K2 Expedition #2 -The Daily Moraine 201524 June 2015
On the way to K2 base camp
It’s Tuesday, 23 July and we have arrived at our second camp in a tiny settlement called Payu, which lies at an altitude of 3,390m. Payu does not feature many houses but it has a shop that sells bottles of 2 litres of coke for the bargain price of 8 USD$.
On Saturday morning, we finally left Askole after having had to deal with an administrative problem, which started off as a small mistake made by the Pakistani embassy in Kathmandu and turned into a challenging problem for Russell here in Pakistan. After our Sherpas and climbing members had received the clearance to climb both K2 and Broad Peak and enter the so-called ‘restricted areas’ by 21 departments of the Pakistan government, one of the officials had noticed that the visas of our Sherpas did not have the necessary clause that they were allowed into these restricted areas. So we were told that the Sherpas had no permission to walk across the 100km-long Baltoro Glacier to reach K2 base camp – even though they had the permit to climb K2 and Broad Peak. Thanks to our liaison officer Atif, who together with Baig our trekking guide and Nazir Sabir, our trekking operator back in Islamabad, pulled all strings and negotiated with the relevant ministries, we were ready to roll within 24 hours. “It was a good job that our guys sorted this out so quickly as I am sure it will facilitate the whole process for other groups bringing Sherpas,” Russell said.
So on Friday evening, our team was able to load our material onto 11 jeeps, which started towards Askole – the beginning of our trek. “It was great to see all these multi-coloured and shiny jeeps lined up on the road,” said Herbert, who seemed very excited to be finally leaving the dusty town of Skardu – a place that is definitely dominated by men as women were a rare sight in the busy streets.
On Saturday morning, the group consisting of 13 climbing members, two western guides, our expedition leader and expedition doctor, 11 Sherpas and 4 Balti guides (we will provide you with more information on the individual people in our next newsletter) split into groups and embarked on the adventurous journey using eight jeeps that were accompanied by a security guide on a motorbike. “The road trip was spectacular but it certainly was a bone-shaking and torturous ride,” said David referring to the partly broken and very bumpy road that featured precipitous chasms intermittently. At one point all jeeps stopped and we found that part of the road had been washed away by a recent landslide. “Let’s get out and join forces to rebuild this,” Russell called out not being aware of the fact that Brook was already on the case throwing a huge rock into his direction. Unfortunately the big lump landed just in front of Russell and his sparkling white outfit was covered in black spots giving it a certain interesting patina. However, this incident didn’t stop him and the 40 other people to get the road back into shape within 15 minutes. The rest of the trip to Askole went smoothly, however, we were all pleased to arrive there after about eight hours on the road.
Starting the trek
When we arrived in Askole our Balti team had already set up our tents and after we had all found our home for the night, some of us joined an exercise class, which certainly contributed to the entertainment of the almost 400 porters, who were waiting to get their hands onto our loads.
The next morning our waiter Gulriz woke us with a cup of coffee at the crack of dawn and after having had a rich and delicious breakfast we were already on the trail at 6am. “We need to start early as otherwise it is getting too hot,” said our guide Baig, who has been leading treks in the area for more than 30 years. However, we were lucky and did not have to use the big umbrellas most of us had purchased in Skardu to protect us from the sun as the skies remained overcast for most of the day. After about six hours on our feet we arrived in Jula, where we spent the night in a very dusty, but beautiful place. Apart from our team, one other K2 expedition was camping there.
“Tomorrow’s camp is quite small and I think it is best to reserve a spot for our big team,” Baig said sending two porters ahead to do exactly that. And it was definitely worth it as we were extremely happy to arrive at Payu finding our tents pitched in the prime spot – especially after having walked almost 27km. At sunset, Baig called out to us to have a look towards the rocky peaks in the North. “You can actually see the two shoulders of K2, which is partially hidden by a very pointy and rocky 7,000m peak.” It was certainly exciting to catch the first glimpse of the mountain, most of us are intending to climb.
Tuesday has been our first rest day, which most people have spent with doing their laundry, communicating with their families and trying to send emails, reading or just marvelling at the amazing view of the surrounding 6,000 and 7,000m-peaks, most of which are still unclimbed and are not significant enough to even have a name. During breakfast we started wondering how many 8,000m summits we would have among all of us and we came up with pretty impressive numbers. We can boast a total number of 131 x 8,000m summits, including 52 Everest summits within the whole team; between the members (including the expedition doctor who has also climbed Everest) we have 31 Everest and 70 x 8,000m-summits; our nine Nepal climbing Sherpas have an impressive 21 Everest summits and 48 x 8,000m-summits and our 4 Balti guides have 13 x 8,000m-summits between them. “I think this is one of the most experienced teams on K2 and even though we look like a commercial expedition, we are not really,” Russell explained after having added up these numbers. “Most members have been with Himalayan Experience before and some of them approached me asking whether I could organise a K2 expedition. And as new things are a great challenge for me, I agreed and here we are.”
Yes, here we are and we have approximately another 80km to walk to get to our base camp, which we will cover over the next four days. Tomorrow we will probably walk for about eight hours to reach our next camp at Urdukas, which will be the first camp on the glacier.
Once we have set up our communications system at K2 base camp, we will be in touch again to send you more regular updates from our K2 and Broad Peak expeditions.
However, before we go, we would like to thank everyone for their contribution to the Himalayan Experience Earthquake Relief Fund, which will help to assist the people of Nepal rebuild their country. We will send you an update on the funds received once the communications system is properly set up.
Billi Bierling, Payu