K2 Expedition Journal
Welcome to K2 Base camp
July 25th, 2012
The route that I will be attempting is called the Abruzzi Spur. The route is named for Italian climber Prince Luigi Amendeo, the Duke of Abruzzi , who led an expedition to K2 in 1909 and made the first attempt on the ridge.
The Abruzzi Spur is one of the most difficult and dangerous routes in the world. Some of the major topographic features on the route are The House Chimney, The Black Pyramid , The Shoulder and The Bottleneck.
Matt, myself and two high altitude porters arrived here yesterday.
This morning Matt and I did a carry of personal gear close to advanced base camp, up through the moraine, navigated through the glacier " at one point , I broke through a snow bridge and was left up to my waist , feet dangling in a crevasse whereas Matt had to give a hand to extract me out. Further up the glacier and as the ice pinnacles got steeper we decided to leave our personal gear and retrieve it the next go around . Our goal " weather permitting" is for us and our high altitude porters to do a carry of tents, fuel, ect to camp one as early as tomorrow morning .
I feel the temperature here is a little colder than Broad Peak based camp and a little more lonely but its my new office and on the I pod , CCRR is belting out tunes....Have You Ever Seen the Rain...and then a little India Aire....
Ride On Time
July 31st, 2012
Because of bad weather we were delayed from attempting to climb the mountain until July 28th.
In the cold early morning hours of the 28th my fingers reached for the zipper of my tent, with my head torch on I made my way to the mess tent and sat down next to a gas lantern and made myself a cup of coffee. While pouring the hot water from the kettle I could see the steam rising as the water hit the bottom of the cup, signaling the start of a new day. My breakfast would be small and consisted of two boiled eggs.
Matt, the two high altitude porters and I would begin the long journey up the glacier at 4:30 am.
I felt content and was smiling as I hiked up the glacier but as the sun began to show itself my smile grew larger, as I looked up towards the mountain" the tip of the summit was glowing" it was as if someone had struck a match. In this harsh and soulless landscape , beauty can be found.
After two and a half hours of hiking up through the moraine, glacier and ice pinnacles we arrived at the base of the mighty mountain. There we put on our harness that carried the tools of the trade of climbing, with crampons secured to our climbing boots , we did one last check on each other and only then did we leave the ground for the vertical world. I was excited to be climbing again but I was not just climbing " I am on K2.
Arriving at camp one was both cold and exciting at the same time. First things first , dig out a small platform in the side of the mountain, erect our tent and gather some snow for melting. We need to keep our bodies hydrated. Through out the evening Matt and I shared stories ,the topics included families , loved ones, our hopes and desires for our individual futures.
Morning came early and with that the hissing of the stove, snow would be turned into something far richer than gold could ever be "Water".
Like a jigsaw puzzle being put together we packed up our belonging , once outside the bitter cold made you zipper your jacket up tighter and pull your woolen cap lower. Once the tent was down we shouldered our back packs , looked up at the step face , gave each other a friendly nod as if to say" see you up there and started the long climb to camp two.
Climbing to camp two raised the bar in regards to technical climbing, not only is it steep but there is a section called " The House Chimney.
The House Chimney is a 100 ft wall split by a chimney and crack system that is rated 5.6 in the climbing world. That's not too bad at sea level but with crampons on and at over 20,000ft , its a task on its own. From the very start you have to bridge your self " one foot on one side of the chimney and the other stretched to the other side. Looking for hand holds and little ledges to hold the tips of your crampons, once placed" silently praying that the tips of the crampons do not bend or break off. It gets pretty tight in there, not a place to find out if you have claustrophobia. On exiting the chimney I was greeted with rays of sunshine and very strong winds. With every foot gained the winds grew stronger and the temperature dropped, as if hell itself was freezing over.
Arriving at camp two we were cold and exhausted but there was still a lot of work to do. It took hours to hack out a ledge in the ice with only our ice axes to aid us, with that accomplished the task of erecting our tent in high winds was a journey in its own. Making sure that as we put up the tent and secured it to the mountain , someone always held it tight so it wouldn't be blown away like a kite. Once inside and out of the wind the routine of melting snow began.
With exhaustion came sleep , the ledge was small and I turned every hour. I would wake up and feel numb on the side I was sleeping from the cold and turn over. This process would continue through out the night until the early morning hours.
Tents at this altitude coupled with the strong winds if not secured properly can be ripped to shreds, evidences of that is every where. We decided to take down one tent and leave one up for the next rotation on the mountain. " Hopes of a summit push.
It would take us five long hours of rappelling down the side of the mountain to its base. Every time you clipped into the rope with your figure eight "rappelling device you checked that the rope was threaded properly and your locking carbiner was locked, you checked and rechecked" because when you lean back in space for the rappel, if its done wrong, no second chances "your going for the big ride and where your going you do not need a ticket to get in.
Hiking down the glacier and arriving at our base camp we were greeted with cups of warm tang and hand shakes of a job well done. We will take the next couple of days to rest and keep an eye on the weather forecast with the hopes of a summit push in the following days.
All the best to everyone " Cheers
Like Rolling Thunder
August 8th, 2012
From a distance, the head torches of five lonely cold figures could be seen, the only sound they made came from there boots making contact with the hard packed snow on the glacier floor. Each person lost in their own thoughts.
The sun began to rise just as we arrived at a place we call crampon point, at the base of the mountain. I let my pack slid of my shoulders as I sat down on a rock , removed my water bottle and took a drink. Tilting my head back" eyes closed" the water felt cool as it ran down my throat, I could feel the warmth of the suns rays on my face, I was happy to be here . This is it I thought, our only chance for a summit push before the monsoon season hits" Moving up the mountain daily "camp to camp until your at camp four and ready for the last push to the top, weather permitting.
With crampons secured to our boots, harness on and checked by the person standing next to you we clipped into the ropes and left the glacier floor and acceded back into the vertical world.
Matt's porter was a added addition to our group and as we climbed I started to see things that I didn't like "red flags". That evening Matt and I reviewed the days progress and had a long discussion about his porter in regards to his technical ability and his acclimation. With regret the decision was made. The next morning" August 3rd" Matt would descend the mountain and bring his porter down.
Standing together on the ridge that we call camp one Matt and I talked about safety and the task that lay before him. With the last of words exchanged, he and his porter descended to the glacier floor.
That afternoon as I and my two porters stood outside our tent we heard the sound first" like thunder " looked up and to our horror an avalanche was headed our way, we dove to the rock band, our only means of protection . I wrapped my arms as tight as I could around a rock and thought " this is going to hurt, I closed my eyes" I wanted to disappear , then I opened them again , I had to meet my faith head on. Snow swirling all around me, winds taking my breath away and then it happened , the avalanche turned left and went down a couloir " a couloir is a channel slope in the mountain.
That evening clouds were coming in like rolling thunder. The weather was changing, the clouds looked dark and heavy " ominous . Then like a car on a race track, hitting a brick wall it hit us. The tent shook violently , we braced ourselves for a long night . Sleep did not come easy, we took turns going outside to dig out our tent for fear that with all the snow falling the tent could collapse.
The next morning as if in a wind tunnel I unzipped the tent vestibule and looked out, I could only see 30ft in every direction , we were in the middle of a bad storm.
That day I ate a freeze dried meal. Then around 2 am I awoke with pains in my mid section , "O know , I got to go. With just my long underwear on I put on my boots, jacket , hat and gloves" unzipped the tent and as I did so , snow came pouring in as if it were a water fall. I dragged myself out on my hands and knees and stood up, the wind slammed into me almost knocking me off my feet. Following the beam of my head torch I went towards the rock outcrop and down a few feet careful not to slip, I had no crampons on and the slope was 45 degrees with a potential fall off two and a half thousand feet . With the wind howling all around me I dropped my long johns to my ankles, hovering inches above the snow, The only thoughts I had were " O God" don't let me slip now.
The storm would trap us for five long days and nights. Food and fuel were running low. On our last rotation on the mountain we had brought up to camp two, tents, fuel food and sleeping bags and did a cache there for our summit push and now we were trapped at camp one.
Matt and I had communication through a two way radio and looked at our different options. He would try to climb up to us with food and fuel with the hopes that if the weather cleared we could continue together and move upwards. With his pack containing what was needed Matt moved up the glacier , like a mother wanting to protect her cubs. With his bent forward the wind and snow was hitting him hard, then after two and a half hours the realization came that he had to turn back. The weather was too bad. He had to retrace his steps the long two and a half hours through the ice pinnacles and back across the glacier to base camp . That evening the cracking of the radio came to life, I knew it was bad news, Matt,s voice was broken up , I could only make out certain words because of the static of the radio. We were on our own, He had did his best and tried.
The night of August 6 the storms intensity grew stronger , I sat up late into the night listening to avalanches , wounding if they were coming in our direction , I had a responsibility to my two high altitude porters and my promise to them that " Safety would be our core value" and that I would get them home to their families safely.
Four in the morning I was sitting up right in my sleeping bag wondering why we hadn't been blown away like flakes of snow. This thin piece of fabric called a tent was our only shelter and on the other side the violence of mother nature, or was it.
As if God himself descended to fight the opposition for the life of the three souls inside, Calling All Angles , I need you now. Myself and the two porters got ready, the expedition was over. We need to descend in the storm. The first porter was out of the tent, I was next. I was putting on my crampons , I looked up saw the tent ,then looked down for a second , then looked up again and only saw the second porter with his back to where the tent once stood. As soon as he stepped out of it , it was ripped free and in a blink of the eye, it disappeared into the raging storm. I didn't even see go, I just saw Aziz standing there facing me and empty space where once the tent stood.
August 9th, 2012
....One by one we threaded our figure eight rappelling device into the rope as the sound of the wind drowned out our voices, our only means of communication was through hand jesters. Aziz was the first to go, I was next....I looked down at my harness for a second check to make sure that everything was secured , then once Aziz was off the first rope, I clipped in. Leaned back into space, committed to my harness, figure eight rappelling device, rope, anchor and with one swift move I was descending towards the glacier far below. Sayeed was coming behind me, there were just the three of us.
One anchor then two, then I saw Aziz frantically thrusting his hands into the snow, he couldn't find the next rope, it was buried in the deep snow from the past five days. It was useless to try and call out, he was to far away and the wind would have just drowned out my voice. I needed him to remove his rappelling device to give me some slack in the rope so that I could install mine." keeping his safety line still secured to the rope" The rope was to tight, I pulled and pulled ' my hands were losing all feeling, cold was starting to seep into every pour of my body as if it were a drug and I was the junkie. I urgently needed to help Aziz. I pulled again and this time got just enough slack to install my rappelling device. To install it on my harness, I had to lean into the mountain ' reach down and clip it in and lock the carbiner. With that done I was descending towards Aziz.
Finding the rope and pulling it out of the snow took a lot of energy from the both of us, soon we were joined by Sayeed and continued down.
Getting down had its challenges but as we got closer to the glacier floor the winds tapered off. In the five days at camp one, the route that we used to go through the ice pinnacles had changed significantly. parts of the route had collapsed and we had to negotiate a different way out at added risk. I had noticed Aziz was removing his glacier glasses a lot and this would lead him to serious discomfort later on.
Hiking down through the glacier I caught a glimpse of color and as the distance closed between us I was greeted by a familiar voice, it was Matt and his porter coming to help us in any way they could. For me, they were a beacon of light.
At base camp, early the next morning around 4 am, I heard a noise outside my tent, someone was in pain. Popping my head out, I saw Aziz. "Look at my eyes" he was saying ...."look". Yes they were puffy, red and looked painful. I looked through my medicine bag and startled treatment right away.
I would be treating Aziz for snow blindness. A mild case, but still debilitating and painful for the next few days. By the third day he was back to himself.
So often when we do not reach our objectives we get dissatisfied , sometimes we just walk away, I believe that's wrong!! Some of my best learning curves have come from not reaching my objectives but staying positive and asking myself what have I learnt. If we take what we learn and bring that learning experience to our next project , be it in the mountains or in the work place , I believe that it can help set us up for success, not just in our next project but even greater success in future projects.
I would like to say thank you to my sponsors Finning ( Canada ), Remax of Fort McMurray and their employees for giving me this opportunity to represent Canada on the international stage of high altitude mountaineering. I look forward to coming into your organizations and sharing my experience with all of you.
Thank you Mountain Hardware for supplying all my clothing " if Mountain Hardware can dress me for K2 , then they can dress you for your next outing in mother natures arena. I will always say there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear...
Thank you Globalstar "Spot for global positioning.
To everyone at Breakfast Television "City TV" Edmonton and their viewers , Thank you for your support
Sending out a Big Hello and thank to Fort McMurray, Alberta for all the support from the past and the continued support, I will always be grateful
To the city of Edmonton, Alberta, thank you for all the support, I look forward to coming home.
To my family, friends and all the business that gave "gift in kind , to the people who supported me.....Thank You
Stacy Allison once said...
"Only when we accept full responsibility for our lives will we have the Confidence and Courage to Risk"