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.