Dispatch 21: Move from Lower Camp II (6200m/20,341ft) to High Camp II (6400m/21,000ft)

Nick drinking tea after setting up high camp II (6400m) with K2 visible in the background
Nick drinking tea after setting up high camp II (6400m) with K2 visible in the background

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.

Dispatch 20: Climb from Base Camp to Camp II (6200m/20,341ft)

Arriving to Camp II
Arriving at Camp II

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.

Dispatch 19 – Rest Day in Broad Peak Base Camp

Broad Peak viewed from Base Camp
Broad Peak viewed from Base Camp

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.

Dispatch 18 – Trek to K2 Base Camp

Nick at K2 Base Camp
Nick at K2 Base Camp

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.

Dispatch 17 – Climb toward Camp III and Descent to Base Camp

My precarious Camp II tent with the upper flanks of K2 visible in the background.
My precarious Camp II tent with the upper flanks of K2 visible in the background.

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.

Dispatch 16 – Sunset from Camp II with Mashabrum, Chogolisa, Marble Peak and Mitre Peak in view

Sunset from Camp II with Mashabrum, Chogolisa, Marble Peak and Mitre Peak in view
Sunset from Camp II with Mashabrum, Chogolisa, Marble Peak and Mitre Peak in view

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.

Dispatch 15 – Climb to Camp I (5700m)

Camp I with Marble Peak in the background
Camp I with Marble Peak in the background

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.

Dispatch 14 – Carry to Deposit

K2 Night
K2 at night

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.

Dispatch 13 – Rest day in Broad Peak Base Camp

Nick and Base Camp Buffalo in Broad Peak Base Camp with K2 in the background
Nick and Base Camp Buffalo in Broad Peak Base Camp with K2 in the background

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.

Dispatch 12 – Goro II to Broad Peak Base Camp (4805m)

Nick arriving to Concordia with GIV and the eastern flank of Broad Peak visible in the background
Nick arriving to Concordia with GIV and the eastern flank of Broad Peak visible in the background

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.

Dispatch 11 – Urdukas to Goro II (4240m)

The view enroute to Goro II
The view enroute to Goro II
Nick and Hadi Ali in Goro II
Nick and Hadi Ali in Goro II

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.

Dispatch 10 – Paiju to Urdukas (3902m)

Pilar, Nick, Ibrahim, and Lina at Urdukas
Pilar, Nick, Ibrahim, and Lina at Urdukas

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.

Dispatch 9 – Jhula to Paiju (3384m)

The dark stone shelter where we had lunch enroute to Paiju
The dark stone shelter where we had lunch enroute to Paiju

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.

Dispatch 8 – Askole to Jhula (3109m)

The view enroute to Jhula
The view enroute to Jhula

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.

Dispatch 7 – Skardu to Askole (2991m) by Jeep

The group enroute to Askole
Nick and Lina in Skardu organizing porter loads
Nick surrounded by children in Askole
Nick surrounded by children in Askole

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.

Dispatch 6 – Rest Day in Skardu

Nick and Lina in Skardu organizing porter loads
Nick and Lina in Skardu organizing porter loads
Lina and Pilar shopping for food in Skardu
Lina and Pilar shopping for food in Skardu
Nick in front of the expedition poster that we found posted at the K2 motel.
Nick in front of the expedition poster that we found posted at the K2 motel.

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.

 

Dispatch 5 – Dassu to Skardu via the Karakorum Highway

Nick in Jaglot at the Nanga Parbat checkpost enroute to Skardu
Nick in Jaglot at the Nanga Parbat checkpost enroute to Skardu
Our group in front of Nanga Parbat. From left to right: Nabi Ansari, Carlos Garranzo, Lina Quesada, Nicholas Rice, and our driver
Our group in front of Nanga Parbat. From left to right: Nabi Ansari, Carlos Garranzo, Lina Quesada, Nicholas Rice, and our driver
The narrow, dangerous Karakorum Highway close to Skardu.
The narrow, dangerous Karakorum Highway close to Skardu.

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.

Dispatch 4 – Islamabad to Dassu via the Karakorum Highway

A group of women in Abbottabad along the Karakorum Highway
A group of women in Abbottabad along the Karakorum Highway
The armed police officer who joined us in Besham
The armed police officer who joined us in Besham

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.

Dispatch 3 – Scorching Day in Islamabad

Nick Rice at Al Faisal Mosque in Islamabad
Nick Rice at Al Faisal Mosque in Islamabad
Al Faisal Mosque in Islamabad
Al Faisal Mosque in Islamabad

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.

Dispatch 2 – Briefing with Ministry of Tourism

Nick Rice, Captain Muhammad Badar, Wing Commander Javed Iqbal, Carlos Garranzo, and Nabi Ansari (from left to right) at the briefing
Nick Rice, Captain Muhammad Badar, Wing Commander Javed Iqbal, Carlos Garranzo, and Nabi Ansari (from left to right) at the briefing

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.

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