Nicholas Rice departed Los Angeles for Islamabad, Pakistan on June 17th, 2015 for his 12th Himalayan expedition and his 15th major international expedition. Nick will be attempting Gasherbrum I in Northeast Pakistan via the Japanese Couloir.
Gasherbrum I is 11th highest mountain in the world standing at an elevation of 8080 meters or 26,509 feet. The word Gasherbrum comes from the balti words “rgasha” meaning “beautiful” and “brum” meaning “mountain”. It is located in the Karakorum Range in Northeast Pakistan. The first ascent was made in 1958 by Pete Schoening and Andy Kauffman, members of an American Expedition led by Nick Clinch.
Dispatches will be posted live from base camp via satellite phone as the expedition progresses.
This will be Nick’s 10 year anniversary since his first expedition in the beautiful country of Pakistan.
Today, after breakfast and a morning of packing up our base camp, we received word that Ferran, Thomas, Yannick, and their HAP, Sadiq, had arrived safely back to base camp after their summit bid. After lunch, I walked up to their camp to congratulate them and ask about conditions. Ferran said that in all of his expeditions, this mountain was one of the most challenging and that the team had faced deep snow and an exceedingly long summit day. I also visited with Kinga who was in contact with the family of the missing Polish climber. Afterwards, Harald and I headed back to our base camp where we finished closing everything down and made sure not to leave any trash behind. The late afternoon became extremely windy and nearly blew away the mess tent. We secured everything down and went inside as it began to snow. The donkeys arrived in the evening along with a few porters. We had a quiet dinner and went back to our tents for our last night’s sleep in base camp.
Today, we woke up at 7:30am, had breakfast in the mess tent and enjoyed/resented the fine morning weather (it was yet another perfect summit day). Later in the morning, we received word that one of the Polish climbers who was attempting to ski down Gasherbrum II had vanished below Camp III. The two skiers had contacted their base camp staff to let them know to expect them for breakfast in base camp. While descending from Camp III on Gasherbrum II, one of the pair triggered a small loose snow avalanche, made a few turns, then fell into a crevasse below Camp III. In the afternoon, a group of liaison officers came to our mess tent to coordinate whether there would be a helicopter rescue. The information they had was simply that the skier had vanished somewhere below Camp III (there were conflicting accounts in base camp; mine is from an eye-witness) and with such general information, they decided that a helicopter fly-over would be of little help. They contacted their headquarters to report the missing climber, then left. The rescue effort for the moment will be coordinated by the climbers already in Camp I. Until we know more, we can do little from here to help, as we would not be able to arrive safely to Camp I till tomorrow morning. One of the high altitude porters was dispatched to help with the rescue effort, but as of yet, no one has asked for help from any of the climbers here in base camp.
Today, after a clear and, for the most part, calm night, I awoke to a beautiful morning in base camp. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the weather was warm and calm. Today, both Ferran’s team and teams on Gasherbrum II are heading for the summit. In the afternoon, we received word that the Gasherbrum II teams encountered too much snow on the traverse and decided to retreat to Camp IV so that they can make another attempt tomorrow (weather permitting). We also noticed huge trails of spindrift coming off of the summit of Gasherbrum I in the late afternoon indicating ferocious winds up high. Ferran’s team has no contact with base camp so we relied on news from the internet to find out about their progress. Since this news is not from first person accounts here in base camp, I won’t publish it here (you can look at their blogs if you would like to know what they have published). Once they arrive back in base camp and tell us how the summit bid went, I will post news here. After dinner, since the night was clear, I stayed up well past 3am taking pictures of the surrounding magnificent peaks with the Milky Way stretched out behind them. I have posted one of the photos from tonight here
Today, I woke up at 8am to a cloudy, windy, and cold base camp. The night had been windy here and the stars were obscured by heavy cloud cover. Gasherbrum I’s summit was shrouded in clouds and I couldn’t imagine going for the summit in these conditions. Early in the morning, the Kobler expedition began the trek down the Baltoro toward Askole. I spent the day teaching Akbar how to ice climb, rappel, and use a jumar in the nearby ice fall. Afterwards, I remade my tent platform, showered, and received a visit from Ferran’s Liaison officer, Salman. After talking for over an hour, I spent the afternoon reading in my tent. Having finished Brad Spellberg’s Rising Plague, a book that goes into detail about the rising global threat from deadly antibiotic resistant bacteria and our dwindling arsenal of antibiotics to fight them (I highly recommend it whether you’re interested in medicine or not as it discusses issues that will eventually affect all of us if new legislation is not passed in the near term to stimulate new antibiotic development by pharmaceutical companies), I began reading Leo Tolstoy’s Family Happiness and Other Stories. The late afternoon and evening cleared considerably and after dinner, I emerged from the mess tent to a breezy, but clear starry night. If teams are to summit, this will be the night that they might have a chance (though the issue of deep snow high on both Gasherbrums will remain an issue).
Today, after breakfast, I headed up the glacial moraine to check on the plans of the Taiwanese expedition, as they had ascended to assess conditions higher on the mountain. They apparently found poor snow conditions and decided to officially end their expedition and clean their equipment off of the mountain. One of the members of their expedition graciously offered to bring my Camp II equipment down to Camp I, knowing that I was still nursing injuries sustained on our last acclimatization cycle. The Taiwanese descended down to base camp the same day and I retrieved all of my equipment from Camp I and spent the afternoon drying tents and packing up my high mountain gear. Later in the day, we received word that a Polish climber had descended suffering symptoms of high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) after climbing on Gasherbrum II. Having descended to base camp, his symptoms should hopefully resolve in the night.
Today, I woke up at 7:30am and knew that the climbers still intending on attempting either Gasherbrum I or II had headed up in the night to higher camps. During the early hours of the morning, the weather was cloudy with some light rain/snow, which meant that the snow bridges that we use to cross the many crevasses enroute to Camp I and Camp II would be soft and much more dangerous, despite the early hour. I spent the day doing laundry and hoping that the climbers who headed up would be safe. A few climbers came down later in the day, some with altitude sickness, and others due to poor climbing conditions. In the end, most likely due to heavy snow on the way to Camp I, the Taiwanese decided to remain in Camp I for the night and head up to Camp II tomorrow to see how conditions are there.
Today, I woke up around 7:30am to a snow-covered base camp, had breakfast and again headed up to Ferran’s camp to see about specific weather predictions. According to their forecast, we will have good weather on Thursday and Friday morning for a summit bid. This would mean that we must begin climbing tomorrow, aiming for either Camp I (if we intend to summit Friday) or Camp II (if we intend to summit Thursday). I began packing my things for the summit in the early afternoon and then received a visit from some Pakistani army officers who chatted with us for over an hour. Afterwards, I spoke with Martin (Czech) about his plans. Just before dinner, we received the tragic news that an avalanche had struck climbers close to the deposit between base camp and Camp I on Broad Peak and that two climbers were severely injured and that one Pakistani HAP was missing. The missing Pakistani happened to be Qumbar, the brother of one of the local staff from the Slovenian Gasherbrum Expedition. The mood in base camp immediately became somber as some of the staff prepared to break the news to the kitchen boy about his brother’s fate. This incident immediately made me rethink my summit bid, as conditions on Broad Peak are quite similar to Gasherbrum I due to the close proximity of the two peaks. Having been jolted out of the delusional optimism that we sometimes feel before summit bids, I began to realize that conditions on Gasherbrum I this year are far from optimal for a summit bid. Just last week, Ferran and Yannick turned around from their summit bid on GI due to too much snow. By Thursday, we will have received another few feet of snow high on the mountain’s flanks. Additionally, weather before and after Thursday is forecast to be bad. If anything were to happen on our summit day that caused us to be delayed, we would be trapped in bad weather, making a rescue close to impossible. Lastly, the temperature at night is significantly warmer when it is cloudy/snowing vs when it is clear, resulting in softer snow bridges over the countless crevasses that riddle the route from Base Camp to Camp II. After taking into consideration all of these factors, in addition to the injuries that had built up from the start of the expedition (my ribs are still hurting from the fall I had when the piton snapped out on my descent from Camp III), I decided that it was too risky for me to attempt the summit and that I would go up only to clean off my gear from the mountain. After dinner, I went up to the Taiwanese camp to discuss their plans. They will go up in the night tonight to Camp II to assess conditions higher on the mountain. If they encounter too much snow, they will also clean their gear off and descend. It would seem that Gasherbrum I may be impossible this year. Perhaps one or two climbers might sneak up the peak and get off safely, however, I’m not willing to take the risk. I’ve had a great expedition overall, having the opportunity to climb a new variation from Camp II to Camp III on Gasherbrum I, to make new friends from all over the world, and to take in some of the most breathtaking scenery in the world from high in the Karakorum. This mountain will be here for centuries and I don’t doubt that I will be back for another attempt.
Today, after breakfast, I headed up to speak with the Taiwanese again about their forecast and plans, then made my way up to Ferran’s camp. He had received some generally good news about a potential weather window, but had not received specifics yet. I had lunch with Ferran, Tom, Yannick, and Sophie then chatted for a while as we waited anxiously for Kinga and her HAP to return to base camp from their successful summit bid on Gasherbrum II. Once they arrived and settled back in to base camp, I congratulated them and headed back to my base camp feeling much more optimistic about our prospects on Gasherbrum I. Simone and much of his base camp decided to head home and will be starting the trek down early tomorrow morning. That leaves only Ferran, Yannick, Tom, their HAP, the Taiwanese team, their HAP’s, and myself on Gasherbrum I. Kinga has both permits but must decide if she is feeling up to a second 8000m summit bid after just getting off Gasherbrum II. I had dinner in the kitchen tent as it once again began snowing outside then got an early night.
Today, after a very restless sleep in Base Camp (in part thanks to the machine gun fire from the army camp during the night which I later found out was to celebrate Eid), I woke up at 7:30am and had breakfast in the mess tent with Akbar. Afterwards, I got the news that Kinga Baranowska (Poland) was successful in her summit bid and had reached the summit of Gasherbrum II yesterday, despite new snow that had partially filled in the boot track from the day before. I spent the rest of the morning tending to my horrible blisters hoping that I can get them to heal sufficiently for another summit bid in the coming days. In the afternoon I got a visit from the Taiwanese who discussed weather and possible plans on the mountain. The weather report I have is not very encouraging, however, I remain hopeful that the usual end of July summit window will somehow materialize and that the forecast heavy snow will not. I have until July 31st before I must begin trekking down. In the evening, I ate dinner with Manzoor and Akbar in the warm kitchen tent as light snow began falling outside.
Today, I woke up at 2am in my nearly buried Camp II tent, prepared my backpack for the descent, and ventured out into the windy, cold night to join the Taiwanese for the decent to Camp I. I waited for close to 40 minutes outside while the other members prepared their things and finally around 3:40am, we began descending. We reached Camp I around dawn and I decided to go the rest of the way to Base Camp solo as my blisters required me to pace myself and I didn’t think it fair to impose that pace on others. I spent 45 minutes unpacking equipment to leave in Camp I, then set off toward base camp. The sun warmed me as I passed over the glacier before plunging back into darkness as I continued through the ice fall. The sun made a halo around Gasherbrum I which eventually turned into three intersecting each other. This normally indicates moisture in the air (in the form of ice crystals) which causes the splitting of the colors that make up white light. I didn’t think it boded well for Ferran’s team’s summit push, but I hope they succeed. I arrived just after 8am to base camp and was greeted by Manzoor who had a drink for me and walked me back to our base camp. I quickly showered, had a Pakistani tea, and had a delicious hot breakfast. I finally took a close look at my feet and was horrified at the size and depth of the blisters that I had been ignoring higher up on the mountain. I did what I could with them and hope that they have time to heal before the summit window appears. Muhammad (Pakistan), Nima (Nepal), and five members of the commercial expedition to Gasherbrum II summited yesterday after a harrowing 16 hours of climbing from Camp III. Others (including Kinga) will make an attempt today.
Today, I woke up at 5:00am, had a small breakfast in my tent, made water, and finally braved the icy wind so that I could check on the plan. Ferran’s group, the Taiwanese, and I decided to leave Camp II at 8am or 9am, a decision I would quickly regret. As we made our way up the face, the wind quickly died down and the heat of the day made us regret our decision to climb in our down clothing. The deep snow did nothing to help the situation either. It ranged from knee deep to hip deep as we continued making our way up the face to the ridge that we hoped would join the final stretch of the Japanese Couloir leading to Camp III. The combination of deep snow, the high temperature, and route finding made the climb to Camp III take far too long. After more than nine hours of climbing, and having reached an altitude of close to 7000m, I decided that I needed to begin descending if I was to have any hope for my own summit push. We all carried gear for Ferran’s team. I had a spool of fixed rope which I left secured to an anchor at my high point. I began descending the rocky ridge and when I reached the snowy slope, a piton flew out of the rock as I weighted it, sending me tumbling down the steep slope toward Camp II. Thanks to the warm afternoon temperature and deep snow, and the fact that I had stowed a trekking pole between my backpack and back, I quickly came to a stop, facing down the slope. I continued making my way down the slope slowly, double checking the anchors as I clipped into the rope. I reached Camp II after the sun had stopped warming the camp, and about an hour later, the Taiwanese arrived as well. I struggled to dry my soaked socks in the icy temperatures of my tent and after a couple hours, finally fell asleep.
Today, I woke up at 4:00am, packed up everything, and began ascending the ice fall toward Camp II. The wind that had been blowing all night continued to blow, making it difficult to see the track in the pre-dawn hours. Spindrift blew down the glacier, burning and stinging my eyes and face as I continued climbing. I finally gained the proper route and a few long hours later, I was in Camp II. I arrived to find my tent nearly buried in spindrift and quickly worked on digging it out. I unpacked my things as everyone else in Camp II woke up. The wind was unexpected as all of our forecasts had predicted winds not in excess of 8km/hr. Later in the morning, Ferran, Yannick, and Simone began working on fixing the route to Camp III. We had decided to make the route on the face instead of in the Japanese Couloir, as this might help us to avoid the avalanche risk that all the new snow presented in the couloir. Since I had arrived in the morning, I spent the afternoon resting so that I might be useful tomorrow in fixing the route to Camp III tomorrow. After around three hours of work on the face, Ferran, Yannick, and Simone returned to Camp. We all hid inside our tents as the wind continued to blow spindrift anywhere it could. In the evening, I spoke with Ferran who wanted to organize the plan for tomorrow. The weather was unfortunately too unpredictable for us to set a departure time so we decided in the end to wake up and see how conditions were.
Today, I woke up at midnight, had breakfast with Akbar, prepared my equipment, and met Simone in his base camp. We got a late start but quickly made our way up the ice fall in the moonless, starry night. I had changed my inner boots before this carry, as they were supposed to be much warmer and lighter than those I’d been using, and this quickly proved to be a mistake as we made our way through deep snow that wasn’t nearly as hard as we were expecting. I quickly began developing blisters on both of the arches of my feet and the climb to Camp I was incredibly painful. Once in Camp I, Ferran gave me 120m of fixed rope to carry in addition to my down clothing, sleeping bag, camp III tent, stove, gas, and food. My backpack was close to 30kg as I set out for Camp II in the heat of the day. I struggled to keep up with Simone as my feet became increasingly painful, and at the base of the ice fall en route to Camp II, I decided that it would be wise to camp here and continue to Camp II when the snow was in better condition and the temperature was cooler. Simone and his high altitude porter continued the last three hours to Camp II while I set up my tent and made water to wait out the heat of the afternoon. The evening brought strong wind that blew spindrift everywhere. I went to sleep after the sun set hoping that the wind would die down before my early morning departure for Camp II.
Today, I woke up to a clear morning and spent the day preparing my equipment for a carry to Camp III with the possibility of a summit push. Although the weather window looks like it could be long enough for a summit push, it would have to be stellar for me to push myself physically to carry and fix the route to Camp III then summit. Based on the degree to which it has been fluctuating, I very much doubt this will be it.
Today, I woke up to a snowy base camp, had breakfast in the mess tent, and then headed up to Ferran’s camp for a meeting to discuss our plans for the coming days. We compared weather forecasts and more or less decided not to leave for Camp I tomorrow early in the morning as the Gasherbrum II climbers are. We instead will try and reach Camp II directly the following day when the weather is supposed to be good and the new snow will have had time to settle. We are planning on bringing everything we will need for a summit bid in case the weather decides to cooperate and we have sufficient energy after fixing the route from Camp II to Camp III in the Japanese Couloir. After this meeting, I headed back down to my base camp for lunch, then worked on packing my gear for the potential summit bid. At 5pm, we had another meeting in the Taiwanese camp where we finalized plans for going up. Tom and I stopped briefly in Peter’s tent (Kobler commercial expedition) where we confirmed that his group will leave tonight. I finished watching a movie in my tent, then had dinner in the mess tent where Harald was packing his bag for a climb to Camp I tonight. Although he is climbing on Gasherbrum I, he will be acclimating on Gasherbrum II.
Today is also my 1.5 year anniversary with someone who has taught me what true love really is; whose brilliant mind and kind heart have made all others fade into the background, and whose company I wish to keep for the rest of my life. I love you! For this occasion, I quote the poet Tagore:
My heart, the bird of the wilderness, has found its sky in your eyes.
They are the cradle of the morning, they are the kingdom of the stars.
My songs are lost in their depths.
Let me but soar in that sky in its lonely immensity.
Let me but cleave its clouds and spread my wings in its sunshine.
Today, I woke up to close to 9 inches of snow outside my tent. After clearing the snow from my tent and my solar panel, I made my way down to the mess tent for breakfast. Afterwards, I walked up to visit Ferran to discuss our plan for the coming days as well as to compare weather forecasts. The Taiwanese climbers also joined in the meeting and we discussed a number of contingency plans depending on how much snow falls and how the weather forecasts change over the coming days as they always do. Afterwards, I returned to my base camp for lunch. The social nature of base camp is vital to keeping climbers cheerful during periods of bad weather. After having invited Kinga over for tea a number of times to no avail (our camps are a 20-minute walk apart), I decided to write her a formal invitation to dinner in our mess tent. I handwrote the invitation on the back of my flight itinerary and added some of the fake flowers from our mess tent to dress it up. Akbar (my cook) hand-delivered the invitation to her camp and dinner was then official. Some Pakistani army officers came over to our camp in the afternoon and helped work on the generator. After close to an hour, they returned to their camp with no success, promising to return tomorrow. Manzoor started up the barbeque and Kinga made her way down to our base camp, arriving around 7. We had a delicious dinner prepared by Akbar in our warm mess tent, followed by a movie. We unfortunately chose to watch the Hobbit, which runs almost three hours, so about half way through, we decided to adjourn and I walked her back to her base camp.
Today, I woke up at 7:30am, ate breakfast in the mess tent with Harald, and then quickly packed up my tent so I could re-make the tent platform. Last night’s sleep was interrupted by me sliding down the slope that had formed in my tent (the tent is placed on glacial moraine, so after a period of warm weather, the sides tend to melt). Manzoor and some of the staff from other expeditions helped me move stones to make the platform flat again and after this was done, I spent the rest of the morning unpacking the contents of my tent and reorganizing as it began snowing outside. I had lunch in the mess tent, and then had a visit from Tom (Germany) and a Polish climber followed by a visit from a Czech climber. The afternoon was spent working on the generator which hasn’t worked since we have arrived in base camp. Afterwards, we had dinner, watched a movie, and then went to bed as it began to snow hard outside. It continued all night.
Today, we woke up at 2:00am, ate breakfast, and packed up our equipment in Camp II. The night had been windy and spindrift had filled in the small wind screen I had made from snow for my stove. Luckily, when it was time to get out of the tent, the winds had calmed and a half-moon lit the way. The three of us quickly began descending through the ice fall toward Camp I. The route had been partially obscured by the wind and spindrift so we had to route find in a few sections. We arrived to Camp I in just under an hour and a half. I quickly unpacked the gear I will leave in Camp I and changed out of my down pants into gore tex for the remainder of the descent to Base Camp. We left Camp I at 5:20am and made our way quickly towards base camp, the thought of a hot breakfast and a shower driving our pace. We arrived at 8am. I was met on the glacier close to base camp by the other member of my base camp team, Harald Hablacher (Austria), who had just arrived. We spoke briefly as I continued toward base camp. Upon arriving, I had a Pakistani tea, quickly showered, and then had breakfast. Next I went up to visit with Ferran. We made plans for the coming good weather window to go directly from Base Camp to Camp II and fix the route in the Japanese Couloir, and if weather and snow conditions allow it, perhaps make a summit attempt. After chatting with Ferran, I got into a political conversation with their liaison officer. Our thoughts on US-Pakistan relations aligned well. Afterwards, I rushed back to my base camp for lunch, chatted more with my new Austrian companion, and spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing and drying my climbing equipment. I will spend the next few days of bad weather recovering in base camp and preparing for a potential summit push.
Today, I woke up at 3:30am, struggled to eat a small breakfast in my icy, cold tent, then packed up all of my equipment, put on my harness and crampons, and ventured out into the sub-zero temperatures of night. I roped up with Simone and Richard, and we quickly began heading over the plateau toward the ice fall leading to Camp II. After touching nearly everything in my tent as I packed (bear in mind that everything not in my sleeping bag was covered in a thin layer of ice crystals), my hands were frozen before leaving the tent. They did not warm up as we climbed and I struggled in vain to restore circulation at our first break at the base of the ice fall. It wasn’t until we reached the top of one of the seracs when the sun crested above the ice fall that my hands finally had a chance to thaw. The process was incredibly painful, but once it was done, I was finally able to enjoy the climb. We continued up the ice fall until we reached the plateau between Gasherbrum I and Gasherbrum II. After another 20 minutes, we reached the tent placed by Ferran (it was the only tent in Camp II). I quickly began digging out a tent platform nearby for my small Mountain Hardwear EV2 direct and reinforced the platform with ice walls to protect the tent from high winds in the col for the coming storm. Once the tent was secure, I quickly moved in and made water and food. The sun kept the tent warm and helped me dry my equipment. Around 4:00pm, clouds cooled the tent and we all got into our sleeping bags and cold weather gear. The three of us felt great at this altitude. We intent to begin descending tomorrow morning at 3:00am so as to reach Camp I by 4:30am and then once we have cached the equipment we need there, continue down to Base Camp, hopefully arriving in time for breakfast and a shower.
Today, I woke up at 2:00am, packed up my equipment, ate a quick breakfast with Akbar, and headed up to Camp I. As mornings go, it was a rough one as I quickly became hot as I began climbing, but I made steady progress climbing solo through the ice fall to Camp I. A poignant memory of a certain special someone gave me a second wind and I arrived to Camp I at 9:00am, quickly re-made my tent platform and reinforced it for the coming snow storm. I spent the afternoon killing the time in the tent as the sun baked everyone in their tents in Camp I. In the late afternoon, I found out that the Taiwanese planned only to climb to Camp II then return the same day to base camp. I instead made plans with Richard (Peru) and Simone (Italy) to climb to Camp II to sleep. We decided to leave Camp I at 5:00am and travel together as a rope team. Afterwards, I spoke for quite some time with a Czech climber who is attempting Gasherbrum II, made dinner, then went to sleep early.
Today, I slept in till 7:30am, had breakfast with Akbar, and then did laundry. Afterwards, I prepared my backpack for tomorrow’s climb to Camp I. I intend to climb to Camp I, sleep there, then climb to and establish camp II, sleep there, then descend on Thursday early in the morning directly to Base Camp before the storm that’s forecast to hit in the afternoon arrives. After this, the weather is forecast to be bad till next week, giving me plenty of time to rest and recover in base camp. I will aim to leave base camp by 2:30am.
Today, after not being able to sleep past midnight due to the cold, I began preparing my things for the descent to base camp around 4:00am. I melted some snow for water and had a small breakfast cookie, emerged from my tent, ensured that it was well secured, and began my descent solo to base camp. The sun and the moon were both out and I was pleased to have 15 minutes of sun while crossing the glacier before descending back into the shadows cast by the massive peaks around me. I walked very quickly so as to minimize the amount of time that I was climbing over snow bridges once the sun hit the glacier. I arrived to base camp less than three hours after leaving Camp I. I immediately asked Akbar for breakfast and tea and unpacked my equipment so that it could dry in the sun. After eating, I showered and began feeling human again. It’s amazing how a night alone in a tent in subzero temperatures can change your perspective. When I arrived to base camp on the trek, I thought that it was always either too hot or too cold and quite uncomfortable. However, while descending from Camp I, I was dreaming of my cozy sleeping bag in my warm base camp tent and Akbar’s cooking. This is one of the things I love about climbing in the high mountains. It returns one’s gratitude for things that we take for granted in our everyday lives. Even the luxury of the toilet tent in base camp was a welcome change from squatting on a windy cold glacier with absolutely no privacy. The complete deprivation of all but the most essential survival items reminds me how lucky I am to have even the most basic of luxuries at home (and reminds me that they are in fact luxuries and that not everyone in the world is afforded them). After lunch, I studied my MCAT biology/biochemistry book for a few hours and worked on charging all of my communications equipment. I will take at least tomorrow as a rest day before attempting to establish camp II at roughly 6400m/20,997ft in the shoulder between Gasherbrum I and Gasherbrum II. My schedule will of course depend on weather conditions. I have heard that a summit window will appear from July 20th-26th which coincides with most years. Therefore, my goal will be to be acclimated and rested before this window so that I may make a summit attempt.
Today, I woke up at 2am, packed up my things, and ate a quick but filling breakfast. The night was clear with a light breeze and a full moon made my headlamp unnecessary (thankfully, since it stopped working about two hours into the climb; I brought a spare after what happened last year on Broad Peak). At 3:30am, I headed up the glacial moraine to the start of the route and quickly made my way through the lower ice fall. I caught up with the Taiwanese and Spanish groups and continued on toward the second ice fall. The route to Camp I felt longer than I remember from 2006 and veered west to avoid some large crevasses before correcting east to arrive to Camp I. Since this was my first climb to Camp I, I was loaded down with 30kg of equipment, and the climb took close to seven hours (I arrived at 10:30am). Camp I is around 900m higher than base camp, so we were all quite exhausted when arriving. The camp is situated on a glacier in a valley surrounded on all sides by massive snowy peaks. This limits the amount of wind that arrives and also magnifies the intensity of the sun. Inside the tent was miserably hot, however, after climbing all morning in the sun, I was far too sunburned to spend any more time outside. I suffered quietly in my tent all afternoon. I ate and drank as much as I could and around 5pm, the sun dipped behind Gasherbrum IV and the temperature dropped to sub-zero in a matter of minutes. I radioed base camp to let Akbar know my plans and then made dinner. My lightweight sleeping bag was no match for the cold and I spent a miserable night in Camp I, waking up around midnight to boil some water to put in a bottle in my sleeping bag.
Today, I woke up at 7:30am, had breakfast with Akbar, and got to work packing my equipment for a night at camp I. Afterwards, I went up to Kinga’s camp where they were moving their base camp higher up the glacier. I spoke with the group about their plans and then returned to my camp where I reorganized my base camp tent so that it wouldn’t leak on me in the night. Akbar worked all afternoon on the shower tent so I was finally able to shower for the first time since Paiju six days ago. Afterwards, the liaison officer asked everyone who’s going up to Camp I to come up for a group picture. We spoke at length about our plans and afterwards, I visited with the Taiwanese who are also going up to Camp I tomorrow morning leaving around 3am. I returned to my camp to finalize preparations for the climb and to have dinner. I will wake up at 2am, have breakfast at 2:30am, and leave base camp for Camp I at 3:00am. The early hour is to ensure that the snow is as hard as possible to minimize chances of punching through a delicate snow bridge over one of the many massive crevasses that riddle the route to Camp I.
Today, I woke up at 7:00am and had breakfast in the kitchen tent with Akbar and Fida. Afterwards, we got to work setting up base camp. The calm of base camp was interrupted by the frequent arrival of helicopters for the army camp. More than a dozen flew by base camp today. In the afternoon, I struggled to get my communications equipment working and in the evening, Akbar and I worked out a few electrical problems. When all was said and done, the mess tent was the best I’ve ever seen. It has an insulated floor, carpet, liner walls to keep it warm and colorful decorations. In the evening, I had dinner in the newly constructed mess tent and then talked for a while with Akbar. Tonight, Fida will leave to join another expedition for the trek. For the next seven or so days, it will just be me and Akbar in our base camp. Afterwards, Manzoor and the Austrian climber will join us. Kinga, Ferran, Yannick, and Tom arrived to base camp in the early afternoon. I will visit with them tomorrow to discuss plans for the mountain.
Today, we woke up at 4:30am, had a quick breakfast, and quickly began trekking to Gasherbrum Base Camp. The snow from last night made the way more difficult, as the small crevasses that riddled the route were covered with weak snow bridges. We punched through more than a few along the way. We arrived to Gasherbrum Base Camp at 10:00am and waited anxiously for our porter loads to arrive. The loads that had come with us to Shigring and those coming from Concordia arrived quite soon after we did. I double checked that everything had arrived then tipped the porters before they headed back down. The place we chose for our base camp was quite steep and required a great deal of effort to make level enough for the mess tent, kitchen tents, and our personal tents. We worked all afternoon on this, the effort made harder by the newly fallen snow and the fact that the stones were frozen in place. We were startled as mortar fire erupted from the army camp just across the glacier from us. It continued all afternoon and we were told it was for target practice and not to worry. It began snowing again in the afternoon so I spent that time setting up my solar charging equipment inside my tent. I had dinner in the kitchen tent with Akbar and went to sleep around 8:30pm. It began snowing quite hard around 1am and continued for most of the night.
Today, Akbar woke me up at 4:30am, I ate a quick breakfast, and we began trekking in fresh snow to Concordia (4585m/15,042ft). Akbar woke the porters early so they would arrive on time to Concordia. Once there, I had a tea with the K2EV rescue team while the porter loads were sorted into what we would need immediately and what we could do without for a day. Fida was successful in recruiting additional porters, however, due to the late hour of the day, they preferred to go directly from Concordia to Gasherbrum Base Camp tomorrow rather than climb with us to Shigring today. Once the equipment was sorted, we headed up to Shigring in knee deep snow. An hour or so into the trek from Concordia, the weather deteriorated and it began snowing quite hard on us. We were relieved to see the army post which is just 25 minutes from Shigring. Once we arrived, we waited an hour for the porters, set up camp, had a quick diner, and enjoyed the sunset over the Karakorum as the weather cleared just before dusk. Tomorrow is the last day of the trek to Base Camp.
Today, we woke up early, had a quick breakfast and started toward Goro II. The morning was again cool but around 9am, we were blessed with views of Mashabrum and the peaks surrounding Concordia (Mitre Peak, Marble Peak and Gasherbrum IV). We broke for lunch at Goro I (4232m/13,886ft) and continued on to Goro II (4305m/14,124ft), arriving before noon. We waited endlessly for our porters and donkeys to arrive with our equipment. When they finally did, we quickly set up camp. High winds began blowing as soon as we started putting up the tents. It snowed in the afternoon and cleared up again in the evening, affording us views of Mashabrum at sunset. We went to sleep early. Fida will leave around 3:30am tomorrow morning to see about recruiting porters at Concordia to ferry the loads carried up to this point by horses and donkeys. We have heard that the route from Concordia to Gasherbrum Base Camp has up to three feet of snow in some parts. Hopefully, he will be successful in getting the porters and we can arrive on time to Base Camp with all of our equipment.
Today, I woke up at 5:00am, packed up my equipment, ate a quick breakfast in the mess tent, and began the trek to Urdukas. The morning was cloudy and cool and the sunrise over the Trango Towers was beautiful. About an hour into the trek, we gained the Baltoro glacier and proceeded up and down over glacial moraine until we had crossed the width of the Baltoro Glacier. The cloudy morning gave way to a clear afternoon which yielded stunning views of the jagged rocky peaks of the Karakorum covered in fresh snow. We broke for lunch at Koburtse (3850m/12,630ft) and waited endlessly for the porters to arrive then continued on to Urdukas. The route had changed considerably from the one I took last year and proceeded over avalanche and land slide debris. Once we arrived to Urdukas, we quickly claimed a camping spot. It began snowing again in the afternoon and a trekking group was gracious enough to invite Marek (Czech Republic) and me into their mess tent for tea. We chatted for a bit and after an hour or so, our equipment arrived and we headed down to our own mess tents for dinner. The night was cool and after dinner, I quickly got into my sleeping bag and went to sleep early. Tomorrow, we will trek to Goro II.
Today, I woke up at 7:30am, had a leisurely breakfast with Akbar, and then showered (with a bucket and can). Afterwards, I tended to some of Akbar’s wounds that he’d gotten in a motorcycle accident prior to the expedition, then headed down to the big Leila Peak expedition’s camp and chatted with other climbers there that I knew from previous expeditions. After this, I had lunch, read in my tent, ate dinner, and then had a long chat with Cleo Weidlich (USA) who is attempting K2 this season. We spent over an hour reminiscing about past experiences here in Pakistan. When I walked out of her mess tent, I was greeted with a clear night with a full moon that made Paiju peak appear to be covered in snow. Tomorrow, I will trek to Urdukas. About an hour into the trek I will begin climbing on the Baltoro glacier. I am hoping for a cool day as this trekking day is the longest and the route proceeds over glacial moraine which on a windless, warm day makes for hellish trekking conditions.
Today, I woke up at 5:00am, packed up my things, and ate breakfast in Jhula which was cloudy and cool. It had rained hard in the night, but the morning was again damp and cool, perfect for trekking. We broke down camp and began the trek to Paiju. We stopped for lunch at Moncamp (3215m/10,548ft) and this time, the porters were not far behind. We continued onto Paiju with scattered showers along the way. After 24km/15 miles of hiking, we arrived and quickly claimed a spot in the shade. In the evening, I noticed that I was coming down with the same upper respiratory infection that all of the porters and staff have so I started myself on antibiotics and hope it will go away before arriving to base camp. We will rest here tomorrow to allow the porters to rest and to prepare their food for the coming days of trekking to base camp.
Today, I woke up at 5:00am, packed up my things, and ate breakfast in Askole. I waited around as porter loads were being divided, then began the trek to Jhula with Akbar. The morning was cool and damp, a welcome change from last year’s scorching temperatures. After registering with the Karakorum National Park office, we continued on to Korofong (3057m/10,030ft) where we waited over two and a half hours for the porters to arrive. We then ate a quick lunch and continued onto Jhula as the weather worsened. We were frustrated by the fact that as soon as it would start raining hard and we would stop and put on goretex, the rain would stop and it would become too hot to continue without taking off layers. We arrived to Jhula around 1pm and waited almost four hours for the porters to arrive with our equipment. While waiting, I made friends with one of the chickens who will be my dinner in the coming days. There are over 350 people (climbers and porters) trekking on the same schedule as me so the camps will inevitably be crowded and chaotic, increasing the likelihood that a bag will be misplaced or lost. After setting up our camp, I had a fantastic dinner and went to sleep. Tomorrow we will continue the trek to Paiju.
Today, I once again woke up early, packed up my things and had breakfast. I waited around all morning for news that the military clearance had been received and at 12:30pm, finally got it. We hurried to the jeep, secured our duffels to the roof, and crowded into the car. A police officer joined us in Skardu, meaning four people had to be jammed into a seat meant for three, but thankfully he left about 45 minutes in. It rained the entire way, causing some rock fall to hit the jeep and making river crossings a bit scary, but we were happy to be out of Skardu and on our way to base camp. We stopped at the military checkpost and waited for all of the jeeps to arrive with everyone on our permit from other agencies. I was shocked at how many familiar faces I saw arriving. Juanito Orizabol and Alberto (Basque) were heading to Broad Peak. Cleo Weidlich was heading to K2 for another attempt on the Cesan route. Simone la Terra was attempting GI and of course the Czech and Hungarians from Broad Peak were heading to K2. We said our hellos and waited impatiently for the ok to pass, as it was already extremely late to be on the road. We finally got the go-ahead and continued on the jeep track toward Askole. The bridge that had been broken last year after my Broad Peak expedition had been repaired, however, not far from that bridge, another had broken and we were forced to cross it by foot and ferry our duffels across to another set of jeeps waiting on the other side. After 7.5 hours in the jeeps, we finally arrived at dusk to Askole. It was still raining, meaning that everything was soaking wet. Thankfully, Akbar, my cook, had arrived the day before and had already set up the kitchen tent and my personal tent, which I was very grateful for. I ate dinner with the Czech, whose kitchen had yet to be set up, unpacked my equipment into my tent, and got an early night.
Today, I woke up at 5:30am and repacked all of my equipment into 25kg loads in preparation for the jeep ride to Askole. Afterwards, I spoke with Fida who said that we would not be leaving as early as planned since our military clearance had not yet been completed. I ate breakfast and returned to my room to wait for news. Finally, around 11am, Fida returned and informed me that the military officer in charge of approving our clearance was still not in the office and asked me if I’d like to leave for Askole today if the clearance is received in the afternoon. Since driving on the jeep track late in the afternoon is hazardous (many rivers fed by snowmelt cross the track and swell in the late afternoon making passage more dangerous), I elected to depart tomorrow. It turned out that we didn’t have a choice. I asked for an update around dinner time, and the clearance was still not received. I can only hope that the officer is present tomorrow and that the clearance is received in the morning.
Today, I woke up early, enjoyed breakfast in the garden, and anxiously waited for my bags to arrive. They did not. Apparently, the truck that was transporting them had trouble in Gilgit causing a delay in their arrival. I was told that they will hopefully arrive in the evening. After finding out this bad news, I returned to my room to get a head start on organizing what gear had arrived into that which I need on the trek and that which I won’t need until beginning the climb up the mountain. Once this was done, I got a visit from Szilard Suhajda and Csaba Varga (Hungary/Romania) who were on Broad Peak with me last year. After this, I had lunch with the Czech climber then headed to the bazaar to pick up some last minute supplies for the climb. I hurried back to the hotel, dropped off my purchases, and headed to Dewan-E-Khas with Fida and Manzoor for our last dinner in Skardu. Muhammad Ibrahim stopped by the restaurant to say hello. He will be the trekking guide for the Taiwanese expedition on Gasherbrum I so we will be trekking with him to base camp since the Taiwanese are on the same permit as me. My bags finally arrived around midnight so I will wake up around 6am to pack all of my equipment for the trek to base camp. We will take a jeep to Askole tomorrow morning and begin trekking on the 24th.
Today, I woke up at 6:30am, showered, had breakfast, and waited for my bags to arrive. I quickly grabbed a jacket from one of them, said goodbye to Jon Griffith and his team, and headed out front to the jeep. We drove through dusty, windy, and rainy weather out of Skardu and after a couple of hours, were joined by an armed policeman to ensure our safety through a less secure area of the way. The weather improved eventually and we arrived safely to Kande where Manzoor was gracious enough to invite me into his home for lunch. I chatted with his family, ate a delicious meal, and then continued on to Hushe. The view of Mashabrum was obscured by clouds, but the village was nonetheless one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. After taking some photos, we headed back to Skardu and quickly had dinner. Afterwards, I met with Yannick Graziani (France), Ferran Latorre (Spain), and Tom Seidensticker (Germany) to discuss plans on the mountain. Kinga Baranowska (Poland) will also be joining us in Base Camp. I will begin trekking to Gasherbrum Base Camp on the 24th of June.
Today, I received word that my two missing bags had arrived to Islamabad Airport, but that they weren’t being released to the agency. I wrote an email giving permission for the baggage agency to release them to Muhammad Ali, my representative in Islamabad, then had a leisurely breakfast out in the garden of the hotel. I spent the morning enjoying what I knew would be the last of the good weather here in Skardu and read my favorite book. I was joined in the late morning by Yannick Graziani (France) and a Czech climber and spoke a bit with Jon Griffith and his team who are attempting to climb Link Sar (7041m), an unclimbed peak here in Pakistan. As we were catching up, we noticed a huge cloud of dust blowing in from the valley, which quickly enveloped the area and made going outside impossible. After lunch, Manzoor and Akbar (my cook from last year) arrived from Islamabad and informed me that the bags had been released and were on their way by road to Skardu. We had dinner at Dewanekhas in Skardu and got an early night.
Today, I woke up in Los Angeles, packed my gear into four giant duffel bags, and boarded an Emirates A380 for the 15 hour flight to Dubai. The flight arrived on time, and I struggled for the entire seven hour layover to stay awake. Next, I boarded a second Emirates flight to Islamabad, a 2.5 hour flight. I arrived without incident, however after clearing immigration, and collecting my bags, I realized that half of my luggage had not arrived. I quickly checked with the lost baggage agent and he informed me that the two bags were missing for transfer in Dubai and had been put on the next day’s flight from Los Angeles and would arrive in the evening. After getting the appropriate report filed, I quickly met with Manzoor who gave me my PIA flight ticket from Islamabad to Skardu for later in the morning and collected my luggage from me to transport by road to Skardu. I went through the domestic airport security, and boarded the small and very old ATR aircraft. In the line to board, I was surprised to run into Yannick (a French climber who shared base camp with me on K2 in 2008) and a Czech climber who was on Broad Peak with me last year. We caught up while being transported to the aircraft. I was relieved when we took off from Islamabad, but knew that the flight could be turned around at any point before landing due to weather conditions in Skardu. Thankfully, the flight arrived to Skardu. We disembarked onto the runway, took a bus to the terminal, registered with the police, and headed to our respective hotels. I’m very grateful for Manzoor’s foresight in purchasing me the flight ticket for the same day I arrived to Islamabad. Not only did it save me from having to bear with the 40 degree Celsius heat in Islamabad, but it also saved me having to endure the two day drive up the Karakorum Highway, which passes by areas of the country that are quite dangerous to Westerners. Since all of my street clothes and toiletries (including my toothbrush!) were packed in one of the bags that was delayed, I decided to venture out to the bazaar to purchase replacements. After returning, I had lunch and then had an icy cold shower (as the hot water hours weren’t till the evening). After this, I decided to take a 2 hour nap as I hadn’t slept in close to 48 hours and afterwards went into town for dinner (I waited till after 7:30pm so as not to be disrespectful of the locals who are fasting for Ramadan). I went to sleep at 10pm hoping to receive good news about my luggage in the morning.