K2 2013 Expedition Journal
Jun 15th, 2013
.....to be able to pray we need silence, silence of the heart. The soul needs time to go away and pray, to use the mouth, to use the eyes, to use the whole body........
For the last couple of days I have found myself back in the exotic land of Kathmandu, Nepal "the land of majestic mountains". Time appears to have slowed down, nobody is in a hurry here. Its Nepaliee time.
I have retrieved my climbing gear out of storage and I am now in the process of purchasing some food that I will with excitement consume up high on the mountain (K2).
I will be leaving Nepal on June 19th to fly to Pakistan.
Once again like last year I will be working the mountain as a small independent team of two westerners and four Sherpas from Nepal. Everyone has a tone of experience and two of the Sherpas has been to the top of K2 three times.
Himalayan climbing could not exist without danger. Without risk there would be no adventure. That, I believe, is what gives it it's worth.
With much sadness I write this dispatch
In the Fairy Meadows in the Diamer district of Gilgit - Baltistan, which borders China and Kashmir gun fire broke the silence of the evening.
In an unprecedented attack late Saturday well-armed and well prepared Taliban attackers (15) dressed in police uniforms stormed the base camp of Nanga Parbat, the ninth highest mountain in the world and shot and killed 11 climbers. Some of the victims I have known and became friends (with) we shared time together on K2, Broad Peak and Manaslu in the past. We are all really shocked and full of anger at this horrific situation on a personal level.
My thoughts and prayers are going out to the family and friends of the lost ones.
I am living this tragic moment in solidarity with my climbing partners. We have made the decision to stay in Pakistan for the time being.
K2 Base Camp
Jul 7th, 2013
The team and I arrived safely yesterday at K2 base camp. The team will consists of six climbers, Adrian, four Sherpas from Nepal and myself.
The Sherpas that are with us bring tremendous experience, they are some of the best climbers in the world. Two of them have been to the summit of K2 three times.
Today we erected a small alter and had a Puja ceremony asking the gods for protection as we climb.
I believe that to be successful on K2 or any mountain one must always be managing risk safety and maximizing opportunity.
Jul 10th, 2013
Since arriving at base camp the weather here has been cold, windy and unforgiving.
We are camped on the moraine/glacier next to the mountain and when we arrived magnificent, majestic K2 was in full view. Then as if a magician was invoking some supernatural powers the mountain disappeared from view cloaked in a mist of clouds where she remains hidden.
The team and I have been receiving regular weather updates from around the world, and also using the old fashion way of sticking your head out of your tent.
It looks like the weather gods will take pity on us for the next couple of days and give us a opportunity to climb on the mountain, giving our bodies a much neded chance to acclimatize to adapt to new heights. Our goal is too push over the next several days to camp two to an altitude of 6,800 meters.
Base camp is at an altitude of 5,000 meters.
Our goal is to be on the move early tomorrow morning, weather permiting.
If your going to ride the tiger, you better realize its power.
Jul 18th, 2013
Until one is committed there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Our team had no such thoughts.
Khalil Gibran, once said "There is a gap between man's powers to conceive and his ability to achieve that can be bridged only by desire.
In the early morning hours on July 12, desire stirred each team member from the warm cocoon of there sleeping bags. The silence was replaced by the sound of the zipper as the tent was opened and the cool morning air came rushing in.
The strategy was put in place days beforehand. The weather here at base camp is very unpredictable and we needed to start the process of acclimatization (climb high and sleep low). We do this to force our bodies to create more blood cells which allows our blood to carry more oxygen.
Our approach will be aggressive, two nights at camp one (6,100 meters) and if all goes to plan move higher up the mountain and establish camp two at 6,700 meters and spend two nights there. Base camp is 5,000 meters.
From a distance our head torches could been seen as we weaved back and forth up through the Baltoro glacier and into the ice field. After two hours we arrived at advanced base camp or as we like to call it crampon point. If your going to ride the tiger, you better realize its power.
With crampons strapped to our climbing boots, ice axe in hand we acceded into the vertical world, leaving the safety of the glacier floor.
Crampons kicking hard, snow flying. Then the screams... "rock...rock!"
I looked up and it was coming in my direction, a high velocity projectile" a rock had dislodged. It bounced onto other rocks and broke into smaller pieces, flying in my direction. I tried to make myself smaller, tried to ride my backpack higher onto my back to take the blunt force of the impact. Then the sound of swish as if a bullet passed inches from my head. This process would repeat itself through out the day.
Arriving at camp one was a relief, I was tired and sore. Camp one is situated on a little rock out crop. Its the safest place for a tent, the only problem is if a avalanche is released from above or a rock fall, your in its path. Needless to say you sleep with one hand on your boots and another on your knife in case you need to make a quick tent exit.
After two nights at camp one on July 14th we were on the move again to camp two . Forever moving upwards through steep sections of rock with your fingers searching for a hand hold and the front points of your crampons scratching the rock for placement, the sound made as if a finger nail was being scratch against a blackboard.
As we gained altitude the wind gained in intensity, the cold penetrated every place of warmth in our bodies. As if the suffering would go on forever, there above the last rock band and snow our tent could be seen. Falling into our tent it shook violently from the winds, I felt safe behind that thin fabric. I needed to take a crap but the fear of being blown away, kept me inside.
We spent two nights at camp two with hurricane winds and snow.
On the second morning we dressed and slipped from our tent into the storm, with heads bent into the Gail force winds we clipped into the rope with our rappel devise and the long descent to the glacier floor below started.
Arriving at the glacier floor was a blessing we were tired but the winds had died down and in two hours we were back at base camp, all a little to surreal, drinking hot drinks to hydrate our bodies in the warmth of our mess tent.
We will stay at base camp for the next five or six days to rest and will keep a watch on the weather forecast.
Cheers from K2 base camp .....Al
Summit push is on
Jul 23rd, 2013
Om mani padme hum
Tomorrow our summit push is on! The team and I are ready. We have paid attention to every detail. Camps one, two and three are in place and camp four, we will put in place on our arrival. With all the data that we have on the weather, July 28th looks favorable for a summit with low winds. We only have one chance to summit in that clear window.
"Inshallah, if god wills it.
Yesterday I found myself sitting on a rock and deep in thought. I thought about the challenges that lay ahead, come what may. That the first step depends on the last, to do nothing in haste. I repeated the prayer mantra "Om mani padme" over and over for protection.
I will be out of communication for the next 6 or 7 days. I need to trim the weight down in my back pack. I look forward to sharing the summit climb with each and everyone of you once the team and I are back safely at base camp.
Thank you all for your support.
The White Rabbit put on his spectacles. "Where shall I begin, please your Majesty ? " he asked . " Begin at the beginning , the King said very gravely, " and go on till you come to the end; then stop "
....Lewis Carroll Alice in Wonderland
"The weather gods have spoken"
Jul 28th, 2013
Adrian Hayes, team mate
Its not our time, the weather gods have spoken.
With much disappointment I am sad to say that our summit attempt on K2 has been abandoned.
The day we left base camp for our summit attempt it was blanketed in fresh snow. Over the next several days as we pushed up to camp two the snow continued and got deeper. From camp two to three the snow conditions encountered were deep (up to five feet), impassable and extremely dangerous. At one point one of our Sherpas being nearly swept away in an avalanche.
The undistinguishable truth about life is you only get one chance at it.
The decision was made, we would go down. We would live to climb another day.
Yesterday the different teams at base camp had further meetings/discussions and it was overwhelming declared that the mountain at this point was just to dangerous, all summit attempts would be abandoned. Also yesterday from base camp avalanches could be heard like the cracking of a bulls whip before they could be seen and then tones of snow would be screaming down the face of K2.
In the end " one can not be married to the end result , you just go out there and do your best.
Am I disappointed, yes I am but I am also very grateful for having this experience . The glass is still half full.....
Tragedy Strikes K2
Jul 28th, 2013
Marty and Denali wearing black
Father and Son
Shock, disbelief and sadness poured throughout base camp as our worst fears were confirmed yesterday that Marty Schmidt and his son Denali from New Zealand died in an avalanche at camp 3.
On behalf of everyone here at base camp our condolences go out to their families, loved ones and friends.
.....Rest in Peace
Aug 22nd, 2013
I am deeply sorry that it has taken me so long to write this but I needed put everything into proper refection. No amount of logics and arguments will change the series of events. The death of nine climbers by the hands of Taliban, climber’s lives lost on different mountains.
I found myself with different emotions this year as I was packing and wrapping up the expedition at base camp. My thoughts kept focusing on the avalanche that killed Marty and Denali. My eyes kept focusing on the high point of camp three where the avalanche took place. Unlike last year when base camp was blanked in snow and the mountain (K2) shrouded in clouds and could not be seen, this year is was a perfect clear day.
I kept thinking of Chris who was Marty and Denali’s team member who elected to come down like us. We met up with Chris as he was starting his hike down alone with his porters. We stopped and talked a while before he picked himself off the rock that he was resting on and we said our good-byes. He lived. I can only tell you that the sorrow of my heart chased after him.
The usually long journey from base camp of K2 to Askole is a 136 mile hike and then you have to travel by land transport from Askolo to Skardu. This part of the journey usually takes about four hours but because a lot of the roads have been washed out it took us eleven hours. In that time frame you find yourself going through different emotions. The brain can run uncontrolled from the thoughts of Success and Accomplishment to the body being Sheer Fatigued. I have often said that getting to any summit is the goal and objective and getting back down safely is success. I still believe that.
Coming back to the real world is always an adjustment for me; my single bed here in my Tibet hotel is much bigger than my tent on the mountain. It does not take hours plus to get dressed with the added fear of being blown away as you go outside to the latrine and what is that porcelain thing in the washroom that flushes water!
K2 is steep, from the moment you leave “crampon point” or as some like to call it (Advanced Base Camp) on the Abruzzi Ridge. It’s full on with 60 plus degrees with little places to rest and many mixed rock slopes with 90 degrees bands to negate. It’s very committing with no easy descents off the mountain. Rocks can dislodge in a blink of an eye and scream pass you like a freight train out of control and with any luck the rock does not break body parts or peal you off the side of the mountain entirely. The weather is notoriously unpredictable and that’s why the window of getting to the top and back down safely is just one of the many challenges.
I would like to share my sincere gratitude to my various sponsors, GOODYEAR ENGINEERED PRODUCTS, FAM CANADA and FORT MCMURRAY TAX and ACCOUNTING for making it happen.
I would like also to thank my Equipment Sponsors MOUNTAIN HARD WEAR and SPOT/ MESSENGER.
THANK YOU TOO for following and all your support.
Next year it’s the 60th anniversary of the first ascent of K2. I believe that by Managing Risk and Maximizing Opportunity that the Chance of a Summit Success is very real.