Nicholas Rice departed Los Angeles for Islamabad, Pakistan on June 23rd, 2014 for his eleventh Himalayan expedition. Teaming up with Catalina Quesada Castro (Spain), MariaPilar Agudo (Spain), and Carlos Garranzo (Spain), Nick successfully reached the summit of Broad Peak (8047m/26,401ft) via the West Ridge route.
Broad Peak is 12th highest mountain in the world standing at an elevation of 8047 meters or 26,401ft. It is located in the Karakorum Range in Northeast Pakistan. The first ascent was made in 1957 by an Austrian Expedition led by Marcus Schmuck.
In 2007, Nick reached the col at 7900 meters but was forced by altitude sickness (resulting from an altered acclimatization schedule due to rockfall injury sustained earlier in the climb) to abort his summit bid.
Dispatches were posted live from base camp via satellite phone as the expedition progressed.
Today, we woke up at 6:00am, packed up our equipment and headed to the jeeps to begin the long 7-hour off-road drive to Skardu. Just as we reached the outskirts of Skardu, we were forced to stop the jeep as a crowd of people were in the street along with a few armed police officers. Babar (our Liaison officer) rolled down his window to speak with the police-man to find out what was going on. Just after this, one of the men in the street lunged for another and a commotion broke out. Suddenly, we heard the crackle of repeated gunfire as more than a dozen shots were fired. We quickly ducked down in the vehicle as our driver sped away. Apparently, we were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. A land dispute over a very valuable piece of land had taken a violent turn and just as we arrived, escalated to gunfire. According to Babar, three bystanders were wounded in the gunfire. Thankfully, our group escaped shaken, but unhurt. We arrived to our hotel around 3:00pm and after waiting a bit to be sure that the violence wouldn’t spread as it often can in small towns, Babar, Akbar and I ventured out to the hospital to get checked out. The doctor here prescribed me a number of medications for my cough and charged me an alarmingly small fee of US$1.00 (yes, one dollar… it isn’t a typo). After this, I finally had the opportunity to shower in an actual shower and washed the last of the Baltoro off of me. We reconvened for dinner and then Manzoor, Akbar, and Ibrahim surprised us with a summit cake and another for Carlos’s birthday. We celebrated, then went to sleep, exhausted from the day’s events.
Today, we woke up at 3:00am (to avoid trekking in the heat) and quickly began descending in the pre-dawn hours toward Askole. We knew that today would be long as we had originally intended to arrive to Bardumal rather than to Paiju. In not arriving yesterday, we added 15km/2.5 hours to our already long trekking day. We arrived to Askole destroyed at close to 4:00pm. After spending the better part of the day walking with a heavy pack in the hot sun, my minor cough had turned into a major problem. I arrived with a fever and a productive cough. Thankfully, the heat broke shortly after we arrived to Askole and a torrential downpour began. Badia and Mauricio (Mexico) graciously offered their mess tent as refuge from the storm while we continued to wait for the rest of our equipment to arrive. When it finally did, we quickly unpacked the tents and tipped the porters who were eager to go. We settled into the mess tent for our last dinner together in the mess tent, then went to sleep, hoping that the rain wouldn’t cause any massive landslides that would prevent the jeeps from passing through to Skardu in the morning.
Today, we woke up around 6am, and again packed up our equipment, had a rushed breakfast in the mess tent, then broke camp and headed down toward Paiju. Originally our plan was to continue onto Bardumal, however, due to the scorching hot temperatures, the porters were too tired (as were we) to continue past Paiju. We arrived in the afternoon and after settling in, found out the devastating news that a Spanish climber who’d had dinner with us in Broad Peak base camp, and whom we’d visited in K2 base camp, Miguel Angel Perez Alvarez, had died in his tent in Camp IV after descending from his summit attempt on K2. Exhausted from the trek, and shattered by the news, we went to sleep early.
Today, we woke up at 4:00am, packed up our things, ate a quick breakfast, and then began the trek down from Broad Peak Base Camp to Urdukas. The trek ended up taking us 13.5 hours (we had to wait at each camp to make sure that the porters would make it) and we arrived to Urdukas at 6:30pm. The dry cough I’ve had since summitting turned into something else on the trek down and I found it hard to breathe when I had to go uphill (which happens a lot on this trek down). I’m assuming the cough is the result of damage to the lungs from breathing in the frigid subzero dry air for so many hours at night on summit day. Regardless of its origin, I don’t see it getting any better while we are trekking down close to 20 miles a day in the blazing heat of clear August days. It also doesn’t help things that I decided to trek down with close to 25kg’s on my back. But we only have to bear with two more super long days before we are down in Askole.
Today, Badia and Mauricio woke me to say goodbye as they headed down toward Askole. About 20 minutes later, we heard a loud roar from Broad Peak and saw an enormous avalanche sweeping the route to Camp I. Thankfully no one is on the mountain at the moment. We headed to the mess tent for breakfast, then began packing our porter loads for the trek down the Baltoro. We will leave tomorrow and trek to Urdukas. The following day, we will trek to Bardumar, then arrive to Askole on the 31st. We will then take a jeep to Skardu the following day and fly out of Skardu on the 5th (weather permitting) to Islamabad.
Today, we woke up in far better condition than yesterday, had breakfast in the mess tent, and then hurried outside as we heard the sound of helicopters approaching. They were here to evacuate Ana, the Catalan team doctor who had come down with severe frostbite on her feet on summit day (they also evacuated Oscar). After this, we began the daunting task of exchanging photos from the expedition in the mess tent. Around lunch time, we heard helicopters yet again and found out that the Taiwanese member who had needed the rescue/dexamethasone injections in Camp IV was also being evacuated via a US $30,000 helicopter ride. After lunch, the Polish team threw a base camp party to celebrate all of our summits. We attended, exchanged information with the teams who were leaving, then visited with Badia and Mauricio. After eating dinner, we discussed the plan to descend via Godogoro La. We decided that it was more trouble than it was worth as we would have to fix rope for the dangerous sections and wake up at midnight to reach the pass at dawn. Also weather might be an issue as snow is predicted in the forecast beginning on the 29th. After it was decided that we would descend via the Baltoro, we went to bed.
Today, I woke up at 8:00am with a swollen face, swollen lips, and sore everything. I hadn’t slept well at all in base camp and was exhausted. Lina and Pilar both felt awful as well. We found out that Carlos had opted to spend the night in Camp I rather than attempt to cross the rivers late in the day. We ate breakfast, showered and waited for Carlos to return. He arrived in the late morning and upon his arrival, we were relieved that all of our members had made it off of the mountain in one piece. We had lunch together, then I went back to my tent and passed out for the rest of the afternoon. Manzoor woke me when Oriol and Ngima came to visit me and they stayed the evening for dinner. Alex Gavan also came up to say his congratulations and goodbye as he is leaving base camp tomorrow. Badia and Mauricio are still up on the mountain helping rescue the Taiwanese climbers who became exhausted and came down with cerebral edema on the summit. We expect them to return to base camp tomorrow.
Today, after a cold and uncomfortable night in Camp III, Lina and I awoke, waited a bit for the sun to arrive to the tent, then broke down camp and began descending toward Base Camp. We finally met again in Camp I where we waited for other climbers to begin descending to avoid rockfall danger. We continued our descent until we were greeted by Ibrahim and Manzoor at the deposit. They congratulated us, took our backpacks from us to our profound relief, and walked with us the last hour to Base Camp. We arrived, ate a quick dinner, which was followed by a very unpleasant conversation initiated by our Liaison officer. He decided to take the opportunity to argue over our choice to descend via Gondogoro La. Apparently, while we were up on the mountain, other officers in K2 and Broad Peak base camps had convinced him of the danger of descending via the pass. Exhausted after descending from 8047m to 4800m, we were in no mood to debate the route of return. Disheartened, I returned to my tent, exhausted, burned, and sore from the huge effort that I had exerted over the past few days. I unpacked my equipment from my backpack and finally went to sleep.
After maybe an hour of sleep, I woke up at 10:00pm, made 2 liters of water, packed up my things, put hand, foot, and toe warmers in my boots and gloves, and headed out into the moonless, pitch black night. About a half hour after beginning, I ran into Alex Gavan (Romania) who was descending from a successful summit attempt. I congratulated him and assured him that he was no more than 20 minutes from Camp III. We hugged and I continued toward Camp IV. I passed the Mexican tents in Camp IV, which were clearly empty and continued onward until I caught up with some Catalan climbers. A few of them were using oxygen, but their pace was erratic and it was very frustrating to be behind them, as their breaks were causing my extremities to get cold. To make matters worse, my headlamp died at around 2:00am, two and a half hours before sunrise. I had no choice but to stay behind the Catalans in order to use the ambient light from their headlamps to guide my steps. Finally, Oriol (a Catalan) and his Sherpa Nima passed the others and I took this opportunity to do the same, following Oriol and his Sherpa instead. Their pace was much better and a few hours later, we arrived at the col. My hands and feet were numb so I took the opportunity in the col (where the sun finally shined) to warm up and take a drink of my now icy water. I continued onward from the col, past a very rocky, exposed section, onto the rocky secondary summit. I met Lina and Pilar there and found out that Pilar was not feeling well and needed to descend. Lina had recruited a Sherpa to help them descend and they were departing any moment. I wished them luck, then continued on to the main summit. I bumped into Badia (Mexico) on my way to the corniced ridge and found out that she was returning from the main summit. Very few climbers actually made the additional hour and a half climb to the highest point. The winds picked up as I reached the ridge, making the journey evermore harrowing, and at 1:00pm, I reached the main summit (8047m/26,401ft) of Broad Peak along with Orial and his Sherpa. We took photos for each other, then quickly began descending toward Camp III. I arrived just before dusk and found Lina resting in the tent. She had some minor frostbite but besides that, was fine. Not long after I arrived, a Polish climber announced that a Taiwanese climber was dying and needed a rescue from Camp IV. I was completely destroyed from my summit bid and knew that I would be no help. Lina left the Camp III tent, armed with her first aid kit, and went out to help the climber. After taking off my crampons, I quickly passed out with my boots and harness still on, feet outside the tent.
Today, we woke up at 8:00am (late due to the high winds that kept us awake most of the night), ate a quick breakfast, broke camp, and climbed the short hour to Camp III (7040m/23,100ft). We again made a tent platform, set up camp, and began making water and drying our gear completely in preparation for a very cold, early summit day. Lina, Pilar, and Carlos plan to begin at 9:00pm, while I will most likely leave Camp III for the summit at 11:00pm, as I prefer to minimize the number of hours in darkness in order to reduce cold injury risk. Lina and I struggled to rest after dinner before beginning our summit bid, but found it nearly impossible, as radio chatter erupted from the neighboring Polish tent and climbers arrived back from their summit bid in the late hours.
Today, we woke up at 5:00am, prepared our equipment for Camp III and the summit, and departed for Camp III. We decided to stop in lower Camp III (6950m/22,802ft) instead of Camp III (7040m/23,100ft) today in order to allow our bodies to rest and better adapt to the higher elevation. Typically, climbers would first sleep in Camp III, then descend to base camp, rest a few days, then go up for a summit bid. But since the weather window presented itself before we had the opportunity to properly acclimate, we instead decided to sleep lower the first night. We built in a rest day to our summit bid for precisely this reason. We spent the next hour and a half digging a tent platform into the icy slope among the decaying remains of old tents that had been destroyed or abandoned here in previous years. We had a Swiss climber and Taiwanese climbers as company. In the late afternoon, the winds picked up and as this was supposed to be the day with the least amount of wind, we became concerned that the forecast was inaccurate. I confirmed via my sat phone that the winds had increased but were still tolerable for the next few days, then we made dinner and went to sleep after watching the Karakorum begin to glow red as the sun dropped behind the horizon.
Today, we woke up at 4:00am, ate a quick breakfast, then Pilar, Carlos and Lina began climbing to Camp II. I decided to make the day a bit more relaxed so I left base camp at 6:00am. We arrived to Camp II with heavy packs in the early afternoon. Lina and I made water, relaxed, ate a quick dinner, then went to bed in the early evening so we would be rested for the heavy climb tomorrow to Camp III.
Today, we woke up to a beautiful, clear, but frigid morning, had breakfast in the mess tent, then began preparing our equipment for our summit bid. We were told by our liaison officer that Oscar’s expedition had called a base camp meeting to discuss the coming summit plans. I knew that this meant that his Sherpas wanted to charge everyone for placing the fixed lines above Camp III (bear in mind that they are already paid well to come here and would have to fix any lines that hadn’t already been fixed for their clients anyway). Reminded of the meeting before the summit bid on K2, I immediately decided not to attend. I prefer not to count on anyone doing anything for me above Camp III. We will bring a climbing rope with us on summit day, so if the need arises, we can rope up to cross any hazardous terrain that isn’t fixed. Anyway, by the time Oscar’s Sherpas arrived to Base Camp, the fixed lines to Camp III had already been put in place by the Bulgarian and Polish teams, so their request for payment for work to be done was ridiculous. The Polish team attended the meeting and informed everyone in attendance of their intent to fix the three crevasses above Camp III and the rocky summit. And of course they didn’t even think to suggest a fee for doing this work. Oscar chimed in with a last attempt to earn some money by suggesting that his team had a doctor who would climb to Camp III and had brought oxygen in case a rescue was necessary. He suggested that everyone should pay a fee up front in case a rescue was necessary. Everyone in attendance found this suggestion ridiculous. If a rescue was indeed needed, the person rescued could either pay directly or use their rescue insurance to cover the cost. After the meeting concluded, I went down to the Seven Summits camp to visit Alex Gavan. We discussed plans for the coming days, wished each other luck, and went back to preparing our things for the summit bid. Our plan is to leave at 5am tomorrow (July 21st) for Camp II (6400m/21,000ft), continue on to Camp III (7040m/23,100ft) on July 22nd, and either spend July 23rd in Camp III resting or establish a Camp IV (~7400m/24,300ft) to shorten our summit day. If all goes well, our summit day will be July 24th.
Today, I woke up at 4am and tossed and turned as I tried to get back to sleep. The tent platform that I made upon arriving to base camp (a platform on glacial moraine (ice and rock)) had melted and was no longer anything akin to flat. I decided that today was the day to pack up all of my belongings (normally a trivial task, but made more complicated by my solar/electrical setup) and remake my tent platform. After this was done, I did some laundry then headed down to Badia and Mauricio’s camp to have lunch with them. They showed me a video they made about their Annapurna expedition and I was horrified to see that they had barely escaped with their lives in an avalanche in the same place that I had been struck by falling ice in 2010. After lunch, one of the Swiss climbers stopped by and we discussed summit plans. I’m leaning toward making a Camp IV and attempting the summit on the 24th. After lunch, the Spanish returned from a visit to K2 base camp, I hurried to bring my drying laundry inside as snow began to fall yet again, and I spent the remainder of the afternoon reading comfortably in my newly renovated base camp tent.
Today, we woke up to heavy snow in base camp and a heavy accumulation on the ground. We had breakfast in the mess tent, then took refuge in the kitchen tent with Ibrahim and Manzoor to stay warm. Around 11:30am, the storm broke and the rest of the afternoon was cloudy, windy, and cold. I went down to the seven summits camp where I visited with Alex Gavan, Tamara (an Italian climber on K2), Oscar, and Ana (Catalans). We discussed the weather and summit plans for a bit, then I rushed back to my camp for lunch. The rest of the afternoon was spent in our respective tents, the sound of big avalanches breaking the long periods of silence. It looks like the weather will improve on the 20th and will continue to get better till around the 26th. For the moment, I plan on beginning my summit bid on the 21st or 22nd, but the coming forecasts may change my plan as weather forecasts out past 3-4 days are notoriously inaccurate.
Today, we woke up at 7:45am, had a leisurely breakfast, and spent the rest of the day in our tents reading and staying out of the rain. These are the days during cold, wet storms, trapped in our tents that we wonder to ourselves why we do what we do. Why do we leave the luxuries that we take for granted in our normal lives to sleep on stone and ice and risk life and limb, away from our friends and loved ones? But it is in these moments of introspection that we learn a bit more about who we are and where we belong in the vast scope of the universe. With nothing to distract us from our raw emotions, we’re left to contemplate our path in this world. I spent the afternoon reading one of my favorite books. Since the day was uneventful, I’ll leave you with a quote related to why we are drawn to and often humbled by mountains:
“To understand even a little about geology gives you special spectacles through which to see a landscape. They allow you to see back in time to worlds where rocks liquefy and seas petrify, where granite slops about like porridge, basalt bubbles like stew, and layers of limestone are folded as easily as blankets. Through the spectacles of geology, terra firma becomes terra mobilis, and we are forced to reconsider our beliefs of what is solid and what is not. Although we attribute to stone a great power to hold time back, to refuse its claim (cairns, stone tablets, monuments, statuary), this is true only in relation to our own mutability. Looked at in the context of the bigger geological picture, rock is as vulnerable to change as any other substance.
Above all, geology makes explicit challenges to our understanding of time. It giddies the sense of here-and-now. The imaginative experience of what the writer John McPhee memorably called ‘deep time’ – the sense of time whose units are not days, hours, minutes, or seconds but millions of years or tens of millions of years – crushes the human instant; flattens it to a wafer. Contemplating the immensities of deep time, you face, in a way that is both exquisite and horrifying, the total collapse of your present, compacted to nothingness by the pressures of the pasts and futures too extensive to envisage. And it is a physical as well as cerebral horror, for to acknowledge that the hard rock of a mountain is vulnerable to the attrition of time is of necessity to reflect on the appalling transience of the human body.
Yet there is also something curiously exhilarating about the contemplation of deep time. True, you learn yourself to be a blip in the larger projects of the universe. But you are also rewarded with the realization that you do exist – as unlikely as it may seem, you do exist.”
Today, we woke up to heavy snowfall in Camp II. We began preparing for the climb to Camp III when the Hungarians arrived to our camp and told us the updated forecast. The bad weather had moved in early and the conditions up at Camp III were horrendous. Many of the fixed lines are buried under the new snow and the winds higher on the mountain were bone chilling. Lina and I discussed our plans for quite some time and finally settled on leaving a deposit in Camp III then descending to Base Camp. As we readied our equipment, the weather got worse. The wind picked up, the snow continued to fall, and visibility diminished quite dramatically. Despite all of this, we began up the slope to Camp III, and as we climbed higher, the temperature continued to drop and we finally threw in the towel and descended to Camp II. We opted to leave all of our equipment in Camp II, meaning that we will need to ascend directly to our high Camp II from Base Camp on our summit bid. Lina began descending while I further secured the tent to the surrounding terrain (our site is perched on a very steep, exposed ridge). We met up at Camp I and then at the deposit where we descended together. Despite the frigid weather above, the rivers at the base of the route were enormous and we were forced to cross them using ladders that had been precariously installed. Once across, we were met by Manzoor and Ibrahim, who offered us drinks and ushered us into the mess tent where we were quickly served lunch. We showered (and by showered, I mean we were given a bucket of water and a bowl and went to a tall, narrow tent to rinse off in the cold), then took refuge from the rain in our respective tents.
Today, we woke up in Camp II at 7:00am, made breakfast, then packed up our things and the tent and headed up toward Camp III. Around 6400m/20,997ft, we placed a high Camp II. We spent the next two hours digging out a tent platform and hacking at the ice that prevented the platform from being flat. While I completed the work on the platform and erected the tent, Lina headed back down to lower Camp II to collect the deposit she had left, and assisted Carlos in placing his tent in a new platform. I spent quite some time securing the tent to the surrounding rocks, then unpacked the equipment into the tent and began melting snow for water. Lina arrived and we spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing, discussing plans, and trying to replace the huge number of calories we burned doing work at this altitude. We decided that we will carry a tent to Camp III tomorrow and spend the night there.
Today, we woke up at 3:00am, ate a quick breakfast, then headed out into the cold predawn hours and headed up toward Camp I. As we began climbing up the steep base of the route, we heard a large avalanche, looked up and saw that it was coming from the serac below Camp III and heading in our direction. After ducking behind rocks, we were relieved when it didn’t make it all the way down to us, and continued heading up toward Camp I. After reaching ABC and taking a quick break there, we continued up. As we were passing some large rock outcroppings, we were shocked at how many fast-falling rocks were whizzing by us, and unfortunately, one of them managed to bounce off of the snow slope directly in front of Pilar, and slammed into her face just underneath her helmet. Luckily, Ana, a doctor climbing with the Spanish expedition, was descending from Camp I and I asked her to take a look at Pilar when she reached her. She had to pull out pieces of Pilar’s broken sunglasses from her face and gave her 4 stitches just under her eye. She arrived to Camp I and insisted that we all continue to Camp II as planned, despite our recommendations. We arrived to Camp II in the early afternoon and settled in. Lina and I discussed the plan for the following day and decided to spend the day in Camp II and move our tent spot a few hundred meters higher to a better place. We ate a quick dinner and went to sleep as the temperature dropped. Pilar slept in Lina’s tent that we put up the previous acclimatization cycle. She insisted on climbing up to Camp III the following day with the Hungarians. Lina and I know that the climb to Camp III is very long this year and that we carried quite a heavy load to Camp II today, so we insisted on staying in Camp II for an additional day in order to recover and to make a better tent platform that will withstand a storm in Camp II.
Today, we woke up at 7:45am, ate breakfast, and then did laundry. I received a weather forecast on my sat phone which solidified our plan to climb to Camp II (6200m/20,341ft) directly from Base Camp tomorrow. We will then climb to Camp III (7040m/23,097ft) on the 15th to sleep, then descend to Base Camp (4805m/15,764ft) on the 16th before snow begins to fall in the afternoon. After this acclimatization cycle, we will be ready for a summit bid when a weather window finally materializes. Rumors floating around base camp indicate that there may be a window opening around the 21st of July. But weather forecasts more than 3-4 days out are notoriously inaccurate, so we won’t be holding our breaths.
Today, we woke up at 7:45am, ate a leisurely breakfast, and decided to trek to K2 base camp (about 1.5 hours away) to visit some friends who are climbing K2. Lina, Carlos, and I headed up around lunch time. It wasn’t until I arrived to the base camp that I was blindsided by a flood of emotions. Suddenly, I was brought back to memories of the cheerful friendly faces of all of the friends who I lost in 2008 and it was hard for me to hold back tears. After taking a moment to compose myself, we visited some Spanish climbers who had just arrived, then stopped by the Nepali camp to see Pasang Akita who may become the first Nepali woman to summit K2. We ate lunch at the Polish K2 base camp then, to my relief, headed back down to Broad Peak base camp. We spent the remainder of the afternoon preparing our equipment for the next acclimatization cycle, in which we will hopefully sleep a night in Camp III (7040m) after which we will be ready for a summit bid. We are holding out hope for a weather window sometime between July 20th-30th.
Today, I woke up at 4:00am, had a tea and a protein bar, and headed out into the bitter cold toward Camp III. The whole morning, I couldn’t feel my hands or feet and at 6450m, I decided that I should descend. I reached Camp II again at 7:45am and quickly packed up the things I needed to bring back down to Camp I, then began rapidly descending toward Camp I, hoping that my hands and feet would thaw out. Thankfully they did as the sun began to shine on the slopes and I arrived quite quickly to Camp I where I deposited my gear and continued toward Base Camp. I finally arrived to Base Camp at 11:30am after crossing two ladders which had been installed to allow climbers to cross what had become fast-moving rivers that would have otherwise prevented us from reaching the mountain. Once back in Base Camp, I said my hellos to Lina and Pilar who had arrived an hour or so earlier from Camp I and then showered, ate lunch, unpacked, and visited with the Hungarian and Polish climbers and Alex Gavan (Romania). Afterwards, we had a leisurely dinner with a Catalan climber and then went to sleep under a full moon.
Today, we woke up at 5:00am, ate breakfast, prepared our packs, and departed at 6:00am for Camp II. The day was quite cold and windy, so we didn’t stop much along the way. Lina and I arrived to Camp II (6200m) at around 10:30am and quickly dug out a tent platform in the frozen scree and set up the tent. Lina deposited her equipment in the tent and quickly began descending as it was extremely cold and she couldn’t feel her hands or feet. Pilar arrived shortly afterwards and also made a deposit in the tent and descended to Camp I. I continued working on the tent platform and enjoyed the view from Camp II of K2, Marble Peak, Chogolisa, Mitre Peak, and Mashabrum once the clouds had dissipated. In the evening, Badia and Mauricio (Mexico) arrived from Camp III where they had established a camp and descended due to the bitter cold. We had a tea together and discussed route conditions above Camp II, then they descended the rest of the way to their tent in Camp II. Since I don’t have a headache here in Camp II, I plan on ascending a few hundred meters toward Camp III (7040m) in the morning, then descending directly to Base Camp to rest for a few days. Unfortunately when swapping out the food I had stored in the deposit, I didn’t realize that the bag I grabbed only had one dinner in it, so I had a protein bar and a tea and went to sleep hungry. The night was bitterly cold and my sleeping bag was no match (I’m sure it doesn’t help that I am not properly acclimated to this altitude) so I spent a very cold and uncomfortable night in Camp II.
Today, we woke up at 4:30am, ate a quick breakfast and left for Camp I. We stopped briefly at the deposit at 5000m to pick up some additional gear and then continued up the steep, icy slopes to Camp I (5700m). I arrived in 3.5 hours and the others followed shortly thereafter. As camp I is an extremely small camp, I arrived to find no vacant proper sites for the tent. I spent a half hour preparing a very small platform just beneath the route to Camp II and set up the small EV Direct tent, which just barely fit on the platform. After this Lina arrived and we spent the rest of the afternoon making water and enjoying the breathtaking views of the surrounding peaks. Once Pilar and Carlos had arrived, we discussed our plans for tomorrow. As I had arrived with no headache and feeling well, I decided that I will sleep tomorrow night in Camp II, while the others will simply make a deposit there and descend to sleep another night in Camp I.
Today, we decided to make a carry to the deposit on the other side of the ice fall. We agreed that the route would be safer tomorrow after the new snowfall has had a day to settle. We woke up at 4:30am, had breakfast at 5am and were back in Base Camp by 9:00am. Taking into account the four-day weather window that is forecast – a rare event in the Karakorum – we are hoping to climb to Camp I tomorrow to sleep, then either descend to the deposit to retrieve more equipment which we will install in Camp II, or just carry enough equipment tomorrow to outfit both camps. This is only a plan, however, and we will definitely be listening closely to the limitations set forth by our bodies. In the afternoon, we visited with the Bulgarians who plan to make a summit attempt in the coming days, and also spoke via radio with the Polish expedition to discuss collaboration regarding fixing the route above Camp I. Currently, the only ropes installed are up to Camp I. The Bulgarians dug up the old fixed lines from Camp I to Camp II and these are currently being used by some expeditions on the mountain. We spent the remainder of the afternoon packing our gear for tomorrow and we’re hoping for a cool, clear morning like we had today for our climb to Camp I.
Today, I woke up around 7:45am and was struck the second I stepped out of my tent by the stunning view of K2 covered in snow that greeted me. Seeing the peak that took so many of my friends’ lives six years ago was definitely an emotional moment for me. After taking a few pictures and clearing the accumulation of snow off of my tent and solar panel, I headed down to the mess tent for breakfast. Lina, Pilar and I discussed our plan to head up to Camp I tomorrow. We debated between two options: 1. a simple carry to camp I in which we leave a deposit of equipment and descend the same day or 2. Carrying tents, fuel, food, and the equipment we would need to sleep a night in Camp I. We decided to prepare our equipment for both contingencies and decide how we felt at dinner. The weather is forecast to improve and to remain good for the next 7 or 8 days so we hope to take full advantage of the good weather if it in fact does materialize. Afterwards, I showered, ate lunch, and continued to set up my solar array and tech equipment.
Today, we woke up at 5:00am, packed up our equipment, ate a quick breakfast and headed up to Concordia (4622m) where we broke for lunch. Akbar and I arrived first and had tea at the Concordia Rescue camp while we waited for the others to arrive. Pilar arrived shortly after and then Carlos. Since we’d already been waiting for quite some time, Akbar and I decided to begin toward Broad Peak base camp while the others visited some Spanish climbers who were camped in Concordia. We arrived to Broad Peak base camp in heavy snow, having taken a long detour due to a wrong turn along the way. We met up with Lina, tipped the Sirdar and a few of the porters who were helping us to set up base camp, and then headed over to Badia and Mauricio’s (Mexico) base camp. They graciously offered us tea and lunch (not to mention refuge from the bitter cold outside). After visiting for a while, we returned to our own camp to unpack our equipment and settle in, our view of the surrounding peaks completely obscured by clouds. We ate a delicious dinner then got an early night.
Today we woke up to light snowfall and quickly ate breakfast and departed for Goro II (4240m). We broke quickly at Goro I for a snack and arrived to Goro II around 1pm. We discussed porter tips as they must be decided prior to our arrival to Broad Peak base camp. The porters typically leave all of their personal equipment and extra clothing at Goro II on the last day and so must quickly receive their tip and descend once they arrive to base camp. Lina will proceed one hour ahead of us tomorrow so she can scout out a good place for our base camp and ensure that all of the porters arrive to this location.
It continued to rain all night. We awoke at 5:00am and were told that we needed to decide whether we would wait in Paiju one day for the weather to improve or continue on as planned to Urdukas. After consulting with Hadi Ali, our Sirdar from Shigar who informed us that the porters agreed to continue despite the weather, we elected for the latter and quickly prepared our loads. We walked for over 5 hours before we broke for lunch at Korbuche. The route was severely convoluted by a massive landslide which we had to cross and which created a huge lake that we needed to circumnavigate. After lunch (again in the rain, but this time with no shelter) we continued on for around 3 hours before arriving to Urdukas (3902m). Our porter loads took hours more to arrive and the temperature was frigid in camp. We finally settled in for dinner as the last of our loads arrived. Tomorrow we will continue on to Goro II and the following day we should arrive to Broad Peak base camp.
Today, we woke up in the rain at 5:00am, ate breakfast, and trekked to Monjongpdera where we stopped for lunch. We took refuge from the rain in a small, dark shelter and waited close to an hour for everyone to arrive. We continued to Paiju (in the rain) and quickly changed out of our wet clothes. We said goodbye to two of our porters, had dinner, and then went to bed early.
Today, we woke up at 5:00am, ate a quick breakfast, and began the trek to Jhula. Thankfully, it was a cool, cloudy morning and we made good time to Korofong where we took a break for lunch. We were stopped by park officials who demanded that we pay a $110.00 fee for entering the region. We protested as we were told that this fee was not sanctioned and after some time, the official left us, having us fill out the form, but allowing us to pass without paying the fee. We arrived to Jhula, showered, had visits from a number of porters with a variety of medical issues, which we tried to address to the best of our abilities, and then ate dinner. Tomorrow, we will continue the trek to Paiju.
Today, we woke up at 4:30am, ate a quick breakfast, loaded our equipment into the jeeps and departed Skardu to Askole. As always, the drive was an adventure, as the road (or for the most part, lack of road) is extremely narrow, crosses many fast-moving rivers, and goes underneath land-slide prone slopes. We stopped midway at Apoaligon for lunch in the garden and eventually arrived to Askole around 2:30pm. We ventured out of the compound where climbers typically camp and went exploring. We spent the rest of the afternoon preparing our loads for the trek and watching as the loads were weighed, weighed again, then tied to metal frames for the porters to carry to base camp. Once this was done, we had dinner in the mess tent and went to sleep.
Today, we woke up at 8:00am and headed out into the bazaar to purchase some high altitude food and medicines that we will need for our expedition. We ate lunch back at the hotel, as all of the restaurants in town are closed for Ramadan, then spent the remainder of the afternoon organizing our luggage into 20KG loads for the porters. Tomorrow, we will wake up early and take a jeep to Askole (a seven hour drive on a very arduous road) where we will spend the night. The following day, we will begin trekking to Base Camp. If all goes according to plan, we should arrive to Broad Peak base camp on July 6th, since we intend to utilize a slightly accelerated trekking schedule.
Today, we woke up at 4:00am, packed up, and continued along the KKH toward Skardu. We stopped in Jaglot for breakfast (mangos) and tea, took a few photos of Nanga Parbat, and resumed our journey. We arrived to Skardu at 5:00pm, unloaded our gear, tipped our driver, and went up to our rooms at the K2 motel to shower. We ate dinner and decided to take a rest day tomorrow in Skardu before continuing on to Askole via a 7-hour off-road jeep ride the following day (July 1st). We will spend tomorrow preparing our porter loads (the loads that are to be taken up to Broad Peak base camp) and shopping for last-minute items.
Today, we woke up at 4:45am and went downstairs to meet Lina and Pilar who arrived at 4:00am from Istanbul. We ate breakfast, showered and waited quite some time for the driver and Liaison officer to arrive. We completed some last-minute paperwork, then set out on the Karakorum Highway toward Chilas. The air conditioner in the van was no match for the high temperatures and humidity, and we ended up switching it off and just opening the windows. We stopped briefly in Abbottabad, the city in which Osama Bin Laden was found, and got a few snacks and cold drinks, then continued for endless hours until we reached a police checkpoint in Biari Ayub Khan at which point we were informed that an armed police officer (in full gear, which included a helmet, bullet proof vest, and rifle) would accompany us from that point until Besham. After we arrived to Besham, we were informed that the next police checkpoint would not allow foreigners through after 4pm due to security concerns. Our Liaison officer made a few calls and after some time, we headed out with a new armed police escort to the checkpoint. They let us through and the officer departed. We continued on the road toward Chilas, followed by a police truck, but decided to stop at Dassu, as the driver was tired after close to 14 hours and it was still another three hours to Chilas and at 10:30pm, still 99 degrees F. We will wake up tomorrow at 4:00am and continue the remaining 13 hours to Skardu.
Today, we awoke at 5:30am to a phone call from Nabi who was at the airport waiting for Lina and Pilar to arrive. Apparently there was a miscommunication about the date of their arrival and they are in fact due to arrive to Islamabad tomorrow (the 28th) in the early morning. After ensuring that there was not in fact a flight from Istanbul today, Carlos and I went back to sleep. We had breakfast downstairs at the hotel, then decided to venture out into the 100+ degree humid heat to get in some sightseeing. We went to Faisal Mosque, which is the largest mosque in Pakistan. The mosque is situated at the foot of the Margalla Hills (the westernmost foothills of the Himalayas) and was designed to be shaped like a desert Bedouin’s tent. It is the largest mosque in all of South Asia. After burning our feet on the searing tiles of the mosque (you are required to remove shoes and socks before entering), we ventured into the diplomatic enclave and, after passing half a dozen security checkpoints, had a late lunch (and a beer!!) at Café 21, a French restaurant located close to a number of embassies. Shortly after returning to the hotel, we were contacted by Manzoor who informed us that the flight to Skardu failed to depart yet again today. We likely will be forced to brave the two day drive up the Karakorum highway early tomorrow morning as soon as Pilar and Lina arrive. Although we all prefer to fly, we can’t afford to wait in Islamabad for the flight as this costs us valuable days on the mountain.
Today, Carlos Garranzo arrived from Spain early in the morning. Lina and Pilar are still waiting in Istanbul, Turkey for their flight to Islamabad tomorrow. In the afternoon, I got a call from Nabi letting me know that my luggage had arrived in Islamabad. We ventured out into the blistering heat and retrieved the bags from the airport, which as always was an ordeal. After ensuring everything was now accounted for, we rested a bit and then received a visit from our liaison officer from the Pakistani military, Captain Mohammad Badar. Since I am vice-leader of the expedition, Beni decided that we should try and complete the briefing with the Ministry of Tourism in the evening without Lina present. That way, after Lina and Pilar arrive tomorrow morning at 4:00am, we can try and fly to Skardu on the early morning PIA flight. We dined with our liaison officer, then waited till close to 11:00pm for Wing Commander Javed Iqbal to arrive for the briefing. We spent the next few hours completing paper work and convincing him to allow us to depart without making the US $10,000.00 helicopter rescue deposit that is now required of all expeditions. Afterwards, we received the grim news from Manzoor that our PIA flight to Skardu was not confirmed for tomorrow as the flight has been cancelled for the past few days and therefore has a long list of waiting passengers ahead of us. After the others arrive, we will discuss the plan for the coming days, but we will most likely be forced to travel by road via the notorious Karakorum highway. We can only hope that rumors of armed military personnel entering the vehicles of trekkers and climbers travelling to Skardu by road don’t turn out to be true.
After a 15 hour flight from Los Angeles to Dubai on an Emirates A380 and another from Dubai to Islamabad, I finally arrived to Benazir Bhutto International Airport at 1:30am. After clearing immigration, I waited at least another hour and a half only to discover that two of my four bags full of crucial climbing equipment were missing. I filed a report with the airline and headed out to the arrivals area to meet up with my contacts from the logistics agency. We piled into a van in a torrential downpour and headed into the city to the Grand Regency Hotel. The city seems quiet which is a relief after watching coverage of the clashes between police and demonstrators that accompanied the return of the Tahirul Qadri to Islamabad just two days ago. Lina and the others should arrive tomorrow morning at 4am and we will hopefully fly to Skardu on the 27th or 28th, weather permitting. A number of the PIA flights to Skardu have been cancelled including the flight today so we may end up having to travel by road on the Karakorum Highway if our flight is too delayed. I will post another update in the coming days.