K2 Expedition #1 - The Daily Moraine 201518 June 2015
Get out of the heat... And into the mountains
It has only been three days since all members and Sherpas arrived in Pakistan and it already seems quite a long time since we all arrived in Islamabad. As most international flights touch down at 01.00 – 03.00, Baig and Sultan from our local trekking agency, Nazir Sabir Expeditions, were having a few sleepless nights collecting various members from the airport. Our 11 Sherpas probably took the most adventurous route into the country as they came from Nepal by road via India and crossed the famous Waga border.
So, due to the heat, the fatigue, the jet lag and lack of things to do in Islamabad, we actually spent a lot of time in the air-conditioned comfort of our guesthouse. "Temperatures of above 40C are just too much for an Alaskan," said Alec Turner when we were walking back from one of our few outings to a huge shopping mall, which was probably the only sensible place to go apart from the guesthouse.
Islamabad is kind of a strange place, which is probably due to the fact that it was especially planned to be the capital and only came into existence in the 1960ies. There is no real city centre and the whole town of approximately 1.9 million people is divided into sectors that have the shape of a cube and are arranged like a chessboard. In the middle of every sector you find a so-called Markaz featuring shops and restaurants, serving greasy meat-based Pakistani food. The latest thing in Islamabad is its brand-spanking new Metro with 60 busses ferrying the people back and forth between the two cities of Islamabad and neighbouring Rawalpindi; and all that for 20 Rupees each way (about 20 cents)!! At that price it is no surprise that the busses are filled up to the brim with many people only going for the sake of it and doing some sightseeing along the way.
Even though Islamabad is pretty characterless and doesn't really represent Pakistan, it has one beautiful feature and that is the Margalla Hills - the foothill of the Himalaya. The green hills are nestled right at the northern edge of town and had it not been so hot, it would have been a wonderful place for us to get out and experience some nature. However, the heat was just too stifling for most of us, so we had to leave Islamabad without this experience.
On Monday night, the two latecomers - guide Woody and Rochelle arrived and the team was finally complete. During our group dinner we found out that we would be picked up from the hotel at 3am the next morning in order to catch our flight at 5am. "We have been working very hard to get a flight to Skardu," Nazir, our local agent, explained. "And if it all goes well, you guys should be in Skardu for breakfast - In Shallah," he said with a twinkle in his eye.
Flights to Skardu, the village in Baltistan from where we will take a jeep to the start of our trek in Askole, are difficult to get at the best of times, as due to weather they often get cancelled. When we heard that there was a big backlog of people trying to get to Skardu our hopes to get a flight had almost diminished and we had mentally prepared for the long and bumpy jeep ride over the infamous Karakorum Highway. But little did we know!
At 3am sharp we left the guesthouse and everything went extremely smoothly and just like Nazir had predicted, we were having our breakfast in the beautiful setting of the Shangri La Hotel, about 30 minutes outside Skardu. The hotel calls itself 'heaven on earth' and looking at the surrounding mountains, the pretty lake and the gorgeous flower gardens, it probably is. For the Sherpas it was definitely heaven as going on a boat trip on a lake is something rather new to them considering they are usually dealing with steep hills and ice and snow. Unfortunately the service of the hotel was rather "unheavenly" and after we had repeatedly asked for more (and better) food, the promised internet connection and basically a better service without seeing any improvement, we decided to call it a day after the first night and move into the Concordia Hotel in Skardu.
"Even though Skardu is quite dusty and busy, it seems a far better place for us to be," Russell said during our morning meeting, which was held in the midst of the beautiful rose garden of the Shangri La. "Our store is nearby and being in Skardu will expose us a bit more to the Pakistani people, who are incredibly friendly. And they love taking our pictures," he said, yet posing for another photograph.
We are currently sitting either in the garden, the dining hall or our rooms of the Concordia Hotel gazing over the beautiful Indus River with its extremely wide riverbed, which is currently half empty. "When we get back here after the snowmelt and with the monsoon, it will probably be full," Russell observed.
With the rest of our luggage arriving from Islamabad tonight, we will probably have to spend another few hours packing our gear on Thursday as rules in Pakistan are strict and we must not exceed 25kg per bag. We will employ something like 200 porters to get all our material to K2 base camp and we will have 4 Balti climbers to support our team of 12 clients, two guides and 11 Sherpas to climb K2. Seven of our K2 team will acclimatize on Broad Peak, joining one other member to climb the 12th highest mountain in the world.
On Friday, the real adventure begins when we take our van over the bumpy road to Askole, from where we start our 8-day-trek along the Baltoro glacier. We are all very excited as most of us have never been to the Karakorum and have never had the opportunity to marvel at the beauty of its gigantic peaks. Once we are on the trek we will try to send you updates and tell you a bit more about our team, the challenging logistics of such an expedition and our mission. But for that our communication system has to work - In Shallah!