Tuesday 26 July 2011

Summit Success

Congratulations to Scott and Koldo (and the few others) who sumitted yesterday.

Sunday 24 July 2011

Celebrating the Aga Kahn's birthday

Although this was about a week ago, Team Taiwan just produced this little beauty of Rob having a dance for the Aga Kahn's birthday.


No beer or drugs involved just altitude induced hypoxia.


We're all chipping in for dancing lessons before his big day with Tracy next year.



Camp 3 tagged and a couple of summits

A small break in the weather saw JR, Duncan and Scott make it to camp 3 (7100m), Rob and Mason turned around about halfway up from camp 3.  An amazing effort from Mason so far who has nearly broken 7000m having only been to 3000m before this trip!


On 21st/22nd a Russian and French summited the main peak and two catalans also summited in a round trip of 30 hours from camp 3.  Given the high winds this is a very strong effort and the first summits of the year.  They're still up on the mountain so we're not aware of how they are.  Two are still up there as far as we know, hopefully they'll be seen descending soon but this will mean 2 days above camp 3 in high winds.


There's a lot of tough decisions going on as the weather forecasts are varied and the windspeeds are still high.  The Canadaian team is going for an attempt on the 25th along with Koldo from our team.  Scott and Duncan have waited at camp 2 hoping to go for a summit attempt with them.  They sound in good spirits and we’re hoping for the best for them but it will be a tough time staying above 6000m for 4 days.  Let's hope the forecaasts come in and the winds drop low enough for an easier summit than those previously.


JR descended from camp 3 to base camp yesterday with some frostnip to two fingers in his left hand (but nothing serious) and is waiting for another window later in the month to potentially go up with Rob, Mason and the Taiwan team should the weather allow it.  They are all now well acclimatized to have a strong attempt if the weather breaks.


Good luck to Scott and Duncan and everyone else on the mountain, fingers crossed for a break in the weather, successful summits and safe descents.

Thursday 21 July 2011

Weather grrrr...

How things can change in a few days…


The forecast was looking good for a summit window on the 26th / 27th and the team are lined up to be as acclimatized as they can be. Yesterday we received news that it had all changed due to movements in the subtropical Jetstream. We all hoped this would just be a one off rotten forecast and predictions / the models would come good again today, however it has just confirmed that this window has closed.


As time for most teams is running out everyone has been buzzing around base camp all day comparing weather forecasts and trying to come up with a strategy for an attempt. All forecasts seem to show the same uncertainty for a window… The main consensus at the moment is to try on the 24th when winds are looking the lowest.


Tonight the guys are sleeping at camp 2 and hoping to reach camp 3 early in the morning to access conditions. A team of 8 / 10 Spanish are due to start an attempt from camp 3 later this evening so we plan on getting some feedback on conditions from their experience.


So in brief the weather looks windy until the 25th with a drop on the 24th then precipitation is due on the 26th which would close our chances. Let's hope they have it wrong and some more opportunity's appear!!!


Nobody has the runs at the moment!!! So I have attached a picture of our toilet so we don’t forget what it looks like.  


Hope you are all well back home and the weather is better there.


PS The 40 pints of I.P.A. (Indian Pale Ale) is brewing very well and expected to be ready in 3 days.



Tuesday 19 July 2011

Weaher correction...

How things can change in 24 hours….!!!!


After our fantastic forecast of 2 days ago everything has changed and the Jetstream has fully descended onto the Karakorum - our 5 day clear weather window has been 'blown' out the water.  JR, john, Dunc and Robs attempt to reach camp 1 yesterday was abandoned due to poor and warm conditions on the mountain.  They returned to base camp late last night.  Scott is recovering from a case of the 'Karakorum Quick Step'.


So the wind has increased above 7500m dramatically, and the long range forecast looks very poor at the moment.  The weather window has closed firmly shut for our hopeful summit attempt of the 26th, 27th so we are sitting on our hands and waiting (praying) for change.  Camp1 and above has been enveloped in the clouds as I write, and the base camp winds are much like a winters day on the Cairngorm Plateaux (OK maybe not that bad).  Joy!!


The two commercial teams, led by Chris Syzmiec and Phil Crampton who were planning their summit bids very soon have decided, given the forecast, to leave base camp (meaning there will be no trail to the summit).  We will be working with the smaller teams now, if the weather improves to break the crucial trail to 8000m.  Everything hangs in the balance of the next few forecasts.


We sit and wait in hope of a change in the weather over the next week.  Cross your fingers for us.


A few food things we're missing in Base Camp, except the girlfriends of course!


JR - Greek Salad with Feta

Rob - Buster the Husky

John - A good cup of Yorkshire tea

Ben - Warm feet

Dunc - Biscuits

Scott - A smooth café latte


Final note, possibly the best news so far - the BPA (Broad Peak Ale) is three days into brew and master brewer Duncan says "Yeast is active, smelling good and its frothing well - 7 days to go".  The beer is the talk of base camp.


Monday 18 July 2011

Pushing upto camp 3

We haven't been able to blog much due to solar power issues but we've been able to charge using the Taiwanese generator thankfully.


We've had on and off weather, as you do in the Karakoram, but over the last week we've managed to get camp 1 (5600m)  and camp 2 (6100m) established.  Scott and Rob pushed up to camp 2 first putting up the tents, then JR, John, and Duncan moved up carrying the camp 3 tents, gas and some personal equipment.  It's good to be quite high on the mountain already, but tough for everyone acclimatizing to these levels.  Going straight to camp 2 felt like doing an Ironman with a paper bag on our heads.


Yesterday we visited the Gilkey memorial.  A resting place for those who have been lost on K2.  A rite of passage for any climber visiting the area, but a sombering place seeing both the famous names laid there and the human remains of those bodies who have sadly never made it down.  Strangely it is the only place we have seen around here where there are flowers growing and some life thriving.  This brought to an end 3 days of poor weather, lots of monopoly and cards and boredom in the base camp tents listening to the continual roar of the avalnches piling down the mountains as the falling snow settles.


Fortunately the weather forecast for the next 10 days looks good although above 7500m the windspeeds are high. 


Tonight we're setting off for camp 1, and with a short rest we'll be pushing upto camp 2 in the early hours, resting there and then pushing the trail upto camp 3 with our high altitude tents ready for our next push which will hopefully be upto the summit.  Unfortunately Scott's come down with bad guts again so won't be joining us but we're pretty sure he'll recover in time to get high up on the mountain with us before the summit push.


The forecast shows that wind speeds are due to drop on the 25th so we're planning on making a summit attempt on the 26th or 27th.  So far this season there haven't been any summits, although there have been a few attempts, all thwarted by snow conditions a couple of hundred metres below the col.  It looks like the next window will be the push for many of the teams so it wil be a good opportunity to work together to reach what we came here for.


Also, congratulations from the team to Tom and Juliet Baker who got married yesterday and who's wedding we missed.

Monday 11 July 2011

Finally at Base Camp

Just a short one as we've got charging issues (due to the perpetual snow storms blocking the solar energy!)


After a more tortuous walk in than expected we finally reached BC in a snow storm on Friday morning.  Upon arrival the clouds very briefly cleared giving us a view of the route and an impression of the enormous scale of the place.   The porters chanted a good luck song to us on reaching camp and did a great job of getting things in order in bleak conditions.  Ackbar told us that the porters don't normally work in such weather and the other teams were surprised to see us arrive.  We avoided a porter strike due to the tenacity of our Sirdar, Rasool.  Straight after this they pulled out their party trick of 2.5l bottles of coke.  We all broke quite easily, even at $11 per bottle (still cheaper than a Swiss alpine hut).  Given they had the inspiration to carry it up here after watching us guzzle coke in Askole we thought it only honourable to pay the asking price.  They do an incredible job carrying 30+kg up here mostly in sandals and shalwar.


The snow didn’t stop properly until this morning (Monday), but the team decided to try and get some kit up to camp 1, however knee deep snow and deeply buried lines forced a retreat at halfway.  John and Duncan stayed behind after they went down with some pretty severe vomiting on Saturday.  This coupled with a bit of AMS (due to the fairly rapid ascent to 5000m) has made for some major suffering over the last few days but they're both fixed now.  At one point, with fevers, we both had down suits on inside -40 bags and were still shivering.  This was all made better this morning to an incredible view of K2 summit straight out the tent door.


As it's the Aga Kahn's birthday today all the Balti staff across all the teams have put on a special lunch and dancing. (and listening to the continual small avalanches coming down off some of the slopes after the snowfall - none in route thankfully)


Hopefully the whole team is heading up to camp one tomorrow.  Given the weather is improving and we're still getting  BC in order, hopefully we'll be able to send some more detailed updates soon.





Tuesday 5 July 2011

Rest day in Paju

We arrived in Paju after a couple of days trekking through incredible scenery, views of Uli Biaho tower, Broad Peak and numerous other giants surrounding us. Paju lies beneath a huge vertical wall 600m bigger than El Capitan and probably climbed very few times if at all. At the end of the valley stands impressive rock towers of Great Trango and Cathedral Spire, a truly inspiring place and a great place to spend a rest day today.

Camp conversation has revolved a lot around the state of our bowels as we have all had a few problems since leaving Askole. Dunc was the first to go suprisingly, although all our money was on Scott after his history of stomach problems. Dunc was closely followed by Ben, then Mason from both ends, then Scott. Rob and John managed to avoid any major problems. We're all feeling much better now after a rest day and a pizza cooked by our legend of a chef, Isaac. A good effort on a camp stove!

We are all really psyched to head on to Urdukas tomorrow, traversing the awesome Trango range, it's going to be a longer day with more ascent and taking us much closer to Broad Peak base camp where we should arrive on Friday, In'shallah.


Sunday 3 July 2011

Time to get walking

3.30am and morning prayer calls out over the valley. Luckily we stay in bed until 5am but the chef's up getting breakfast ready. Today we start the walk, about 17km to Jula camp passing the end of the Latok group.

Some of the boys manage to scoff the breakfast so fast there is little left for some of the team and the Basque (who are 2 great guys and take it very well).

After the loads are dished out to the porters we set off walking along with the chef. The vista starts to get much more moutainous, many 5 and 6000m peaks pop up on the valley sides and the horizon. We get a small glimpse of the Latoks through the clouds. At our altitude of 3000m the peaks look miles above us, but we need to add another 2000m to those…

The karakoram is starting to feel a pretty out there, adventurous place. There are not many teams up here this year, I assume due to what they deem the "security issues" but so far all we have experienced is friendly and helpful people, all wanting to know our story. With care, Pakistan seems an amazing place to come. Life is harsh however, certainly here in the North, but the people are very relaxed and welcoming.

When we arrive at camp, Ackbar informs us he was a little late as he had to buy a cow, 2 goats and a number of chickens for us. I write this now looking at the cow chowing down on some grass, having walked itself to our camp. Tomorrow we have the 17km to walk into Paju at 3750m, so quite a jump in height, but everyone is coping fine so far with the altitude. Motivation is really high and it feels like the team's working well. We have rule where if someone has a paddy, or gets in a bad mood they have to pay $20 to tip the porters. This strategy seems to be working well for us so far, but not so well for the porters. We're looking forward to arriving in Paju and having our first proper rest day of the trip.

Saturday 2 July 2011

Askole and the porters

After 6 days we've arrived at the head of the road and met our chef, Isaac and the 95!? porters (see photo) that Lela have hired for us and the Basque team. We're glad to say the chef's cooking is, so far, excellent. The freshest chicken you could have; it wandered past the tent shortly before hitting the pan. We re-packed the bags into the 25kg porter loads ready for the morning.

We met one of the teachers from Greg Mortenson's first school in Korphe, just 10 minutes walk from here and we have been invited to visit on the way back. The father of one our expedition organisers was one of the first teachers at the school and is mentioned in 'Three Cups of Tea'. Ackbar and Anwar, the twins who run Lela, are not only providing a great service already but have done amazingly well, starting as porters at 15 and now running one of the most respected operations in the Karakoram, still aged only 29.

During the evening John taught the team (including the Basque) to play the card game Oh Hell, which I think is going to be a big time passer over the trip. An early night is needed for the 05.30 start to the trek.

Friday 1 July 2011

Arriving in Skardu and leaving for Askole

After a very long journey we finally made it to Skardu. We topped up on food and tried to get some sleep, but after arriving at 2am (and thenno extension having dinner) 4 of us had to be up at 8am to get our visa extended. We went to the visa office, but no such luck, they had been waiting a year for thje official stamp. After some negotiations and a long wait, we got a meeting with the deputy of gilgit-baltistan who tells us, "it will be sorted for our return, in'shallah."

The following day we took the 7 hour jeep ride to Askole. Long and bumpy, but we managed to get some pretty "pimped" rides. See the photo!

A few of the team have gone down with the usual gastro bugs but some swift doses of anti-biotics seems to have sorted it.