K2 Expedition 2017 #513 july 2017
It has been a while since the last newsletter and at that stage we had still not reached C2. The weather has been somewhat difficult to work around. We need reasonably clear weather to see where we are going and not too much wind as well as reasonable snow conditions underfoot. The section between C1 and C2 is probably the most technical part of our route. The Sherpa’s, Woody, Shinji and PK tried to reach C2 on 7 Jul, but by the time they had all reached C1 the weather had turned from a clear bright night sky to wind and snow, so they returned to BC. It seems that we have 4 seasons of weather in a day, which is hard to work around.
K2 Cesen route
But eventually Gelgen reached C2 at 6,315m at 13.14 on 8 Jul. He was later joined by all the Sherpa’s, HAP and members so everyone was at C2 by 14.07 which is a huge effort for the rope fixers and a great effort by the members and proves that we have a strong team. Everyone was back to the comforts of BC by 18.25. This was a big breakthrough for the expedition and showed the first real progress on the hill. Although I was concerned that the wind had picked up during the afternoon and I was concerned that there might be snow loading up in the higher bowls.
Just below C1 tent on left
9 Jul we planned to take loads to C2 if the weather and conditions proved to be safe and doable. But again K2 showed me another of its secret nasty surprises, and there was a huge avalanche from a bowl that I had not suspected of triggering the main upper slope. The more time I spend here the more I learn about the mountain, weather and also snow conditions….kind of scary. But I did take this trip on as a challenge to my guiding knowledge and observation skills. I can’t say I like this challenge as it means many sleepless nights, and it was one of those nights that I was awake at 02.00 when the avalanche occurred. Now when I say this is a huge avalanche, I mean that it starts at 8,000m and comes all the way to the main glacier at 5,000m. The dust cloud is immense and although our BC is about 2km from where the avalanche debris lands on the glacier we were still dusted by the snow cloud and a layer of about 2mm of snow. My uneasy feeling all night proved to be correct and we were all tucked up safe in BC. But our store tent at Crampon Point did not fare so well and was blown about 100m from its original point across the glacier spreading its contents of boots and crampons across the glacier. Fortunately we were able to recover everything and after a return to BC for repairs we were able to use the same tent again for a store. A risk of leaving a tent there saves having to wear big boots and full climbing harness and the like for one hour up and one hour down each return trip.
It was interesting at breakfast when various members discussed hearing a short sudden hail storm during the night, and were surprised to see so much snow on the ground when they woke up. Asking had I heard this storm I replied that no I hadn’t and that in fact this was from an avalanche. Another bright day at BC but everyone understood why.
Broken tent on Crampon Point
Of course everyone was keen to reach C2 and on 10 Jul all Sherpa’s, HAP and members were out of the starting blocks at 03.30, they were at CP to find the destruction there by 04.45 and were up to C1 by 08.00. We do not use C1 as there is no room for tents and it is too low down on the hill. By 11.00 the first had arrived to C2 and everyone was there by 12.40 on a clear day. Now we had a chance to see what was recoverable from 2015. There were still 5 tents standing which was encouraging, but upon opening the tents we found that in fact they were just large deep freezers with frozen snow, too hard for a shovel to attack so bit by bit they had to be chipped away by ice axe. Of course this was rather destructive to sleeping bags and cook sets and several epigas cylinders. The Sherpa’s stayed with the members at C2 for the night but the HAP returned to BC so as to carry more loads up the next day.
Sherpas between C1-C2
Load carry just below C2
On 11th we made a great push forward. The Sherpa’s left C2 at 06.30 and with one super push managed to fix rope all the way to C3 (7,200m) arriving there late in the day at 16.10. Again they found our tents from 2015, but in very bad condition so there is not much chance of recovering anything from there. They were back to C2 by 17.30 for a well deserved brew. The HAP did a load carry from BC to C2 and back to BC. The members continued their painful and energy consuming chip search for more equipment at C2. Having found 11 oxygen the day before I was somewhat disappointed but by the end of the day the members had found another 25 cylinders which will save carrying at least 36 from BC. Everyone could have descended to BC that evening but again we took a risk that the following morning would be fine enough to take a load to C3 and then get back to BC before the weather once again turned bad and we needed to be off the hill.
The gamble paid off, and the Sherpa’s once again pulled out all stops and carried large loads to C3 and members also went up and touched C3. Everyone was back to BC by 15.00 just as it started to rain. Today everyone is drying out and washing clothes and bodies. We also had a long meeting to discuss just how we are going to leave BC on 4 Aug to get back to Islamabad for our flights home on 12 Aug. But of course in the mean time we need to still fix to C4, get loads up the hill and of course there is a summit to gain. We all know our backs are against the wall, but everyone is prepared to work hard, carry loads, dig tent platforms and the like and not just leave it for the Sherpa’s and HAP to do. Everyone have decided to cram into the least number of tents at C4 and to summit from C4 and return to C3 on the same day. This is a very positive team and also a hardworking, fit strong team. The next few days are good but not great and the wind is predicted to blow too hard for fixing to C4 until after 20th. So let’s see what happens in the coming days and what adventures lie ahead, but I am sure this is going to involve many sleepless nights.