Camp III. The weather fluctuated between sunny and snowy, but showed signs of improving. By the evening, the winds were calm and there was no more snow. I plan on leaving Base Camp by 4:30am tomorrow morning.
Today, after consulting the weather forecast, I decided to put off my push to higher camps until the 11th of July. Winds are still high the next couple of days and a huge number of Sherpas and members of the commercial expeditions left this morning for Camp I. Badia and Mauricio left after lunch for ABC where they intend to sleep before continuing onto Camp I. I plan on leaving on the 11th for Camp I, sleeping there a night, then carrying to Camp II, sleeping there, and climbing higher towards Camp III before descending before the bad weather on the 14th. The night brought heavy snow, and I felt content with my plan.