K2 Expedition #13 -The Daily Moraine 201515 July 2015
It is amazing just how fast expedition members can return to normal life.
One day we are in a high camp, the next day at Base Camp, and then we are walking out. Our trip down the Baltoro Glacier was quick, taking just 4 days, as compared to the 8 days that it took us to walk in. It was like a different glacier as you will remember that we had quite a lot of snow during the walk in. It was amazing to see the many and varied brilliant couloirs of the rocks, feldspar, red, yellow and purple jasper, copper stained quartz, iron parities, black slate and pure white quartz. I know that many members bags became heavier as the days went on as they collected mineral samples. The welcome sight of the trees of Askole came just as the temperatures started to increase, and soon everyone was sheltering in the shade of the trees sucking on large bottles of coke and sprite. Once again we had been lucky to walk out in overcast weather, so not too hot, but also only experiencing one rain shower that lasted for about one hour. However the double days had an effect on old tired knees, and several pairs of shoes barley made it back to civilisation before the stitching was totally worn away and soles were falling off in protest to the rough travel of the past few days.
Although all members were in Askole by midday, we still needed to wait for the porters who were carrying our 25kg loads. Of course there was the final payment of wages and bonuses before these hardy people disappeared into the small village and surrounding farmland. I have found the local porters to be cheerful, friendly and helpful during this trip, as have all the local people we have come in contact with. Our early fears of security were totally removed as we felt the warm welcome that everyone extended.
Everyone enjoyed our last supper in the dining tent before retiring to our sleeping bags which by now did not need to be zipped up as temperatures were very pleasant indeed. At the time that we retired to bed there was an ominous increase in the sound of the river and the knocking rocks as they were pushed down the raging torrent, but in the dark we could not see anything. However the following morning we could see that the river had risen by at least 1m from some sudden increase of water flow. Maybe this was caused by ice seracs falling into a lake, or an underground lake bursting on one of the glaciers, but we will never know. However whatever caused this to happen also caused our first two stream crossings by jeep to be totally washed away. So it was all hands to road making. With limited shovels many of us resorted to dragging mud and rock down with our bare hands. Eventually we had formed what could almost pass as a road again, as the daring young drivers juggled their overladen Toyota Landcrusiers through the soggy mud. So after 5 hours we had made a great journey of about 1 km. But from there we made good progress to the end of the first section of driving, another 10km down the road. Here we had to unload everything, load onto porters who then carried the equipment 20m, then across a bridge under repair and for another 200m to reach the jeeps that would take us back to Skardu. We were all feeling worn-out but proud that we were able to have lunch under apricot and apple trees by midday, despite the fact that we had only travelled about 30km, but the worst part of the exposed road that zig zagged high above the raging torrent as it passed through the narrow gorge below. Ah….but don’t get to excited as later on we again came to a swollen river of mud and large boulders which blocked our way for another hour. But eventually all looking like road workers covered in mud, seat and grim we arrived to the hotel in Skardu. More unpacking of jeeps and a welcome sleep in a bed.
We had heard from other teams that nobody had been able to fly from Skardu to Islamabad which had resulted in 40 hour drives over the Karakorum Highway, but luck persisted and the following morning all the members and the Sherpa team were able to fly to Islamabad. I stayed in Skardu in order to repack equipment that was to stay in Skardu and other equipment that needed to be transported by truck to Islamabad. Although the road was closed for a couple of days due to flooding, I also was lucky enough to be able to fly.
More sorting and packing in Islamabad as members departed on various flights and the Sherpa team travelled by bus to the Indian border and then the 3 day journey back to Kathmandu. Now everyone is back in their respective country, the end of yet another unsuccessful but more importantly safe season.
We will now start the Manaslu Expedition on 27 Aug in Kathmandu.