K2 Expedition 2017 #828 July 2017

Hi All

It is with a sad heart that I write this newsletter, as this signals the end of our expedition. Today was the optimum summit day that we have been aiming for. In fact over two weeks ago I figured that 28 would be the best summit day, but our forecasts pushed this forward by one day. In order to try and be in position for this date the Sherpa’s and HAP left BC at 03.30 for C2 on 22. The idea was for them to go up the existing fixed ropes and to establish a sizable camp of 8 tents so as the whole team could stay there before going to C4 and could also stay there after descending from the summit. The rope fixers were going to stay at C3 and the other support crew were going to return to C2 and carry another load the following day. Well that didn’t happen, it was too windy and too much snow falling. The guys stayed at C2 and listened to the avalanches fall a little distance from the camp which is located in a safe position. The following day was only a little better and the guys tried to get to C3, but turned back less than halfway to the camp. Again they stayed at C2. This was very bad news for us as there was no way for us to get into position for a summit attempt on 27, and also I had been discussing how our Sherpa’s would rendezvous with his Dreamers Destination Sherpa’s so as both teams could work together to fix the Bottle Neck. The following morning 25 it was still blowing a little at C2 but now there was wet snowing falling. We discussed this this situation at 05.00 in the morning and decided to take the risk to descend to BC immediately before there was too much buildup of snow. My heart was in my mouth as the guys hurried back down the hill already kicking of small avalanches as they descended. They were all back safely in BC 10.08.

K2 peeking out of the cloud
K2 peeking out of the cloud

After studying the weather very closely, and some intensive discussion between members, guides and Sherpa’s we decided to call the expedition off. We cannot see any clear weather to follow up even if we did work hard and got the route to C4 on 26 and 27 as there is another front of bad weather expected on 28 and 29. This brought differences of opinion, should we postpone our departure arrangements and wait for better weather or should we pull our departure date forward and leave as soon as we can clear the mountain. Most were in favor of pulling departure date forward. It is always interesting to see that those with the most money are always impatient to leave, but are also able to finance the entire expedition to stay, so can never make up their mind. So one minute they want to stay, the next minute they want to leave immediately.

This sound such an easy decision to make, but here at BC with limited communications it is somewhat difficult. We had already decided to leave on the latest date that was possible so as not to cause complications for visa’s or flights and things like that. If we left on 04 Aug we would be in Askole on 7 and we had booked jeeps to take us to Skardu on 8. I need a day to finalize documentation with the Military as well as unpacking and sorting gear that needs to be stored in Skardu, but we also need to send our heavy equipment by truck to Islamabad which takes 2 days. We then had flights booked from Skardu to Islamabad on 10 which gave us a full day in the city to repack personal gear for the following day and what needs to be freighted back to Nepal. But this also gave us a spare day in case the flight does not operate and we have to drive, like on the way in. That would mean that we would all be on our scheduled flights out of Islamabad, which is especially important for the Sherpa’s who’s visas run out on the 12th.

Of course to stay longer causes many bureaucratic problems, and to move dates earlier also presents various problems. It is peak tourist as well as holiday time in Pakistan so hotels and flights are all quite full so this presents its own problems, but from notification to the time that porters and horses can actually arrive at BC takes about 6 days.

So we did manage to make all these changes and bring our departure date from BC to 01 Aug instead of 04, for all the effort we save 3 days.

We purposely did not go back on the hill on 26 as it was warm with a reasonable amount of sunshine which we figured would cause several wet snow avalanches. This proved to be the case so was a good decision, even if it might have meant that we could finish on the hill one day earlier. In the meanwhile Jing Wang and her Sherpa Pasang Karji hitch hiked onto another team and left BC to start the walk out.

Yesterday we had clear weather …….which was expected to last until about midday. The Sherpa’s and HAP left at 01.00 to go directly to C3 and collect all the gear from there. The members left BC at 03.30 to go to C2 to collect the gear from there. It was interesting to see that the wind was already blowing at about 35km at C3 and about 45Km on the summit by 07.00 in the morning, so to reach the summit today might have been quite uncomfortable and cold, but as the day went on it seemed to clear again and the wind seemed to drop. But by 16.00 all members and all staff were safely back to Base Camp for a welcome BBQ.

Today 28 has dawned with mainly clear skies and a little cloud around K2 and it appears to be little wind, so I daresay Mingma’s team have a good chance of reaching the summit. Good luck to them and I hope that they have a safe success and safe return. So once again it would appear that I have made a bad judgment call, and should really be still on the hill. I came here at the request of my members because they put their trust in me. I took this on as an honor but also as a great challenge to deal with this mountain. I have failed, it is time for me to give up this game. I have enjoyed the experiences along the way, it has not made me rich or have a stable home life, but I have managed to see many parts of the world and meet many interesting people along the way. It’s time to hang up the guiding boots and put my own personal boots on.